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Political Wire logo Quote of the Day
Anchorage Mayor Steps Down
Even More Battleground State Polls
Vulnerable Republicans Tie Themselves to Barrett
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‘Unmasking’ Probe Quietly Ends Without Charges

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Let the Games Begin
      •  Trump Gets "Clean Bill of Health"
      •  Biden Win Could Be Called on Election Night
      •  Microsoft Shuts Down Hacking Operation
      •  California GOP Pushes the Envelope on Absentee Ballots
      •  Cunningham Situation Just Keeps Getting Worse
      •  COVID-19 Diaries: Open Water
      •  Today's Presidential Polls
      •  Today's Senate Polls

Note: When (V) started this site in 2004, he did the map by hand every day using Photoshop. With one poll a week, that worked, but clearly that didn't scale. A reader, Eric Paulson, offered to write software to produce the map automatically from a data file. He did (and for free) and it worked great. Now he has a new project: a set of trading cards with all 535 members of Congress. The 116th Congress set sold out quickly so now he has a Kickstarter project to produce a set for the 117th Congress as soon as the results are in. Each card has a photo of the member on the front and the stats on the back, like these two:

Congressional trading cards

If you are interested, check it out here.

Let the Games Begin

On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearings on Amy Coney Barrett got underway. Since 51 members of the Senate GOP caucus said that they would vote for confirmation before the nominee was even known, this is all pretty much pro forma, and serves primarily as an opportunity for both parties to do a little posturing with the election underway.

The Democrats, with committee member/VP candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) taking the lead, had all gotten on the same page when it comes to messaging: It was all ACA, all day. In fact, taking note of the candidate's initials, Team Blue even had a pithy summation of their strategy: "You're going to hear more ACA than ACB." The point they were trying to make, of course, was that a Republican-controlled Court and a Republican-controlled Senate and a Republican-controlled White House will do everything they can to gut Obamacare. Since a Republican-controlled Court is already a fait accompli, this was thus a backdoor argument for voting a straight Democratic ticket in this year's election.

The Republicans, for their part, had also gotten on the same page with their messaging: It was all Jesus, all day. Team Red did not have a pithy summation of their strategy, but they did accuse the Democrats of being fundamentally hostile to people of faith. For example, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) decreed: "When you tell somebody that they're too Catholic to be on the bench, when you tell them they're going to be a Catholic judge, not an American judge, that's bigotry. The pattern and practice of bigotry from members of this committee must be stopped, and I would expect that it be renounced." Never mind that: (1) the Democrats have never said that, (2) the Democrats didn't even mention religion on Monday, and (3) the Democrats' presidential candidate is a practicing Catholic. The GOP has a message it wants to send to voters who are about to cast their ballot, and that message is that Democrats hate Christians.

Incidentally, if anyone thought the Senate's COVID-19 outbreak might derail the hearings, that's not going to happen. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) participated in the hearing remotely, and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who said he is no longer infected or contagious, was there in person. Of course, if Lee is wrong, and he just passed the disease on to six of his colleagues, that could change the equation. But probably not; more likely is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would just issue HazMat suits on voting day.

The hearings are scheduled to last two more days, with Tuesday and Wednesday given over to questioning from the members of the Judiciary Committee. The Democrats will continue to hammer on the ACA, and one imagines Roe v. Wade will come up once or twice, perhaps with some questions about how Barrett somehow forgot to mention in the paperwork she submitted that she gave talks to two different anti-abortion student groups. (The "error" was corrected after CNN ran a story on the matter). As to the Republicans, they will presumably stick with the religion theme. Beyond that, what they have up their sleeves is anyone's guess. (Z)

Trump Gets "Clean Bill of Health"

On Sunday morning, Donald Trump declared himself to be not only completely recovered from his bout of COVID-19, but also completely immune to further recurrences:

The tweet reads:
'A total and complete sign off from White House Doctors yesterday. That means I can't get it (immune), and can't give it. Very nice to know!!!'
and the Twitter warning reads: 'This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.'

