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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  How Sick is Trump?
      •  Sunday Mailbag
      •  Today's Presidential Polls

How Sick is Trump?

Saturday's main story about Donald Trump's hospitalization at Walter Reed Medical Center is that we don't know what the story is. The official story and the leaks are wildly inconsistent. On the one hand, the official report from Trump's White House physician, Dr. Sean Conley, is that the president is doing well, feeling fine and this whole thing is no big deal. The only thing he left out that would have made the picture even rosier is to say that Trump saw some pretty nurses at the hospital and tried to grab some of that for which he will be forever famous for grabbing.

On the other hand, leaks to reporters have suggested that Trump is far from healthy. Chief of Staff Mark Meadows even said: "The president's vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care." That would mean Monday we might know more—if it leaks out. Meadows seems to be undercutting what Conley said. It is a bit strange that the doctor is very positive but the political operative is more negative. It is supposed to be the other way around. Maybe an intern inadvertently mixed up the scripts each one was handed.

Top campaign staff were said to be furious with Meadows for opening his mouth. Trump, himself, was also angry. Another top official said: "We have not communicated with the public well on this." A senior administration official close to the president told a Washington Post reporter: "I can tell you what I am hearing, but I honestly have no idea if it's right. A lot of people aren't even telling other people in the building the truth."

Reporters across the country are scratching their heads over the contradictory reports. Here are some headlines:

Of course, right-wing outlets were not in doubt about the big story today. Breitbart's lead this morning was: "As Trump battles COVID, BLM/Antifa disrupt Trump rally in Beverly Hills."

As of Sunday morning, the state of the president's health was still murky. Among the known unknowns are:

  • When was Trump first diagnosed with COVID-19?
  • What was his temperature before he received fever-reducing medication?
  • Did he get supplemental oxygen at any time?

Politically, the first question is probably the most important. If reports that Trump clearly had COVID-19 on Wednesday are true, then Trump continued to have meetings and events for 2 days while he was sick, thus spreading the virus to dozens, and maybe hundreds, of people. On Thursday, for example, he met with big donors at his golf club in Bedminster, NJ. Gatherings like that would be irresponsible in the extreme if Trump knew he was sick, and might even be the basis for a criminal charge, like manslaughter, if someone got the virus from him and died as a result. The other two questions would shed light on how sick he really is, something that Trump clearly does not want to come out since he regards being sick as a weakness, and he knows the weak are eaten.

One person who very likely picked up the virus from Trump is Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who has now tested positive, along with Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Thom Tillis (R-NC). We don't know yet how sick they are. Sometimes people feel all right after testing positive, then a few days later, the disease hits them like a ton of bricks. If these three senators are unable to be present when the vote on Amy Coney Barrett is taken, and Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) (R-AK) vote to reject her, she will go down in flames. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will move heaven and earth to prevent that, but if the senators are all in the hospital fighting for their lives, McConnell would have to change the rules pretty drastically to allow them to vote. (V)

Sunday Mailbag

Too bad there was so very little to write in about this week.

Saturday Night Fever

J.G. in San Diego, CA, writes: After much thought, I have decided that while I'm sure he is not faking, coronavirus definitely helps Trump. Don't shoot me, I'm just the messenger. He's the single greatest threat to American democracy that has ever existed. He's a racist, misogynist narcissist who would burn our country to the ground for an ounce of glory or one more dollar in his pocket. So when I say coronavirus helps him, know that is not wishful thinking, but something more akin to existential terror. I'm not saying he is going to win, I'm just saying coronavirus is going to significantly boost his chances, for a number of reasons:

  1. Anyone upset by his hubris, upset at all the people he endangered with his behavior, upset about coronavirus and see this as comeuppance...those people are already on Team Anti-Trump.

  2. There are people out there (call them "I like his policies but not his style" people) looking for an excuse to vote for him. See the groups of "undecided" voters shown on CNN and elsewhere who watched that debate in which he was insane, racist, and rude and afterward said "Gosh, I still don't know." Last time it was "I don't like Hillary Clinton." This time, the excuse just might be, "Look how rude the Democrats were to a sick old man. Now I don't like their style either. I may as well vote for Trump again."

  3. Never underestimate the ability of people, but especially Republicans, to play the "I'm really the victim" card. (You know who the real victims of institutional racism in America are? Rich white people who have to take sensitivity training. Nobody in history has ever been treated worse than them.) Undoubtedly these people have also been complaining about masks and distancing to anyone who will listen, and now they see exactly what will happen to them if they get coronavirus and spread it to the people they love...they will be mocked relentlessly on Facebook and people on the news will say they are bad people who are ruining America. Their only protection is Donald Trump, who will go and yell at those people. Further, he got better, so clearly coronavirus isn't a big deal, right?

  4. You are going to start hearing this a lot in a week, if you haven't already, so get ready for this piece of messaging: "Donald Trump already had coronavirus and he beat it. Joe Biden hasn't. If this thing is so serious, why would I vote for a guy who could still get it and die? Donald Trump won't get it again. Also, he now understands what it is like to have it, so he's the right person to tell us how to fight it. In a world with rampaging coronavirus, Trump is the person who makes sense, not Joe."

  5. All Donald Trump has to do to win over a ton of voters is pretend, for a month, that this changed him and made him see the light. One good fireside chat where he says that this is a serious problem, and he's going to bring the full might of America to bear fighting it, and he's going to put a bill to congress for a billion dollars for small business modernization and school retrofitting...that is literally all it would take to make people forget the last 6 hellish months and see Trump as the coronavirus/economy savior. Can he keep that up for a long time? No. But he only has to keep it up for a few weeks.

  6. Donald Trump's biggest enemy is Donald Trump. Just as the answer for people who don't really like Joe Biden is definitely not more Joe, the answer for people on the fence about Trump is definitely not more Trump. The problem for the campaign has always been that he just. Won't. Shut. Up. No matter what message they try to put out, he craps all over it. So the best thing that could possibly happen is something that involuntarily shuts him up. His surrogates can get out there and say nice things about him, and talk about reasonable policies, and he won't blow it all up. Trump 2020 will benefit enormously from 2 weeks without him defending his taxes, saying "bullhorn dogwhistle" racist crap, insulting people at rallies, or doing whatever the hell it was he thinks he was doing at the debate is only good for him.

G.W. in Minneapolis, MN, writes: I could definitely see Trump portraying himself as a hero and appealing to Americans to stand tall, be brave, and "take the hit" the way he did. Americans don't run from COVID-19 the way those weak foreigners do. "I risked my life and walked through the flames to make America great. Sleepy Joe hid in his basement". His base would go wild. Many others (especially men) might think "Yeah, he's got a point!" Then Trump would award himself a Purple Heart with gold leaf clusters.

