Biden 356
image description
Trump 182
image description
Click for Senate
Dem 51
image description
Ties 1
GOP 48
image description
  • Strongly Dem (217)
  • Likely Dem (73)
  • Barely Dem (66)
  • Exactly tied (0)
  • Barely GOP (62)
  • Likely GOP (38)
  • Strongly GOP (82)
270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2016 2012 2008
New polls: (None)
Dem pickups vs. 2016: AZ FL GA IA MI NC PA WI
GOP pickups vs. 2016: (None)
Political Wire logo Newsmax Broadcast Trump During Hitler Slot
Bannon Says Trump Will Run In 2024 If He Loses
Trump Mocks Biden for Listening to Scientists
Fauci Not Surprised Trump Got Sick
Perdue’s Mocking of Kamala Harris Backfires
What Early Voting Might Tell Us

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

We're nearing the home stretch!

2020 Election, Presidential

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: I can't quite put my fingers on what is causing this feeling, but all this week, even though we had fresh outrages by Donald Trump, it has seemed that somehow he has jumped the shark in the American zeitgeist. That he just doesn't seem to matter anymore is how I greet each new uproar. I don't even feel the sense of panic that, if he were to lose in two weeks, he would incite an armed uprising. This is coming from someone who had viewed Trump as a very real threat to our democracy and our way of life. It's like he has been neutered.

While I feel that way, I can't quite get my logical mind to point to one thing that changed him from being "Existential Menace" to "Flailing Delusional Helpless Old Man." Maybe it was the "Wheezing Mussolini on the Balcony" act or his "Princess Typhoid Mary Wave and Ride" around Walter Reed. Perhaps it was the insanely comically inept October Surprise of "Hunter Biden's Laptop (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)" or the limp anticlimactic findings of AG Bill Barr's many "investigations." Certainly the cowardly Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA), by throwing in the towel already for 2022, and Ben Sasse (R-NE), by finally being willing to call Trump out for what he is, are signaling that those inside the GOP know Trump has screwed them over nine times to Sunday. There is also, of course, the Axios article about how the Trump campaign staffers are all doom and gloom; as well as Trump's own inexplicable words on the campaign trail, like his saying that if he loses he will have to leave the country—probably a Freudian Slip, for he knows he's going to jail if he loses. Then there is the fact that Joe Biden's Town Hall beat out Trump's by a million viewers despite Biden's being available on fewer channels. Nothing like a pandemic to make people realize that maybe having a competent person instead of a clown in office is really a matter of life or death. All this adds up to is that the Monster has been defanged!

That said, if I had to point to one instance, it would have to be the one like so many turning points in history when truth is spoken to the face of power. Like Joseph Welch's response to Senator McCarthy, "Have you no sense of decency, Sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" I think, although history might disagree, that the turning point may have been Trump's moment with Savannah Guthrie's "You're the president, not someone's crazy uncle!" which encapsulates everything about how Trump has treated the Presidency. Although I'm sure Mary Trump might have issue with that, in that he's always been her crazy uncle, hearing Guthrie saying that made me see Trump as the crazy old inept man behind all the bluster and uproar that he has perhaps always been. Truly the Emperor has no clothes!

Despite this feeling that Trump's limelight is fading fast, I found out this week that Pennsylvania does have early voting, in select locations, and there is one nearby. So this Friday I plan to go vote, come hell or high water, and would encourage everyone, no matter who you vote for to do so!

E.D. in Tempe, AZ, writes: My wife and I watched the 1993 Kevin Kline movie "Dave" this evening. What a difference 25 years makes.

[Spoiler Alert]

At the end of the movie, Dave, impersonating the President, before a joint session of Congress, responds to "scandalous" accusations levied by his former chief of staff, and confesses to all of them. The movie script presupposes that these illegal acts will of course lead to the President resigning in disgrace and to the end of his political career.

Just what were these misdeeds? Illegally influencing government regulators on behalf of major campaign contributors, interfering with an ongoing Justice Department investigation, and violating Federal election laws in the area of campaign finance.

Unsurvivable for the movie President of 1993; in 2020, they just call it Tuesday.

V & Z respond: You should also watch/rewatch "The American President," made just a few years after "Dave." It's remarkable how on-point it is.

E.V. in Derry, NH, writes: I was watching the news coverage of Donald Trump's rallies today. Calling for the arrest of his rivals, and the crowd chanting about it. It makes my stomach turn. Trump's cohort in the White House, and the chanting supporters, will have no right to complain about anything that happens after this election. That goes for the Congressional and national Republicans who don't speak out against the idea that political rivals should be arrested. They are showing their contempt for the ideals that our country was founded on and should be striving for. They are actively undermining the system we have set up to govern ourselves. They may be citizens, but they do not love our country.

C.G. in Greeneville, TN, writes: We live in a county that voted 78.9% for Donald Trump in 2016. We voted early yesterday, it took over 40 minutes, Trump voters were everywhere and they wore their Trump hats, pins and other items very proudly and only hid them when they got to the door to vote, even though they were well past the campaigning boundary markers. I do not think there are any shy Trump voters. In years past, on occasion, we have put out Democratic political signs on our vacant corner lot and, once in a while, we have had people literally drive over them. Since Trump has been elected, we have not put out any kind of political signs, I am fearful of what some of these Trump voters will do. We are shy Biden voters.

J.N. in Mercer Island, WA, writes: I've seen you ponder the point of Donald Trump's rallies several times. I believe I have an insight combed from conversations with my 'Trump fan' relations. Attendance at Trump rallies is a key reason they believe polling is fake news. In other words, the notion is: "Trump cannot be far behind in the polls when so many supporters attend his rallies. And look at Biden's measly rallies. Hardly anyone attends."

My stepdad was kind enough to link to this video by "Dr. Steve" (Steven Turley, Ph.D., Religious Studies) who emphasizes the same point:

My guess, this messaging is the backbone of the argument an aggrieved Trump makes about the "rigged" election after his defeat.

