• Jared Kushner Is Not Helping His Father-in-Law
• Biden Decides to Do a Little Swinging
• The Ballots Are Pouring In
• Abbott Wins the Ballot Box Battle, But Appears to be Losing the War
• Trump Campaign Backs Off in Florida
• One Last Funny Feeling
• Today's Presidential Polls
• Today's Senate Polls
Note: We have concluded that the race for the Georgia Senate seat currently occupied by Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) has come down to Loeffler vs. Raphael Warnock (D). So, we are now tracking it based on that assumption. In places where we use the two-chararacter state abbreviations, the Georgia Special election will be listed as 'GS' (as opposed to 'GA' for the regular Senate race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Sen. David Perdue, R-GA).
First Lady Melania Trump was in Atglen, PA, about an hour outside Philadelphia, for a rally and speech yesterday. She was accompanied by Kellyanne Conway, who appears to have only semi-resigned her position in the Trump administration. The First Lady delivered an exceedingly negative speech, slamming the "sham impeachment" and the "socialist" Joe Biden, and criticizing the Democrats for politicizing COVID-19.
And now, here's the odd thing: Yesterday's speech was the First Lady's very first campaign event of 2020. It's true that she has been at her husband's side for various photo-ops (like the debates, the Amy Coney Barrett announcement ceremony, etc.) and that she gave a speech at the Republican convention. However, when it comes to hitting the road on behalf of Trump 2020, she has been entirely absent.
Why has she skipped out on a task that is generally de rigueur for First Ladies? There are many explanations floating around:
- She has been nursing herself and her son back to health after contracting COVID-19.
- She is uncomfortable speaking in front of large crowds.
- She is uncomfortable speaking English in public.
- She doesn't particularly want her husband reelected.
- She doesn't particularly like her husband or want to help him out.
Undoubtedly, at least some of these are on the mark. It is worth noting, however, that she's had COVID-19 for only the last month or so, which means that her health cannot explain the entirety of her campaign-length absence. Similarly, she hasn't pursued any of the options where fear of public speaking/shaky language skills would be minimized. She hasn't sat for a TV interview in two years, for example, and hasn't conducted any magazine interviews since becoming First Lady. In short, part of the issue must be something beyond the first three, fairly benign, issues on the list above.
Is this hurting the Trump campaign? Under normal circumstances, it certainly would. First Ladies tend to be more popular than their husbands, and because they are ostensibly "above" politics, they can sometimes play velvet glove on the campaign trail to their husband's iron fist. In Melania Trump's case, however, it's a little less certain. As Tuesday's speech makes clear, she is nearly as prone to negativity as the President is. There's very little velvet there. Further, and presumably as a consequence of this, Melania Trump is not much more popular than Donald Trump is; her favorability is around 47% and his is around 44%. In other words, she excites the base, but not too many other folks. And since the base is going to make a point of getting to the polls regardless, it's just not clear how many votes the First Lady might drag into the Republican column in 2020, even if she campaigned every day for six months. (Z)
As long as we're on the subject of presidential relatives, let's talk about Jared Kushner's latest case of foot-in-mouth disease. The First Son-in-Law is apparently convinced that Donald Trump can be sold to Black voters in such a way that the President can attract some meaningful percentage of the Black vote over and above the 8% or so who already support him. And to that end, Kushner appeared on "Fox and Friends"—a show that is oh so popular with Black viewers—to tout a Trump administration initiative that will, in theory, pump $500 million into Black communities.
There is something of a problem here, though. With unemployment (including Black unemployment) way up, and with vast and widespread protests in the streets, it's rather hard to make the case that the administration's policies in general, and that this new initiative in particular, have substantially improved the lives of Black Americans. One way to resolve this contradiction would be to point out that Team Trump's efforts have been half-hearted, and that a sum like $500 million is a pittance compared to the amount of money the administration has lavished on, say, the military, or high-income taxpayers, or the border wall. Of course, announcing "we haven't actually done all that much" is not very politic. So, Kushner decided to resolve this dilemma in a different manner. He said that if Black folks want to benefit from the President's policies, they have to "want to be successful."