Also, Trump will become America's resident medical expert on COVID. His personal experience with the disease will give him all the "credibility" he needs to dismiss whatever the so-called experts and his critics will say. After all, they've never had it. He has.

Finally, Trump can claim that he's the only candidate who is immune and certain to complete his term. He could claim that Sleepy Joe would probably be killed by the disease, fragile as he is, and you know what that means: Socialist Antifa radical (and black woman) President Kamala Harris.

D.A. in Edinburgh, Scotland, writes: It occurs to me that if anyone needs the Trumps to survive the COVID-19 diagnosis, it's the Democrats, who are likely praying for the Trumps to recover quickly. Without Trump on the ballot, how many voters might lose their motivation to vote Blue if the choice is the virtually unknown Pence? Also, if Trump isn't the candidate those Republicans who were thinking of voting Blue to stop Trump are lost.

The timing, however, means that the VP debate, if Pence and Harris are cleared to go ahead, just became possibly the most important VP Debate of all time for both sides. It gives the Democrats a shot to define Pence in the eyes of the voters. Likewise, it gives Pence a shot to establish himself.

Right now, if I'm a Democratic strategist, the key message I would slam home every single day regardless of the eventual outcome of the President's illness: He is getting healthcare and not paying for it, and yet he is going to take away your healthcare or make you pay more for it. Biden's pivot on the Supreme Court questions at the debate to talk about healthcare now looks like a masterstroke. But either way, Team Blue need a Trump bogeyman to run against far more than the Republicans need him to bring in the votes—particularly down ballot.

S.S. in West Hollywood, CA, writes: Three reasons I hope Donald Trump does not die from this:

  1. I would hate to deny him all those years of courtrooms and prison cells to come. Or us.

  2. We're so close to voting him out. If Trump was to die or otherwise drop out, I can't imagine the Republicans would stick with the losing ticket of Trump/Pence if they could find a way around it. The GOP would replace Trump with another candidate and I wouldn't assume that would be Pence.

    If I was to speculate, I would agree with you that Nikki Haley would quickly be sworn in as Vice President. Then the Republican Party would make her the candidate since she'd be a much stronger one than Pence. However, I hear Mitt Romney is available too.

    That's too many unknowns for me and no guarantee it would end with Biden in the White House.

  3. I couldn't stomach the rewriting of history and expressions of support and sympathy and all the pomp of a state funeral. As it is, I can barely stomach the undeserved empathy for a man who has none. He's brought too much death and suffering to others to deserve that. He was reckless and irresponsible and urged the country to do the same. I thought Republicans believed in personal accountability?

However, I do hope a few Republican Senators get sick. It's called karma, but mostly I pray that would help run out the clock and prevent them from stealing another Supreme Court seat. Now that would be sweet irony!

To close: "I have never killed any one, but I have read some obituaries with great satisfaction." - Clarence Darrow

D.Y. in Windsor, UK, writes: The news of the President's and First Lady's positive COVID tests was somehow, to borrow from "The West Wing," shocking but not surprising. I hope the President and First Lady recover for many reasons but two above all: first, because I would not wish physical harm on another human being and second, because I think that Trumpism needs to be defeated soundly at the ballot box.

Still, one thought keeps nagging me: if the shoe were on the other foot and Joe Biden had tested positive, I imagine that the right-wing would call him old, weak, sick, tired, unable to lead, and God knows what else.

E.C.R. in Helsinki, Finland, writes: My first thought on learning of Donald Trump's diagnosis was that one big plus would be that there would be no objection to putting the candidates in separate rooms for future debates. The moderator could then turn off Trump's microphone while Joe Biden spoke.

After further thought, I concluded that the situation gave Trump the perfect opportunity to bow out of the race as Lyndon Johnson did in March 1968 in the wake of the Tet Offensive. I told friends to expect the ultimate October surprise announcement: "Ladies and Gentlemen, I could have been reelected, but due to my age and health I'm passing the mantle to the next generation. I urge you to vote for Vice President Pence, who has agreed to add Ivanka to the ticket as his VP."

Now that Trump has symptoms and is hospitalized, these changes to the ticket may happen regardless. However Trump's illness resolves itself we can expect a never ending series of "stabbed in the back" myths. You read it here first: Trump's illness is really Obama's/Hillary's/Biden's/Kamala's/Pelosi's fault. And of course the Deep State is also to blame.

Trump's illness scuttles any chance for a pre-election stimulus bill, so the bottom will almost certainly fall out of the U.S. economy this month or next. In fact, a full blown depression significantly worse than 2008 could well occur in 2021. If so, the extreme polarization in the country makes it more likely than not that a period of sustained violence will erupt regardless of who wins the election or whether Trump survives his illness.

On the chessboard, it's game over when the king falls. For America, the cost of losing the war against COVID could in the worst case turn out to resemble Germany in 1918 to 1923, especially if Trump recovers and is reelected. It's also true that the new Congress might actually be functional and have massive stimulus bills ready to pass in a brief special session on the afternoon of 20 January 2021. In that case the situation could be more like Britain in 1949 or 1967. Either way, in my opinion, the U.S. dollar will soon no longer be the world's preeminent reserve currency. This was bound to happen eventually, but Trump managed to accelerate it by several decades.

R.M.S. in Lebanon, CT, writes: Now that President Trump is quarantined and hospitalized until further notice, Joe Biden should take advantage of the situation to neutralize Trump's attacks on him. It is clear from the first debate that the Trump campaign is trying to link Biden to violent extremists who have created havoc in cities this summer. The Trump campaign wants to deflect attention from its failure to protect the country from COVID and its lack of healthcare plan, so it will spend the final weeks of the campaign engaging in character assassination. It is the Trump campaign's only hope to try to destroy Biden because the American public does not believe the country is on the right track.

Biden could go a long way towards defusing these attacks and creating good PR for his campaign by spending a week volunteering to clean up the mess created by rioters, looters, and arsonists in Kenosha, WI. He should take a few hundred campaign volunteers and help clean up that community, which has clearly been through a lot of pain over the past few weeks. It would send a message that Biden does not agree with riots and it would distance himself from violent extremists that Trump is trying to link him with.

There is no downside for doing this as long as safety procedures are followed. Community service is always a good thing. It would create a sharp contrast seeing the Biden campaign out there doing something positive while the president is shut in and hospitalized. It would also be a savvy political move in terms of the election, since Wisconsin will be one of the pivotal states in determining the victor of the Electoral College and having volunteers go there to help rebuild a community in their state would mean a lot to them. And it would also help define Biden as willing to engage in leadership to help repair a damaged town.

A.L. in New Brunswick, NJ, writes: Regarding public reaction to Trump's positive COVID-19 diagnosis. You (and others) have mentioned that if he recovers quickly it could bolster his talking point that COVID-19 is not a big deal.

