Biden 350
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Trump 188
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Dem 50
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Ties 2
GOP 48
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  • Strongly Dem (223)
  • Likely Dem (50)
  • Barely Dem (77)
  • Exactly tied (0)
  • Barely GOP (62)
  • Likely GOP (9)
  • Strongly GOP (117)
270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2016 2012 2008
New polls: NY SC
Dem pickups vs. 2016: AZ FL GA MI NC PA WI
GOP pickups vs. 2016: (None)
Political Wire logo Minneapolis Protests Continue Thru Night
Roger Stone Must Report to Prison June 30
GOP Convention Fight Escalates in North Carolina
The Most Mendacious President in U.S. History
Trump Approval Hits 28-Month Low
White House Removes Virus Warnings About Choirs

Campaigns Think That Only 5% of the Voters Are Undecided

As the country gets more and more polarized, the pool of truly undecided voters keeps shrinking. Both presidential campaigns now estimate that the number of undecided voters who could go either way is about 5% of the electorate. While about a third of the country identifies as "independent," most are just putting on a show. Nearly all of the independents strongly favor one of the parties. Maybe the difference between an independent and a partisan is that if an independent's preferred party were to nominate a child molester, the independent might balk at that, whereas a partisan wouldn't be deterred. But short of that, most independents know deep in their hearts which party they are going to vote for, even before the candidates are known.

The shrinking pool of swing voters is new. In October 2016, a survey showed that 21% of voters were undecided between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Recent polls from Fox News pollsters and YouGov put the number of undecided voters now at about 5%. Given how everything from abortion to wearing a mask is now politicized, it is not surprising that there aren't a lot of swing voters left.

According to the polls, the 2020 fence sitters tend to be younger than 50, college educated, and in the middle to upper-middle income bracket. They are not all disengaged or uninformed. In general, they don't think much of any politician. So when faced with a choice between politician A who favors policy X and politician B who favors policy Y, their take is "none of the above" because they think all politicians are crooked liars.

One thing that has reduced the number of swing voters this year is the absence of well-known third-party candidates. The Libertarian party just nominated Jo Jorgensen, who is not exactly a household name. The Green Party's likely nominee, Howie Hawkins, isn't much better known, except to the Green Party faithful. So the absence of any alternatives has forced some swing voters to take sides and line up with one of the major parties.

These findings notwithstanding, the Trump campaign believes that some of Biden's support, currently about 48% of the electorate, is soft and could be peeled away. Team Trump is focused on about 20,000 undecided voters in each of the swing states. A huge push for them will begin shortly, with negative ads targeting Biden as a pawn of China.

That's all well and good, but Trump is going to be playing defense this year, even though he is the incumbent. His support lags where he was in 2016 consistently by about three points. He lost the 2016 popular vote by two points. If he loses it this year by five points, it will be virtually impossible to pull off a victory in the Electoral College.

The lack of undecided voters is likely to shape both parties' strategies. Each is more likely to focus on getting its base to the polls. That has always been Trump's strategy. He didn't need his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, to tell him that. A huge amount of what he tweets, says, and does alienates Democrats, but his base just laps it up.

Biden may also try to appeal more to his base, although that is not his nature. He is more comfortable trying to be bipartisan, but if his pollsters tell him that he is better off firing up his base than trying to peel off some of Trump's, he'll probably grudgingly give it a weak shot. His first real test is due in 2 months or less: His choice of a running mate. Will he pick someone his base can love or will he go with a plain, vanilla moderate? A black woman, such as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), or Stacey Abrams, would really energize minority voters and probably many white college-educated liberals. In contrast, a choice like Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) or Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) would suggest he is going to focus on that undecided 5% in the middle. We'll know soon. (V)

Trump's Allies Are Getting Nervous

Politico spoke with 10 people close to Trumpworld, both White House insiders and major donors and allies. They don't like how things are going and want action to fix the situation. They see that Joe Biden has leads of 7, 9, and 10 points in the three Rust Belt states Donald Trump flipped last time, and that Arizona, North Carolina, and Florida are much too close for comfort. Traditionally, the campaign gets serious after Memorial Day and the Trump allies want him to take off the gloves and start smashing Biden, and right now. After all, the Trump campaign has plenty of money. They saw how cleverly Barack Obama labeled Mitt Romney a plutocrat in 2012 early on and Romney was never able to recover. "Why can't Trump label Biden?" they are thinking.

