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Political Wire logo GOP Senator Seeks Declassification of Susan Rice Email
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Over 90K Americans Dead from Coronavirus
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Bloomberg Is Planning to Support Democrats

Former NYC mayor and failed presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg hasn't given up on politics quite yet. He is planning to spend a reported $250 million to back Joe Biden. Earlier this year, he said he would spend $1 billion to defeat Donald Trump. His own campaign folded as soon as the voters got a chance to weigh in, but there is no doubt that Bloomberg truly despises Trump and will spend a chunk of his $50 billion fortune to defeat him.

What Bloomberg hasn't decided yet is where to funnel the money. He could send it to pro-Biden super PACs or the super PACs he created for his own campaign. In April, both Biden and Trump raised $60 million, so $250 million represents over 4 months' haul. However, the RNC and Trump campaign have about $250 million in the bank now compared to the DNC and Biden campaign, which have $68 million in cash. So if Bloomberg drops that amount on Biden's super PACs, that would go a long way toward evening the score. However, there are certainly some independent super PACs that support Trump out there with unknown amounts in the bank. If Bloomberg would up his donations to $500 million, that would probably put Biden ahead.

Although April fundraising was roughly a tie, Trump has an advantage going forward because he gets most of his money from a smaller number of wealthy donors and they will continue to donate. Biden gets most of his money from small donors and many of them have been hit in the wallet by the coronavirus and may be unable to kick in much. If Bloomberg could even that out in one fell swoop, it would make a huge difference.

This may be an especially expensive year because nearly all campaigning will be on TV or digital. It's true that the campaigns will save some money on travel costs—because Trump will undoubtedly fly to some rallies on Air Force One on the government's dime (which he is not supposed to do without repayment) and Biden will stay in his basement all year—but travel costs are small potatoes compared to a continuous media blitz. (V)

COVID-19 Deaths Will Pass 100,000 by June 1

U.S. deaths from COVID-19 have now passed 90,000 and will hit 100,000 by June 1, according to CDC Director Robert Redfield. He looked at 12 different models, including those from Columbia University and M.I.T., and has come to this conclusion based on their predictions. All of them predict at least 100,000 deaths by the start of June.

Of course, 100,000 deaths is not so different from 99,000 or 101,000, but passing from a five-digit number to a six-digit number is sure to have a psychological impact on many people simply because 100,000 sounds a lot bigger than 99,999. As you no doubt have seen, many products are priced at $4.99 or $39.95 rather than at $5 or $40 because marketing experts know that big round numbers make a bigger impact than not-much-smaller weird numbers.

So when the 100K mark is passed at the end of next week, expect many news stories about how grim the situation is, plus obituaries of people famous and not famous who have died from COVID-19. This is not the kind of news Donald Trump wants, but it is what he is going to get.

What happens after the 100K mark is passed is difficult to say. Many states are reopening in ways large and small, and we don't know yet how well that will go (though Texas, one of the earliest re-openers had more new COVID-19 cases on Saturday than it's had on any other day; more below). If everyone is very careful, wears a mask all the time outdoors, and observes CDC guidelines, the death toll may continue to inch up slowly. But if people think that COVID-19 has been beaten and resume their previous lives, it could spike. What is also important is how companies respond to the reopening. If they give all their workers protective gear and space them 6 feet apart, the death rate may not spike. But if they don't, it could shoot up. (V)

Democratic Governors Hit with Lawsuits

In addition to the sporadic protests at state capitols in states with shelter-at-home rules, Democratic governors are facing another problem: lawsuits from business owners, workers, pastors, angry citizens, and even state legislatures, all of whom want to go back to business as usual. After the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled last week against their governor's lockdown, many groups are hoping for the same result in their states.

In California, for example, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is facing more than a dozen lawsuits challenging everything from beach closures to business closures. In Michigan, too, there is a flurry of lawsuits. In some cases, an industry is claiming that it is essential, and thus should be allowed to open, even if, say, restaurants aren't open. In other cases, the governor's authority to close anything is being challenged. In most cases, it is Democratic governors who are being sued because Republican governors are doing what Donald Trump has ordered them to do—open up their states.