However, if you count the number of people affected by COVID-19, not only relatives of those who have died, but also ones who survived but had severe symptoms, those who could not get a bed in a hospital or care facility at the height of the curve, etc. etc; the number is quite large. Keep in mind "number of close friends" in a society connected by social media is a large value.

These people might see a swift recovery by the Trumps and put it down to having dozens of doctors and the best medical care, things they did not have when they went (are going) through it.

I suspect the Democratic message machine will make this argument as well.

E.W. in Vancouver, WA, writes: With the president at least seriously ill and possibly much worse by Wednesday, the vice-presidential debate will either become a de facto presidential debate or be canceled. It's possible, maybe even likely, that Vice President Pence will have become either the acting president or president by that time.

No matter what, if the debate happens, it just became important. And I would bet that greater pressure will be placed on Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). A poor performance from an acting president will be forgiven--he just took the mantel of the office after all. Harris, on the other hand, will be under intense scrutiny. Hit too hard and she's being cruel when the White House is wounded. She'll be called unpatriotic at best, and at worst dangerous for emboldening our enemies while the government is weak. Be too gentle in deference to the situation, and she comes off as milquetoast, and the Democratic ticket appears not up to the task. It seems a very difficult if not almost impossible situation.

I wonder how much this difficulty is one part of the motivation for the Biden/Harris campaign demanding new social distance guidelines. (The giant gorilla named COVID-19 notwithstanding.) Given the situation, they probably would have lost less if the debate had been canceled due to a refusal from the Vice President and his team.

J.S. in Wheaton, IL, writes: In response to the question from G.B. in Manchester, you might also point to Ted Kennedy as an example. He spent much of his 1964 U.S. Senate re-election race in the hospital as a result of injuries sustained in a plane crash. Surrogates, most notably his wife, took over the in-person campaigning for him. I believe he also filmed some TV ads in his hospital bed.

J.T. in Little Rock, AR, writes: It is ironic that this is the method this President has chosen to lead by example.

R.S. in Monhegan Island, ME, writes: Regarding the question from L.R.H. in Oakland about experimental therapies: As a retired hematologist/medical oncologist with 40 years of experience with clinical trials, a few comments for the lay public. First, an experimental treatment is experimental because it is by nature unproven. It may work or it may not. It may be beneficial or it may cause untoward complications and pose a risk. The drug Donald Trump received, Regeneron, is currently in late-phase randomized clinical trials that are phase 2/3 or phase 3, which means that it is being compared against whatever is considered standard care. In other words, it is being tested to see whether it actually adds anything or improves outcomes beyond what is already generally available. That is why clinical trials are so important.

I have no issue with the doctors caring for the president to administer promising experimental drugs to him. That is a discussion between the patient and his doctors. He may well have some magical thinking involved. Most patients do—a Russian proverb I often quoted to patients is that a drowning man will always grab at a double edged sword. Trump certainly has access to care options that the average patient in the South Bronx would not.

An important reminder is that since he is a data point of one, if he gets better, or if he does not, it is not possible to conclude whether the experimental therapy was responsible one way or the other.

D.S. in Palo Alto, CA, writes: I have to push back on your opinion of the antibody cocktail given to Trump. Dr. David Ho, who is a pioneer in this area, told Rachel Maddow that this form of treatment is well understood and very unlikely to cause any problems except the possibility of a severe allergic reaction, which they were prepared for and which clearly did not occur (happens right away). That, plus Remdesivir, seem like pretty good treatments to keep a president alive. And whatever I think of the current president, however much he has demonstrated that he would not do the same for me, I believe it makes sense to give the president special attention when it comes to medical issues.

L.D. in Hamden, CT, writes: Thoughts and prayers to Donald Trump, Melania Trump, and Hope Hicks.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

The 2020 Election

F.C. in Deland, FL, writes: In a previous life, I was a practicing CPA. I mostly audited, but I did the tax returns for my audit clients as well as other form clients. So I know something about income taxes.

I'm wondering how much of Donald Trump's business dealings are real estate. Under tax laws, it is very easy to have real-estate-based businesses generate tax losses and positive cash flow. There's an amazing number of non-cash deductions that can be taken, mostly in the form of depreciation. This only works in the short run. In the long run, when the business is sold, the losses taken end up as part of the capital gain.

But taxes on capital gains in the future have significant advantages over taxes on operating income now. First, the most obvious: Long term capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than operating income (or short term capital gains). Second, the time value of money: If you can put off a payment into the future, you pay with money that is worth less than it is now.

I don't know the details of Trump's taxes, nor do I want to. I'm not planning on voting for him, and even if he's a good businessman that isn't changing. But I wonder if the headlines are designed to make low information voters—and, on tax issues, almost everyone is a low information voter—more likely to vote against him.

R.D. in Austin, TX, writes: Several commentators have stated that if there is an obvious Biden win in Florida late on November 3 or early November 4, that would almost assure the nation of less chaos because if Trump cannot win Florida, there is no way he would keep the states of Wisconsin, Michigan or Pennsylvania that he flipped by such thin margins in 2016.

Texas, though, could be a huge key that no one is talking about. While I am a Texas-based lifelong Democrat dating back to the 1992 election, I have two observations to make. First, I looked at September polling about 6 weeks prior to the election for this state going back to 2004 and compared that to election results. George W. Bush improved by 2 points in 2004, John McCain by a point in 2008, and Mitt Romney improved by 3 in 2012. Donald Trump, on the other hand, lost a point when the 2016 results came in. Given that most polls here have swung between Biden up 1 and Trump up 3 and no poll has had the leader at more than 48%, that means there is a small segment of voters (4-6%) who are up for grabs.

Second, it is worth noting that Texas is not a state that lets just anyone vote absentee; you have to qualify with a valid excuse, and fear of Covid-19 is not one. So in this state, I would suspect that a ton of Democrats will vote early when that window opens October 13. While some states will have an early Trump lead as returns are counted, that may not be the case in this state. While many of the small rural counties will report earlier, if the larger urban counties release their early vote figures before the same-day vote comes in, that is going to be a source of encouragement for Biden and it could be a window into how this state ultimately goes. Absentee ballots received by November 4 are counted, but what will be an unknown here is how much more Democratic the absentee vote is in view of the tighter restrictions.

If Biden somehow pulls it out in Texas, we will know by November 5. If he wins, it's over and based on current polling, Biden at this point has no reason not to go on offense in the Lone Star State.

T.K. in Boston, MA, writes: I loved your piece on Arnon Mishkin, though you put the pressure on him from the wrong direction. The decision desk works for the news side of the house, and the news side is competing to be first with the correct call. It's true that you don't want to make the "Dewey Defeats Truman" call, but ratings are dependent on your reputation for correctly making the call first. So the pressure on the decision desk is to make the right call as quickly as possible.

