Kushner Enlists Karlie Kloss’s Dad to Help with Virus
The Washing Hands Divide
Trump Struggles to Unify a Nation on Edge
It’s Like 2008 Revisited
Task Force Kept Out of Trump’s Oval Office Address
Justin Trudeau’s Wife Tests Positive for Coronavirus
• Bears 1, Bulls 0
• Takeaways from This Week's Primaries
• Sanders Is Staying in the Race
• A Closer Look at Michigan Shows Biden Could Rebuild the Blue Wall
• Biden Leads in Three New National Polls
• Why Democrats Aren't Like Republicans
• What Do Prisoners Think about Politics
• Kelly Leads McSally in Arizona Senate Race
Usually, when a president delivers a speech from the Oval Office, he has something weighty to discuss with the American people—think JFK and the Bay of Pigs, Ronald Reagan and the Challenger disaster, or George W. Bush and 9/11. Donald Trump has availed himself of the privilege twice. The first time was when he tried, unsuccessfully, to beat Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in the game of government-shutdown chicken. Obviously, that address was not a success. The President's second Oval Office address was last night, as he tried to forestall criticism about his administration's handling of COVID-19. And, well, let's just put it this way: (Z) has seen many hundreds of presidential speeches, from chief executives who had the gift (Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, Jack Kennedy, etc.) and from those who did not (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, George W. Bush, etc.). Last night's speech was, to be entirely blunt, the worst he's ever seen.
Really, before you read what we have to say, you should watch the speech (at least part of it) yourself. It's less than 10 minutes:
With that out of the way, let's start with the delivery. Trump most certainly doesn't have the gift, but he's capable of delivering a speech that is at least competent. His State of the Union addresses aren't great, but they aren't disastrous, either. Last night, though...we are mystified by what was going on. He was definitely squinting badly, though that's par for the course, since he doesn't like to wear glasses or contacts. On top of that, though, his TelePrompTer must have been set up in the wrong place, because he wasn't looking into the camera. He looked like he was peering at something over the right shoulder of the camera operator (if you want to see what it is supposed to look like, here is part of Bush's 9/11 speech). Beyond that, Trump's cadence was...odd, and his voice was dead flat most of the time, almost completely lacking in inflection. He kept his hands folded in front of him, excepting that he sometimes twiddled his thumbs. He also seemed to be rushing; sometimes he misspoke and didn't bother to go back and clean it up (see, for example, this very strange stumble, which takes place around 0:39).
Trump tried to conclude the address with some "soaring" rhetoric:
Our future remains brighter than anyone can imagine. Acting with compassion and love, we will heal the sick, care for those in need, help our fellow citizens, and emerge from this challenge stronger and more unified than ever before.This is a pretty obvious attempt to channel Lincoln's Second Inaugural:
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
The problem is that whoever writes Trump's speeches can't hold a candle to Abe when it comes to writing, and Trump can't hold a candle to Abe when it comes to speaking, particularly on a night like last night. So, this bit just came off as mawkish and cheesy. It will be interesting to see if we ever learn what the problem was with the overall performance. There have been incidents before, mostly press-conference-type stuff, where Trump appeared to be in dreamworld, and it was later reported he had taken Ambien-like medication. Maybe that's what was happening last night? Or, maybe he did pick up a case of COVID-19 at CPAC, and he's manifesting symptoms? That would certainly be ironic, for a speech whose purposes included downplaying the seriousness of the threat.
And now, having eviscerated the delivery, let's move on to the content. The President's goal was to project some combination of strength, and calm, and stability, while also slamming Congressional Democrats for not giving him the money he wants to pump into the economy. However, the overall message that came through most clearly was—to be blunt again—incompetence. There were certainly a few things that people will be happy to hear, such as Trump's push for insurance companies to cover the costs of COVID-19 testing. However, the main announcement he made—and thus, the main initiative that is supposed to put people at ease—was that he's instituting a ban on travel between the U.S. and Europe. On watching the speech (or reading the transcript, if you prefer), people were left with the understanding that all travel to and from Europe is verboten, excepting travel to and from the United Kingdom.