V & Z respond: What is going on with academics named Turley?

W.G. in Santa Fe, NM, writes: This could be the worst-run campaign ever mounted by an incumbent president. There is a lack of focus, a lack of message, a lack of platform, and (glaringly) there seems to be no second-term agenda or set of goals. There are no heavyweight political surrogates going to bat for the president. The primary narrative appears to be fearmongering and enumerating of grievances. There is no serious attempt at expanding the tent beyond the base. And the president has gone to great lengths to undermine confidence in mail-in voting, which may end up hurting him more than his opponent. Yet still he appears to be within striking distance.

B.M. in Raleigh, NC, writes: Maybe I should give Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) some credit after all. I have never believed that Donald Trump cared anything about abortion, courts, family values, Christianity, etc., he just was looking for a source of support to gain power. But McConnell seems to be willing to give away control of the Senate and his job as a minority majority leader over getting yet another conservative on the court. He must have actually drunk the Kool-Aid.

H.M. in East Lansing, MI, writes: A sad thing for me is that the suburbs have had to cancel Halloween. I have always loved to see the little ones in our neighborhood for the past 22 years, all dressed up in their costumes, and escorted by their parents, and collecting their Mars bars. How much will that s*ck for younger suburban dads/moms?

V & Z respond: Interesting point. The loss of Halloween is going to be a big reminder of the nation's failures with COVID-19, smack dab in the middle of election season.

S.S. in West Hollywood, CA, writes: Forcing "Typhoid Trump" to quarantine, without benefit of charges or a trial sounds good to me. After all, if it's good enough for Typhoid Mary it's certainly good enough for Trump.

K.F. in Framingham, MA, writes: If Joe Biden wins the election, then he will be sworn in on January 20, 2021. I have been thinking about what a COVID-era inauguration may look like. On January 20, 1985, President Reagan was sworn in for a second term inside the Capitol due to extremely harsh conditions outside. Assuming the weather is not nearly that bad, I suspect the inauguration could still be held outside, but VIP attendees would have to be socially distanced with masks and public spectators on the National Mall may be asked to wear masks and stay 6 feet apart. I think this is what Biden, et. al. would want, as their priority would be to keep people safe, not to boast about a "record crowd." If push came to shove, I think Biden would be fine with holding a smaller, more private ceremony inside (with far fewer VIP attendees).

Either way, given the ongoing COVID crisis, I cannot imagine there will be nearly as many people attending the inauguration as we may typically expect. According to Politifact, Obama had 1.8 million attendees in 2009 and Bill Clinton only had 250,000 show up in 1997. Whatever happens, make no mistake, it will not stop Donald Trump from boasting that he got a far bigger crowd and labeling Biden's inaugural crowd as "so sad," "pathetic," or "the smallest in probably all U.S. history." Another key difference will be that Biden will not be asking Sean Spicer to spin a different tale.

2020 Election, Senate

H.F. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: Although Ben Sasse criticized President Trump's style and substance at Wednesday's town hall campaign event in Nebraska, he reliably votes to support him in the Senate. He is no different in this respect from former Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, and soon-to-be former Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). At least Mitt Romney of Utah voted to convict on one of the impeachment charges.

A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: Ben Sasse is nothing if not opportunistic. His so-called integrity is only on display if it aligns with his political ambitions. His latest "repudiation" of Trump is yet another trial balloon. He sees the writing on the wall, so if Trump is defeated, he wants to be one of the first rats off the sinking ship. If no one follows him, however, and if Trump is re-elected, he will quickly fall back into line, much the way he did after his impeachment gambit failed. He's not quite at the hypocrisy level of Susan Collins' "concern" or Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) word for word about-face on virtually everything he supposedly stood for, but it's close.

R.S. in Lincoln, NE, writes: I noticed you had mentioned Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse being up against a Democrat (Chris Janicek) who "nobody outside of Omaha has ever heard of," giving him the confidence to criticize President Trump during an election season in a heavily Trump-leaning state. In fact, our Senate race is even more ridiculous than that. Many months ago, the Nebraska Democratic Party begged Janicek to step down after he got caught up in a sexual harassment scandal involving a member of his campaign staff. He hadn't won the primary with a majority—there were multiple close competitors, but Janicek refused to quit the race to allow a competitive Democrat onto the ticket. Furthermore, under state law, none of the candidates who ran as a Democrat in the primary could be eligible to run for office at all during this election, either, so long as Janicek didn't step down.

There's a last-minute effort now to have Democrats write in Preston Love, Jr. (who is actually Jesse Jackson's former campaign manager from his famous 1984 run for President). However, the messaging about the write-in effort seems to be fairly half-hearted and poorly covered by local media outlets. Given all of this and the uphill battle a Democrat would be facing anyway in this state, Ben Sasse has the cover to say whatever he wants now, whether it's about his distaste for the President or his desire to repeal the 17th Amendment. He could probably stand in the middle of Dodge Street and shoot somebody and he wouldn't lose any voters.

J.M. in Portland, OR, writes: In regards to North Carolina Senate candidate Cal Cunningham, I feel like you're missing a plausible explanation of why the "scandal" failed to move the campaign needle—young people and those with a predisposition towards openness (i.e., more likely to vote Democratic) often have an entirely different sexual outlook than the older and more conventional (i.e., more likely to vote Republican). Perhaps nothing changed because a good number of Cunningham voters are familiar with ideas like consensual non-monogamy, open relationships, swinging, polyamory, et. al., and don't judge his behavior reflexively?

When George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Cunningham, etc. were accused of infidelity, I looked to their respective wives and, given their continued support, decided it was not my business to mind. My view of John Edwards, by contrast, changed to rather negative after his wife Elizabeth filed for divorce. Clearly, she was not OK with his behavior, strongly implying he violated the agreements of their marriage.

