Bonus Quote of the Day
Markey Beats Back Kennedy Challenge
Ex-Friend Has Recordings of Melania Trump
Neal Defeats Primary Challenger
Pence Doesn’t ‘Recall’ Being on Standby to Assume Powers
FEMA Will Stop Paying For Face Masks For Schools
• Biden Takes the Show on the Road
• Sanders Is All-In for Biden
• USPS Shenanigans Look to Be Backfiring on Trump
• New Voter Registrations in Swing States Favor Democrats
• Tuesday Is Book Day
• Legal Blotter: One Win, One Loss for Trump
• Today's Presidential Polls
• Today's Senate Polls
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During the four days of the Republican National Convention, the Trump campaign tried to present a kinder, gentler Trump, one who understands the struggles of everyday Americans. There was particular emphasis—as expressed by a veritable parade of Black speakers and interviewees—on communicating the message that the President understands the concerns of people of color, and that he has their backs.
This was not remotely believable in real time, and we and other commentators expressed skepticism even while the convention was going on. It did not help that news broke over the weekend that many of the people of color who appeared in video interviews did not know they were going to be used as convention props, and say they are most certainly not Trump supporters and that they were "tricked." It is instructive, perhaps, that in a nation with over 100 million people of color, the Trump campaign couldn't find half a dozen actual Trump supporters to convey their message, and so had to create some out of whole cloth.
In any case, the only possible way that the RNC messaging might have worked is if Trump conformed, for the next 75 days, to the new image his handlers tried to create for him. Since the President can't stay on message for 75 hours, much less 75 days, his staff was, quite bluntly, foolish to have tried. And when it comes to the unrest in Kenosha, WI, and Portland, OR, he's already reverted to pre-convention form. He heaped praise on pro-Trump/anti-BLM protesters on Monday, he embraced the notion that the 17-year-old who shot and killed two people in Wisconsin this weekend was acting in self defense, and he categorically refused to denounce violence by right-wing agitators. Shades of Charlottesville.
Meanwhile, Trump is determined to travel to Kenosha. Local leaders asked him to stay away, as did Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI). The President refused. In a pretty clear reflection of his priorities, he won't meet with the family of Jacob Blake, whose shooting at the hands of police was the starting point for the current unrest in Kenosha. Trump claimed that he had "a good conversation" with the Blake family pastor, but that turns out to be a misrepresentation, as the "Blake family" doesn't have a pastor, and the person the President spoke to counts only Blake's mother among his flock.
Assuming the President follows through with his plans, he's scheduled to be in Kenosha today. We'll see if he makes the trip, and exactly whom he talks to, in search of the photo-op he wants very badly. Ivanka better pack the prop Bible, just in case. (Z)
The basement phase of Joe Biden's campaign appears to be nearing its end. He already promised to get out and campaign after Labor Day and, since that's only a week away, it would appear that he concluded he might as well get started now. So, he visited Pittsburgh on Monday. While there, he did a little retail campaigning, handing out pizzas to first responders. He also did a little fundraising, appearing at an event hosted by Cher. We may be in the midst of a pandemic, but the beat goes on.
The main event on Monday was a speech in which Biden slammed Donald Trump's response to Kenosha, and to urban unrest in general, declaring that the President long ago ceased to provide any "moral leadership in this country." Perhaps the most effective soundbite, however, was this: "Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is reelected?" If Team Biden makes a point of repeating that, it could make some inroads with the relatively small number of undecided voters out there.
Incidentally, now that the Biden Road Show has gotten underway, the Democratic nominee is also working on a possible visit to Kenosha, though he will only make the trip if it can be done safely, and if it has the support of local leadership. He wants a photo-op, too, but he's not quite as willing to force the issue as Trump is. (Z)
Following the bitter 2016 campaign, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) threw his support behind Hillary Clinton, making some speeches and campaign appearances on her behalf. However, quite a few observers (us included) perceived that his heart was not in it, a conclusion based on his apparent lack of enthusiasm during the aforementioned speeches and appearances, not to mention his ongoing griping about being cheated by the DNC/the superdelegates.