However, literally moments after the speech was over, the Department of Homeland Security was compelled to clarify the new policy (and then to clarify it again). Assuming the current version is the correct one, it turns out that the ban only applies to European nationals who are traveling to the United States from a specific portion of Europe (the central and western European countries known as the Schengen Area). That is not remotely what the President's speech communicated. Meanwhile, the ambassadors representing the 26 nations in the Schengen Area said they were completely blindsided by the announcement. These things do not convey the impression of an administration that knows what it's doing, and that has got this thing under control. Quite the opposite.
And what is the ultimate purpose of the new travel ban. The general impression that Trump has given off through this whole situation is that his main (and possibly only) concern is saving his own personal bacon. Wednesday's speech certainly does nothing to dispel that. It is very difficult to see how this new policy is going to do anything to slow the spread of the virus; it's not like American citizenship or English fluency conveys immunity. On the other hand, the policy does allow the administration to look like it's doing something while pointing the finger at scapegoats beyond America's shores. We've noted previously that the White House has tried to "rebrand" COVID-19 as the "Wuhan virus." Yesterday, the President did not use that term, but he did make a fairly obvious point of calling it a "foreign virus." The fact that the new ban conveniently excludes all of the locations that are home to Trump resorts further heightens our inclination to look askance at the new policy.
In short, in case you hadn't noticed, we were underwhelmed by Trump Oval Office address #2. And we weren't the only ones. Here's a selection of other commentaries:
- Laura McGann, Vox: "Trump's coronavirus speech was laced with xenophobia"
- Quin Hillyer, Washington Times: "Trump's coronavirus address failed in our biggest time of need"
- Chris Cillizza, CNN: "Donald Trump's scapegoating coronavirus speech shows he just doesn't get it"
- Justin Sink, Bloomberg News: "Trump's Error-Laden 'Foreign Virus' Speech Has Investors Spooked"
- Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine: "Trump's Speech Shows He Has No Idea What to Do About the Coronavirus"
Outside of the Times, right-wing media has largely been downplaying the speech, which is itself instructive.
In the end, even if Trump had given a legendary-level speech—the Gettysburg Address of the 21st century—it might have been too little, too late, as the bad and worrisome news just keeps piling up. There are shortages of sanitary (disinfectant, hand soap) and survivalist (bottled water, sports drinks, protein powder) products nationwide. The NBA has postponed the rest of its season (hundreds of games), and Major League Baseball is on the cusp of following suit. People are spooked, with good reason, and it is unlikely Trump could have un-spooked them. And we already know that the stock market is going to respond to the speech with another bad day, as Dow futures are down 1,000 points as of 2:00 a.m. PT. The general understanding is that Trump never really wanted to be president; now he's being reminded why. (Z)
No, the Chicago Bears football team didn't play a baseball game against the Chicago Bulls basketball team and shut them out 1-0. After all, the NFL is out of season right now, and the NBA is suspended. Nope, after 11 years of roaming Wall Street like they owned the place, the bulls have given way to the bears. With a drop of 20.2% from the all-time high of 29,551 to yesterday's close of 23,553, the Dow Jones Index says that we are now officially in a bear market. Yesterday, the Dow dropped 1,465 points on the news that the World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. Here is the Dow since Donald Trump took office:
As you can see, we are nowhere near the low point for the Trump administration. And there was also a sharp drop the day before Christmas in 2018. The problem for Trump is the erratic behavior of the market, with no end in sight. If there had been a nice linear growth from 19,827 on the day Trump took office to yesterday's 23,553, Trump could have bragged about the 19% gain during his administration, or about 6.5% per year. Everyone would have been happy. But this craziness, with no end in sight, could hurt Trump a lot if it keeps up (and especially if it leads to a recession). Few people compare the Dow or their 401(k) plan to what it was Jan. 20, 2017, but a lot of them compare it to what it was on Jan. 1, 2020 (28,538), and that's not so pretty. If Trump had not tied himself so closely to the stock market and had instead said: "Stocks do what stocks do and I have no control over them," a bear market wouldn't be so much of a political issue. But he did, so it is.