R.C. in Burnsville, NC, writes: I really think y'all might be hyperventilating on this imaginary "scandal" over Senate candidate Cal Cunningham sending some texts or whatever. I'm in North Carolina and while I've seen lots of mudslinging from the state Republicans on Cunningham, none of it has even brought this up, let alone harped on it. This is, after all, a state that sent if not most of its 2016 votes, at least a plurality of them to Donald Trump in the wake of Accessgate, so that didn't matter, why would this? What does some candidate's personal affairs have to do with Senating anyway?

I think this is more a bait story that national news thinks it can hype up to be an issue where none exists. It's just not happening here in the state.

R.S. in Savannah, GA, writes: I have been reading your site since one of you was in Scandinavia, since 2005. It is the best. In these 15 years, I have noticed your knowledge of the U.S. and the world is very extensive and informed. But, might I humbly offer, you are not too savvy about the 21st century American South.

I think the polls you seem to put a lot of weight on, namely Morning Consult and the universities, are not sampling enough Black Southerners or college educated folks, certainly not in Georgia. Both of those groups are growing in the South. Let me tell you this:

  1. I absolutely guarantee that Biden/Harris will win Georgia outright.
  2. I absolutely guarantee that Jaime Harrison (right across the river) will unseat Lindsey Graham.
  3. I'm not sure about Jon Ossoff over Sen. David Perdue (R-GA); Ossoff is such a terrible campaigner, but he has a chance.

But numbers 1 and 2 are done deals.

R.K. in San Francisco, CA, writes: In your item about the special election for Kelly Loeffler's (R-GA) Senate seat, you advance several theories for what might have changed in the last few weeks to allow Raphael Warnock to consolidate Democratic support, but I think you're missing an important piece of the puzzle: Barack Obama announced his endorsement of Warnock in late September.

G.B. in Manchester, UK, writes: I just want to point out that, based on the number from your item about expenditures on Senate races, the spending for the Montana Senate seat in 2020 is equivalent to about $133.77 per person in the state.

Dueling Town Halls

M.J. in Baldwin, MD, writes: I couldn't watch the town halls but did watch the clip you provided where Joe Biden tries to answer the court packing question. You suggest that he fumbled this question, but I would say he answered it in the best way that he could and far better than Donald Trump would.

I'm sure Trump would just blurt out "We're packing the court!" under assumption that if he were in Biden's position, he would win and take this action. But I think Biden's strategists have come up with the best answer they can give, which is "don't put the focus on my answer but instead let's wait and see." The problem is that Biden said he'd give his response before the election (after Halloween) "depending on what happens" so he probably feels he's giving himself a little bit of a pass equivocating in that way. You may see this as a fumble but, honestly, I can't think of a single better response given the situation.

L.B. in Savannah, GA, writes: I get it that Joe Biden has to be careful, because if he says "yes, I will add four (or six, or 180) justices," he frightens the moderates, but if he says "no, I will only fill seats as they come up," he enrages the progressives. But it shouldn't be a difficult question. This is all he has to say:

The President doesn't decide how many justices there are. The current number of nine is set by the Judiciary Act of 1869. Only Congress can change that. If Congress passes a new law increasing the number of justices, as president I will fulfill my constitutional obligation and appoint people to fill those seats.

V & Z respond: Of course, the host might immediately point out that a new Judiciary Act would have to be signed into law by the president, making Biden something more than just a passive observer in this scenario.

A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: Before the town halls, you wrote: "[CBS] could show reruns of "I Love Lucy," perhaps. It would be embarrassing to the candidates if Lucy won the ratings war, though."

If they would show "All in the Family" or "Gunsmoke," I would be all over it like jam on toast!

V.B. in Orange Park, FL, writes: I watched "Big Brother All-Stars" (CBS), a different kind of live reality show. I suspect non-town-hall programming will have the highest ratings.

Voter Reports

R.M. in Lincoln City, OR, writes: I was struck by the question from A.K.P. in Alabama, who said: "I am a moderate Democrat in a red state who desperately wants Trump out of office. I'm helpless since my vote doesn't count." I've heard this thought expressed by other red staters over the years and while I understand their rationale, I always want to respond, "Of course your vote counts!"

I live in a blue state. Does A.K.P. think that my vote counts in a way theirs doesn't? My ballot is sitting on the desk next to me and I'll probably drop it in a ballot box later today, but who am I kidding? If I drop the ballot in my trash can, Joe Biden is still going to carry Oregon.

My first vote for president was in 1972, when I was 19 and living in Pennsylvania. Nixon won 59% of the vote and carried the state by 20 points! I never felt that my vote for George McGovern was wasted, and I'm still proud of that vote today.

I feel honored every time I vote, win or lose, because I'm taking part in a process that gives me a voice in community decisions that mean a lot to me and my family. We've heard it said that if you don't vote, you don't have a right to complain.

Beyond that, I would say a losing vote is still important because it lets the candidates and the parties know what the electorate is thinking. Demographics change over time in every state. I'm old enough to remember when California was reliably red and Texas was reliably blue. If people just give up and stay home because they think their vote for the losing side is a waste of time, then the winning side will think they can do whatever they want because they face no opposition. It's important to let those who govern know what you're thinking.

On a side note, I have a brother who has lived overseas since 1979. His first vote was for Jimmy Carter in 1976 and he hasn't felt compelled to vote again for president until this year. He still gets to vote in the state where he last resided, which was Pennsylvania. My Oregon vote probably won't affect the results much. Neither will our other brother's California vote. But Brother Bob may very well help carry Joe Biden to victory in 2020.

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: Now that we are less than 3 weeks out from Election Day and the message has been drilled into Americans to make a voting plan, I feel it is equally important to get the message out to prepare to vote. I have been voting by mail (more recently drop-off in the official drop box at my City Hall) for 10 years and I really appreciate that I can sit down at my dining room table with my ballot and my computer and do some research as I vote. I live in Alameda County in California and my ballot is 5 pages! This includes contests for federal, state and local positions, 12 state proposals and 2 proposals each for my county and my city! I spent about an hour voting!