It would appear that the First Son-in-Law is unfamiliar with the rules that govern white men sharing "hard truths" about the Black experience:
- Don't do it.
- If you think this time might be the one exception to the first rule, it's not.
- If you're a rich kid who had everything in life handed to you, then rules one and two apply doubly. Or triply.
In any event, whether Kushner was going for a racist dog whistle or not (and appearing on "Fox and Friends" certainly raises some questions), he certainly delivered one. His phrasing is tantamount to declaring that Black Americans (or, really, any Americans) who struggle financially deserve their situation because they are lazy, aren't trying hard enough, and don't care enough about improving themselves. Again, this is coming from someone who has been a millionaire since the day he was born.
If Kushner's goal was actually to curry favor with Black voters, well, this was not the way to do it. His remarks have circulated widely in that community, and not to the President's benefit. On the other hand, if Kushner's goal was to play the "white grievance" game and to appeal to white, working-class voters, well, he didn't do a very good job of that either. After all, his "theory" for why poor Black people struggle could just as easily be applied to poor white people. Either way, he is not helping the Republican ticket. (Z)
No, not that kind. If Joe Biden is into that kind of swinging, that's between him and his wife Jill. And possibly Cal Cunningham. What we mean is that, on Tuesday, the Democratic nominee spent his time in the swing state of Georgia, while his wife was in Maine. Later this week, the former VP will campaign in Iowa.
This may appear to be a repeat of the Hillary Clinton "shoot for the moon, and come crashing down" missteps of 2016, but it's not. To start, Biden—unlike Clinton—has spent plenty of time in the "Midwestern" swing states she took for granted. His campaign has also invested gobs and gobs of money in those places, and is carefully tracking the polls to make sure there are no problematic late-breaking trends. It is also the case that if Biden 2020 was really shooting for the moon, he and his wife would both be in Texas this week.
What the Bidens are actually doing is trying to make certain that voters return a Democratic Senate when the ballots are counted next week. They are shrewd politicos who are being advised by a bunch of other shrewd politicos, including the Obamas. And they have undoubtedly taken note of two things: (1) that if Republicans retain control of the Senate, then winning the White House is going to matter far, far less, and (2) that Democratic control of the Senate is in much more doubt than Democratic control of the White House.
In the end, there are really three possibilities. If the polls are right, then Biden basically has the presidential election won, and he's wise to spend some of his time on the much tighter Senate races. If the polls are wrong, but in the Democrats' favor, then it largely doesn't matter what Biden does this week, since the White House and the Senate would be done deals. And if the polls are wrong, but in the Republicans' favor, then it also largely doesn't matter what Biden does this week because the Senate would be lost to the blue team, and the White House might be, too. So, a few visits to Georgia, Iowa, Maine, and maybe North Carolina and Arizona make the most sense from a risk-reward standpoint. (Z)
On Tuesday, the U.S. surpassed 70 million ballots cast in the 2020 election. To be more precise, 71,063,593 ballots have been cast overall, 47,753,131 of those by mail, and 23,310,462 in person. With a week to go until Election Day, that is about 52% of the overall total from 2016. It is also well beyond the 57.2 million people who voted early in 2016.
There are two factors primarily driving the enormous early turnout: (1) the ongoing pandemic and (2) the enormous enthusiasm that most voters have about either retaining Donald Trump or getting rid of him. It is not easy to separate the pandemic-motivated early voting from the Trump-motivated early voting, but it's clear that both factors are in play. And those who have crunched the numbers are guessing that a total of 150 million ballots will be cast this year. If so, that would be a 65% turnout rate, which would be the highest since 1908. And, in fairness, comparing 1908 to 2020 is somewhat apples to oranges, since women (largely) could not legally vote in 1908, while citizens of color were often prevented from voting. In other words, there's a case to be made that—if projections hold—the 2020 turnout will be historically unprecedented.