An even bigger problem for Trump is nobody knows how widely COVID-19 will spread. So far, about 1,000 cases have been confirmed in the U.S., but the real number is surely vastly more. A fair number are flying under the radar since there aren't nearly enough testing kits out there, and since many people...don't have insurance. Trump can continue to deny there is a problem, but with the WHO declaring a pandemic and the hospital industry asking him to declare a national emergency, it will be increasingly difficult for him to get away with it, especially after he struck out with Wednesday's speech. (V)
Here are some takeaways from the first man-to-man primaries between Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) held in six states this week;NPR
- Biden has a clear path to the nomination
- But should the nomination fight be shut down?
- Biden needs Sanders' supporters
- White women continue to be a crucial group
- Beating Trump was more important than public policy
- The coronavirus is on the minds of the voters and campaigns
- The Democratic nomination is Biden's to lose
- Joe Biden has taken control of the primary
- Bernie Sanders' demographics disadvantages are hardening
- Bernie 2020 is losing to Bernie 2016
- The Democratic Party has decided
- The delegate gap widened
- Michigan giveth and Michigan taketh away
- Sanders hit his demographic wall again
- The calendar is turning in Biden's direction
- Biden's electability case grows
- Biden begins his pivot
- Sanders has a decision to make
- Democratic leaders try to rush Sanders to the exit
- Biden is rocking the suburbs
- Sanders can't break through with African-American voters
- Sanders' theory that young voters would show up failed again
- Women are propelling Biden
- Black voters are the kingmakers
- Biden is talking like the nominee
- Team Sanders says he isn't leaving
- Black voters, moderates, and conservatives push Biden to victory
- Support from Sanders' base wasn't enough to beat Biden
- Biden outperformed Clinton
- Is this the beginning of the end for Sanders?
- Biden wins the South
- The youth vote wasn't enough for Sanders
The main points here are pretty clear:
- It was a huge day for Biden and a terrible day for Sanders
- It's all over but the shoutin'
- Sanders hoped that young voters would come out in droves to support him but it just didn't happen
- Biden is about to start his general-election campaign
It is pretty close to over now, and if Joe Biden wins the four big states that vote next week and Georgia on March 24, it will be all over, whether or not Sanders concedes. For what it worth, British bookie William Hill now has the odds of Biden winning the nomination at 1/20, which implies a probability of 95.2%. (V)
After being beaten in at least four states on Tuesday, including a 66-point drubbing in Mississippi, yesterday a defiant Bernie Sanders declared: "Last night obviously was not a good night for our campaign from a delegate point of view." While that is true if the goal is to win (rather than, say, move the Overton window a bit), what matters is the delegate count. Despite extremely steep odds, Sanders has decided to soldier on.
His decision is already angering Democrats who are not his supporters. The call for him to give up will only get louder if he is beaten badly in Arizona, Illinois, Ohio, Florida, and Georgia, all of which vote in the next two weeks. Hillary Clinton beat him in all five states in 2016, and Biden has greatly outperformed Clinton in multiple states already (and see below).
Somewhat ironically, Sanders said that Biden was not doing very well with young voters. That's true, but it is Sanders, not Biden, who claims that the young people will put him over the top. In fact, in state after state, turnout among millennials has been unimpressive. While young people may show up in November, they aren't showing up for Sanders now. Basically, they are not all that interested in voting. In contrast, old folks do vote and they overwhelmingly prefer Biden over Sanders.