The answer, of course, is that Trump has repeatedly tried and failed. Trump calls Biden Sleepy Joe, but the voters tend to see the former Veep as goofy and lovable, not sleepy. Trump tried to blame Biden for being nice to China, but the voters have heard Trump praise China dozens of times. Trump and his pal Rudy Giuliani tried to hang Biden for being the father of the "notorious" Hunter Biden, but all that did was get Trump impeached. They hit him for his gaffe about black voters who favor Trump not being black enough, but Biden apologized and the topic fell off the radar. Using campaign surrogate Donald Trump Jr., they tried to paint Biden as some sort of sexual deviant. However, the obvious desperation of that approach, coupled with the fading credibility of Tara Reade, as well as Senior's much more problematic track record on that front, meant that has gone nowhere.

Biden's campaign press secretary, TJ Ducklo, explained it thusly: "Donald Trump has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at Joe Biden since the day he entered the race, using recycled nicknames, outright lies and even disinformation to try and brand him as something he's not. It failed miserably." That is not surprising. Biden has been in national politics for 47 years, including 8 years as a fairly high-profile vice president. Most people already have a pretty good idea of who he is and thinking that by buying $100 million worth of nasty ads on Facebook, the campaign can change people's view of him in a couple of months is a tad naive.

Several of the political advisers Politico talked to (as opposed to the big donors) were defensive. One said that it is easy to be critical. Another said that the polls could be way off. A third said that Trump was counting on the economy to get him a second term, and that this virus thing is getting in the way.

Interestingly enough, the gist of what everyone told Politico was that Trump needed to attack Biden more and run a barrage of stinging negative ads. No one said that maybe if Trump would spend more time governing and trying to solve the country's health and economic problems, then the voters would like him better and might think he should get another term. No one mentioned that having 100,000 Americans die of COVID-19 might somehow be related to Trump's lack of popularity. That is just not how donors and insiders think. In their view, governing well is irrelevant. What matters is which side runs the most and the nastiest attack ads and they feel that the only way to save Trump is to run more and nastier ones, even if they can't figure out what they should attack Biden for, since everything they have tried so far has failed to stick. (V)

Rosenstein Will Testify before the Senate Next Week

One approach to attacking Joe Biden that the Trump campaign hasn't tried yet is to somehow blame Joe Biden for the Mueller investigation. But fear not, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is going to give it a shot by calling former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week. Trump has been simmering for months about the Mueller report and Graham knows that investigating the reason that Rosenstein appointed Mueller may win him brownie points with Trump and, maybe if he is lucky, Rosenstein will pin the blame on the Obama administration, and hence Biden.

It's a longshot. Graham probably knows that, but trying to please Trump is what he does these days, possibly to his detriment (see the polling data below). Rosenstein is a straight shooter and isn't going to make up crazy stories to please Graham and Trump, especially now that he can't be fired because he quit a year ago. When Graham asks Rosenstein why he appointed a special counsel, Rosenstein will calmly tell him that the U.S. intelligence community was absolutely convinced that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and he wanted a special counsel to put together a report telling the whole story.

Graham also wants to look at alleged abuses of the FISA court, particularly concerning the possibility that the FBI made mistakes in issuing a warrant for the surveillance of Carter Page. There may well have been mistakes there, but it is unlikely Biden was involved in any way. Still, if Graham can dig up a few nuggets that suggest the "deep state" was out to get Trump, that will give Trump ammo to blame the "deep state" for all his troubles.

Trump has also called for Graham to subpoena Barack Obama to testify. Graham has so far pushed back on that because he knows very well that Obama is a very credible witness and a smooth talker. Graham could ask Obama why he didn't investigate the Russians during the campaign if he knew they were up to no good. But then Obama would calmly explain that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he would denounce it as a partisan witch hunt and refuse to cooperate. Obama might even suggest that Graham call McConnell as a witness, put him under oath, and ask him if that statement is true. Needless to say, Graham would never dare do that. So Obama isn't going to be called. The hearing will be political theater and accomplish nothing. (V)

Trump Threatens Twitter

Donald Trump was none too pleased when Twitter basically attached warning labels to a couple of his tweets on Tuesday. If they decide to fact check all of his tweets, it will be easy. It can pretty much modify the tweeting software to automatically attach a message to all of his tweets saying: "Warning! This tweet may not be true. Reader caution is advised." This will be on the mark most of the time these days.