Generally speaking, the higher the turnout, the worse it is for Trump and the Republicans, since their supporters are a minority nationwide and in most (or all) swing states. And, actually, we don't just have to speak in general terms, because there is specific evidence that the early balloting is breaking pretty heavily in the Democrats' favor. To start, polls make clear that voters 18-29 are heavily in the Democratic camp (about 70% to 30%). And so far, the youth vote is way up in 2020 relative to 2016. Here are the numbers of early voters, ages 18-29, in the swing/swingy states this year as compared to 2016 (11 days prior to the election in both cases):
|State||2020 Early Votes||2016 Early Votes||Increase|
It is, of course, the case that some of this year's early voters would have voted on Election Day if not for the expansion of absentee voting due to COVID-19. So, these remarkable 200% and 400% and 600% and 1000% increases won't hold. However, it's not plausible that this is all a mirage. The number of young voters this year is clearly going to be up substantially over 2016.
Similarly, the trendlines appear to be very favorable for Joe Biden and the Democrats in the key swing states. Hawkfish, which is Michael Bloomberg's polling/number crunching apparatus, has been collecting data on as many voters as possible in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. And their results—though they do not cover all voters in these states—are full of good news for the Blue Team:
|State||Biden Pct.||Trump Pct.||Biden Pct.||Trump Pct.||Biden Pct.||Trump Pct.|
In each of the six states, Biden is leading among voters overall, among newly registered voters, and among infrequent voters.
What are the potential implications here? Again, Hawkfish's data set is incomplete, and this year's election is so unusual that it's hard to project going forward. But, as a thought exercise, let's zoom in on the stepmother of all swing states, Pennsylvania (which followed the original mother, Florida). FiveThirtyEight's new toy suggests that if Pennsylvania goes for Biden, he's 97% to win the election. If it goes for Trump, then he would become the favorite, 69% to win the election.
There have been 1.85 million votes cast in the Keystone State so far. If Hawkfish's numbers hold for the whole number, then that would mean Joe Biden has banked 1.35 million votes to Donald Trump's 500,000. There are about 9 million registered voters in Pennsylvania, and if we assume that 65% of them cast ballots this year, then that means 5.85 million votes. In that eventuality, to catch Biden the President would need roughly 2.43 milion of the remaining 4 million ballots, or about 61%—a tall order but not impossible since many Republicans prefer voting on Election Day. Admittedly, this is a crude estimate that ignores third-party/protest votes, and that is based on a bunch of assumptions. That said, the assumptions are sound, and are rooted in the data currently available. Point is, it is likely that Biden has a large lead in Pennsylvania already and it will take a huge Republican advantage on Election Day to overcome it. (Z)
A little over a month ago, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) announced that each Texas county would be given exactly one dropbox for purposes of collecting absentee ballots. This led to a bunch of lawsuits, which were resolved in the governor's favor on Tuesday. In a unanimous decision, the Texas Supreme Court—made up, coincidentally, of 8 Republicans and zero Democrats—said that one ballot box for each county is fine and dandy with them. The decision could theoretically be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but time is short and besides, everyone knows what the outcome would be.
Abbott's official reasons for limiting the number of ballot boxes were: (1) adherence to state law, and (2) maintaining election security. Given that it is only Republican-run states that seem interested in limiting ballot boxes so aggressively, and given that low turnout is likely to help the GOP, there is much reason to suspect that Abbott's real goal is to depress turnout. If so, however, it's not working. Even with the limited number of drop boxes, voting in the Lone Star State has been robust: 7,803,590 votes overall, 6,925,900 of them in-person. That's the second-most votes of any state so far (behind California) and is far and away the most in-person votes. It's also a staggering 87% of the total Texas vote for 2016 (8,969,226), and with a week left to go. Texas does not break down early voting by party, nor is Hawkfish (see above) collecting data there. But if high turnout—indeed, likely record turnout—is bad for the Republican Party, well, Abbott clearly hasn't managed to stop that from happening. (Z)
Donald Trump's campaign—which, he said in last week's debate, has no money problems—has money problems. With the critical states of the Midwest (and the "Midwest") in serious danger, Trump 2020 has had to shift money (and campaign events) away from the very expensive state of Florida, and toward places like Ohio and Iowa and Pennsylvania. The Republican National Committee is picking up some of the slack, but not all of it. And even with RNC help, Trump 2020 is being absolutely swamped in the Sunshine State by the combined spending of Biden 2020, the DNC, and Michael Bloomberg.
