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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Do As I Say, Not As I Do
      •  Trump Stomps Out of "60 Minutes" Interview
      •  About That Pennsylvania Decision...
      •  DeJoy Appears to Be Winning
      •  If You're Voting in Person, Dress Appropriately
      •  Still More Funny Feelings
      •  Bloomberg Delivers in Florida
      •  Today's Presidential Polls
      •  Today's Senate Polls

Note: All of the 9 million U.S. citizens who are above 18 and living abroad are entitled to vote in their previous home state. If their ballots don't arrive on time or there is no time for it to get back to the U.S., they can use the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot, which some states accept by fax or email. Help voting is available from

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

It has been a long time since a presidential campaign was as bereft of positive messaging and constructive policy proposals as the Trump 2020 campaign is. It is true that "Make America Great Again" and "Keep America Great" have a veneer of hopefulness, but the path by which those things will ostensibly be achieved (xenophobia, "control" of minorities, owning the libs, etc.) is decidedly negative. Meanwhile, a few months back, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson each made the mistake of asking Donald Trump what his plans for a second term are. After the President struggled to answer that, the right-wing media got the message: Don't ask that question. There is a reason that the RNC did not write a platform for 2020 and merely issued a resolution saying that it supports everything Trump does and rejects everything the Obama-Biden administration did.

Actually, "long time" may be an understatement. Resident historian (Z) has thought carefully about it, and has not come up with any other campaign that was 100% negative accompanied by zero policy proposals. There are some notable examples in the former category (for example, John C. Breckinridge's campaign in 1860) and a few in the latter (for example, William Henry Harrison's campaign in 1840—unless you consider "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" to be a policy proposal), but no campaign prior to Trump 2020 would appear to combine both features. And as Trump has tried to tear Joe Biden down, he's pursued several lines of attack:

  • Biden committed sexual assault against Tara Reade, and may be guilty of other such crimes. (This ignores the existence of compelling evidence that Trump is guilty of this behavior as well, but with far greater frequency and severity.)

  • Biden is guilty of nepotism, using his official position to help and enrich his son Hunter. (This despite the fact that Trump has given high-profile White House jobs to daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, despite their lack of qualifications, and has set the stage for his sons Eric and Don Jr. to enrich themselves six ways to Sunday thanks to dad's official position.)

  • Biden is, and has been, part of a corrupt and swampy "deep state." (This coming from the man whose administration has been the swampiest in American history, by a far margin.)

  • Biden is a doddering septuagenarian whose cheese has slipped off the cracker. (This despite much more compelling evidence of cognitive decline in Trump, who is himself a septuagenarian.)

  • Biden engaged in shady real estate dealings, somehow acquiring property that was far beyond his means to acquire. (This coming from a man who has built nearly his entire real estate empire on a mountain of debt, $421 million of which is due in the next 4 years.)

Perhaps you'll notice the theme here. Nearly every offense that Trump accuses Biden of (usually falsely), Trump himself is guilty of the same, but worse. Psychologists call this projection.

And now, we have yet another item for the list. A major line of attack against Biden has been that he is (allegedly) "soft on China," due to business ties between the candidate and/or his son and the Chinese government. As it turns out, there is a presidential candidate this year who has longstanding financial ties to China, but it ain't Joe Biden. No, in the latest in their series of stories on the President's tax returns, The New York Times has revealed that it is actually one Donald J. Trump.

Specifically, Trump has pursued numerous business deals in partnership with the Chinese government (though none apparently came to fruition), and has invested at least $192,000 in five different companies established in service of that goal. He has a bank account in China, which he did not report, and managed to keep hidden because it is in the name of a shell corporation. He also paid $188,561 in taxes in China between 2013 and 2015. That's enough to cover Trump's U.S. tax bill for something like 250 years.