Fox News is actually very good at making the correct call first. In fact, one of the things that you missed in the piece was that Fox made their Ohio call about 15 minutes before the other networks. I know someone who was in the decision desk room in 2016 and my understanding is that they pre-model different result scenarios for counties, precincts, etc., so that when the numbers come in, they can plug them in to their model and quickly predict the outcome. What is interesting is that all the networks are working from the same sets of data. So the models are the key to making the predictions first.

What made the talking heads incredulous was that Fox made the call they did and that it was made both earlier than expected and before the other networks. However, as history has shown, the models were correct and the call was correct.

I would never watch Fox News any other night, but on election night their data modelers are probably the best. So election night is the one night where it makes sense to watch Fox.

R.G.N. in Seattle, WA, writes: For me, the final nail in the coffin of the validity of the Atlantic article about GOP legislatures stealing the election for Donald Trump was a statement by the author in a PBS interview that the election of a president only becomes official when the winner's opponent concedes the election. If the author of the article is that confused about presidential election rules, how can I trust any of the article's conclusions?

D.J. in Manchester, NH, writes: I'm writing in response to the various readers who seem convinced that Donald Trump will somehow instigate a successful coup d'état if he loses the election. As an ex-soldier, who once spent a year in the middle of a civil war (i.e., Vietnam), I want to point out a few things that non-veterans may not really understand. My goal here is to suggest that everyone just take a big breath, and get a little perspective. You all sound like you need it.

First, Trump's real goal in trolling such ideas is not to foment a coup, but to gin up an audience for a new "reality" TV show after he leaves office. He clearly has tens of millions of fans who would be only too happy to watch him cry in his beer for the rest of his life over having been "cheated" out of a second term. From a marketing standpoint, advertisers would love to get access to all the eyeballs that Trump could deliver, so it would be the classic marriage made in heaven, and Trump, of all people, surely knows that. Hence, all the provocative talk that is presently keeping the whole country totally focused on his every move. It's all just part of the pitch that he will be giving to Fox one of these days—assuming he's not doing so already.

Second, successful warfare is much less a question of emotional passion, and far more a question of practical logistics. So a few hotheads, like that knucklehead Kyle Rittenhouse or the Cliven Bundy clan, will get nowhere in a real fight. If Biden wins the election, and becomes the obvious Commander-in-Chief as far as the military is concerned, then he will have the full logistical capacities of the American military at his disposal, while Trump's people will have whatever they can scrounge at the local grocery and sporting goods stores. This will not even be a military problem, but rather a local police problem that can be handled by any half-competent SWAT team.

Third, many people seem to think that soldiers are just stupid cannon-fodder who will do whatever they are told by just anyone who claims to be President, but that could not be further from the truth. Senior military officers, who typically have advanced degrees and tons of experience in dangerous situations, have already made it clear that they will have nothing to do with any sort of political involvement, much less an illegitimate coup d'état led by a defeated Presidential candidate. They will simply refuse such "orders," and that will be the end of it.

V & Z respond: We were going to write something along these lines this week, but you've come along and done it for us, and with the benefit of real-world experience. Thanks for that, and for your service.

E.W. in Skaneateles, NY, writes: This is one of the greatest political ads of all time!

V & Z respond: Presumably, Graham regrets saying roughly 100% of that stuff on camera.

J.P. in Kansas City, KS, writes: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)—that poor, poor man. He followed McCain around like a little puppy dog, and went along with everything until John became too sick. It must have broken his soft heart to lose what was basically his daddy. It's a near tragedy that he now follows Donald Trump around in the same manner. One of my roommates thinks that what he really needs is a big bear to grab him, comfort him in their arms, and to just tell him that everything is going to be okay.

V & Z respond: Subtext noted.

J.L. in Wanamingo, MN, writes: You haven't mentioned the recent event in MN-02, in which a "major" party candidate died, thereby postponing the election to February and leaving us without representation in the crucial month of January, when we may need it more than ever.

The candidate, a stooge whose name is irrelevant, was representing the Legal Marijuana Now party, which was created by Republicans in order to siphon votes away from Democrats. It achieved "major party" status only because it got 5% of the vote in some insignificant state-wide vote in 2018. Ironically, the reason the vote is postponed is because of a new(er) law created when Paul Wellstone died shortly before an election in 2002. The details surrounding both of these deaths have been shrouded in mystery, but the 2020 death will probably help the Republican candidate just as much as Wellstone's did back in 2002.

Why have Democrats not created a "Ban Abortion Now" party to even the electorate? It's just another way Democrats pay the price by not playing by the same "rules" the Republicans play by.

There's No Debating That Was No Debate

J.K. in Portland, OR, writes: My favorite headline—probably also read by (V)—was from the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, whose headline description described the occupier of the White House as (my translation) "a preschooler on cocaine."

M.S. in Underhill, VT, writes: For those of you who missed Tuesday's presidential debate, I envy you. I couldn't help but think of this clip from "Billy Madison" through the entire thing:

The first thing that stuck me as absurd is that everything that Donald Trump said during the night would have made more sense if Joe Biden had been the president for the last four years instead of him. The second was Trump's stubborn refusal to condemn white supremacy or commit to a peaceful transition of power. As if him saying either of those two things would be a "gotcha" moment that his opponents would play in television advertisements.

J.M. in Seattle, WA, writes: While rewatching the "white supremacist" segment, I noticed that Wallace used the phrase "tell them to stand down..." Trump then asked the other two to name a group and Biden proffered the Proud Boys.

Trump has a habit of rehashing language (e.g. "the best people, great people, you never seen such people"), so when he says "stand back, stand by" it just sounds to my ear like he's paraphrasing and answering part of the question as it was asked.

I in no way believe that Trump is clever enough to, within seconds, take advantage of Wallace and Biden giving him an opportunity to issue a chilling decree to his followers by repeating back what they said (almost) verbatim. I think he panicked and was responding to Biden's "go on, say it" prodding.

It's baffling that what appears to me to be Trump's moment of capitulation is being treated as his moment of greatest threat.

J.C. in Binan, Laguna, Philippines, writes: I actually really appreciated Joe Biden's argument that we shouldn't decide the SCOTUS seat because the election has already started. I hadn't heard that before, and it nicely differentiated Republican and Democratic arguments to be more than just a matter of time—a year vs. two months. The election has begun already. If only RBG had died two months earlier, things would be different.

My bigger point—I don't get why so many are saying that Trump flubbed by not calling out white supremacists. That wasn't remotely his biggest failing of the night. Proud Boys are literally a fascist white-supremacist racist misogynist organization. When he called them to stand by and be ready, he was declaring his support on national television. We just had the sitting U.S. President declare himself to be a fascist. God bless America.

M.P. in San Francisco, CA, writes: I'm especially disappointed at post-debate media reports with the headline "Trump declined to denounce white supremacists" (NPR, CNN, NYT, WaPo) or that Trump "sidestepped the question" (USA Today). Donald Trump didn't "decline to denounce" white supremacists. He encouraged them.