What happens next depends on: (1) state law, (2) timing, and (3) which party controls the state supreme court, something that differs state by state. In many states, the governor has broad powers to deal with an emergency. If the governor has declared an emergency and used the emergency powers, he or she is probably on safe ground and the courts are unlikely to interfere. Timing is also important. The cases relating to Donald Trump's taxes have been banging around the courts for a couple of years. If the state AG is from the same party as the governor, one strategy is to stall and say it will take two months to prepare the case. A judge might well buy that. Finally, state supreme courts are not supposed to be partisan. If you believe that, well, we have this wonderful, historic bridge over the East River in New York that you can have for only $499.95 plus tax and shipping. (V)

Behind the Scenes It Is Birx, not Fauci, Who Is the Real Power

Dr. Anthony Fauci has a habit of speaking his mind and often disagreeing with Donald Trump. For this, Trump has threatened to fire him and Fox News is constantly egging the President on to do so. In contrast, nobody is out to get Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the government's coronavirus team. The reason, according to Axios, is that she is a far better politician than Fauci. She knows what Trump wants to hear on many issues and thus has gained his trust by telling him precisely that. For example, Trump hates the WHO, so Birx has told him how bad the organization is and how much it needs reform. That may or may not be true, but Trump loves to hear people tell him how right he is. In private, Fauci has defended the organization.

In public, Birx praises Trump, even though she is almost certainly faking it. He laps it up. This makes him much more inclined to listen to her. She also picks her battles very carefully. For example, when Georgia decided to open tattoo parlors and hair salons, she told Trump that was dangerous and shortly thereafter Trump criticized Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) for allowing them to open. In short, although she seems like a sweet grandmother and has a lovely collection of scarves, somewhere along the line this Army colonel learned enough child psychology to be much better at managing the toddler-in-chief than Fauci. (V)

We Need to Move on to Stage Five

Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross famously described the five stages of grief as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. With respect to COVID-19, Donald Trump was in denial for weeks and now seems to be stuck at anger with China and Barack Obama. Tom Frieden, a former director of the CDC, has written an op-ed in the Washington Post, arguing that some people are trying to bargain, saying it will kill only the old, weak, and infirm, while others are already very depressed. He says that people have to accept that COVID-19 is a fact of life and is not going away any time soon and the sooner people come to that conclusion, the better they can deal with it.

Once people have accepted that the virus and disease are here to stay for probably a year or more, they can come to accept some new facts of life more easily. These include:

  • People will have to wear masks and gloves in many public places
  • Travelers will get more space on planes, trains, and buses
  • However, they will also have to live with periodic border closures and quarantines
  • Schools and universities will have more remote learning
  • There will be a huge spike in telemedicine
  • Telework will become widely established across many industries
  • Restaurants will have to operate at 25-50% of capacity, which may not be viable for some
  • Factories and offices may have to be reorganized to keep workers 6 feet apart
  • Leisure time may move from indoors (movies, concerts, etc,) to outdoors (hiking, cycling, etc.)
  • Professional and college sports will not have spectators in the stadium or arena
  • Handshakes and hugs are out for the duration
  • Elderly people may decide to age in place rather than move to retirement communities or homes
  • Younger people will become more valued due to their greater natural immunity
  • There will be huge pressure to close meat markets that sell exotic animals

Frieden's point is that once people come to accept all of the above, we will all have a better time until there is a vaccine and/or herd immunity. Being in denial (i.e., refusing to wear a mask) just makes things worse. (V)

The Response to COVID-19 Is Just Class Warfare in a New Form

Fareed Zakaria has written an insightful column in the Washington Post about why the response to COVID-19 is so partisan.

Zakaria makes the point that power comes in three realms: government, economics, and culture. Class warfare is raging in all of them. It has been sharpened by the rise of a "meritocracy" or "overclass," depending on your view. The leaders in all three are urban, college-educated professionals, many with a postgraduate degree. For reference, only 36% of Americans have a bachelor's degree and only 13% have a master's or more. For people with only a high-school education living in rural areas, there is a deep alienation from this elite group that presumes to know what is best for them. These elites are the people Donald Trump rails about, although as billionaire president who graduated from the prestigious Wharton School, he is as solid a member of the elite as can be.

Now look at the COVID-19 crisis through the prism of class warfare. Americans who work with their hands—say, truck drivers, construction workers, or oil rig mechanics—and who have recently lost their jobs to the coronavirus and consequent shutdown of the economy, see "experts" on television. What they are thinking is: "These people say the shutdown is 'inconvenient,' but for me it is life-shattering. They haven't lost their jobs. I have." From this perspective, it is not hard to see why they are angry and bitter about "experts" who not only haven't suffered, but are more in demand than ever and are even seen as cultural heroes in some quarters like St. Anthony (Fauci).