So what did Trump do as a preemptive strike? He tweeted, of course:

To say that social media silences conservatives is utter hogwash. It is true that some conservatives have been booted from the platform, but it was invariably for violation of Twitter's terms of service. The same has happened to many non-conservatives; here is a list of many of the high-profile temporary or permanent suspensions. If you examine it, you will see the unifying theme is not "this person is a conservative," but instead "this person acted like a jerk, often repeatedly." Many progressives have pointed out repeatedly that Twitter should shut down Trump because he violates its terms of service constantly, but the company has steadfastly refused to take Trump on, until the little tags it added to two tweets on Tuesday.

Could Trump punish Twitter? As a matter of law, no, he couldn't. He could stop using the platform, which would make millions of his supporters give it up too, and that would hurt Twitter financially. However, there wouldn't be any similar opportunity for Trump to vent many times a day and reach hundreds of millions of people. He could jump to a right-wing Twitter competitor, like Parler or Gab, but those have a tiny fraction of Twitter's reach, even if Trump brings a few million users along with him. So, he is very unlikely to stop tweeting.

The Justice Dept. could take on Twitter if it wanted to. To some extent, Twitter has a monopoly on, well, tweeting. It could be hit with an antitrust case that, if successful, would break it up into three or four competing companies. However, that would be a tough case to make. Is Twitter really substantively different from Instagram or Snapchat or Pinterest? And, in any case, an antitrust case would linger on long beyond Trump's presidency, even if he is reelected. He's the type of man who wants gratification now.

Congress could also get involved, if it so desired. One thing it could do is repeal Sec. 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects Twitter and other social media platforms from lawsuits from third parties aggrieved by what other users have posted. That would open Twitter to thousands of lawsuits and cost it a fortune in lawyers, even if it prevailed.

Congress could also go a step further and declare Twitter to be a publisher like, say, the New York Times. If the Times publishes a letter to the editor online inciting people to commit a plausible crime right now (e.g., "show up today at the governor's mansion at noon to protest a shelter-at-home order while carrying a loaded machine gun in a state that does not allow open carry of loaded machine guns"), the Times itself could end up facing off against FBI agents brandishing copies of Brandenburg v. Ohio, in which the Supreme Court found that the government can punish speech "directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action." If the law were to change, so as to declare that Twitter is a publisher, then the platform would have to vet every tweet in advance. The Times manages this by publishing only a very small number of letters. If Twitter were reduced to publishing just a few thousand tweets a day, all of which were carefully vetted by its legal team, it would probably lose quite a few readers and a lot of its business.

Again, though, this is all academic. Congress is not going to do any of these things. House Democrats have no interest in accommodating the President's temper tantrums, and Senate Republicans are clever enough to realize that changing the law would hurt conservative voices (Glenn Beck, Dennis Prager, Hugh Hewitt, etc.) a lot, and would be absolutely lethal to right-wing social media platforms like the aforementioned Parler and Gab. Plus, even if Congress was inclined to take action, there would be years (if not decades) of lawsuits. Trump can't stand to wait days, much less decades.

And so, we're back where we started: there is nothing Trump can do to Twitter; he is just bluffing, as usual. The White House did announce on Wednesday night that an executive order "concerning social media" is coming on Thursday, but refused to give any specifics. That means some poor soul is going to be up late, trying to figure out something for the President to decree that seems "strong." Given what we lay out above, the folks who run Twitter should not lose any sleep worrying about it. (V & Z)

Pelosi Attacks Trump for Demanding the Show Must Go on

Donald Trump has said that North Carolina must approve a full-scale Republican National Convention within the week or he will move it to another state. He is just bluffing, though, because voiding all the existing contracts and finding a new venue and making all the arrangements for 50,000 people to visit a mere 3 months from now would be exceedingly difficult to pull off smoothly. Yesterday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) attacked Trump for wanting to hold a normal convention during a pandemic, thus endangering the health of thousands of delegates, alternates, reporters, news anchors, convention staff, and many others.