Obviously, it is triage time, and the Trump campaign has decided Florida is no longer a good value. Maybe they think they can win without that state. Or maybe they have reason to believe that chicanery by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and/or the Russians will save the day there. Or perhaps they are just rolling the dice and hoping for the best. Campaign spokespeople are saying all the right things, arguing that TV ads are not as important as ground game, and that Trump still has a good ground game in Florida. It's an interesting point, though it overlooks that the Democrats have had a massive, mostly Bloomberg-funded ground game there for months. In any case, with Trump trailing in 18 of the last 20 polls of the state, the evidence strongly suggests Florida is slipping away. (Z)
We wrote it up when Politico's Tim Alberta had four funny feelings about the 2020 election three weeks ago, and when he had three funny feelings two weeks ago, and when he had two funny feelings last week. We can't leave the set incomplete, and so we give you his last funny feeling about 2020: This election is nothing like 2016.
Alberta points out, quite rightly, that everyone tends to view presidential elections through the lens of the last presidential election (the same thing happens with Super Bowl-winning football teams, Best Picture-winning movies, and Nobel-winning scientific research). And having made the broad observation, he uses that as a backdoor into a list of 16 ways this year's election is different from 2016, all of them to the detriment of Donald Trump. Here's the executive summary:
- Trump's 2016 coalition is in tatters, as he's lost significant ground with suburban women, seniors, and
- In 2016, 33% of Americans believed the country was on the right track. That's good for an outsider. Now that number
is down to 20%. That's very bad for someone who is now the ultimate insider.
- Many, many people hated Hillary Clinton. Many, many fewer hate Joe Biden.
- Turnout was average in 2016. It won't be in 2020.
- Turnout was well below average in the "Midwest" States in 2016. It won't be in 2020.
- High turnout makes razor-thin victories, like the ones Trump notched in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania
in 2016, much less likely.
- Third party voting will be way down in 2020 relative to 2016, which likely means fewer Democratic votes
spent on protest candidates.
- Even if polls are just as inaccurate in 2020 as they were in 2016, Biden will still crush Trump.
- There is every reason to believe polls are better this year, particularly since they now correct for education
- District-level polling was ignored by Team Hillary in 2016, despite red flags. It's not being ignored by Team Biden,
and the red flags aren't there.
- Trump's polling position today is far worse than it was at this point in 2016. Then, he was an underdog. Now, he's a
- Everything broke Trump's way in the final weeks of 2016, most obviously James Comey's October Surprise 11 days
before the election. This time around, the late breaks—bad debate performances, COVID spikes, no stimulus
deal—would all appear to be in his opponent's direction.
- The Democrats did not take Trump seriously in 2016, and coasted a fair bit, especially at the local level. They are
not repeating those errors this year. In particular, the Party's municipal-, county-, and state-level organizing has
been extensive, disciplined, and closely integrated with the Biden campaign.
- There were few red states in 2016, beyond perhaps Arizona, where Trump needed to play defense. That freed him to
play offense in blue states like Michigan. Now, there are at least half a dozen red states where he's got trouble.
- In 2016, Trump benefited from being an enigma, onto which people could project optimistic ideas about what kind of
president he might be (for example, "maybe he'll appoint good people and then get out of their way, like Eisenhower
did"). There are no longer any illusions about what kind of president he might be.
- In 2016, Trump used Antonin Scalia's open Supreme Court seat to get reluctant conservative voters into the tent. This year, he cashed that chip before the election.