Seeing it this way doesn't make it any easier for leaders to make good decisions, but they could explain it better than saying "sorry for the inconvenience." The explanation has to be something like: "If we just go about our ways and pretend there is no pandemic, the virus will spread like wildfire and millions of people will die and that probably includes some of your friends and family. We have no choice." (V)

Texas Supreme Court Halts Expansion of Mail-in Voting

Texas is one of the states in which you can get an absentee ballot only if you have a valid excuse—and fear of dying if you vote doesn't count. Voting-rights advocates sued the state and won a decision in a lower court, which ruled that during a pandemic, anyone who wants an absentee ballot can get one. The decision was appealed to the 14th Texas Court of Appeals, which upheld the original decision. This ruling was then appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.

On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court stayed the appeals-court decision pending a hearing on the merits of the case. Texas AG Ken Paxton praised the Court's move, saying: "Protecting the integrity of elections is one of my most important and sacred obligations."

The nine Texas Supreme Court justices are elected for 6-year terms, but when a position becomes vacant, the governor can appoint a new justice until the next election. Currently, all nine justices are Republicans. No one really expects the Court to uphold the lower-court decision since (1) the governor, AG, and all Texas officials oppose making it easy to vote by absentee ballot, and (2) Texas' law clearly states the conditions under which a voter can request an absentee ballot and fear of dying if you vote isn't in the list. So it seems very likely the justices will rule that if the state legislature feels that voting is too dangerous, it can change the law. Basically: "That's up to them, not us." So far, the legislature has exhibited zero interest in changing the law.

However, sometimes circumstances interfere with the best laid plans of rodentia and homo sapiens. On Saturday, as noted above, Texas reported 1,801 new cases of COVID-19, the biggest single-day jump so far. Most cases were from Potter and Randall counties in North Texas, where there are large meatpacking plants. If Texas becomes a COVID-19 hotspot (well, more than it already is), the legislature might end up reconsidering the law after all. (V)

Trump's Opposition to Absentee Ballots May Backfire

Pennsylvania is holding its primary election 2 weeks from tomorrow and the battle over absentee ballots is raging. When Pennsylvania voters tell their friends on Facebook that they can vote absentee if they want to, they are often deluged with hate from Trump supporters who say (with scant evidence) that absentee voting leads to fraud. They know this is true, however, because the President said it and they believe and obey him.

Fine, but here is what is actually happening: Democrats are requesting absentee ballots in huge numbers and Republicans are not. So far, nearly 1.2 million Pennsylvanians have requested an absentee ballot, a 14x increase compared to 2016. And 70% of the requests are from registered Democrats, even though Democrats represent only 55% of Pennsylvania voters. So the consequence of Trump's railing against absentee voting is that Democrats are going to do it in record numbers and Republicans are not.

Of course, if all the Republicans show up to vote in person on June 2, Trump's opposition to absentee ballots won't matter. But realistically, some Republicans, especially older ones, may not vote due to their fear of contracting COVID-19. Or it could be bad weather on June 2 and they want to stay home, or it could be good weather and they don't want to waste the day standing in line at a polling station. The net result of Trump's opposition could be to increase Democratic turnout and reduce Republican turnout.

Lee Snover, head of the Northampton County Republican Party, said that this pattern is a worrisome harbinger. She has good reason to worry. Northampton County was one of the three Pennsylvania counties that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and switched to Trump in 2016. Snover said: "Trump supporters simply don't trust the process, and the President's comments have not helped things, for sure."

Sure enough, one Republican Pennsylvania voter, Frank Miller, a business owner, said: "Most Trump supporters are like me—we trust Trump but no one else. When I see Democrats pushing it, I know there must be a sinister reason for it." Fortunately, Trump never has a sinister reason for anything he does.

The problem isn't restricted to Pennsylvania. Nationwide, two-thirds of Democrats say they are at least somewhat likely to vote absentee vs. one-third of Republicans. The problem could be even more acute in November, because an absentee ballot mailed on time is a sure vote (but see below). By contrast, for people planning to vote in person on Election Day, if there is a big storm or some other issue (e.g., a big news story about COVID-19 the day before Election Day), they may change their mind and skip voting. (V)

Trump Supporter Chosen as Postmaster General

The USPS's board has selected a strong supporter of Donald Trump, Louis DeJoy, as the new postmaster general, the person who runs the Postal Service. DeJoy has contributed over $2 million to Trump's campaign and to those of other Republicans. DeJoy is also in charge of raising money to pay for the Republican National Convention. Normally (but not always), the postmaster general is chosen from the ranks of Postal Service executives.

