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Political Wire logo Trump Suspects John Kelly Is Behind Story
Few Military Officers Willing to Defend Trump
Trump Campaign Going Dark In Arizona
John Kelly Stays Silent
Trump Moves to Narrow Virus Testing
Sully Urges ‘Vote Him Out’ In Anti-Trump Tweetstorm

Trump Tells Residents of North Carolina, Pennsylvania to Vote Twice

Earlier this week, Donald Trump encouraged residents of North Carolina to vote twice—once via absentee ballot, and once in person. On Thursday, he told Pennsylvania voters to do the same.

It is, of course, illegal in both states to knowingly vote twice. It is also illegal to encourage people to do so, which means that the President has just broken the law (again). The administration was quick to "clarify" their alleged purpose, though the specific justification depends on exactly who is doing the talking. Trump said that he just wants to make sure everyone does whatever is necessary to make sure their vote gets counted. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who is a Harvard Law grad, put a more "legal" spin on it and said that the President is not encouraging anyone to do anything illegal, merely that he wants them to double-check and make sure their absentee ballot was received and approved, and then to take appropriate measures if it was not. Riiiiight.

Of course, the real motive here is to create chaos. It's no coincidence that Trump targeted two of the swingiest states that happen to be run by Democratic governors. If he and his followers can throw the legitimacy of the results in those states into question, that would play right into the President's strategy of using lawsuits to steal a few states for himself (or, at very least, to deprive Joe Biden of those electoral votes). If Pennsylvania and North Carolina were somehow taken out of the equation, that would almost certainly work to Trump's advantage, given current polling of those two states. The bad news for the President is that he's too ham-fisted and too impatient, and so Govs. Tom Wolf (D-PA) and Roy Cooper (D-NC) know what he's up to and have time to counter-move, including making many announcements reminding people that voting more than once is illegal. The social media platforms know, too, and have already declared that any "vote twice" videos or ads will be taken down.

The concept of potentially voting twice is not unknown in Trump's inner circle. In fact, it may be a family tradition. His daughter Tiffany was registered to vote in Pennsylvania and New York at the same time. First son-in-law Jared Kushner was once registered in both New York and New Jersey. In addition Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was once registered in both New York and California. Former (and possibly current) strategist Steve Bannon was registered in Florida and New York. Whether they also voted twice is not known, but states don't cross check with other states, so it is certainly possible. In fact, registering twice might even be a felony depending on state law, especially if the registration form has a statement on it stating: "I hereby swear that I am not registered to vote in any other state." Then the second registration would be perjury. That said, in most cases, it's only illegal if people actually vote twice.

Incidentally, on a related note, the Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin on Thursday warning that the Russians have seized upon the "vote-by-mail leads to fraud" theme, and are actively propagandizing that message. Does Donald Trump take his cues from the Russians, or do the Russans take their cues from Donald Trump? It's one of the great chicken-and-egg questions of our time. We also wonder about one other thing: If Team Putin really has the ability to muck around with election results (say, by cracking into unsecured voting machines), would they bother with all the silly propaganda? Our best guess is that they don't hack the voting machines themselves, especially since most states now vote using paper ballots and optical scanners. But they could hack the voter-registration databases to remove voters in Democratic precincts to keep them from voting. They could also hack the computers in county offices that collect the votes from the precincts and add them up. If they can arrange for 2 + 2 = 3, they don't have to hack the individual voting machines, so why not do it the easy way? (Z)

Trump Allegedly Smeared Dead, Disabled Veterans

The Atlantic has a new story that, if true, would be very damning. According to numerous inside sources, the President has regularly demeaned veterans who paid the ultimate price. For example, during the now-infamous trip to France, during which Trump declined to participate in rain-soaked 100th anniversary ceremonies at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, he reportedly told one aide "Why should I go to that cemetery? It's filled with losers," and said to another that 1,800 Marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood were "suckers" for getting killed. When John McCain died, Trump reportedly remarked "We're not going to support that loser's funeral," and objected to flying flags at half-staff in the Senator's honor, asking "What the fu** are we doing that for? Guy was a fu**ing loser." George H.W. Bush got similar treatment, apparently, with Trump describing his predecessor as a "loser" for having been shot down. And when the President was dreaming of a North Korean-style military parade, he supposedly did not want any amputee veterans invited, observing "Nobody wants to see that."

The White House has denied all of this, of course, but we believe it's true, for three reasons:

  • Trump's Transactional Nature: As the article points out, Trump sees absolutely everything in transactional terms. He doesn't see any personal benefit to him when it comes to military service, which is why he avoided it, and why he doesn't really understand those individuals who did not beg off with bone spurs. He's always shown disdain for dead/captured/injured military members, from his remarks about Khizr Khan's son to his "I like guys who weren't captured" smear on McCain. The newly reported remarks are right in line with those past statements.