It's hard to imagine that this will affect the election, because it's probably a little too "inside baseball" for most voters. That said, maybe Biden will wield it like a baseball bat at this week's debate. You never know. In any case, it certainly helps to understand why Team Trump has struggled to come up with dirt on the Democratic nominee. They just can't think of anything shady or damaging he might have done, beyond shady and damaging things that the President has already done. (Z)

Trump Stomps Out of "60 Minutes" Interview

Speaking of the debate, we simply cannot conceive of any way it might be a game changer for Donald Trump. Even if he gives a "dream" performance of the sort that his handlers and campaign managers long for, opinions about him are too baked in. And beyond that, he's not going to give a dream performance. He's going to do exactly what he always does, and huff and puff and threaten to blow America's house down. You can't teach an old dog new tricks, especially when that dog is convinced he's the smartest dog in the room.

That said, the President did have another potential opportunity to boost his political fortunes. Customarily, the program "60 Minutes" gives one of their close-to-the-election episodes over to interviews with the two major-party candidates, with each getting half the program to answer questions and communicate their views. The program does not draw as large an audience as the debates do, but it does quite well for a modern-day over-the-air broadcast (15 million viewers or so), and its demo skews white, educated, elderly, and female. In short, the sorts of voters Trump is desperately trying to attract.

So, what did Trump do with this opportunity—one of the last he's going to have this cycle? Sitting for his interview yesterday, he took offense at some of host Lesley Stahl's questions, pitched a fit, and stormed out halfway through. The latter part of the interview, which was supposed to include both Trump and Mike Pence, ended up with just Pence, which is going to put it in the running for the most boring 10 minutes of television ever. Meanwhile, the President took to Twitter to attack Stahl and CBS, and to threaten to release footage of the interview before it airs, so as to torpedo the ratings for "60 Minutes."

We can see two ways to interpret this. The first possibility is that Trump was playing 3-D chess, and saw this as an excellent opportunity to perform his politics of grievance and his "the media is out to get me" persecution complex. That is certainly how he spun it at his rally last night, telling the crowd, "You have to watch what we do to '60 Minutes.' You'll get such a kick out of it." The other interpretation is that he is a thin-skinned, emotionally immature man-child who personalizes criticism, who interprets any non-softball questions as an attack upon him, and who cannot control his response when he feels aggrieved.

We shall leave it to readers to decide for themselves which of these theses is on the mark. What we can say, however, is that the folks who tune in to "60 Minutes" on Sunday, instead of possibly getting a different view of Trump, are instead going to get yet another reminder of his bombastic personal style. Seeing a Biden-Harris segment, followed by a just-Pence segment, will be particularly...illuminating. Surely that cannot work to the President's favor. (Z)

About That Pennsylvania Decision...

Yesterday, we noted that, by virtue of a 4-4 split, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to overturn the ruling of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that said that late mail-in ballots would be allowed for three days after the election, even without postmarks. In the moment, everyone's focus was on the obvious move by Chief Justice John Roberts (who joined with the three liberals) to shore up his "just calling balls and strikes" reputation, and on the fact that this result will help the Democrats in a key(stone) state.

With 24 hours to reflect, however, some folks have noticed an extremely troubling undercurrent to this whole affair. CNN's Joshua Douglas and Slate's Mark Joseph Stern, among others, point out that the vote should have been 8-0, and not 4-4, since the Constitution is clear that elections are the province of the states, to manage (largely) as they see fit. The four non-Roberts conservatives have, in effect, announced that they are more than happy to ignore that principle, and to muck around in states' handling of elections, even when it's less than two weeks to Election Day. Once Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Thomas, and Alito get a fifth colleague who feels that way, they could wreak all sorts of havoc. On a related note, the Senate has set Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation vote for Monday of next week.