If you are planning on voting in person, look up your ballot (my state and county sent out ballot guides a few weeks ago), do your research and show up at the polls with a cheat sheet so that you can get in and out of there quickly. If you don't know what you are voting for you will likely either skip the downballot stuff (which is so important) or you'll be in the booth for a long time frantically looking stuff up on your phone—all while the line behind you gets longer and longer. Be aware that proposals can sometimes be worded such that "yes" means "no" and, if you are not careful, you may end up voting for something you don't agree with.

There are plenty of other resources out there to look up your ballot. I found Ballotpedia to be quite useful. (Vote Save America also has a pretty good build-your-ballot tool). I could look up everything on my ballot, read the language on the ballot, read the actual proposed law (in the case of proposals—this is super wonky), see who endorses candidates and yes-or-no on proposals, and see who is funding candidates and the "yes on" or "no on" campaigns.

Because I'm not a policy wonk, I found the endorsements of local people I trust, and who is funding what, to be most helpful for proposals. For local elections, I actually took a walk down my block to look at the lawn signs my neighbors had put out. I'm talking about people more connected with city and school board politics than me, whose opinions I trust. I also looked at union endorsements and, for judges, the endorsements of a conservative judicial watch site (so I would know who not to vote for). Everyone votes for different reasons and your results may vary. How I vote may not work for you and I offer my methods as mere suggestions.

My point is to be prepared. Know your ballot, make informed choices and don't be in the voting booth holding up the line while you do your research!

P.K. in Marshalltown, IA, writes: The placement of drop boxes by the California GOP raises question about voter fraud, with those who control the boxes sorting out submissions that they believe would help their tallies and tossing those that do not. Beyond the legal huffery and puffery currently underway by the California SOS, could submissions be marked in some way (invisible ink?) so that election officials could ask where certain envelopes were when they did not show up at election offices?

I voted in person in Iowa on October 6 (day two of the early voting period) to avoid nonsense like drop boxes and USPS shenanigans.

V.S. in Oak Bluffs, MA, writes: I live in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, on Martha's Vineyard. I received my vote-by-mail ballot in plenty of time to send it back. appears that our town has had a couple of problems with the vote-by-mail ballots. Some were sent with the instructions from the primary, so instead of the November 3 deadline date, it shows that ballots need to be returned by September 1. Others were sent incomplete, with no privacy envelope included.

I fell into the latter category. After filling out my ballot, I went to find the yellow privacy envelope, and it just wasn't there. I called the town clerk's office, they told me that it had happened to a lot of people, and they were sending the yellow envelopes in another mailing. That was Tuesday, so far (by Friday), it hasn't arrived. Any mail sent from Oak Bluffs has to leave the island by ferry (which don't run in bad weather), go to Providence, Rhode Island for sorting, and then come back to the island. This is one reason that my vote-by-mail ballot will be hand delivered to our town clerk's office.

Our ballots are pretty straightforward. The only two contested races are the presidential race and the Senate, both of which will go to the Democrat. The other races have no contenders, and all nominees are Democrats. There are three ballot questions, one being about ranked-choice voting. It is the questions that will get the most attention here, I believe.

I don't think that any of the errors in sending the ballots were intentional; the community leans very heavily Democratic, as does the state. A few votes more or less for Biden or Keating would not change the outcome. And our town is so small and there are plenty of early in-person voting options, so I would be able to go vote quickly in person if necessary.

Here's an article in our local paper covering the problems.

UPDATE: The yellow privacy envelope arrived in today's (Saturday's) mail (probably arrived late yesterday).

R.H in Macungie, PA, writes: Voting Update for Lehigh County, PA: The county election board mailed my ballot on 10/7. I received it on 10/14. On 10/15, I deposited it in the county election board drop box at their office. I was pleased to see two folks wearing Biden/Harris t-shirts who were politely questioning folks as they approached the office to make sure they had signed their ballots and used the internal security envelope. This should greatly reduce the ballots rejected for lack of signatures or naked ballots. There has been quite a bit of publicity about the naked ballot issue including the following from three election officials:

Three topless women have signs
in front of their breasts that remind people how to fill out their ballots properly

I have also received mail with warnings about the naked ballot issue. My confidence that votes will get counted and PA will go for Biden is growing —records show that more than 2/3 of votes so far are from registered Democrats.

G.C. in Alexandria, VA, writes: Virginia's early voting period began Sept. 18. However, until Wednesday Oct. 14, if a voter wanted to cast a ballot, they had to drive to the County Government Center to do so (an hour drive one-way for me). Beginning on the 14th, other county offices were opened to allow early voting. My wife and I tried going to the location on Wednesday but the line was three city blocks long. We ended up going Oct. 15, and the line was "only" two blocks long. Our total wait time was 2 hours and 50 minutes. Well worth the wait! Please vote!

R.S.B. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: My wife and I both just voted. We used the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder website to both find the closest drop box and to see what it looked like to ensure we didn't use a GOP harvesting box. It was our branch library's book-return, all armored-up and shiny-looking, made to open no more than a ballot-width.

All simple and easy, but I still got the date wrong on the envelope in the signature area and had to fix it with Wite-out (showing my age, I guess). We have BallotTrax turned on, though, and live in a state where if corrections are needed, the registrar asks. We are looking forward eagerly to our ballot-received SMS messages!

C.H. in Marietta, GA, writes: Wanted to share my experience in early voting in Georgia. The lines were extremely long and moved very slowly. After waiting for three hours, I was finally on deck and was stunned to see 15-20 voting machines and only 2-3 people voting at a time. The constraint to getting more voters was the photo ID verification system. I've often thought of photo ID as simply a means of disenfranchising minority and lower-income communities that struggle to get these IDs—it never occurred to me that such requirements could create such inefficiency in the voting process.