Four years in, and mainstream media still has not figured out how to cover Donald Trump.

M.S. in Scarsdale, NY writes: The debate was painful to watch. I couldn't wait for it to be over. For women, the constant interruptions and bullying by Trump brought to mind episodes of marginalization at the office (although this, of course, was of a completely different magnitude). Count this suburban housewife in "beautiful Westchester" as disgusted by Donald Trump's overt anti-semitism, racism and lack of even a smidgen of common decency by failing to acknowledge the death of Beau Biden.

My hunch, though, is that Trump's goal wasn't trying to win votes last night. His goal was the same as it has been for weeks and months: to suppress the vote.

R.S. in Lincoln, NE, writes: Lots of people are despairing about the debate, on all sides of the political spectrum. I felt it too. But I do not believe it's merely the state of politics now, or that it's just a sad reflection of our society today. I also don't know that I buy into the idea that this was simply Trump unhinged. Rather I think it was an unconventional (albeit coldly logical) political strategy playing out, and all of this was an intended conclusion.

Negative ads are used in the political world to depress turnout on the other side—nobody thinks you're going to hear mean things about somebody and then run out and vote for their opponent. Political operatives just want those who are nonpartisan, less-enthusiastic-but-kinda-leaning-toward-somebody to stay home instead. Trump didn't win the popular vote in 2016 and he hasn't picked up substantial support in opinion polls since. So either he's suddenly going to fight an uphill battle of ideas to try to win over two-thirds of nonpartisan folks and some of the people who are leaning toward the other guy (virtually impossible), or he's gonna work his showmanship and make the whole thing into a giant fiasco all around, give the impression of yet another political debacle with annoying people on both sides. The goal is to turn off many folks to politics altogether for another cycle. Because while I can admit both candidates looked pretty bad, the reality is that only one of them interrupted his opponent and the moderator over 100 times. All it takes is a small percent of the population to throw up their hands and walk away right now, and I think he may have accomplished that goal to a limited degree—virtually all of the politically "neutral" folks I know were either proudly announcing they were glad to have skipped the debate, or they were so sickened by it that they stopped paying attention and tuned out. I doubt many will return for another round.

However, I do think Trump made a huge blunder in fanatically attacking Hunter Biden (no need to further heat up his conservative base right now by reciting conspiracy theories, but I'm guessing that's Rally Trump coming out) and by refusing to condemn white supremacists. Take away some truly disgusting sound bites like that, and if he'd kept his initial strategy of systematically forcing Biden to alienate the left (raising Medicare for All, Sanders, etc.) while repeatedly preventing him from speaking about policy throughout the debate, it might have been a dangerous enough combination. The way I see it, you take away the 45 electoral votes from Ohio, Georgia and Arizona which you've currently got as "barely Democratic," and Biden is back at 279. That's just a Wisconsin or Minnesota away from the 269-tie disaster (assuming Maine and Nebraska trade 2nd district EVs as expected). I think perhaps it's Trump's best and only "legitimate" shot at winning right now, so I wouldn't be surprised if we see more desperation tactics to put him in striking distance of that outcome.

S.C. in Mountain View, CA, writes: You, me (I said it to my wife last night), and many news commentators have said that the next moderator should have a switch so that they can turn off a candidate's mic when it isn't their turn. I'm afraid that won't be enough. While that will prevent those of us watching at home from hearing the interruptions, Biden (for example) will still hear Trump attempting to interrupt him to dominate the conversation. That will still make it difficult for Biden to get his points across.

What they will really need are isolation booths so no one, including the moderator and the other candidate, will be able to hear a candidate whose mic has been turned off.

B.B. in St. Louis, MO, writes: In your assignment of responsibility for the failure of the first presidential debacle, you neglected one contributor—the format of the debate itself. As soon as I heard that each section would contain two minutes uninterrupted from each candidate followed by "open discussion," I knew that the evening would not end well. My suggestion is that any subsequent debates be set up like Nickelodeon game shows—any candidate interrupting or disrupting gets doused with a bucket of Slime.

S.D in Atlanta, GA, writes: So let me get this straight. They are going to change the rules for the remaining debates because Trump can't behave like a human being. Instead of requiring Trump to abide by the rules, they are going to change the rules to accommodate him. This speaks volumes.

J.R. in Hamilton, OH, writes: Loved your idea on Pinocchio...just had to make some signs for watching the debate tonight with family. Just not sure if Honest Abe will get many turns:

four paddle-type signs, two with drawings of Abe Lincoln and two with Pinocchio

V & Z respond: Excellent! Hopefully that bit of fun made that horrible, awful debate a bit more palatable.

Voting Matters

W.F. in Orlando, FL, writes: As a proud family tradition, I've always taken my children to register to vote immediately after their 18th birthday. After my son turned 18 on August 24, we had 72 days before the election (call it E minus 72), so I was comfortable that we had plenty of time to complete the process. The next week (E minus 65), we went online in order to complete a voter registration application. At that point, we learned that our county in Florida has a hard deadline of 29 days before election, so our deadline for completing the registration process is October 5, not November 3 (E minus 36). We also learned that Florida requires either a Florida driver's license or a State ID Card ID issued by the Driver's License bureau. No other forms of ID are acceptable in order to register to vote. Because of a disability, my son is not able to drive, so he doesn't have a driver's license. This means we were forced to attempt to get the ID card. Still plenty of time to register to vote, I thought.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, our county's driver's license offices are closed and restricted to appointments only. We went online to make an appointment to get an ID, but the website for making appointments does not have a option for making an appointment for getting an ID. We e-mailed the office about this. They responded a few days later and said to go online to make an appointment, ignoring the premise of our question. So, we went online and booked the first appointment available in any category. It was for a CDL (Commercial Drivers License) test and it was 22 days away (E minus 5). Now I was getting nervous.

There are numerous documentation requirements to get a Drivers License or State ID Card in Florida. These include a Social Security card (original) and a birth certificate (issued by a county, not by a hospital or anyone else) and two pieces of documentation proving residency (such as a 1099, electric bill, etc.). The third item on this list may be substituted with the same documents for a parent, provided the parent provides the same documentation and completes a notarized form attesting that the applicant lives with them. The first two documents are required without exception. I ended up spending most of an afternoon rounding up the necessary documents and getting the form notarized. Keep in mind that my son has a photo ID issued by his (county-operated public) school, but that's not acceptable as a photo ID to vote or even as an identification document in order to get registered to vote.

Yesterday was the ID appointment day and I took a second afternoon off from work to drive my son the 17 miles from our house to the nearest driver's license office. As with all trips to the DMV, we sat around for an hour or more before completing the process and getting the ID. There was a $33.75 fee for the ID card.