As you can see, the folks who run Twitter do not share his optimism, and so they flagged the tweet for spreading false information about COVID-19. On Monday, in response, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted a letter from presidential physician Dr. Sean Conley, in which the doctor claims that Trump has twice tested negative for COVID-19 (while neglecting to mention when), and says the President is no longer infectious. Thus far, the tweet/letter have not been flagged, but medical experts have loudly pushed back at the notion that Trump can be declared non-infectious.

So, Trump has a clean bill of health, such as it is. We wouldn't want to share air with him, but it's enough that the President is going to hit the campaign trail again and hit it hard. He had a rally in Florida last night, and he's got several others scheduled this week. He's pressing his staff to increase the frequency to 2-3 events per day. The risk of any or all of those becoming superspreader events is, quite obviously, not a concern. It would appear that the President also believes there is no risk in pushing himself to the limit, despite the fact that he's a 74-year-old man who just recovered (?) from a potentially life-threatening disease.

Although we may never know for sure, one wonders what Trump's thinking is when it comes to the rallies. Does he honestly believe that communing with a few thousand true believers, and kvetching about Hillary's e-mails and "Sleepy Joe" moves the needle in any appreciable way? Is it that he's a "man of action," and this is the only action he can come up with in response to his poor poll numbers? Or maybe he loves the ego boost he gets from the rallies, and he's squeezing in as many as he can while still president? Who knows?

There is at least some evidence that Trump, and those in his orbit, know that the rallies are not getting it done. The campaign is now pushing for this week's debate to be restored, now that the president is "healthy." It's not going to happen, of course. Joe Biden has scheduled a town hall for that night, and the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has made very clear that the cancellation is final.

Maybe the demand to bring back debate two is just for show, so that Trump can spend time at his remaining rallies this week complaining about what meanies Biden and the CPD are. More likely, however, is that Team Trump has noticed that more than 10 million people have voted already, and every day that goes by without the trajectory of the race changing, the deeper the President's hole gets. We shall see if he shows up to the third debate, since that one is also likely to be on terms (e.g., microphone kill switches) that are not to Trump's liking. (Z)

Biden Win Could Be Called on Election Night

Last week, we noted that Joe Biden had crossed the magic 270-EV threshold for the first time with Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball and CNN's Electoral College Outlook. Yesterday, Politico's Election Forecast joined the list. They now say that Donald Trump would have to win all of their five toss-up states (Arizona, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and North Carolina), and also steal at least one state that is currently in Joe Biden's column, to be reelected.

To commemorate this development, Politico's Zach Montellaro and David Siders have written an article observing that Donald Trump's demand to know the winner on election night is a case of "be careful what you wish for." They point out something we have mentioned multiple times, namely that two key states Biden is trying to steal from Trump—North Carolina and Florida—are "fast counting" states, and their results may be known by the end of the evening on Nov. 3. Both states begin processing the absentee ballots in September, so a nearly complete total of the absentee ballots should be available by the evening of Nov. 3. Also, large numbers of Floridians have been voting by absentee ballot for years, so election officials have well-tested procedures for dealing with them. If Biden claims one (or both) of them, then the race is effectively over, and ideally much angst, uncertainty, and potential violence can be avoided. On the other hand, three states that Trump badly needs to re-create his 2016 map—Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—are "slow counting" states. The upshot is that Biden—if he wins—may well be declared the winner on Nov. 3 or Nov. 4, whereas there is almost no chance that the President—even if he wins—will be declared the winner on election night. (Z)

Microsoft Shuts Down Hacking Operation

Darth Vader tossed Emperor Palpatine into the bowels of the Death Star and saved the life of his son Luke Skywalker. Vito Corleone tried his best to be a good husband and father when he wasn't busy, you know, living a life of crime. Norman Bates was a devoted son. Captain Ivan Drago proved to be a basically decent fellow when the steroids and the KGB weren't doing the talking for him. Point is, sometimes even the bad guys do something redeeming.