N.B. in Marathon, TX, writes: You've mentioned my county (Brewster County, TX) a couple times when talking about the problem of only one ballot drop point per county in Texas. While it is true that it's a problem, people here are used to driving long distances to do their errands already. There is no supermarket or much of anything else in Lajitas, other than a golf resort. Luckily, the drive from Lajitas to Alpine is one of the most beautiful in the state, with a view of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park. The entire county population is only 10,000, 6,000 of which live in Alpine, so the number of voters affected by this is minimal.

A better example would be Harris County, home to Houston. There, the distances can also be huge, and there is some of the worst traffic in the country to contend with. While the drive may not be as long in distance, it could easily be much longer in terms of time. Google maps tells me it's about an hour one way from Kingwood, TX to the ballot drop box, but an accident on the freeway could easily extend that time. Harris County is home to 4.7 million people.

H.J.P. in Fletcher, NC, writes: How about this for long distance voting: NASA Astronaut Will Vote From Space.

J.F. in Washington, DC, writes: I'm a Generation X'er who has always loved the mail. I still send greeting cards and write letters on Crane stationery. I'm a major supporter of starting postal banks at post offices. Banking while poor is a major hindrance to our economy.

I love to use unique and interesting stamps. Currently, I have the Bugs Bunny series, which goes a little deep state with Bugs Bunny cross-dressing. The horror! What Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito must think! What if an evangelical has to look at Bugs dressed like a woman and use the stamp?

Buying stamps online was super slow even before the current USPS debacle. Some major grocery stores sell them at the register. If readers need to buy stamps online, I would urge them to buy today not tomorrow! There are some beautiful stamps out right now. Check them out.

Gone Star State?

B.S. in Montreal, Canada, writes: About your item "What's the Big Picture?" The issue of which way the states will be going in the next few election cycles is probably the most important question of all. Your analysis that North Carolina will be the next Virginia and that Arizona is turning blue, is spot on, in my humble opinion. And it does leave Republicans in a pickle if they start any election with Democrats at over 270 in solid/likely EVs.

There is one state you didn't address, and that is Texas, the Democratic White Whale. I have no intention of claiming that it will be going blue anytime soon, but it is trending purple, even this cycle. Beto O'Rourke and Joe Biden have shown that it is a winnable state and no longer as solid red as it has been. If the GOP can't count on Texas being solid red, that is a huge state to have to invest resources in, and losing Texas would be a disaster for any Republican nominee.

Even more relevant is where that leaves the solid red EV count. If Texas becomes a perennial tossup, much like Florida is now, that means that there are only 3 solid red states that have double digit EVs, Missouri (10), Indiana (11) and Tennessee (11).

Every other solid-red state is in single digits. Republicans will lose any hope of being competitive for the White House, much as they are losing the House of Representatives. You can see this in your EV Tipping point page; "Solid R" only counts for 82 EVs whereas "Solid D" counts for 204 EVs.

That's a massive EV lead to start any race.

Legal Matters

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: A bit more detail down in the Supreme Court weeds in response to the question about the ACA case from M.T. in Los Altos, CA. Recall that the Court already opined that the ACA was not authorized by the Commerce Clause (John Roberts and the four conservatives), but was authorized because the $300 individual mandate for non-compliance was a tax (Roberts and the four liberals). Republicans in Congress then eliminated the mandate so they could claim there was no longer a tax component. On this theory, Roberts would presumably vote to strike the ACA, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg's or Amy Coney Barrett's vote would be irrelevant.

With a Democratic trifecta, however, the individual mandate could be restored. Then the issue would be whether the three Trump appointees would vote with Thomas and Alito that it was not a tax, vote with Roberts and the three liberals that it is a tax, or take a stare decisis approach and say that the Court decided this in 2012, and we're not going to disturb it, even if we would rule otherwise if this were a blank slate.

P.D. in Memphis, TN , writes: In your response to N.S. in Vienna, VA, you suggested that always giving the political party of a judge contributed to an atmosphere that was unhealthy for democracy.

I must disagree. Our democracy is already unhealthy in an extreme way, and awareness of the spread and depth of this disease is necessary for the public to actually come to terms with the chainsaw surgery needed to return the tree of liberty to a healthy state. Knowing that not only do politicians fight to appoint judges at every level of the federal court system, but that said judges intend to repay their appointers whenever possible, is a necessary item for understanding how far down the road to banana republic we've gone.

And it's much further than most people think. I still get pushback from people who want to believe Trump is an anomaly in the Republican Party, yet your own answers today noted the self-dealing and high administrative costs of the Lincoln Project—and those are the "good" Republicans.

When self-dealing and unethical behavior become the unpunished norm, then education as to the level of corruption is a necessity, despite the fact that the subject matter is distasteful to many of us.

J.E. in New Braunfels, TX, writes: Regarding your response to N.S. in Vienna, VA, I would like to see federal judges identified by the year of their appointment to their current bench. Thus, "Judge John Smith ('04)" would be a George W. Bush appointee.

J.L. in Paterson, NJ, writes: This week, you made another reference to the possibility of a special prosecutor to deal with an ousted Donald Trump. Although this notion is popular with many people who, like me, abhor Trump, I think it's a terrible idea.

The rationale for a special prosecutor is not "This defendant is an important person" or "This defendant is clearly guilty." Regular career prosecutors handle those cases all the time. The need for a special prosecutor arises when a prospective defendant is an officeholder, such as the President or the Attorney General, and there's a concern that a prosecutor might go easy for fear of danger to his or her career. Under a President Biden, there would be no such danger in an investigation and possible prosecution of former President Trump.

Historical Matters

K.B. in Dallas, TX, writes: In your answer to G.W. in Oxnard on Catholics vs Protestants, you do have valid points, but you are missing a very important dynamic: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." In this case, the shared enemy would be abortion. My Southern Baptist aunt, for example, could not stomach that Pope Francis got so much press for visiting NYC since "he is a nothing," but she is more than happy to side with anyone that is anti-abortion. I am sure this is very true with many more people on that spectrum.