Of course, if the Democrats hold an equally large convention in Milwaukee on Aug. 17-20, she could rightfully be called a hypocrite, as the coronavirus is definitely nonpartisan. She is obviously well plugged in to what the Democrats are planning, so it sounds like they will do something less than a full-blown convention. The Fiserv Forum, where the DNC is scheduled to be held, can seat 17,500 people. There are 3,979 delegates. If only the delegates, a skeleton crew, and a handful of speakers at a time are allowed in, it might be possible to hold socially distanced masked votes inside, with funny signs, balloon drops, and the like, and then do the rest of the convention in the hall but with no audience. Or maybe have one state at a time show up for its 15 minutes of fame. Spreading California's 494 delegates over a 17,500-seat arena would make a clear point about social distancing, which would probably work to the Democrats' advantage. Since the Democrats go first this year, they will have to make a decision first and that could affect what Trump will do. (V)

Democrats May Campaign on Judicial Appointments

Mitch McConnell has relentlessly pushed to confirm over 200 judges, many of them very young, inexperienced, and ideologically outspoken. He sees this as his proudest achievement of the 116th Congress. But that may come back to haunt him. Senate Democrats launched a campaign yesterday to make Donald Trump's judicial picks and their Senate confirmations a major election issue. It started with the release of a 54-page report entitled "Captured Courts." It has three chapters:

  • Rigging the game
  • Follow the money
  • Advise and capitulate

It focuses on how Republicans have packed the courts with judges and justices who favor the rich and powerful. It pays special attention to the Federalist Society and its role in making sure all nominees are true-blue (true-red?) conservatives.

The Democrats are sure to use the subject of judicial confirmations in a number of the tightest Senate races. They can easily find a few of Trump's nominees who are manifestly unqualified—including ones whom the ABA rated as "unqualified"—and hammer on the fact that Sen. X (R-Wherever) voted to confirm this unqualified person. Usually, Democratic voters don't vote based on judicial appointments whereas Republicans often do. In fact, many Republicans who really don't like Trump defend him by saying: "Gorsuch! Kavanaugh!" to imply that all in all, getting all those right-wing judges and justices made the devil's bargain worth it. The intent of the Democratic report and the campaign that will follow it is to make Democratic voters furious about what Trump and McConnell have done, and use that fury to get them to the polls. For Democrats, this is a new strategy, but if it is true that there are hardly any swing voters left, then a strategy of enraging the base over judicial nominations and confirmations could be a good idea. (V)

AFL-CIO Endorses Biden

It wasn't unexpected, but the AFL-CIO has now formally endorsed Joe Biden for president. The group's president, Richard Trumka, said: "Joe Biden is a lifelong supporter of workers and has fought his entire career for living wages, health care, retirement security and civil rights."

Clearly Trumka is on board the S.S. Biden. Now the question is: What about the 12.5 million AFL-CIO members? These are precisely the blue-collar workers that Biden needs to win the Rust Belt. Many of them voted for Trump in 2016, so Trumka has his work cut out for him. On issues like immigration and fossil fuels, many of Trumka's members aren't with the Democrats.

One thing Biden could do that would probably win over many of them, though, is to say the way to fix the damaged economy is to invest a trillion dollars or more in renewing America's crumbling infrastructure, which would create millions of jobs in the process. In addition to fixing deteriorating roads, bridges, tunnels, harbors, and airports, he could propose tax credits or other support for companies manufacturing solar panels, wind turbines, and other green energy equipment in depressed areas. That probably wouldn't work in coal-mining states like West Virginia and Kentucky, but it might work in states not as dependent on coal mining like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. In times of plenty, many blue-collar workers vote based on cultural issues, but if unemployment is 10-15% in the fall, Biden might be able to lure many of them away with a promise to revive good-paying unionized factory jobs. The good thing about such a pitch is that it brings together union members and environmentalists, who are not always allies. He could promise to pay for it by repealing the 2017 tax cut, which mostly helped the very wealthy.