As a sidebar, there are at least three reasons that many people—us included—roll their eyes when they hear a justice declare themselves to be an "originalist" or a "textualist" who can discern the immutable, universal truths that the framers of the Constitution intended to hand down from on high to guide Americans for all time. The first is that even the framers didn't agree what the document meant, and they themselves admitted to screw-ups (hence the Bill of Rights). These things undermine any notion of "universal" truths. The second reason is that it's laughable to think we can figure out what James Madison or John Jay would have thought about transgender rights or net neutrality or nationalized healthcare. After all, since those things were not issues in their day, even they would not know what their opinions are if you dug them up and somehow managed to reanimate them and ask them (Halloween is upon us, after all). The third, and most bothersome reason, is that sometimes the intentions of the framers are crystal clear, and yet originalist/textualist judges manage to ignore that and reach their own, politically convenient conclusions. The Pennsylvania case is a clear example of this.

Another area where the actual text and the justices' personal view may come in conflict is the Second Amendment, which reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Maybe it means "You can keep a gun at home to protect yourself," but the actual words refer to a "well regulated Militia."

Anyhow, it looks like the four non-Roberts conservatives are gunning their engines and getting ready to take their newfound power out for a spin once Barrett is made official. They are playing with fire, though, something that Roberts (at the very least) seems to recognize. It's a pretty compelling argument that just five citizens, three of them appointed by a minority president, and confirmed by senators that represent far less than 50% of the American people, should not be able to act as some sort of non-elected political oligarchy. And if they try it, they are playing right into the hands of the large number of Democrats who would really like to see the number of justices on the Court expanded dramatically. If they make rulings to help Trump and Biden wins anyway, they may end up with two, four, or six new colleagues. (Z)

DeJoy Appears to Be Winning

On the subject of Republican anti-voting chicanery, the efforts of Postmaster General/Trump acolyte Louis DeJoy appear to be paying dividends. An examination of USPS delivery data makes clear that, despite a court-ordered pause to DeJoy's "restructuring" efforts, mail delivery is notably slower than it was earlier this year.

If that were not enough, the problem appears to be particularly acute in swing states. In January, 91.7% of mail in those states was delivered within the 1-to-3 day delivery window the USPS strives for. Now, that percentage is down to 83.9%, meaning that one piece of mail in six does not reach its destination in a timely manner. Presumably this will not improve as the weather gets worse, and as mail volume increases. And so, that leads to the obvious conclusion: If you must vote by mail, then get that ballot in ASAP, certainly no later than Friday of this week. And otherwise, strongly consider using an official drop box or voting in person. (Z)

If You're Voting in Person, Dress Appropriately

Let us continue with the "finding ways to stop people from voting" theme, even if it is kind of a downer. As you surely know if you have ever voted in person, electioneering in close proximity to a polling place is not legal. And there have been numerous recent examples of folks from one of the two major parties—bet you can't guess which one!—getting pretty aggressive about that.

For example, Fiserv Forum (Milwaukee Bucks) and Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers) were both supposed to serve as mega-polling places this cycle. In view of this, Republican Party of Wisconsin Chair Andrew Hitt wrote a letter to the City of Milwaukee insisting that team mascots Bango, Bernie Brewer and the Famous Racing Sausages not be on-site while votes are being cast, since they might unduly influence voters. Claire Woodall-Vogg, executive director of the city Election Commission, was mystified as to how this might work. For our part, we can't figure it out either. Did we miss a plank in one of the parties' platforms promising socialized bratwurst?

To take another example, last week a Republican poll worker in Tennessee turned away voters who were wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts, and told them they could not vote until they changed clothes or turned their shirts inside out. Similarly, there have been warnings floating around on social media that anyone who wears a Notorious RBG shirt to their polling place could find themselves turned away.

That worker in Tennessee was (rightly) fired for her overly aggressive enforcement of the rules. And let's be honest here, the sudden concern about electioneering does not appear to be terribly genuine, and looks a lot more like an aspect of the GOP's strategy of disrupting polling places and Democratic voting as much as is possible. It worked in Milwaukee, incidentally—the two venues were withdrawn as polling places, for fear of post-election lawsuits.