L.D. in Hamden, CT, writes: In the late 1970s, I attended the wedding of an American-Italian Catholic friend to an American-Polish Catholic. The hostility between the parents of the two sides was intense. The more distant relatives on both sides went off to play bocce together.

D.S. in Silver Spring, MD, writes: The past few weeks, I have been listening to interviews with historian Rick Perlstein, who has been writing about the Republican party for decades (his new book is Reaganland: America's Right Turn, 1976-1980). For those of us hoping that if the Democrats hand Trump a big defeat and take back the Senate, the GOP might reverse course and become less ideologically and procedurally extreme, Perlstein is instructive.

Since 1960, the Republicans have suffered three major blowouts—Goldwater in 1964, the post-Watergate elections, and the electoral meltdowns of 2006 and 2008—and each time they have come roaring back, doubling down on their extremism. So, if the Democrats are able to win big in November, they should have no illusions that the GOP, led by Mitch McConnell, will not run the same playbook. This means that the Democrats must be clear-eyed about power—how to build it; how to deploy it. Unfortunately, far too many of them in the Senate seem not to have a clue. Take, as an example, Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) praise for how fairly Lindsey Graham ran the farcical Supreme Court hearings for Amy Coney Barrett. Feinstein and some of her colleagues in the Democratic caucus apparently think we are still in the 1970s and 1980s, when compromise was possible. Assuming a Biden win and a Democratic Senate, if the Democrats are unable to push through substantial legislation, they will just be paving the way for an even more extreme Republican party to come roaring back once again, but this time with a more astute authoritarian leading the charge.

P.Z. in Great Falls, VA, writes: The battle you have called First Bull Run is properly First Manassas. Historians, particularly around here (Virginia) allow the winner to choose the name of the battle. Southerners name battles after the closest town; Northerners use the closest geographic feature. Hence Antietam (Creek), not Sharpsburg (town). I'm not so sure First Manassas was a turning point; I think it is more accurately seen as a defining point.

However, the most significant turning point of the war was when Robert E. Lee assumed command in the Confederacy. Why? Because Lee, for all his lionization as a great commander, was nothing of the sort. Winning, for the South, consisted merely of hanging on until either Lincoln was beaten in 1864 or until the North simply got tired of the war. To win Lee needed only to avoid defeat; there was no great reason for him to expand the war beyond the bounds of the original Confederacy. So what did he do? Launched an attack into the heart of the Union. What happened? The Union had interior lines of supply, far greater industrial capacity, and far more men who could be drafted into the army. Inevitably, Lee would make a major tactical mistake, in addition to his catastrophic strategy, and suffer a crushing defeat.

That is precisely what happened at Gettysburg. Lee had personal courage and a certain charisma. He wasn't bad at tactics, although Ulysses S. Grant with his advantages in materiel and manpower was better. But Lee simply did not understand the conflict and led his men all the way to Appomattox Courthouse. He was, of course, lucky not to have been hanged as a traitor.

V & Z respond: In the academic literature, Bull Run is always used. We will also note that your answer could be read as implying that Grant was at Gettysburg. He was not, of course.

E.H. in Dublin, Ireland, writes: I just listened to Z's TED talk, "The Future of the Past." I love the way the audience is engaged right from the beginning, it's a great talk; thought provoking and well worth listening to.

V & Z respond: We include this today for two reasons: (1) We often get e-mails asking if any of our lectures are online, and (2) We often get e-mails asking if that is indeed (Z). It is, though he did not know it was being recorded at the time. It's also unfortunate that he had to run close to a mile from his 2:00 class to the TED Talk, which gives a certain unkempt quality to the whole thing.

More Sign Polls

C.B. in Atlanta, GA, writes: I find your readers' yard sign observations very interesting and wanted to add my own. I live in the 6th congressional district of Georgia (metro Atlanta area), which flipped to being represented by a moderate Democrat in 2018 after decades of being in Republican hands. In my own neighborhood, there are numerous Biden-Harris/other Democratic candidate/signs expressing solidarity with Black and/or LGBTQ and only a handful of Trump signs. Having lived in this district since 2010, I've never seen this level of enthusiasm for the Blue Team! When we drive up to our cabin in the North Georgia mountains, it is the opposite. Lots of Trump signs and flags, but only a handful of Biden-Harris signs. The rural vs. urban/suburban divide is definitely on display in the Peach State.

Yesterday, my spouse and I early voted. We were in and out in about 50 minutes. The line was long but socially distanced. Lined up with us were people of all races and ages. Two sheriff's deputies were controlling the foot traffic and number of people in and out of the building. The poll workers were helpful and the process was efficient and well-organized. Best of all, you leave with the best "I voted" sticker ever:

'I Voted' is rendered in about 20
different languages

A.H. in Lynnwood, WA, writes: Yesterday, I drove across Eastern Washington (sometimes referred to as West Idaho), and kept count of yard signs in this conservative side of the state. The final tally was Trump 10 and Biden 8.

For context, I also counted signs in our governor's race. The result there was 9 signs for the Republican challenger Culp, and only one for the Democratic incumbent Jay Inslee.

Trump won't be getting Washington's EVs anyway, but I hope this is an indicator that conservatives everywhere are getting fed up with him.

G.H. in Duluth, MN, writes: I'm noticing a lot of houses in and around Duluth, MN, have yard signs for Pete Stauber, our local Republican representative to the House, but many (most) of those same people are not displaying a Trump sign. Could this be indicative that local Republicans are not hot on the top of their ticket, and is this a trend across the nation?

D.E. in Ann Arbor, MI, writes: On Monday, I left our vacation home in the Northern Lower Peninsula and drove home through "all those rolling little hills, and ramshackle towns, and green, green rocky roads" of Trump country. On a whim, I decided to count yard signs along the two lane highway. I didn't start until I left the Lake Michigan coast, which is heavily populated by downstaters with the money to buy second homes.