The next step in the voter registration process was to mail the voter registration application to the election office and wait to be contacted (again by mail) to confirm the ID process. We were very fortunate in that the elections office was next door to the driver's license office, so we walked our application to the elections office (five minutes before they closed) and finished getting registered three business days before the deadline. Victory!

This was a difficult and time-consuming process. Effectively, this system disenfranchises the poor and the disabled. My son would not have been able to complete this himself without transportation, time off from work and school, the money for the notary and ID card fees, not having to wait on the USPS, and having a CPA for a dad who knows how to gather documents and understand complex government regulations. Imagine how many people who start this process but give up because of the hurdles that must be overcome. A lot of ink has been spilled about whether ex-felons will be re-enfranchised in Florida this year. However, we should all be aware of the additional burden this needless complexity puts on many more Florida citizens.

V & Z respond: Thanks for sharing your story. Florida's government should be ashamed.

D.G. in Santa Monica, CA, writes: In your analysis of Tuesday's debate, you commented "...and the remark: 'Proud Boys—stand back, and stand by' was a colossal blunder."

It may have been a blunder as far as the debate is concerned, or it may have been a clarion call by Trump to his most extreme heavily armed followers, to prepare for an armed assault—he has repeatedly signaled, and should be taken seriously, his intent to dismiss the results of the election and declare victory based on the November 3rd counted ballots. He could then work on eliminating the Democratic-favored mail-in ballots.

Having worked at a registrar's office, I have observed the mechanics of ballot handling. They are kept in a less physically secure manner than one would expect. Trump could have his goons attack certain designated election offices where the yet-uncounted mail-in ballots are stored, and fire-bomb those.

D.L. in Uslar, Germany, writes: I've just read the letter from A.W. in Jülich, Germany on postage rates for ballots. I've been voting from Germany for 20 years and I've always had to add postage for my Oregon ballot. Maybe it's different for Wisconsin or maybe A.W. has just gotten lucky so far.

In either case, the reason the postage is so high (€3.70) has nothing to do with postal shenanigans or Trump trying to pull out of the international postal agreements. It's because the envelope is American and counts as oversized for Germany and probably the rest of Europe. But thanks to a tip from a helpful Deutsche Post worker several years ago, I've been able to cut that price more than in half. Just fold over and tape down as much of the outer envelope as you can without crimping your ballot or obscuring any important information on the envelope like bar codes, QR codes or your signature. That should get the envelope down to standard international size and you'll only have to pay the standard rate of €1.10.

L.F. in Edina, MN, writes: I voted Sept. 22 in Minnesota. My town is the sort of comfortable suburb that used to be reliably Republican, but has gone blue in the last few elections. What I most noticed, apart from the steady lines of early voters, was that about 2/3 of them were people who had requested mail-in ballots but decided to switch to early in-person voting. (I was one of these.) This change requires an election worker to "spoil" the mail-in ballot, and entailed shunting us to a different line and a wait of 20-30 additional minutes. Despite the inconvenience, people waited. It appears that concern over the USPS delivery time has become widespread. I wonder if this is going to be a trend—and if so, perhaps the storm over mail-in ballots may be abated. I also learned that the state had approved moving the counting of early ballots up a bit, to allow for the expected surge in both early and mail-in ballots.

T.B. in Tallahassee, FL, writes: I voted. This screen print is from my Supervisor of Elections website (reduced in size), looking up my ballot information:

screen shot confirms all four steps in the voting process are complete

V & Z respond: This is a good time to remind everyone that the election is exactly one month away, and if you are going to vote by mail, you need to get those ballots done and in the mailbox ASAP.

Legal Matters

R.H. in Santa Ana, CA, writes: You wrote: "If you want a situation without full due process, it's lesser crimes. If you get a speeding ticket, you broke the law, but you don't get read your rights, you can't have a state-appointed attorney, you can't have a jury trial, and you don't have all that many rights of appeal."

Yes, it is true that misdemeanor courts in general and traffic courts in particular are grossly violative of substantive due process, but nobody gets "read their rights" until the point immediately prior to where the suspect unquestionably is subject to in-custody interrogation.

If the suspect "blurts out a confession" before being given his Miranda rights, it's usable. If the suspect is locked in the back seat of a cop car (which cannot be opened from the inside) what he says is usable, unless the suspect specifically asks "Am I free to leave?" and is told "No." If the cop is just having a "friendly conversation" during which the suspect just happens to make a possibly-incriminating statement, that's admissible.

Miranda does not come into play at all except insofar as statements of the defendant are sought to be admitted over objection. TV has us all believing everyone is "read their rights" immediately upon being handcuffed, but it's not that simple.

K.C. in West Islip, NY , writes: While reading the Sunday comments about Roe v. Wade and the idea of abortion rights being kicked back to the states it reminded me of an argument I've made repeatedly over the years. My memory was particularly jogged by the commenter who pointed out that back alley abortions would become commonplace in states where poor folks simply wouldn't be able to afford or have access to safer abortion clinics.

Of course, the one time the government tried to ban something via constitutional amendment, it was an outright disaster and had to be repealed by way of another amendment. That would be the prohibition of alcohol. My argument is that banning things generally doesn't solve the problem—this goes for alcohol, drugs, abortion, the list goes on. It doesn't even work to ban things for certain age groups. Try to find me a smoker who waited until their 18th birthday to start...I'll wait while you look.

This is the problem with abortion—people will still get them but they'll be done with rusty coat hangers in seedy back alleys at two in the morning instead of at proper clinics during normal business hours. As access gets harder, risk goes up—in this case the risk to the life of the mother, the risk of a botched job, you name it. But a poor mother with nowhere else to turn would take that risk to get out of a predicament they're ill-equipped to handle were they to carry that fetus to term. From my vantage point, this isn't about stopping abortions from happening, and I find it hard to believe anyone would think that's going to be the end result of Roe being overturned. It is about sticking it to the working class just like the GOP has been sticking it to the middle class for years.

L.B. in Savannah, GA, writes: Declaring legal personhood starting at conception would lead to many other potential issues. For example, every state law mandating a minimum age could be challenged as applying nine months earlier, since the person's "birthday" would be their date of conception, and not their date of "birth." Anyone conceived in the U.S. (for example, while their parents were vacationing at Disneyland) could argue that they were a "natural born citizen" since their status as a legal person was established at that point. Conservatives should be careful about what they wish for.

I.H. in Washington, D.C., writes: You've suggested more than once that Kamala Harris will do a tremendous job questioning Trump's Supreme Court pick (who we now know to be Amy Coney Barrett). So much so that on Monday you advised Senate Democrats to turn all of their time over to Harris.

My perception of Harris's questioning of Brett Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearing was that she brought much more sizzle than steak. (Which is also my general perception of her as a politician.) The majority of her questions related to whether Kavanaugh had ever met with an attorney from the Kasowitz Benson Torres law firm. Despite the prodigious buildup, nothing came of the line of questioning.