Such is the case with this story. Microsoft, which is only slightly more powerful and slightly more frightening than Palpatine and his Death Star, gets to be the good guy for a day. They went to court and got permission to shut down the servers used by Trickbot, which is sort of a repository of different pieces of software used to commit various cyber-misdeeds. In particular, Trickbot featured an extensive collection of ransomware programs, which, according to Microsoft, were potentially set to be deployed during this year's election.

Cyber criminals are like weeds—they're never really gone—so undoubtedly Trickbot will be back online sometime soon. However, Microsoft said on Monday that they have embraced a "new legal approach" that involves helping the authorities with things like this. Their motives may not be entirely pure—self-regulation is a lot better than being regulated by the government—but a more aggressive approach from Microsoft will nonetheless be a positive step in the fight against online malfeasance. Certainly more positive than anything that, say, Facebook has done. (Z)

California GOP Pushes the Envelope on Absentee Ballots

For many decades, California was a state with blue cities and red suburbs. In the last 10 years, however, it's been evolving into a state with blue cities and blue suburbs. That change was particularly noticeable in 2018, especially in the once-solidly-Republican Orange County. And part of what made 2018 such a success for California Democrats was their well-organized ballot harvesting campaign. This is entirely legal in the Golden State, as long as the voter signs on the outside of the ballot to authorize their ballot being collected.

The California Republican Party has decided that they would like some of those suburban House seats back. At the same time, it would seem they lack either the patience, the time, or the resources to do it the legal way, as the Democrats did in 2018. And so, the California GOP has taken to installing official-looking ballot-collection boxes in places where Republican voters might be expected to congregate (churches, gun shops, Republican candidates' campaign offices, etc.). Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the state Republican party, telling them to knock it off. And GOP spokesperson Hector Barajas has already announced that the Party has no intention of complying, reasoning that there is no difference between a person harvesting ballots and an inanimate box doing so.

It is very clear that while reclaiming a few seats in the House would be nice, another major Republican motivation here is to pick a fight for PR purposes. Padilla is not going to back down, and once he takes whatever actions he's going to take—which could include prosecution of the California GOP—then the Republicans will use that as basis for complaining loudly about how hypocritical and unfair Democrats are, or how the Democratic Party is trying to suppress Republican votes, or how the Democratic-run government in California is out of control, or all of the above. Meanwhile, the over/under on how long until Donald Trump starts tweeting about this has to be, what, two days? (Z)

Cunningham Situation Just Keeps Getting Worse

First, it was revealed that North Carolina Democratic Senatorial candidate Cal Cunningham exchanged suggestive texts with a woman who is not his wife. Then, it was revealed that it wasn't just texts, and that Cunningham and his paramour had been intimate. Then, it was revealed that there were naked pictures commemorating their coupling. And in the latest development, Cunningham was asked four different times if there are other extramarital affairs that are as-yet unknown, and he declined to answer. For those readers who were born yesterday, that means that yes, there most certainly are other extramarital affairs.

That means we will now learn exactly how much tolerance North Carolinians have for these kinds of dalliances. We have our first poll of the race since the scandal first broke (see below), and Cunningham appears to be weathering the storm so far. It could be that Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and/or Donald Trump are so unpopular that Tar Heel State voters say "Eh. What's a little adultery among friends?" Or, it could be that Cunningham's misdeeds are canceled out by the skeletons in Tillis' closet, namely that the Senator had a bitter divorce in which he was accused of "cruel and inhuman treatment" by his now-ex-wife. It could also be the case that Cunningham's sizable Q3 haul ($28 million) will allow him to flood the airwaves with commercials about healthcare and COVID-19, and to cause many folks to forget about his marital issues. (Z)

COVID-19 Diaries: Open Water

Welcome to the "second wave."