  • Trump's Defensive Nature: Trump did not want to go to Aisne-Marne, either because he is lazy, or he was tired, or he feared what the rain would do to his hair, or all of the above. He knew he would be unwelcome at McCain's funeral, and that he would only be barely tolerated at Bush's funeral. However, the President also never accepts blame or responsibility for anything. And so, in each of these cases, it was psychologically easier for him to make the dead into "the bad guy" and to frame them as unworthy of his presence, so that his absence (or, in Bush's case, his barely being tolerated) was the fault of the deceased.

  • Curiously Specific for Lies: It would be very odd for so many people to share such detailed, and similar, lies with The Atlantic. Similarly, the magazine has a reputation to protect, and would not run with this story if they did not have confidence it was truthful.

Trump famously said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and it would not hurt him one bit, and he's probably right about that. However, slurring America's war dead like this may actually do some serious damage. His base takes patriotism seriously, and if they are persuaded he really said these things, it may be a bridge too far for some of them. Arizona, in particular, has many veterans, which is one of the reasons John McCain was able to be reelected so often and why Navy veteran Mark Kelly is beating Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) (an Air Force veteran) by a much larger margin than did Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who is not a veteran.

More significantly, however, is that this could really hurt the President with active-duty service members. There are few people who have more finely-tuned BS detectors than soldiers do; they surely know what's true here and what's not. Further, soldiers network and talk to one another. We checked a few online spaces that attract current or former military members, and these remarks were a topic of great interest—and not to the President's benefit. Two days ago, a poll by The Military Times revealed that 41.3% of active-duty soldiers planned to vote for Joe Biden, while 37.4% planned to vote for Trump. This is very poor for a sitting Republican president, and the new reporting from The Atlantic certainly isn't going to help the President close the gap. (Z)

Biden Goes to Kenosha

When it comes to recent events in Kenosha, WI, Joe Biden was in something of a sticky situation. If he stayed away from the city, it would look a bit heartless, and would also deny him an opportunity to make a statement about his priorities. In fact, he has already been criticized by Black Lives Matter activists for dawdling. On the other hand, showing up ran the risk of looking opportunistic and out of place. After all, at the moment, he's a private citizen with no actual power. Ultimately, he threaded the needle as best he could, and visited on Thursday, only after he had the blessing of local leaders and the family of shooting victim Jacob Blake.

During his visit, Biden was masked and took care to socially distance. He spoke to several members of Blake's family in person, and several others—including Blake himself—by phone. Biden also held a discussion with activists, local politicians, clergy, businesspeople and some police officers, during which the Democratic nominee called for unity and for people to resist the temptation to engage in violence, "no matter how angry you are." That was the story as covered by nearly every mainstream media outlet. The Fox News headline, by contrast, was: "Biden makes awkward 'they'll shoot me' quip during Kenosha appearance," alluding to a remark the former VP made that if he took the time to lay out all his plans, "they'll shoot me" for going on so long. Fair and Balanced!

For anyone paying attention—ideally via some outlet other than Fox News—the contrast between Biden and Donald Trump could not be clearer. Trump showed up before he was welcome, met with police officers but not the Blakes, and spoke approvingly of violence committed in his name. Biden waited for an invite, met with all sorts of different people including the Blakes, and condemned violence. Whatever a particular voter's priorities might be, they should know very well by now which candidate is their best match. (Z)

Biden Picks Up 100 More Endorsements from Prominent Republicans

Speaking of best matches, Joe Biden added another hundred prominent Republicans to his endorsement list on Thursday. The group is calling itself "Republicans and Independents for Biden," and plans to advocate on his behalf, in partnership with The Lincoln Project. It includes several former Republican governors, among them Bill Weld of Massachusetts (who briefly challenged Donald Trump for the GOP nomination this year), Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey (who spoke at the DNC), and Rick Snyder of Michigan.

The Michigan angle is almost certainly the most interesting aspect of this story. Roughly 20 members of the new anti-Trump group are Michiganders, including not only Snyder but also former representatives Joe Schwarz and Dave Trott, and former state representatives Doug Hart and David Maturen. Michigan is a swing state, of course, and Biden now has the last three governors of the state on his side, along with the other folks who climbed on board the SS Biden Thursday. If some Wolverine State Republicans are looking for permission to vote Democratic just this once, they have it. And that might just make the difference. (Z)

Pelosi, Mnuchin Reach Tentative Deal to Avoid Shutdown

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the White House do not see eye-to-eye on COVID-19 funding, and so that particular disagreement is currently a giant game of chicken, one that may or may not produce a compromise. However, everyone realizes that a government shutdown, on top of the pandemic, would be a disaster. And so, Pelosi and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin reportedly have reached a deal to keep the government funded.