Even worse, the issue of whether Kavanaugh met with an unknown attorney from a law firm unknown to the general public meant nothing without context (which was never provided). If Harris had at least asked about abortion—even if it didn't go anywhere—viewers would have been reminded what was at stake with the nomination. I truly hope she does better this time around but, for now, color me unimpressed.

V & Z respond: In fairness to Harris, the Republican strategy during those hearings was to trap Democrats into exactly that position—time enough to (partly) explore just one line of questioning, and to hope that it produces pay dirt.

J.E. in Akron OH, writes: The letter from A.R. in Los Angeles illustrates why Democrats continue to struggle to connect with religious voters. As a Christian who is politically left-of-center, I may differ with Judge Amy Coney Barrett on some of the specifics of what "build[s] the Kingdom if God," but the idea that we are all called to build the Kingdom of God in everything we do is something that most Christians see as natural and inspirational. I happen to believe that the Kingdom of God is marked by compassion for the sick, the poor, and the oppressed, and a commitment to impartial justice. I suspect that one way in which Judge Barrett believes her career builds the Kingdom of God is by providing the financial resources to care for adopted and special-needs children.

It is fair to ask how Judge Barrett navigates tension between the demands of her faith and constitutional commands; my understanding is that she has written on this topic, indicating that recusal is sometimes warranted. But the assumption that a desire to build the Kingdom of God through all that we do is evidence of an intent to subvert the Constitution to create a theocracy is one that even this liberal Christian sees as offensive.

D.A. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: The icing on the cake of is the steady stream of historical perspective. Today: "...Associate Justice James Clark McReynolds, who served 1914-41, and who was openly racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, etc."

If we all now painfully recognize that a president's greatest impact and legacy include SCOTUS appointments (sigh, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett), we need to add the appointment of this monster, Justice McReynolds, to the publicly recognized legacy of Woodrow Wilson.

G.W. in Boca Raton, FL, writes: Surprised you didn't mention Justice Hugo Black's open disdain for Felix Frankfurter and, in a similar vein, David Souter's disdain for Antonin Scalia.

Sign Polls

D.A. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: Yet another unscientific yard sign "poll": Driving through a neighborhood in a semi-rural, small town in northwestern New Jersey, my wife and I observed a shift from a dozen or so Trump signs and no Clinton signs in 2016 to 3 Biden signs and just 1 Trump sign now.

Jersey as a whole will be blue anyway, but maybe this and other reports you're getting collectively constitute a legitimate reflection of a genuine shift (assuming your correspondents are avoiding confirmation bias). Even a small shift in a blue direction in Trumper counties would be very consequential.

Speaking of confirmation bias, it is only right to report that we did see a 30-car Trumper caravan on Route 17. I wanted to make a rude hand gesture but my wife insisted that I not do so because our Bernie Sanders bumper sticker requires higher standards of behavior. (I had no idea.)

P.R. in Saco, ME, writes: There are two Maines: southern Maine (some call it northern Massachusetts), and the rest of Maine. On a recent trip to the northwest and then down east, where there are some number of people in addition to moose, we traveled through some areas that go for the Stable Genius. My husband figured that the mid-state area with the highest percentage of Rump signs (well, they would say "Rump" if I had brought my can of spray paint) was a locale the current president had recently visited. Probably his campaign had handed out signs and banners, then promised checks to people who would put them on their lawns.

We suspect this is what happened because we vacationed farther afield for a few more days in a tiny lobster and urchin fishing town, where the tides are 18-24 feet, and sentiments generally run politically conservative. What we found interesting is that there were a lot of Susan Collins yard signs, but no accompanying Rump with the T signs. (By the way, has anyone else noticed that those signs, the banners especially, are HUGE? Is he afraid we are all near-sighted, like we can't see a normal-sized sign? It's not enough, a regular-sized sign, he has to shout at me with a political banner? Or maybe he's afraid of small signs, like small hands.)

Back home, down in southern Maine, we find far more Sara Gideon than Collins signs, and a common sight is the magnetic sticker, "Bye-Bye, Susan." Time will tell.

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: In a small corner of Essex County, NJ, where the mostly white, mostly educated, and mostly affluent population voted for John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Donald Trump, I saw the following yard sign:

I'm a Republican, but not a fool. Biden 2020.

One can hope.

Score One for the ACA

K.Y. in Seattle, WA, writes: J.T. in Orlando told the tale of receiving a rebate from their health insurance company, as mandated by the ACA, because "less than 80% of premiums taken in were spent on benefits in 2019." J.T. speculated whether the timing of the rebate was also mandated by the ACA because Democrats were betting that receiving a rebate close to an election might influence votes in their favor.

The answer is no, but since the question was raised, readers of the site might be interested in the reason. I was an accountant at a nonprofit health insurer for almost 6 years beginning in 2014 (the first year the ACA was in force). Insurance companies are highly regulated, and the due dates of government filings are as follows:

  • Unaudited annual statement (i.e., the company's financial results): due Mar. 1 to the state insurance commissioner
  • Audited annual statement: due June 1 to the state insurance commissioner
  • Medical Loss Ratio filing (i.e., the analysis that determines whether rebates are due): due July 31 to CMS, the federal agency that administers the ACA (among other things)

So, the rebates can't be mailed until CMS has reviewed the MLR filings, and the MLR filings can't be submitted until the financial results have been audited. September is pretty much the earliest any checks could be distributed in a given year.

In case anyone is wondering: Yes, it really does take that long to prepare the various filings. One year, I filed our unaudited annual statement at 11:20pm on March 1.

D.B. in Midwest City, OK, writes: While reading through the mailbag on September 27th, I came across the letter from J.T. in Orlando concerning a refund check from Florida Blue. I'm on BlueCross BlueShield of Oklahoma (Thanks, Obama!) and I'd ignored my stack of mail for the past 10 days. Just out of curiosity, I looked for, and found, a letter from BCBSOK containing a refund check of over $500.

Thank you J.T. for writing and indicating I should look at my mail, too!

A Report from Portland

J.M. in Portland, OR, writes: I feel compelled to comment about the ongoing distortions of actual events in Portland, Oregon. Contrary to Chris Wallace's "100 days of riots in Portland" statement during the Presidential debate, in fact we've had around 130 days of continuous protests over racial injustice in the same 3x3 block area of downtown (maybe 5x5 for a very crowded weekend). There are tens of thousands of people living downtown in apartments and condos blocks away from the protests and they've been undisturbed.

Most of the protests have been peaceful, except when the white supremacists (e.g., Proud Boys) or Federal "officers" decided to show up to provoke people. The Proud Boys, in particular, openly admit they come to Portland to start fights and force "the liberal city to waste its money" on protecting them. When they're absent and the police aren't intentionally provoking people (here's looking at you, #22 and your buddies) things remain peaceful. Yes, some of these events have been declared riots. In point of fact, the Portland PD typically declares a riot before the situation actually becomes one so they can disperse people and keep things from spiraling out of control.