Sanders has one more real shot at changing the dynamic before Arizona, Illinois, Ohio, and Florida vote next week. That is Sunday's debate in Phoenix. If his main pitch is that young voters don't support Biden, the former vice president is going to shoot back that they don't support Sanders, either. Getting into a food fight with Biden probably won't be easy because most likely Biden will focus on hitting Trump, not Sanders. The debate probably won't help Sanders, but it is all he's got left before he has to face the voters again. (V)
Tim Alberta of Politico has examined the county-level voting data from Michigan, and it's not encouraging for the Republicans. He started with Michigan's Livingston County, which is full of God-fearing, gun-loving, white, college-educated, affluent commuters who work in Detroit, Ann Arbor, or Lansing. Three times as many people voted in the 2016 Republican primary as in the 2016 Democratic primary. Donald Trump won the county by 30 points in 2016. This is Republican suburbia at its finest. What could go wrong for the GOP?
Well, in 2018, Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) won MI-08 by managing to lose Livingston County by only 19 points. Maybe it was a fluke. She's a charismatic young woman with degrees from two Ivy League schools who worked for the CIA and later for the DNI. Now fast forward to Tuesday. Democratic turnout in the county was up by 9,867 compared to 2016, a 56% jump. Some people might think that a 10,000-vote jump in one county is no big deal, but considering that this is one of the most suburban and conservative counties in the state, and that Trump carried the entire state by only 10,704 votes, that doesn't leave a lot of margin for error in November.
Now let's move over one county to Oakland. Turnout in the Democratic primary went up from 180,000 in 2016 to over 250,000 Tuesday. Hillary Clinton got 92,000 votes there; Joe Biden got over 150,000. The message here is that in upscale counties like Livingston and Oakland, Biden is doing far better than Clinton did and will presumably also do far better in November.
In nearby (but more downscale) Macomb County, Biden way outperformed Clinton, with turnout up by 33%. In 2016, Clinton and Bernie Sanders were basically tied there. This time, Biden crushed Sanders by 17 points. In 2016, whites without college degrees went to Sanders by 15 points. On Tuesday, they went to Biden by 10 points. That's a 25-point swing. Similarly, in rural counties all over the state, Biden hugely outperformed Clinton. Here are the county-level maps for 2016 and 2020:
As you can see, Sanders won the vast majority of counties in 2016. In 2020, Biden won every county. That shows that he is much stronger than Clinton with rural voters, suburban voters, and urban voters. And Clinton lost the state by only 10,704 votes. Based on the results from Tuesday, which show that Biden is far more popular than Clinton everywhere, Alberta sees a world of trouble for Trump in Michigan. And while nearby Wisconsin hasn't voted yet, there is a pretty good chance that what holds for Michigan also holds for Wisconsin. Trump has his work cut out for him here. (V)
While it is not a done deal quite yet, pollsters are starting to look at a possible Biden-Trump general election. Yesterday, Morning Consult, Quinnipiac University and CNN/SSRS released polls. Here are the results for Trump vs. Biden:
|Morning Consult||48%||41%||Biden +7|
|Quinnipiac University||52%||41%||Biden +9|
The polls are fairly consistent. Biden has a lead in the 7-10% range at the moment. With such a large lead, he would also be certain to win the Electoral College.
Morning Consult also asked registered voters whether they trusted Biden or Sanders more on the issues. Biden won on national security (+27), foreign policy (+27), trade policy (+22), the economy (+20), jobs (+17), immigration (+15), gun policy (+11), energy (+7), education (+5), and health care (+1). Sanders won on workplace sexual misconduct (+2) and Medicare and Social Security (+1). They were tied on the environment.
CNN/SSRS also asked about favorability. What struck us is the percentage of people who had never heard of the various candidates: Joe Biden (3%), Bernie Sanders (3%), Michael Bloomberg (7%), Elizabeth Warren (11%), Pete Buttigieg (20%), and Amy Klobuchar (25%). We sort of understand that someone who has no interest in politics might not know who Pete Buttigieg was. But for heavens' sake, Joe Biden was vice president of the United States for 8 years! Yet 3% of the respondents didn't know who he is. Welcome to the 2020 electorate. Actually, it has probably always been this bad. There was a poll in 1960 in which the pollster asked who was president of the United States and 10% of the people didn't know. It's true that Ike played a lot of golf and the country ran on autopilot for 8 years, but still, he was in the news a couple of times a week at least. (V)
Over at The Bulwark, a news and opinion site for conservative Republicans disillusioned with Donald Trump, Tim Miller, who formerly was Jeb Bush's communications director and a spokesman for the RNC, has a piece entitled "Democrats Are Better at This." It starts with "Four years ago, the Republican party rolled over for a populist charlatan. This year, the Democratic party fought back against their own populist-and won." How come? According to Miller, here's how (and remember, this is from a certified Republican):
- The Democratic coalition is less susceptible to a populist charlatan:
For the two weeks leading up to Super Tuesday, Republican officials and pundits were mocking the Democrats
for being on the threshold of nominating a crazy person. It didn't happen.