Biden could also call for large-scale installation of broadband Internet in rural areas, which is labor-intensive work and would create many jobs as well as giving the people who live there better connectivity. It could also entice tech companies to move there and set up shop where costs are low. (V)

California Will Investigate Tara Reade for Perjury

On Monday, we noted that a CNN investigation showed Joe Biden's accuser, Tara Reade, had committed perjury, probably multiple times, which led her lawyer to drop her. One of the prosecutors in the Monterey County district attorney's office apparently saw the CNN story and may take action. Assistant D.A. Berkley Brannon told Politico: "We are investigating whether Ms. McCabe gave false testimony under oath." When Reade testified in court, she usually used the alias Alexandra McCabe. Brannon said that he didn't know how many cases Reade testified in, so he didn't know how many counts of perjury she could be indicted for.

He is going to get a bit of help finding out. Already, one of the defense lawyers in a case in which Reade testified, Roland Soltesz, has taken notice. He said: "It's my opinion that the district attorney has an obligation to find out that information and turn it over to us." No doubt Soltesz is going to have a chat fairly soon with Brannon to fill him in on the details he knows. Soltesz also said that he would carry on his own investigation, including getting subpoenas for records. With the defense lawyers for people who were convicted in part on the basis of Reade's testimony now actively going after her, the D.A. is going to look bad if he doesn't pursue the matter as well.

If Brannon indicts her, it will get Biden off the hook. Then, if Trump or his surrogates bring up the subject, Biden can point out that Reade has been indicted for lying under oath. While "innocent until proven guilty" holds in a court of law, indicted for lying in a case where the evidence of the lies is already public is pretty much a guilty verdict in the court of public opinion. If Reade's plan was to make up a story about Biden, with the idea that the DNC would panic and show him the door (as they panicked in the Al Franken case) and then replace him with her favorite candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), it doesn't look like her plan is going to work out so well, and she could possibly end up in prison. (V)

Today's Presidential Polls

Joe Biden is going to win New York and Donald Trump is going to win South Carolina. Sorry for wasting your time, but we try to be complete here. (V)

State Biden Trump Start End Pollster
New York 57% 32% May 17 May 21 Siena Coll.
South Carolina 42% 52% May 23 May 26 Civiqs

Today's Senate Polls

To make up for wasting your time on today's presidential polls, we have some actual news on the Senate front. Bear with us for a minute, because first we have the 11th Arizona Senate poll of the year. All eleven of them have shown Mark Kelly leading Sen. Martha McSally, with nine of them giving Kelly a lead outside the margin of error. Since the beginning of April, the best McSally has done is come within nine points of Kelly. Maybe Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ) should have taken notice of the fact that McSally, an Air Force veteran, was beaten by now-senator Kyrsten Sinema, an openly bisexual woman with no military experience, in 2018 and not appointed McSally to John McCain's seat. Barring something very unexpected, come Jan. 3, 2021, Arizona will have two Democratic senators. If the state also turns blue in the presidential election, the Democrats will pretty much own a big chunk of the southwestern U.S., from Colorado to California, except for Utah.

Thanks for sticking with us. Now here's the big surprise. A new Civiqs poll has Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tied with Jaime Harrison in South Carolina. We find this hard to believe, except for one thing. Civiqs is new, but is run by Drew Linzer, a statistician and former professor of political science at Emory University. There is no reason to think he has an axe to grind. Also, Civiqs' poll of the South Carolina presidential race has Trump ahead by 10 points, which seems plausible given that Trump won the state by 14 points in 2016 and the country as a whole has shifted around 3-4 points toward the Democrats. So most likely Civiqs' sample and model is indeed representative of the state. But why is Graham running so far behind Trump in a very red state? For starters, the 30% of the state that is black doesn't especially like Graham, and probably likes Harrison (who is black) a lot. Those voters are a lost cause for Graham. We are not sure, but it is also possible that upscale white suburban voters miss the old Lindsey Graham, who was John McCain's buddy, and don't like or respect him for suddenly hugging Trump so tightly that if he did it any more tightly the President couldn't breathe. This is only one poll, so take it with a tablespoon of salt, but suddenly this is a race to watch. (V)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Arizona Mark Kelly 51% Martha McSally* 41% May 18 May 22 High Ground Inc.
South Carolina Jaime Harrison 42% Lindsey Graham* 42% May 23 May 26 Civiqs

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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