At first, Democratic and Republican signs were nearly even, but as I got more into the heart of the state, Republican signs took an overwhelming lead, eventually reaching 53 GOP to 20 Democratic. That seems much like 2016, or maybe a little more blue, but here's the thing: Most homes that had signs at all had not one, but a cluster, of yard signs. Almost half the GOP clusters had signs for the Republican senate and house candidates, but no Trump sign. Meanwhile, almost every Democratic house had a Biden/Harris sign proudly displayed. This effect was strong enough that it struck me immediately.

I happened to speak to a friend in Oregon who also has a vacation home; to get there he must also drive through Trump country. He reported the same thing: lots of GOP sign clusters without a Trump sign. As I recall, in 2016, most rural Michigan homes with GOP signs had just a Trump sign, sometimes with a few other signs. Now we see lots of GOP sign clusters with no Trump sign. Are GOP voters feeling less willing to openly back Trump, edging away from the man at the top of their ticket? It won't take much to switch Michigan's electoral votes blue.

J.W. in West Chester, PA, writes: Every day when I go to pick up my sons, I take a note of the yard signs. I drive a 10-mile loop outside of West Chester, PA, a key suburb in a key county in a key swing state. This week I counted 37 Joe Biden signs to 9 for Donald Trump. What is interesting is that maybe 10 of these Biden signs have Republican signs for lower offices with them (state senator, state representative, etc). However the size of the nine Trump displays far outdoes any Biden display. If I were Trump. I would be worried about the split-sign yard effect and the voters he is bleeding off in suburban Pennsylvania.

M.A. in Jefferson, OH, writes: Many crazy yard signs here in Ashtabula County at the very northeastern tip of Ohio. It went Trump in 2016 but appears to be swinging hard to blue now. The fanatics are desperate. These signs are so big, obnoxious, and poorly built they constitute public nuisances:

An enormous Donald Trump sign
celebrates him as 'the blue-collar president'

V & Z respond: It is remarkable that he's successfully sold himself as "the blue-collar president."

E.W. in Skaneateles, NY, writes: Here's another yard-sign poll. My town, Skaneateles, ranges from multimillion-dollar mansions owned by celebrities to regular suburban homes to large dairy farms. It is one of those suburban communities containing many of the Trump-skeptical Republicans and independents who will likely decide this year's presidential campaign. Even though New York's electoral votes are not in serious doubt, the 2018 rematch between Katko (R-incumbent) vs. Balter (D-challenger) in my NY-24 (D+3) district is looking very tight, as is the Brindisi (D-incumbent) vs. Tenney (R-challenger) rematch next door in NY-22 (R+6).

My recently-acquired running habit has exposed me to many more yard signs around my town, and in my "running" poll, I've noticed a definite increase in the number of Biden/Harris yard signs. Incidentally, Biden does have a personal connection to my town. His first wife Neilia (Beau and Hunter's mother, who died in a tragic 1972 car accident) was a Skaneateles native, so that may contribute to some of the pro-Biden, anti-Trump sentiment. Nevertheless, there seem to be many fewer Trump signs compared to 2016, but the most creative anti-Trump "yard sign" in my town is this clever Halloween decoration:

Halloween-style headstone
decorations say 'he knew,' 'he lied,' and '206K died'

Interestingly enough, the house across the street from this display has a small Trump/Pence sign and until quite recently was ostentatiously flying a Trump flag. I suspect that there are some very awkward interactions at that shared mailbox.

Speaking of flags, I also notice in my suburban-to-rural corner of upstate New York that there are a lot of Trump flags, as to be expected, but almost no Biden flags. I sometimes wonder whether campaign flag-flying is a more conservative practice for some reason. Most Trump flags have either a MAGA or KAG tagline after Trump 2020, but I have to restrain myself from "correcting" one that I see regularly with a "No More Bulls**t" tagline by cutting out the first word!

L.F. in Edina, MN, writes: Time was, if you wanted a political yard sign in Minnesota, you went to the State Fair, found the campaign tent of your choice, and signed up for one. Everyone got the same sign, and it was just a matter of counting up how many for each side per block. This year, the fair was canceled, so people have gotten creative. This little montage was from an afternoon's dog walk around southwest Minneapolis:

A collection of pro-Biden signs,
including a hand-painted portrait of Biden/Harris, one that says 'I'm ridin' with Biden,' and one that says 'grab 'em by the 
ballot box'

Words Matter

M.M.M. in Oakland, CA, writes: Assume lengthy praise here, because I have been enjoying your site since 2012.

I've never written in before, but something caught my attention that needs addressing, I think. We can all agree that politics in America has reached a fever pitch. It is incredibly divisive, sometimes toxic. It sometimes feels like we are at "war." And when we are at "war," we have an "enemy" and we do "battles." We are upset when we "lose." And we get even more determined to "win."

Does the choice of this language when speaking about politics help to shape politics as divisive?

Many years back, the Academy Awards took note of this language and its effect on the "winners" and "losers." To course-correct, they changed the verbiage from "And the winner is..." to "And the Oscar goes to...". This was a deliberate attempt to take some of the hostility out of the competition. Should we strive for the same in our political theater?

Of course, the Academy Awards is a single entity, so forcing a behavior change there is feasible. I just wonder if there would be a difference in our culture if the media (you guys included) made a conscious effort to choose different verbiage such as:

  • That candidate won = That candidate got the most votes
  • The winner is = The votes went to
  • They lost the election = They did not get the votes
  • In this battle for = In the voters' selection of

Of course, it doesn't work if one side tones it down and the other side doesn't. We'd have to collectively recognize this and choose that we want it different. And I would never ask you to step up to this while the "competition" doesn't. It's just sad that human culture seems to always devolve to base competitiveness, and then competitiveness demands we "win" at any cost.

D.K. in Stony Brook, NY, writes: Over the years I have seen more and more references to the President as the Commander in Chief of the United States. This phrasing has always bothered me, because it makes it sound like the President is a king or dictator, in charge of everything that goes on in the country. Yes, he is the head of the executive branch, and yes, people talk of the unitary executive. But the phrase comes from Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, which begins: "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States..."