Not too many details are known yet, but it appears to be a classic "kick the can down the road" kind of arrangement, where funding will be sustained at current levels, and the deadline for a new budget will be pushed back a few months. Customarily, in an election year, that means "until mid-December," an arrangement that avoids rocking the boat prior to Election Day. That said, Pelosi & Co. have to be at least a little bit worried about a scenario in which Donald Trump loses the election and then petulantly decides to shut down the government in response. Would Republican members of Congress be willing to override a presidential budget veto under those circumstances? Maybe, maybe not. So, it would not be a surprise if Pelosi insists that the can be kicked a bit further down the road than is customary, to mid-January or early February. (Z)

Facebook to "Limit" Political Ads Right Before the Election

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced several new policies on Thursday that he says will protect the integrity of November's election. Specifically, new political ads will be refused in the week before the election, and any ads with falsehoods about COVID-19 or about voting will be labeled as "misinformation."

You will notice that we put "limit" in quotation marks in the headline. That is because the social media giant's new policies have holes in them so large you could drive a truck through them. To start, lies from politicians in targeted ads will remain acceptable. Further, Facebook will allow any ads purchased more than a week in advance of Election Day to keep running. There is some debate among pundits as to which presidential campaign will be hurt most by the new policies, but we honestly don't see how either campaign will be affected at all. The workarounds that Zuckerberg left open, all-but-inviting the campaigns to exploit them, will make it easy as pie for Team Biden and Team Trump to do just about anything they want in the week before the election.

The motives of Facebook in general, and Zuckerberg in particular, are as transparent as ice. They don't want to be regulated by the government. Full stop. So, they are staging a little "we're doing our civic duty" kabuki theater in order to try to hold off potential oversight. As a private citizen, Zuckerberg's philosophy appears to be more in line with the Democrats. As a businessman, however, he believes—probably correctly—that four more years of Trump is much less likely to lead to regulation than four years of Biden. So, you can be very certain that Facebook won't do anything that would substantially impair the ability of Team Trump to run the exact campaign they want to run. (Z)

Judges Say: "No Way, 'Ye"

It is very clear, at this point, that the primary purpose of Kanye West's presidential bid is to steal votes from Joe Biden, and thus to help West's friend Donald Trump get reelected. If the musician was solely interested in publicity, it wouldn't matter very much which or how many states he made the ballot in. However, West and his people have put in extraordinary effort in swing and swingish states like Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona. The only reason to prioritize those is politics.

On Thursday, the musician saw two apparent victories turn into defeats. First, in Virginia, Circuit Judge Joi Taylor ruled that West obtained his submitted slate of electors through "improper, fraudulent and/or misleading means," and that he is therefore ineligible to appear on ballots in that state. A few hours later, Arizona state Judge Scott McCoy ruled that because West is registered as a Republican, state law does not allow him to run as an independent. So, he can't be on ballots there, either.

Thus far, West has qualified for the ballot in only 10 states: Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and Vermont. Among those, the only one where he might plausibly have an impact is Minnesota. Iowa is also looking swingy this year, yes, but it's rather short on the demographic West is ostensibly targeting (the Hawkeye State is only 4.1% Black). The West "campaign" has lawsuits ongoing in Illinois, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Ohio, and West Virginia. Among those, assuming he wins his suits, he might plausibly be a factor in Ohio and Wisconsin. There are also three states left where the ballot access deadline hasn't passed yet: Kentucky, Mississippi, and Rhode Island, none of them the slightest bit swingy.

West is an actual billionaire, with a net worth estimated at $1.3 billion. But, as Michael Bloomberg taught us earlier this year, having more money than Croesus can only take you so far. And, at this point, it's exceedingly likely that West's attempt to help his friend who probably isn't a billionaire is going to come up way short. (Z)

Georgia Appears to Have Wrongfully Struck 200,000 People from Voter Rolls

Before Brian Kemp (R-GA) was an enthusiastic "limit the number of voters" governor, he was an enthusiastic "limit the number of voters" secretary of state. And so, the Peach State has a well-deserved reputation these days for improperly depriving people of their franchise. Thanks to the nonpartisan Palast Investigative Fund, Kemp and his minions have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar again. Palast hired data crunchers to examine 313,243 voter registrations that had been purged because the voters allegedly moved, and the data crunchers found that 63.3% of those (198,283) still lived in the same residence where they were registered.