Actually, the second wave is really just the first wave that never stopped. For the first few months, the states heavily impacted by COVID-19 (New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts) accounted for most of the cases in the United States. To analyze what was happening in the U.S. during those early months, it was necessary to divide the country into the "early states" and "everybody else." Now those "early states" have all been overtaken by many of the "everybody else" states. Rather than learn from the early states' mistakes, they instead chose to follow in the early states' footsteps, like the mythical behavior of lemmings.

The U.S. is experiencing COVID fatigue. The country's behavior is reminiscent of the movie "Open Water," where one character is eaten by sharks, then the other just gives up and sinks beneath the water. As the U.S. is moving towards ever-increasing new case numbers, there is more and more willingness to get back to normal and engage in behaviors that will exacerbate a clearly worsening pandemic.

In my home state of New Jersey, in response to our daily cases steadily increasing to three times their average of just a month ago, the schools are moving to in-person learning. We are responding to indications of COVID-19 not being under control by doing things to make it worse.

Here are the states that are now showing as having the most cases/million population (for comparison, using this statistic, New York is now 18th, New Jersey 23rd, and Massachusetts is 31st):

Rank State PVI 1,000 Cases/Million Note
1 Louisiana R+11 37 Seems to have survived a second wave, is now flat
2 North Dakota R+17 36 Totally out of control, exponential growth
3 Mississippi R+9 35 Mostly flat maybe starting a second wave
4 Florida R+2 34 Mostly flat
5 Alabama R+14 34 Mostly flat
6 South Dakota R+14 32 Totally out of control, exponential growth
7 Iowa R+3 32 Slow, but consistent growth
8 Tennessee R+14 31 Mostly flat maybe starting a second wave
9 Georgia R+5 31 Seems to have survived a second wave, is now flat
10 Arizona R+5 31 Mostly flat maybe starting a second wave
11 Arkansas R+15 31 Slow, but consistent growth
12 South Carolina R+8 30 Mostly flat
13 Texas R+8 29 Mostly flat

Most of these states are clearly red or purple-red, according to the "Cook Partisan Voting Index, but they do not look like they are just ignoring the pandemic. I had expected to see most of these states to be "out of control." Instead, it seems that most of them are following the normal model of only taking COVID-19 seriously when cases go up. So, where is all the U.S. new case growth coming from? Well, here is a similar analysis for states with the most new cases (note that there is some overlap).

Rank State PVI Daily New Cases (avg) Note
1 Texas R+8 3,900 Mostly flat
2 California D+12 3,200 Flat
3 Illinois D+7 2,500 Slow, but consistent growth
4 Florida R+2 2,500 Flat
5 Wisconsin EVEN 2,500 Totally out of control, exponential growth
6 North Carolina R+3 2,000 Fast growth in the second wave
7 Tennessee R+14 1,900 Mostly flat maybe starting a second wave
8 Indiana R+9 1,400 Fast growth in the second wave
9 Minnesota D+1 1,200 Consistent growth in the second wave
10 Ohio R+3 1,400 Solid growth in their third wave
11 Utah R+20 1,200 Fast growth in the second wave

There are both red and blue states that are "unhealthy contributors" to the count of new cases. Illinois, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Indiana, Minnesota and Utah are the primary sources for new case growth. There is no clear trend here that allows us to say this is a red state or a blue state problem. It is just an American problem. (PD)

Dr. Paul Dorsey, Ph.D., works in medical software, providing software to support medical practices and hospitals nationwide.