DeJoy does know something about the mail, though. His company, New Breed Logistics (before it merged with XPO) was a contractor to the USPS for 25 years and still is via XPO. DeJoy and his wife own between $25 million and $50 million in XPO stock, so decisions he makes as Postmaster General could directly affect the value of his stock. This is just garden-variety corruption, hardly unusual these days.

But there is more. The XPO unions have gone on strike because what XPO focuses on, among other things, is "robotics, autonomous vehicles, automated sorting systems, drones, and other cutting-edge technologies..." In other words, getting rid of people. Postal workers have experienced "modernization" before, and each round eliminated some jobs and made the remaining ones more stressful.

In addition, DeJoy has a bad labor record. Since 2000, companies he ran were cited by the NLRB and fined $1.5 million by a Tennessee jury for tolerating sexual harassment. They were also cited 16 times for wage-and-hour violations totaling $35 million, 6 times for employment discrimination, 5 times for labor relations, 8 times for aviation safety, and 22 times for health and safety.

What is more interesting from our point of view is whether DeJoy could play a role in handing Trump the election. Suppose that Trump's campaign manager, Brad Parscale, tells Trump in mid-October that he is losing because Democrats are voting by absentee ballot in unheard-of numbers (see above). Then Trump calls DeJoy with some friendly advice. The next day, DeJoy announces that to protect the health of postal workers from COVID-19, the entire USPS will be shut down until Nov. 10, when the coronavirus is expected to magically vanish. No more mail until a week after the election. Instead of hinging on e-mail, this election could hinge on snail mail. How does this affect the vote? We can divide the absentee ballots into five categories.

  1. Absentee ballots already requested, filled in, sent back, and received before the shutdown will be counted
  2. Absentee ballots filled in and mailed back but not delivered before the shutdown won't be counted
  3. Absentee ballots requested and received but not mailed back will still be held by the voters
  4. Absentee ballots requested but not delivered to the voter on account of the shutdown won't be delivered on time
  5. People who haven't requested a ballot, but were planning to, won't be able to

The various groups are affected differently. Group 1 is not affected by the USPS shutdown. Group 2 is complicated because the voters won't know if their ballot made it on time. In principle, they can go to their polling place and try to cast a provisional ballot but this will entail arguing with poll workers who don't understand the situation and say: "If you mailed your ballot, you can't vote."

Group 3 probably will depend on the state. In the event of a USPS shutdown, undoubtedly some states (but not all) will set up collection boxes where voters can deposit their absentee ballots. Alternatively, voters can always bring their ballots to their polling place on Election Day and either cast them there or exchange them for an in-person ballot.

Group 4 voters can just vote in person. As long as they have not voted by absentee ballot, they are allowed to vote in person. Requesting an absentee ballot, not using it, and voting in person is allowed. However, if poll workers can see that an absentee ballot was requested, they may insist the voter use a provisional ballot. Group 5 voters will know that they have to vote in person.

Groups 2 and 4 are the tricky ones. Will voters know the procedure about provisional ballots? The media will probably explain the situation if this occurs, but not everyone pays attention. Ironically, MSNBC is much more likely to discuss the problem and solution than Fox News, which won't help Trump.

A key issue here is the timing. If Parscale can discover from previous years when the peak absentee ballot requests and returns are, the shutdown process can be optimized. However, if the USPS were to shutdown, that would generate huge problems for people who paid bills or the rent on time, but the checks didn't arrive on time. There would be endless lawsuits, but Trump couldn't care less about them. In addition, people who receive medicine and other essentials by mail would be collateral damage. Too bad for them.

Admittedly, this is an unlikely scenario, but if Trump believes he will lose and be indicted by SDNY or New York AG Letitia James on Jan. 21, 2021, he will be desperate, and desperate times call for desperate measures. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
May17 Amash Bows Out
May17 Sunday Mailbag
May16 Trump Fires State Department Inspector General
May16 Saturday Q&A
May16 Today's Presidential Polls
May16 Today's Senate Polls
May15 Burr in Hot Water
May15 House Democrats Expected to Vote on $3 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Bill Today
May15 Bright Testifies Before Congress
May15 "Obamagate" Roars Back to Life
May15 Unpleasant Surprise May Be Coming for Seniors
May15 Democratic Activists Form Anti-Graham PAC
May15 Emoluments Lawsuit Is Back On
May15 Today's Presidential Polls
May14 Partisan Divide on Opening the Economy
May14 Wisconsin to Reopen...Today?
May14 Trump May Close the Borders Indefinitely
May14 Supreme Court Hears Case about Faithless Electors
May14 Bright Has a Dim View of Trump
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May14 Biden Wins the Nebraska Primary
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May14 Can We Trust the State Polls?
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