This text not only enshrines civilian control of the military, but also makes it clear that he is commander in chief specifically of the armed forces, and not of the citizenry at large. For anyone not in the military, the president is not your commander in chief. Media outlets that use the phrase loosely do the country, and their readers, a disservice by ascribing more power to the president than the Constitution grants.

T.A. in Stony Brook, NY, writes: I'm reading your blog daily these days, and especially enjoy your pieces on the actual business of voting and the various tactics the different parties are using to suppress or turn-out the vote.

In recent articles, you have been discussing high early turnout due to voter "enthusiasm." I don't think "enthusiasm" is the word that captures the current moment. If a toothache is causing you constant pain, few pursue a root canal with "enthusiasm," but the offending rot must still be removed as quickly and decisively as possible. Perhaps voter "determination" or voter "resolution" are better words.

N.R. in Berlin, MA, writes: In your item "Biden Win Could Be Called on Election Night" you use the word "steal" a couple of times: "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," and "They point out something we have mentioned multiple times, namely that two key states Biden is trying to steal from Trump..."

I know this is just shorthand for states that each side wants to pick up compared to the 2016 results, but I implore you to be careful with your language here. We have someone who is actually willing to do anything he can to win reelection, including preventing people from voting and suggesting that state legislatures might ignore the ballots and choose electors heedless of the results. One side is indeed willing to try stealing states, while the other is seeking to win them fair and square.

D.M. in Fulton, MO, writes: I love your site and I read it every day with my coffee. I have only the most inconsequential matter to kvetch about.

Kabuki theater. Have you ever watched it? I haven't. I know it is Japanese and um... they use masks? I would wager that 99% of us political junkies scouring your site have never sat through so much as a single YouTube video of Kabuki theater. Why is it always used to refer to staged political proceedings?

A few possible alternatives: sham, farce, infomercial, burlesque, simulation, mockery, caricature, mock-up, travesty, parody. (You will need all of those and then some, as long as Mitch McConnell is majority leader.)

I'm being persnickety, I know. But if I see "Kabuki theater" one more time, I am afraid I will choke on my sushi.

Otherwise, keep up the good work!

V & Z respond: Actually, (V) has seen a Kabuki performance in Tokyo. And the reason the term is used is because everyone in the house knows exactly how things will end, and how the performers are going to get there. It's all about the performance, not the plot or how it will end.

M.I. in Jenkintown, PA, writes: Regarding your answer: "If someone tells a pollster she will vote for Biden and then a goon working for Trump scares her away at the polling place and she doesn't vote, there is no way to take that into account."

Categorizing all Trump enthusiasts as "goons" is not very accurate.

You know full well that they are total a**holes.


D.A. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: I realize that there is a limit on the number of times one can cite XKCD in a comment but I'm still trying to figure out how Randy knows it takes me about 26 minutes on the average to fully process each morning:

The cartoon suggests that the average
person spends 26 minutes a day becoming informed about politics and 9 hours a day reading useless horse race articles

E.T. in Silver Spring, MD, writes: I thought R.H.D. in Webster, NY, would appreciate my new "BYEDON" license plates:

A Maryland license plate reads 'BYEDON'

I ordered them back in April but it took almost five months for them to arrive because Maryland Correctional Enterprises had to temporarily suspend production due to COVID-19 concerns. I can't begin to tell you how many people have given me a "thumbs-up" as they drive past me on the road or have taken a picture of my vanity plate with their cell phones when I'm stopped at a traffic light. (I can see them in the rear-view mirror.) Not sure what I'll do if Trump gets re-elected.

If you wish to contact us, please use one of these addresses. For the first two, please include your initials and city.

To download a poster about the site to hang up, please click here.

Email a link to a friend or share:

---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct17 Saturday Q&A
Oct17 Today's Presidential Polls
Oct17 Today's Senate Polls
Oct16 Biden, Trump Hold Dueling Town Halls
Oct16 Full Speed Ahead for Barrett
Oct16 COVID-19 Hits the Biden/Harris Campaign
Oct16 Smoking Gun Isn't Smoking at All
Oct16 (Money) Can't Buy Me Love
Oct16 California Republicans Stick to Their Guns
Oct16 Sen. Ben Sasse Excoriates Trump
Oct16 Today's Presidential Polls
Oct16 Today's Senate Polls
Oct15 Two Half-Debates Will Take Place Tonight
Oct15 Barrett Performs Act II of the Kabuki Theater in Which She is Starring
Oct15 Supreme Court Says That the Administration Can Stop Counting Noses Now
Oct15 Appeals Court Upholds One Drop Box Per County in Texas
Oct15 Three Million New Voters Registered in Texas Since 2016
Oct15 The On-Again, Off-Again Coronavirus Relief Bill is Off Again
Oct15 Biden Is Actively Courting Moderates
Oct15 Only Half of Americans Expect to Know Who Won by Nov. 5
Oct15 Republicans Are Enthusiastic about Court Packing
Oct15 How Polling Has Changed Since 2016
Oct15 What's the Big Picture?
Oct15 Today's Presidential Polls
Oct15 Today's Senate Polls
Oct14 Barr "Unmasking" Probe Is a Dud
Oct14 Barrett Speaks Much, Says Little
Oct14 More Funny Feelings About 2020
Oct14 It's the Economy, Stupid
Oct14 Long Lines at Polling Places in Texas and Georgia
Oct14 Pennsylvania Women Sour on Trump
Oct14 Special Election in Georgia Is Getting Interesting
Oct14 Today's Presidential Polls
Oct14 Today's Senate Polls
Oct13 Let the Games Begin
Oct13 Trump Gets "Clean Bill of Health"
Oct13 Biden Win Could Be Called on Election Night
Oct13 Microsoft Shuts Down Hacking Operation
Oct13 California GOP Pushes the Envelope on Absentee Ballots
Oct13 Cunningham Situation Just Keeps Getting Worse
Oct13 COVID-19 Diaries: Open Water