This year, by contrast, Sanders is all-in on Joe Biden. Maybe he feels the process was fairer, or maybe he likes Biden better than he likes Clinton, or maybe he's scared witless of the thought of four more years of Donald Trump. The Senator can't really hit the road very much, due to the pandemic, but he has thus far fulfilled his promise to do everything in his power to elect Biden. That includes livestreamed speeches, panel discussions, and town halls, as well as fundraising. This week, for example, Sanders will be joined by Beto O'Rourke for large-scale events in Texas and Colorado. The basic message that the Senator has for his supporters is: Our issues aren't dead, but the only way they'll get any attention whatsoever is if Joe Biden is in the White House.
We'll learn on Election Day how well Sanders did. However, with his assistance, the presence of a lower-profile Green candidate in 2020 (Howie Hawkins) as opposed to 2016 (Jill Stein), and the lesson learned four years ago that "message" votes are unwise, there is every reason to believe Joe Biden will pick up a meaningful chunk of the progressive vote that did not go for Hillary Clinton. And every meaningful chunk helps. (Z)
It's pretty clear, at this point, that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy threw a wrench into the postal system in an effort to help Donald Trump. And while DeJoy might refrain from doing further damage, he clearly has no interest in undoing that which has already been done. Further speaking to his less-than-noble motives, he's declined to be transparent or cooperative, and has refused to provide documentation requested by Congress. They will subpoena him (though it's not likely to work anytime soon; see below).
That said, DeJoy may have been too ham-fisted, or may have moved too early, or both, because his maneuvering does not appear to be working to the advantage of Donald Trump. First, because it's caused Democrats to get deadly serious about getting absentee ballots in people's hands, and making sure they are filled out and returned. It is a rare public statement by a Democrat today that does not include an exhortation to voters to take care of business (Biden brought it up in his Pittsburgh speech, and Bernie Sanders brings it up in all of his public appearances; see above). Further, PACs and state parties are targeting Democratic voters with absentee ballot forms. For example, in Georgia, the Center for Voter Information and the Voter Participation Center just partnered to send out 2.2 million absentee voter forms, targeted primarily at people of color, unmarried women and young people.
Media outlets are also rallying to the flag. The New York Times, for example, has made it their mission to keep voters well informed. Yesterday, as part of their efforts, they published this useful guide that readers can use to examine their home state's approach to absentee voting, and whether or not the state actually allows enough time for the process to unfold. Similarly, as you can see above, we've shifted our banner ads to focus on domestic voters and good places for them to get information.
And beyond the fact that many entities are rallying the troops, DeJoy and Trump have also handed Democrats a potent issue to run on. There's been little specific polling on Trump vs. the USPS (though what there has been has been very bad for the President). However, the USPS itself is wildly popular (90%+ approval) while Trump is not, so he's already setting himself up for a losing battle. Further, beyond voters' specific affinity for the Postal Service, this issue also touches on many other issues: Trumpian corruption, healthcare for veterans, rural areas being left behind, poor people being left behind, and so forth. Perhaps best of all, from the Democrats' perspective, is that all wings of the party are unified on this one. "It's rare you get an issue where every candidate, whether they're a Blue Dog or very liberal, is so aligned," observed one Democratic strategist.
For these reasons, just about every Democrat running for office this year is deploying the USPS as an issue, in speeches, in town halls, in interviews, and in fundraising e-mails. And so it looks more and more like we have another case where the President and his team tried to help themselves, and ended up doing much more harm than good. (Z)
NBC News had a report on Sunday about newly registered voters in swing states. They looked at the numbers of new voters in several swing states since 2016, and found nothing but good news for the Democrats. To start, here are the four states where NBC was able to put together precise figures:
|State||Total New Reg.||Dem. Advantage||Trump Margin 2016|
|North Carolina||1.3 million||56,443||173,315|
Obviously, the most notable of these is must-win Pennsylvania, where the Democratic edge in new registrations is far above Trump's 2016 margin of victory. Further, Wisconsin and Michigan don't register voters by party, but NBC's data modeling says there is overwhelming evidence the Democrats have gained ground in those states, too.