For decades, the Republicans have been shedding college-educated professionals and replacing them with
working-class voters. This left the GOP as a party run by vestigial Washington elites who were despised by their own voters.
The new voters were attracted by cultural issues like abortion. Few of them had any interest in the
trickle-down Reaganomics and Ryanomics that the GOP has been selling for decades. They were just angry and felt
neglected. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) summed it up by saying they just wanted to support "the craziest son-of-a-bitch
in the race." In contrast, most Democrats like their leadership, especially Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
Consequently, a pitch of "Boy, will I ever stick it to the establishment" just doesn't work with a large swath of Democrats.
- Donald Trump focused the Democrats' Minds:
The move of college-educated, affluent, suburban voters from the GOP to the Democrats has had huge consequences.
In suburban Fairfax County, VA, 100,000 more people voted in the 2020 Democratic primary than in the 2016 primary.
These suburbanites joined black voters and NPR-listening, New York Times-reading urbanites with a single-minded
focus on ridding the body politic of an infection worse than COVID-19: Donald Trump.
These blocs together were a brick wall that Sanders could not penetrate by ranting against big banks and billionaires.
- Democratic leaders were up to the task:
In 2016, Republican leaders realized that the inmates had taken over the asylum. However, they were
(1) too afraid of a base that hated them, (2) too eager to be the first person to cozy up to the new king, and/or
(3) too unwilling to use their political capital to benefit the one person who could have stopped Trump at the end,
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), because they thought Cruz was as crazy as Trump.
Democratic leaders were much better. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) gave Biden a full-throated endorsement just before
the South Carolina primary, even though many people thought he was backing the wrong horse.
Then Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) graciously bowed out for the good of the party, followed
by so many Democratic leaders jumping on the Biden bandwagon that it nearly broke a couple of wheels.
It took only 72 hours for the Democratic base to get the message that if they wanted to beat Trump, these were
the days of decision.
Anyway, that's the take of a Republican insider, for what it is worth. (V)
Florida voters passed a referendum in 2018 allowing most former felons to vote. The state legislature panicked and passed a law requiring them to pay all fines and court fees before they could vote—on the assumption they were all votes for the Democrats. But no one really knew the political opinions of prisoners (and presumably) ex-prisoners until someone actually asked them. Slate and the Marshall Project surveyed 8,000 prisoners and have now released their findings.
But first, a couple of caveats. To start with, it was a voluntary survey with the respondents selecting themselves. It could be that more politically engaged prisoners answered the questions and less engaged ones didn't. Second, respondents skewed more white than the overall prison population. That said, here are the key results:
- Views diverge by race
- A plurality of white prisoners support Donald Trump (45%) followed by "don't know" or "wouldn't vote" (25%)
- A plurality of black prisoners "don't know/wouldn't vote" (28%), while a smaller number would support Joe Biden (20%)
- Among Native Americans, "don't know/wouldn't vote" also wins (29%) followed by Donald Trump (27%)
- Among Latinos, "don't know/wouldn't vote" wins (28%) with Bernie Sanders second (18%) and Trump third (15%)
- The longer people are in prison, the more political they become
- Republicans in prison back legalizing marijuana
- Democrats in prison are less enthusiastic about an assault weapon ban than Democrats outside
- Nearly all prisoners want to raise the minimum wage
- Whites tend to be Republicans (36%) while blacks tend to be Democrats (45%)
- Only 43% of prisoners have ever voted
In short, prisoners would not be a single voting bloc if they could vote (and presumably if they get out and can vote) and their views are fairly well correlated with race. (V)
With all the hullaballoo about the presidential race, the stock market, and COVID-19, it is easy to lose sight of the Senate races, but they are crucially important. If Joe Biden is elected president and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stays as Senate Majority Leader, we are going to have four years of complete stalemate. Same is true for President Trump and potential Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Arizona is going to be one of the tightest (and most expensive) Senate races, so it bears close watching.