That said, there is a real issue here, and one that voters would be wise to heed: some apparel really does violate laws against polling-place electioneering. What, exactly, is on the wrong side of the line? Well, there is the rub. The Supreme Court ruled a couple of years ago that Minnesota's "nothing political whatsoever" law was too broad, and a violation of the First Amendment, and so struck it down. That specific case involved a man who wore a "Don't Tread on Me" t-shirt and a button that said "Please ID Me," so broadly political apparel like that is probably ok, whereas a shirt with Donald Trump's or Joe Biden's face probably isn't.

Beyond that, however, things get a little muddy, for at least two reasons. The first is that 20 states have apparel-specific electioneering prohibitions, each is different, and some are much more stringent than others. The second is that if you are confronted with an overzealous poll worker who takes exception to your Abraham Lincoln tie or your "Ringo 4 President" button or your "It's Mueller Time" t-shirt, it doesn't necessarily help if you're in the right unless you can find a supervisor who agrees with you and disagrees with the poll worker.

The upshot here is that if you're voting in person, you might want to check if your state has specific rules about political apparel (list here), and to strongly consider going with a neutral outfit if you're voting in one of the more...assertive states, like Arkansas or Kansas or North Dakota. Alternatively, wear a T-shirt with your views, but also wear an (open) jacket. If you are confronted, you can close the jacket and still vote. (Z)

Still More Funny Feelings

Two weeks ago, Politico's Tim Alberta published a list of four "funny feelings" he has about this year's election, which we summarized. Last week, he published three more, which we summarized yet again. Yesterday, he came up with two more. In for a penny, in for a pound, as they say, so here's a summary of the newest additions:

  • The suburban realignment isn't just a female phenomenon: There has been much attention paid to the so-called "suburban housewives." And it is true that Donald Trump has lost much support among college-educated white women. However, Alberta thinks we should be paying more attention to the bleeding that is going on among college-educated white men. The President won that demographic by 14 points in 2016, while in 2018 the GOP won them by just 4 points. Internal polling that Alberta is privy to suggests that Trump is now slightly trailing among college-educated white men.

  • We're overthinking this campaign: Alberta believes that if Trump loses the election, it won't be President Trump who loses as much as it will be Donald Trump. In other words, the biggest issue is not his performance as president, but the fact that so many people just don't like him personally. It is an interesting theory, though one that is nearly impossible to prove, one way or the other.

Anyhow, that's the latest. We look forward to writing another one of these next week, when Alberta will surely unveil one more funny feeling to round out the set. (Z)

Bloomberg Delivers in Florida

We looked yesterday at a couple of the big political issues that are hurting Donald Trump in Florida. Today, let's take a look at the biggest logistical challenge that's hurting him there, a giant speed bump named Michael R. Bloomberg.

After Bloomberg dropped out of the presidential race and pledged $100 million to help defeat Donald Trump, we had many readers wondering where the money was, and if he had backed off his promise. It turns out that the former New York Mayor was just biding his time, but he's been as good as his word. He has indeed poured nine figures' worth of cash into the race, focusing his spending almost exclusively on the Sunshine State. That includes buying massive amounts of advertising, get-out-the-vote operations, voter registration drives, and just about anything else that might help.

Bloomberg's a shrewd political operator, and he knows the same thing that our tipping-point chart shows: Florida would be nice for Joe Biden, but it's absolutely essential for Trump. The $100 million that Bloomberg has spent has forced Trump 2020, as a counter-move, to pour vast resources into a state that has been called a "political money pit." Those are resources that the Trump campaign doesn't really have to spare, and that they would really prefer to use elsewhere. Meanwhile, the flush Biden campaign is largely able to avoid dumping money into Florida, and can spend more heavily in the other swing states. Add it up, and Bloomberg might deliver the state into the Democrats' hands and, even if he doesn't, he is significantly improving their chances in other key states. (Z)