For Team Trump, the possible silver lining is that, in each state, the number of newly registered unaffiliated voters is very high. In fact, that total is greater than the Democratic advantage in each of the four states listed above. So, if the unaffiliated votes broke very heavily for Trump (85-90%), then he would actually stand to gain more than the Democrats will. Problem #1, however, is that it is rare for any faction to break that heavily in one direction. Problem #2 is that the unaffiliated voters are predominantly 18-39; 56% of them in Florida all the way up to 69% of them in North Carolina. And voters in that age group support Joe Biden over Trump by a margin of about 2-to-1. So, the odds are that the unaffiliated voters aren't actually a silver lining for Trump at all and, in fact, that they will actually extend the advantages the Democrats appear to have gained in the past four years. (Z)
Tuesday is the day that nearly all new books are released. There are eight Tuesdays left between today and the election, and maybe one of them will not feature a new book critical of Donald Trump and/or his family. That Tuesday, if it comes, will not be today, as there are two new anti-Trump volumes hitting bookshelves.
The first, and probably higher profile, of the two is the tell-all from former Melania Trump assistant Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady. Politico has a rundown of the eight "juiciest" details (their word, not ours):
- Donald Trump wanted his inauguration to look like a North Korean military parade.
- Team Trump considered a 3,000-mile "Sea to Shining Sea" bus tour leading into the inauguration.
- White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany wanted to be the First Lady's chief-of-staff.
- Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are big fans of the Kennedys, and named their kids after members of the family.
- Donald and Melania don't celebrate Valentine's Day, ever, and are rarely sentimental with each other.
- Melania is self-involved, and says, "Pleasing anyone else is not my priority!"
- Michael Cohen "fixed" Barron Trump's entry into schools he did not otherwise qualify for.
- Before "Be Best," "Children First," "Shield Your Children," "Be a Cyber Buddy," "Protect Your Children" and "Speak Up" were under consideration as anti-bullying slogans.
Truth be told, we don't see anything here that is particularly shocking. And there's definitely nothing here that's going to make trouble for the Trumps at the ballot box, or in future legal dealings. That means the worst news on the Winston Wolkoff front is not that she's written a snippy book, but that she's working with three different prosecutors on violations related to inaugural funding. Winston Wolkoff says that it's become a full-time job, and that it's "taken over her life." We can only imagine what kind of dirt she's dishing, but it's certainly the case that the math for the inaugural does not appear to add up, and there are tens of millions of dollars that seem to have vanished into the ether.
The second book of the day, meanwhile, is from The New York Times' two-time Pulitzer-winning reporter Michael Schmidt. It's titled Donald Trump v. The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President and, based on sneak peeks from Politico, Axios, CNN, and the Times, it appears to be much more substantive. Among the revelations:
- The FBI/CIA grossly misunderstood what the Russians were up to in 2016, thinking the Russkies were just gathering intel.
- Once the FBI/CIA finally figured it out, most Republicans were uninterested. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) even fell asleep at a briefing.
- Former White House counsel Don McGahn stayed long after Trump wanted him out so he could help fill the expected-to-be-vacant seat of Anthony Kennedy.
- Trump offered John Kelly the directorship of the FBI, but only if Kelly promised to remain "loyal."
- When Donald Trump made his surprise trip to Walter Reed, Mike Pence was on "standby" in case he needed to take over. So much for Trump's story that he was getting an early start on his physical.
- Then-Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein severely limited the scope of the Russia investigation.
Although these are much more significant than the revelations in Winston Wolkoff's book, they are not going to be any more meaningful in terms of the election. Most of this stuff is pretty wonky, and much more serious revelations in other books have made no dent in Donald Trump's armor. Perhaps things will be different next Tuesday, when Michael Cohen's book is due out. He likely knows things that are quite nefarious, and are much less "inside baseball" than what Schmidt or Winston Wolkoff know. (Z)
When it comes to court decisions, "you win some, you lose some" is a pretty good summation of Donald Trump's record. On Monday, that held true, as he batted .500 on the day. Let's start with the win, which came from a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit court of appeals. By a vote of 2-1, the judges said that the Constitution does not implicitly give the Congress the power to issue subpoenas to the executive branch. The two-judge majority—Thomas Griffith and Karen Henderson, each of them appointed by a Bush—said that Congress may pass legislation granting themselves this power, but until they do, they don't have it. Judge Judith Rogers, a Clinton appointee, wrote a blistering dissent, but 1 is less than 2, so her dissent and $5 will get you a pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks (as of August 25). Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) promised an appeal, but there is no chance this gets resolved before the election. Similarly, the House can pass a law granting themselves subpoena power, but until the Democrats control the Senate, it will join all the other bills wasting away in Mitch McConnell's desk drawer.