On the whole, we think it's a pretty good rundown of the many factors working against Trump this year. In particular, we would say that point #14—that Trump is playing defense (and is spread too thin while he does so), whereas he could go on the offensive in 2016—is an important one that doesn't get made often enough.
On the other hand, the list does not take into account some of the factors working in Trump's favor in 2020 that were not in effect in 2016, including a rigged USPS, a very friendly Supreme Court, and (some) GOP governors who are willing to play hardball on his behalf. Further, as several readers wrote in to point out, Alberta's crystal ball wasn't so crystalline in 2016. So, take the list above with as many grains of salt as you think are apropos. (Z)
Joe Biden is up significantly in his must-win states like Pennsylvania, and he's up a little bit in hope-to-win states like Florida. As we note above, it is just not possible for Donald Trump to play as much defense as he needs to play. (Z)
|Arizona||49%||46%||Oct 22||Oct 25||OH Predictive Insights|
|California||65%||29%||Oct 16||Oct 21||U. of Calif. at Berkeley|
|Florida||50%||48%||Oct 24||Oct 25||Florida Atlantic U.|
|Georgia||51%||46%||Oct 23||Oct 26||Civiqs|
|Iowa||50%||46%||Oct 21||Oct 24||RABA Research|
|Kansas||36%||46%||Sep 21||Oct 01||Fort Hays State U.|
|Louisiana||36%||59%||Oct 22||Oct 22||U. of New Orleans|
|Michigan||52%||43%||Oct 20||Oct 26||Ipsos|
|Mississippi||41%||55%||Oct 23||Oct 26||Civiqs|
|Montana||47%||49%||Oct 26||Oct 27||PPP|
|Nevada||49%||43%||Oct 23||Oct 26||Siena Coll.|
|Nevada||50%||41%||Oct 16||Oct 23||U. of Nevada|
|North Carolina||51%||47%||Oct 26||Oct 27||PPP|
|North Carolina||48%||47%||Oct 24||Oct 26||RMG Research|
|North Carolina||48%||48%||Oct 23||Oct 26||SurveyUSA|
|North Carolina||49%||48%||Oct 21||Oct 27||Ipsos|
|Pennsylvania||52%||45%||Oct 23||Oct 26||Civiqs|
Click on a state name for a graph of its polling history.
At the moment, our map has the Democrats in their best position of the whole cycle. In part, that is because we've added the special election in Georgia to our calculations (see note above). But in part it's because the party's candidates are up significantly in Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan, and appear to have the slight upper hand in Montana and North Carolina. The Blue Team's absolute upper limit is surely 57 seats (the seats we have them winning right now, plus South Carolina, Alaska, and Kansas). Right now, our numbers say they are on the cusp of that upper limit. (Z)
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||Start||End||Pollster|
|Arizona||Mark Kelly||50%||Martha McSally*||45%||Oct 22||Oct 25||OH Predictive Insights|
|Georgia||Jon Ossoff||51%||David Perdue*||45%||Oct 23||Oct 26||Civiqs|
|Georgia-special||Raphael Warnock||51%||Kelly Loeffler*||37%||Oct 23||Oct 26||Civiqs|
|Michigan||Gary Peters*||50%||John James||44%||Oct 20||Oct 26||Ipsos|
|Mississippi||Mike Espy||44%||Cindy Hyde-Smith*||52%||Oct 23||Oct 26||Civiqs|
|Montana||Steve Bullock||48%||Steve Daines*||47%||Oct 26||Oct 27||PPP|
|North Carolina||Cal Cunningham||47%||Thom Tillis*||44%||Oct 26||Oct 27||PPP|
|North Carolina||Cal Cunningham||48%||Thom Tillis*||47%||Oct 21||Oct 27||Ipsos|
* Denotes incumbent
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Oct27 ..And May Soon Be Mucking Around in the Election
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Oct27 ...Probably Because He's an Autocrat...
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