Today's Presidential Polls

Today's polls (and yesterday's, for that matter), certainly make it look like the presidential race is tightening. And maybe it is, although most of these pollsters aren't great, so don't take it to the bank yet. North Carolina is especially noteworthy. Three polls give Biden a small lead there. While it is possible for Trump to lose North Carolina and still win the Electoral College, we think the Tar Heel State is a bellwether and if Biden wins it, he will also win many of the other swing states. (Z)

State Biden Trump Start End Pollster
Arizona 47% 46% Oct 14 Oct 19 RMG Research
Colorado 51% 43% Oct 09 Oct 15 RMG Research
Florida 48% 47% Oct 12 Oct 16 U. of North Florida
Georgia 45% 45% Oct 13 Oct 19 Siena Coll.
Kentucky 39% 56% Oct 12 Oct 15 Mason Dixon
Michigan 51% 44% Oct 14 Oct 20 Ipsos
North Carolina 49% 46% Oct 14 Oct 20 Ipsos
North Carolina 50% 48% Oct 12 Oct 17 Langer Research
North Carolina 51% 47% Oct 15 Oct 18 East Carolina U.
New Jersey 56% 34% Oct 05 Oct 13 DKC Analytics
Ohio 48% 47% Oct 18 Oct 19 Pulse Opinion Research
Pennsylvania 50% 47% Oct 18 Oct 19 Pulse Opinion Research

Click on a state name for a graph of its polling history.

Today's Senate Polls

Things have certainly gotten tighter in North Carolina since Cal Cunningham's sex scandal. And maybe they've gotten a lot tighter. That said, the numbers there have been all over the place, all cycle long. So most of this may just be movement within the margin of error. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Colorado John Hickenlooper 51% Cory Gardner* 42% Oct 09 Oct 15 RMG Research
Georgia Jon Ossoff 43% David Perdue* 43% Oct 13 Oct 19 Siena Coll.
Michigan Gary Peters* 50% John James 45% Oct 14 Oct 20 Ipsos
North Carolina Cal Cunningham 47% Thom Tillis* 47% Oct 14 Oct 20 Ipsos
North Carolina Cal Cunningham 49% Thom Tillis* 47% Oct 12 Oct 17 Langer Research
North Carolina Cal Cunningham 49% Thom Tillis* 47% Oct 15 Oct 18 East Carolina U.
Texas Mary Hegar 41% John Cornyn* 49% Oct 18 Oct 19 Cygnal

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct20 Trumpworld Fails to Deliver A Game Changer
Oct20 This Week's Debate Will Have a Partial Kill Switch on the Microphones
Oct20 Fox News Could End Up Hurting Trump
Oct20 SCOTUS Allows Late-Arriving Pennsylvania Ballots to Count
Oct20 Trump's Got Trouble in Florida...
Oct20 ...and in NE-02, Too
Oct20 Cornyn Distances Himself from Trump
Oct20 Today's Presidential Polls
Oct20 Today's Senate Polls
Oct19 The State of the Race with 2 Weeks to Go
Oct19 The Coronavirus Is Surging in Battleground States
Oct19 Biden Is Swamping Trump on the Airwaves
Oct19 Court Blocks Late-Arriving Ballots in Michigan
Oct19 Trump-Oriented Printing Company Delays Shipping Ballots to Ohio and Pennsylvania
Oct19 Will Rejected Absentee Ballots Be the New Hanging Chads?
Oct19 Pelosi: Administration Has 48 Hours to Get a COVID-19 Relief Bill
Oct19 Debate Topics Have Been Announced
Oct19 Money Money Money Everywhere
Oct19 Gonzales Changes House Ratings
Oct19 Political Impact of Barrett's Confirmation
Oct19 Six Reforms That Are Needed
Oct19 Today's Presidential Polls
Oct19 Today's Senate Polls
Oct18 Sunday Mailbag
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