The existence of protests in Portland is like announcing the stunning discovery that water is wet. I worked downtown prior to the pandemic and protesters conveniently limited their activities to days that ended in Y. The real question of any trip downtown was if the volume of people protesting would make it difficult to get in or out in a timely fashion. While some might find it extraordinary and disturbing people protested so frequently, we Portlanders largely consider this what it is: civic engagement and we go about our lives when the topic is not of interest.

Looking at downtown Portland, almost every single window near street level is boarded up. The boards went up in March/April as a response to COVID and to protect against graffiti, not because of protests that started in May: most have been painted to express support for the protesters and racial justice by the businesses that own those boards. The boards did not go up because of rioting.

Antifa, the other great boogieman of the right, is a concern of almost no one who lives here. If it gets mentioned at all, it's usually to acknowledge it's being scapegoated or that violence isn't acceptable. It's not like everyday Portlanders are furtively checking their surroundings for Antifa mobs as they march down the street trying to waste the city's money. Life downtown and out in the burbs basically goes on as normal as it can during a global pandemic, albeit with some irritation at being sensationalized beyond all recognition.

V & Z respond: Thanks; we always appreciate reports from those on the scene.

It Seems That Everything's Gone Wrong, Since Canada Came Along

V.M. in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec, writes: Today, you speculated about foreign shenanigans taking place now that Donald Trump is coronasick. You're right to worry about Canadian claims on Maine, but you should also be wary of Quebec Premier François Legault, who could easily use the extraordinary power given to him by the Legislature to reveal himself as a separatist sleeper agent (he was an elected independentist as late as 2008) and establish the Republic of Québec and Vermont. Why do you think we're rushing the completion of the highway link between Québec and Interstate-89 at Highgate/Phillipsburg crossing?

V & Z respond: Perhaps Legault is in cahoots with a particular Vermont politician who keeps talking about the need for a Canadian-style socialized medicine system?

D.G.D. in Vancouver, BC, Canada, writes: As to Michigan, thanks but no thanks. We already have our own Rust Belt.

But Maine would be nice. And probably should throw in Point Roberts, WA. too.

V & Z respond: If Michigan is not to your liking, can we interest you in something a bit warmer? Say, something in a nice Mississippi or Alabama? You can call it Canada South.


J.M.P. in Asheville, NC, writes: Many journalistic outlets have a motto that also serves as their mission statement. The New York Times has "All the news that's fit to print," The Washington Post declares "Democracy dies in the dark" and The Wall Street Journal bills itself as "The daily diary of the American Dream." I couldn't help but notice that your site doesn't have a motto. Knowing that a certain senator from Maine has become the butt of your often wry wit in many an article in the past few years, I thought I would submit this motto for your (and your readers) perusal: banner with 'Because Susan Collins is concerned' as motto

V & Z respond: Not bad, not bad.

W.B. in London, UK, writes: I got a snicker out of your use of 'gallimaufry' for the miscellaneous letters at the end of the mailbag. I like polysyllabic server names (my network is named Sesquipedalian), and Gallimaufry is my G (along with Farraginous, Jasperated, Kaleidoscopic, Laminated, and Myriad at the moment; earlier letters have been retired).

V & Z respond: Can we suggest 'nephelococcygia' (the art of finding shapes in clouds) when you get to N? Seems apropos.

Today's Presidential Polls

It's hard to know what to do with polls right now, until the full impact of the debates and the President's diagnosis are felt. Still, that Florida number is no bueno for Team Trump. Not only is it large, but among the last 20 polls in our database, Joe Biden was up in 17 of them. And Biden has been up by a bunch in each of the last three. (Z)

State Biden Trump Start End Pollster
Arizona 49% 45% Sep 24 Sep 29 Strategies 360
Florida 47% 42% Sep 30 Oct 01 Siena Coll.
Pennsylvania 49% 42% Sep 30 Oct 02 Siena Coll.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct03 Trump Heads to Walter Reed
Oct03 COVID Complicates Committee Conclave
Oct03 Saturday Q&A
Oct03 Today's Presidential Polls
Oct03 Today's Senate Polls
Oct02 The Trumps Have COVID-19
Oct02 House Approves COVID-19 Relief Measure
Oct02 Trump Finally Condemns White Supremacists
Oct02 New York City Botches the Absentee Ballots
Oct02 The Pope Is No Dope
Oct02 Could McCain Bring in Arizona for Biden?
Oct02 Money, Money, Money
Oct02 Today's Presidential Polls
Oct02 Today's Senate Polls
Oct01 Some Takeaways from the Debate
Oct01 Results of a Debate Focus Group
Oct01 Republicans Fear Trump Blew It
Oct01 Senate Republicans Locate Missing Spines and Other Body Parts
Oct01 Biden Urged to Demand New Debate Rules--but He May Not Have to
Oct01 Money Is Pouring in for the Democrats
Oct01 Both Parties Worry about Absentee Ballots
Oct01 Barrett Won't Pledge to Recuse Herself from 2020 Election Cases
Oct01 Appeals Court Lets Extended Deadline for Ballot Receipt in Wisconsin Stand
Oct01 The Six Races That May Determine Whether Future Elections Are Honest
Oct01 Voters Don't Expect to Know the Winner Nov. 3
Oct01 Seniors Are Up for Grabs in Florida
Oct01 Today's Presidential Polls
Oct01 Today's Senate Polls
Sep30 What a Sh*tshow
Sep30 All of Trump's Success Is Based on Two Lucky Breaks
Sep30 Biden and Harris Release Their 2019 Tax Returns
Sep30 The Nerd Who Could Save America
Sep30 A COVID-19 Relief Deal Is Still Possible
Sep30 House Democrats Are Moving from Defense to Offense
Sep30 Senate Democrats Are Moving from Defense to Offense, Too
Sep30 Today's Presidential Polls
Sep30 Today's Senate Polls
Sep29 Trump's Tax Troubles
Sep29 Debater Up!
Sep29 (Almost) One Million Votes Cast
Sep29 Biden Picks Up More Endorsements
Sep29 Senate Democrats Dust Off their Bag of Parliamentary Tricks
Sep29 House Democrats Unveil New COVID-19 Relief Bill
Sep29 COVID-19 Diaries: The Land Down Under
Sep29 Today's Presidential Polls
Sep29 Today's Senate Polls
Sep28 Biden Continues to Have a Strong National Lead over Trump
Sep28 New York Times Obtains Trump's Tax Returns
Sep28 Amy Coney Barrett Is on the Ballot This November--and in 2022
Sep28 Trump's Debate Prep: Calling Biden Dumb and a Good Debater