Today's Presidential Polls

Joe Biden has not trailed in any poll of Michigan, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin that is in our database, and there hasn't even been a "close" poll of those states since early September. Meanwhile, that is eight Florida polls in a row where he has led. (Z)

State Biden Trump Start End Pollster
Florida 51% 48% Oct 10 Oct 12 Emerson Coll.
Michigan 48% 40% Oct 06 Oct 11 Siena Coll.
Montana 46% 52% Oct 09 Oct 10 PPP
Pennsylvania 51% 44% Oct 06 Oct 11 Ipsos
Washington 55% 34% Oct 08 Oct 12 SurveyUSA
Wisconsin 51% 41% Oct 08 Oct 11 Siena Coll.
Wisconsin 51% 44% Oct 06 Oct 11 Ipsos

Today's Senate Polls

We are more willing to believe that Steve Bullock has turned his race into a dead heat than that John James has. That said, neither of these polls is in line with previous polling of those races. But remember, in 5% of the polls the reported results for each candidate are expected to be more than standard deviations from the true value. If the polls did not have outliers one time in 20, that would be cause for alarm.

Meanwhile, as noted above, it looks like Cunningham is not being hurt much by his sex scandal. Too bad he isn't running in Louisiana; he'd probably be up by 20 now. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Michigan Gary Peters* 43% John James 42% Oct 06 Oct 11 Siena Coll.
Montana Steve Bullock 48% Steve Daines* 48% Oct 09 Oct 10 PPP
North Carolina Cal Cunningham 49% Thom Tillis* 39% Oct 08 Oct 11 SurveyUSA

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct12 Biden Leads Trump Nationally by 12 Points
Oct12 Time to Rewrite the History Books
Oct12 Absentee Vote So Far Favors the Democrats
Oct12 Drop Boxes Are the New Battleground
Oct12 Young People Aren't Sold on Voting Yet
Oct12 Biden Is Outspending Trump 50-to-1...on Radio
Oct12 Democrats Are Pushing the Flip Zone Outwards
Oct12 Senators Push Back on Coronavirus Relief Bill
Oct12 Cindy McCain Makes an Ad for Biden
Oct12 Mistakes Absentee Voters Make
Oct12 Changes in Polling Compared to 2016
Oct12 Jaime Harrison Breaks Fundraising Record
Oct12 Today's Presidential Polls
Oct12 Today's Senate Polls
Oct11 Sunday Mailbag
Oct11 Today's Presidential Polls
Oct11 Today's Senate Polls
Oct10 Second Debate Is Kaput
Oct10 Saturday Q&A
Oct10 Today's Presidential Polls
Oct10 Today's Senate Polls
Oct09 Takeaways from the Vice Presidential Debate
Oct09 Next Presidential Debate Will Be Virtual--If It Happens
Oct09 Whitmer Kidnapping Plot Is Foiled
Oct09 Trump Will Return to the Campaign Trail Next Week
Oct09 Appeals Court Rejects Extended Deadline for Receiving Ballots in Wisconsin...
Oct09 ...But District Court Smacks Down Ohio Ballot Box Policy
Oct09 Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball Has Biden over 270 Electoral Votes...
Oct09 ...And So Does CNN's Electoral College Outlook
Oct09 Pelosi Decides to Play a Little Hardball
Oct09 A Stand-Alone Bill to Bail Out the Airlines Is on the No-Fly List
Oct09 Trump Required His Doctors to Sign Nondisclosure Agreements in 2019
Oct09 New England Journal of Medicine Makes Its First Presidential (Anti-)Endorsement
Oct09 Today's Presidential Polls
Oct09 Today's Senate Polls
Oct08 Pretty Fly, for a White Guy
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Oct08 Biden Delivers Gettysburg Address
Oct08 Vance Gets Closer to Having Trump's Tax Returns
Oct08 Three National Polls Have Biden Up Big
Oct08 Trump Campaign Cancels Ad Buys in Ohio and Iowa
Oct08 Puerto Rico's Governor Endorses Trump
Oct08 Arizona Senate Debate Is All About Trump
Oct08 Today's Presidential Polls
Oct08 Today's Senate Polls
Oct07 The Veep Debate Is Tonight
Oct07 Biden is Running Ads--for Harris
Oct07 CNN Poll: Biden Leads by 16 Points
Oct07 Four Million People Have Already Voted
Oct07 If Trump Still Has COVID-19 Next Week, Biden Won't Debate Him