A new OH Predictive Insights Poll poll there has former astronaut Mark Kelly (D) leading appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) 49% to 42%. McSally's favorability ratings are underwater, at 43% to 47%. Donald Trump is also slightly underwater in Arizona, 47% to 50%, so his coattails are more likely to hurt McSally than help her. In addition, in 2019, Kelly raised $20 million and had $13 million in the bank at the end of the year. McSally raised $12 million and had $8 million in the bank at the end of the year. It's still early, of course, but it looks like the Democrats were right to elbow everyone else out of the race in favor of Kelly. (V)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar11 What Is Sanders' Next Move?
Mar11 Next Democratic Debate Will Be Sans Audience
Mar11 Yang Endorses Biden
Mar11 Trump Administration's Handling of COVID-19 Has Been Nothing Short of Shameful
Mar11 Judge Says Democrats Should Get Mueller Evidence
Mar10 COVID-19 Is Wreaking All Sorts of Economic Havoc
Mar10 Sanders Needs to Hope State Pollsters Are Wrong...
Mar10 ...And National Pollsters, Too
Mar10 Biden Picks Up Another Former Rival's Endorsement
Mar10 Democrats' Senate Hopes Are Looking Up
Mar10 Democrats Get Serious about Florida
Mar10 Six Former Wrestlers Point the Finger at Jim Jordan
Mar09 A Critical Week for Sanders Is at Hand
Mar09 New Rules Announced for the March 15 Debate
Mar09 Harris Endorses Biden
Mar09 The Race for Veep Has Begun
Mar09 Biden Scales Up
Mar09 Close Trump Associate Is Recruiting Former Spies to Infiltrate Liberal Groups
Mar09 U.S. Officials Warn of Virus-Related Disruptions Ahead
Mar09 Romanoff Beats Hickenlooper in Colorado Caucuses
Mar09 Romney Is His Old Self Again
Mar08 Sunday Mailbag
Mar07 "Mick the Knife" Gets Cut
Mar07 Saturday Q&A
Mar06 A Million Selfies, All for Nothing
Mar06 Where Do Things Go From Here?, Part I: Biden vs. Clinton in Words
Mar06 Where Do Things Go From Here?, Part II: Biden vs. Clinton in Numbers
Mar06 Where Do Things Go From Here?, Part III: The Polls
Mar06 Where Do We Go From Here?, Part IV: Sanders Game Changers
Mar06 Trump Gives Democrats a Late Christmas Gift
Mar05 Biden Has More Delegates Now
Mar05 Bloomberg Calls It Quits
Mar05 What Happens Next?
Mar05 Takeaways from Super Tuesday
Mar05 Who Voted for Whom?
Mar05 What Happens to Delegates When Candidates Drop Out?
Mar05 Other Key Races
Mar05 Bullock May Run for the Senate after All
Mar05 New York State Cancels Republican Primary
Mar04 A Whole New Ballgame
Mar04 In New National Poll, Biden Leads
Mar04 Fed Slashes Interest Rates, Markets Tank
Mar04 Some Election Websites Are Running Unprotected, Obsolete Software
Mar04 Los Angeles County Used an Insecure Voting System
Mar03 Klobucharge Runs Out of Electricity
Mar03 Everybody Is Endorsing Biden
Mar03 What to Watch for on Super Tuesday
Mar03 Supreme Court Will Hear Obamacare Case
Mar03 Dow Rallies