Moving on, the loss also came courtesy of the DC Court of Appeals. Ruling en banc, 8-2, the Court overruled its previous 2-1 finding that the dismissal of Michael Flynn's case was a-ok. That means that Flynn is back on the hot seat, and the case will return to the courtroom of District Judge Emmet Sullivan. Presumably, if things go south for Flynn, a presidential pardon is in the offing. On the other hand, Trump leapt to Roger Stone's rescue at the earliest possible moment, and did not do so for Flynn, so maybe not. Whatever happens, the court system has not relieved the president of an ongoing headache, at least not yet. (Z)
If "shy Trump" voters exist, we doubt they live in Georgia, which has been Trump Country for four years. Maybe not anymore, though. If Biden really does win the Peach State, it's inconceivable that he doesn't win the election. (Z)
|Georgia||47%||46%||Aug 24||Aug 25||PPP|
Alaska is really hard to poll, for a number of reasons. First of all, its small population makes it difficult to reach the necessary number of respondents to execute an accurate poll. Second, the population of the state is remarkably transient (about 10% of residents turn over each year), with the result that it's very hard to build an accurate model of the electorate. Anyhow, that is why polls of this race are all over the place, and why you have to take them all with a grain of salt. That said, while Sullivan is reasonably popular (about 45% approve, 35% disapprove), Gross could plausibly win this one if he can pull together a coalition of Democrats, independents, and disaffected Republicans. It's worth keeping an eye on. (Z)
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||Start||End||Pollster|
|Alaska||Al Gross||43%||Dan Sullivan*||43%||Aug 27||Aug 28||PPP|
* Denotes incumbent
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug31 Trump Unleashes Twitter Barrage
Aug31 It Is Still All about the Base
Aug31 DNI John Ratcliffe Won't Brief Congress on Election Security Anymore
Aug31 A New Battleground: Yard-Sign Theft
Aug31 Meadows: We Are Not Going to Negotiate a Coronavirus Relief Bill
Aug31 Massachusetts Primary Is Tomorrow
Aug31 When Will the Election Be Called?
Aug31 Military Won't Get Involved in an Election Dispute
Aug31 Trump Keeps Putting Himself in Danger
Aug31 What Does 5 p.m. Mean, Actually?
Aug30 Sunday Mailbag
Aug29 Saturday Q&A
Aug29 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug28 And That's a Wrap
Aug28 In Kenosha, Trump Sees Opportunity
Aug28 Team Biden Finally Does Some Counter-programming
Aug28 This White House May Not Be Transparent, but Its Motives Are
Aug28 U.S. Chamber of Commerce Breaks Left
Aug28 Japanese PM Is Out
Aug28 COVID-19 Diaries: Stasis
Aug28 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug27 Conventional, Night Three
Aug27 No Convention Bounce for Biden
Aug27 Trump Goes Dark
Aug27 What Do Trump Supporters Care About?
Aug27 "Suburban Housewives" Aren't Buying What Trump Is Selling
Aug27 LeBron James Is Launching a Multimillion-Dollar Campaign to Recruit Poll Workers
Aug27 Hundreds of Thousands of Seniors in Nursing Homes May Not Be Able to Vote
Aug27 Michigan May Mail Absentee Ballot Application to All Registered Voters
Aug27 Kanye West Failed to Qualify for the November Ballot in Missouri
Aug27 Green Party Will Not Be on the Montana Ballot
Aug27 Stephanie Bice Will Face Kendra Horn in OK-05
Aug27 Elections Were Not Always Close
Aug27 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug27 Today's Senate Polls
Aug26 The Trumpman Show, Night Two
Aug26 RNC Lagging DNC in Ratings
Aug26 Melania Trump's Kumbayah Moment May Soon Fade
Aug26 Today's Republican Endorsements for Biden
Aug26 Trump Taps Chad Wolf for Permanent DHS Post
Aug26 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug26 Today's Senate Polls
Aug25 Jacob Blake Shooting, Response Provide Backdrop for RNC
Aug25 FDA Grossly Misrepresented the Value of the Blood Plasma Treatment
Aug25 Many Republicans Endorse Biden
Aug25 No Convention Bounce for Biden
Aug25 Falwell Saga Grows More Sordid...Maybe a Lot More
Aug25 Trump Effectively Loses Pennsylvania Case