Georgia Republicans have pooh-poohed the findings, with Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs (R) declaring Palast to be "a known Stacey Abrams shill." The ACLU has already filed a lawsuit, joined by voting-rights group Fair Fight Action. Such lawsuits have had success in the past but, of course, the election is very close and the wheels of justice sometimes turn slowly. Alternatively, the ACLU & Co. have until Oct. 5 to warn voters they may have been purged, and that they should double-check and re-register if necessary. (Z)

A Bookish Solution to Absentee Voting

Among the Founding Parents, John and Abigail Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton were all persuaded that a thriving public library system was critical to a healthy democracy. They were concerned specifically with well-informed voters, of course. However, NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg, in an op-ed for The New York Times, has a different idea about how libraries can serve the needs of democracy: as receiving stations for absentee ballots.

The argument is very simple: people trust libraries, and libraries are already staffed with people whose job it is to keep an eye on things. Further, it is already common for libraries to act as polling places on Election Day, so this would just be an extension of a task they are already performing. Oh, and libraries are—pretty much by their nature—located where people are concentrated, so they are ideally placed to relieve pressure on areas underserved in terms of number of polling places and/or ballot dropboxes.

Klinenberg notes, incidentally, that he did not come up with this all on his own, and that several states have already taken steps to utilize existing library infrastructure, including California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. Don't hold your breath waiting for any additional Republican-controlled states to join the list, but one can imagine Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan, and Minnesota—all of them with Democratic governors and secretaries of state—taking notice of Klinenberg's suggestion.

Just imagine that the three "Midwest" states Trump unexpectedly won last time plus North Carolina (and maybe Arizona, whose secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, is a Democrat) all put drop boxes in libraries in big cities but not in rural areas ("not enough bang for the buck"), so city dwellers largely vote using the library drop boxes and rural residents use the USPS. Then Trump's plan to slow the mail by a couple of weeks would backfire spectacularly. From a political standpoint, neutering the mail was a brilliant (albeit immoral) idea. Only broadcasting it months in advance kind of ruined it. (Z)

Today's Presidential Polls

Which of those Pennsylvania polls should you believe? Well, Quinnipiac is one of the better pollsters in the business, while Pulse is just barely good enough to meet our cutoff (they have a C+ in FiveThirtyEight's pollster ratings). Meanwhile, it's clear that Florida and North Carolina are going to be close this year, and could go either way. Of course, they are probably luxuries for Joe Biden, whereas they (especially Florida) are necessities for Donald Trump. (Z)

State Biden Trump Start End Pollster
Florida 48% 45% Aug 28 Sep 01 Quinnipiac U.
North Carolina 48% 46% Aug 29 Sep 01 Monmouth U.
Pennsylvania 48% 48% Aug 25 Aug 27 Pulse Opinion Research
Pennsylvania 52% 44% Aug 28 Sep 01 Quinnipiac U.

Today's Senate Polls

Clearly, Monmouth has a slightly more Republican model of the electorate than other houses (except East Carolina). If they're right, then Thom Tillis still has a puncher's chance at keeping his job. But they are in the minority in seeing things that way. Meanwhile, Cory Gardner is in danger of joining Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) in the NRSC's "you're on your own" brigade. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Colorado John Hickenlooper 48% Cory Gardner* 39% Aug 21 Aug 30 Morning Consult
North Carolina Cal Cunningham 47% Thom Tillis* 45% Aug 29 Sep 01 Monmouth U.

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep03 Biden Leads Nationally by 8-10 Points
Sep03 Biden Raises an Incredible $365 Million in August
Sep03 Florida's Latinos Could Pick the President
Sep03 Could a COVID-19 Vaccine Be the October Surprise?
Sep03 Debate Moderators Announced
Sep03 An Election Night Doomsday Scenario
Sep03 McConnell Doubts There Will Be Another Relief Bill
Sep03 Pence De Facto Admits That He Was on Standby When Trump Visited Walter Reed
Sep03 Outlook for Republican Women is Good in the House, Bad in the Senate
Sep03 Today's Presidential Polls
Sep03 Today's Senate Polls
Sep02 Massachusetts Likes Its Incumbents
Sep02 Trump Gotta Trump
Sep02 Trump's Tax Returns Will Remain Secret for a Little While Longer
Sep02 Iowa Is Your New COVID-19 Hotspot
Sep02 Trump Trying Desperately to Salvage Big Ten Football Season
Sep02 Presidential Health Under the Microscope
Sep02 Social Security Is in Danger
Sep02 Today's Presidential Polls
Sep02 Today's Senate Polls
Sep01 Trump Reverts to Form
Sep01 Biden Takes the Show on the Road
Sep01 Sanders Is All-In for Biden
Sep01 USPS Shenanigans Look to Be Backfiring on Trump
Sep01 New Voter Registrations in Swing States Favor Democrats
Sep01 Tuesday Is Book Day
Sep01 Legal Blotter: One Win, One Loss for Trump
Sep01 Today's Presidential Polls
Sep01 Today's Senate Polls
Aug31 Is There a Trump Bump?
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