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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  White House Holds "Abraham Accords" Signing Ceremony
      •  Primary Season Draws to an End
      •  Lots of Maneuvering in Congress
      •  Poll: Maybe America Is Less Divided Than it Seems
      •  About that "Blue" Puerto Rico
      •  About that "Blue" Minnesota
      •  Scientific American Announces Its Presidential Endorsement
      •  Today's Presidential Polls
      •  Today's Senate Polls

White House Holds "Abraham Accords" Signing Ceremony

On Tuesday, the recent diplomacy in the Middle East became official, as the United States, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain signed the paperwork that will normalize relations between Israel and the latter two countries. That brings the number of Middle Eastern nations that have formal diplomatic relations with Israel to four, with Egypt having joined the list during the Jimmy Carter years and Jordan having done so during Bill Clinton's presidency.

The easiest way to break this down is in terms of winners and losers; let's start with the winners:

  • Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates: The United States is the most influential power broker in the Middle East, and those two kingdoms just strengthened their relationship with the U.S. in general, and Donald Trump in particular. There's no question that arms sales are in the offing, particularly in the direction of UAE. The leaders of the two nations would prefer that Trump be reelected, given their new buddy-buddy relationship with him and his administration, but they will benefit even if a Biden administration takes over.

  • Israel, particularly Benjamin Netanyahu: Anything that solidifies the Israelis' position, particularly at the expense of the Palestinians, is a win for that nation and for the Prime Minister who is clinging to power by his fingernails. Even Haaretz, which tends to be pretty anti-Netanyahu, has been very complimentary. The Israelis had to grant a very nominal concession—suspending (but not abandoning) a plan to annex the West Bank—and in exchange the bullseye is moving off their backs and onto the backs of the Iranians. Further, there is zero chance that the U.S. is going to give arms to UAE/Bahrain without making sure Israel retains tactical supremacy, so some arms are undoubtedly headed in the Israelis' direction, too.

  • Saudi Arabia: The Saudis are pulling a lot of the strings here. Bahrain is, in effect, a Saudi client state, and would not have moved forward here without Riyadh's approval. And we know about the cozy relationship between the Saudis and the Trump administration, of course. The goal of the Kingdom of Saud is a pan-Sunni (plus Israel) alliance in opposition to Shia Iran. The Saudis are doing a heckuva job of putting such an alliance together.

  • Donald Trump: We're putting him at the bottom of the list. Yes, this is the preeminent foreign policy achievement of his presidency, and will give him something to brag about for the next 50 days. It may even become fodder for one, solitary positive paragraph about him in the history books. However, we honestly don't see how it will materially affect his electoral chances. There are single-issue Israel voters (e.g., Sheldon Adelson), but those folks were already on board the S.S. Trump. For all other voters, matters closer to home (economy, COVID-19, racial unrest) are of far greater consequence.

And now, the losers:

  • Iran: It's rarely a good thing when most of the nations in your part of the world are allying against you. France, circa 1800, and Germany, circa 1915, might have some useful insights on that problem. Foreign Policy Magazine has a fuller analysis of Iran's increasingly weak position, should you be interested.

  • The Palestinians: To translate into rough American terms, the Palestinians have been used by the leaders of the Middle East in the same way that abortion has been used by Republican politicians. In other words, (some/many) common citizens are deeply invested in the issue, but the leadership is largely just paying lip service. Now, even the lip service appears to be coming to an end, which necessarily weakens the Palestinians' position. Whether they will be in more of a mood to negotiate, and whether the Israelis will be interested in listening, are questions that nobody has the answer to right now.

Again, Team Trump will try to keep this on the front pages for as long as they can. However, we are very skeptical that it will gain any meaningful traction. On the other hand, anything to get Bob Woodward's book off the front page is a plus for Trump. It's Wag the Dog, only using peace instead of war. (Z)

Primary Season Draws to an End

It may seems like the 2020 primaries and caucuses began 10 years ago. After all, when Iowa kicked things off on February 3, COVID-19 was on nobody's radar (well, except the WHO), the economy was humming along, George Floyd was still alive (as was John Lewis), Joe Biden's campaign was in tatters (and running out of money), Louis DeJoy was an unknown North Carolina businessman, Roger Stone was set to pay the consequences for breaking the law, a dozen scorching anti-Trump books were still being written, and AG Bill Barr was acting like a toady whose sole job was to do the President's bidding. Ok, maybe not everything has changed.

In any event, yesterday marked the official end of primary and caucus season, as Delawareans headed to the polls to pick their nominees for the various non-presidential offices that will be contested in November. Since Delaware is very blue, there was absolutely no drama, meaning that primary season concluded with something of a whimper. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) was renominated, of course, with just shy of three-quarters of the Democratic vote. He will face off against Republican Lauren Witzke, who wants to suspend all immigration to the U.S. for 10 years, and who used to be a drug runner for a Mexican cartel. Presumably you don't need us to tell you who is going to win that one.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), who is the state's only House member, was unopposed on Tuesday. However, she learned the identity of her victim in November: Lee Murphy (R). He's a moderate who has worked as a teacher, actor, and train conductor. That means he'll be able to figure out exactly why his campaign went off the rails when he loses (Hint: You're a Republican in a D+6 state, Lee). Murphy is a perennial candidate who has also lost races for municipal, county and state office, so this loss will complete the set.

Other than the various events leading up to the general election (e.g., presidential debates), there is only one item left on the election calendar before Nov. 3. On Sept. 29, the good people of GA-05 will attempt to select a replacement to serve the rest of Lewis' term. If none of the seven candidates in the race get 50% of the vote, then the top two will advance to a runoff on Dec. 1—giving them about a month to serve, during a time when the House will largely be in recess. It will be interesting to see what happens in the special election, especially since there's no Republican in the race (it's 5 Democrats, 1 Libertarian, 1 independent). (Z)

Lots of Maneuvering in Congress

There are nearly 400 members of the House running to keep their jobs, alongside nearly three dozen members of the Senate. Many of these folks, particularly the ones in swing districts/states, have concluded that "we did nothing" is not a great platform to run on in the middle of a pandemic. And so, there is much pressure on the leadership of the two chambers to give their caucuses something to work with as they campaign.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is not especially interested in backing off her current position on COVID-19 aid, since she's already compromised to the tune of cutting her ask by $1 trillion, and since many of the things that Republicans are insistent upon (e.g., total COVID-19 indemnity for business owners) are nonstarters for the Democrats. However, she did announce Tuesday morning that the House would remain "in session" until a deal is reached on a relief package. This was more for show than anything else, since it takes exactly one House member to call the chamber into a pro forma three-minute session each day. Still, the Speaker quickly realized she was putting her caucus into a bad position, since how could they explain being on the campaign trail if they are supposed to be "in session?" "Don't worry, it's just a parliamentary trick," is not the kind of answer voters want to hear. And so, Pelosi changed course and announced Tuesday afternoon that all members of the House would be on 24-hour recall in case a deal should happen to be worked out.

Meanwhile, Pelosi's (sorta) counterpart, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), was doing a bit of maneuvering of his own, unveiling a lengthy list of things that his caucus will aim for should they recapture the majority in the House. It's smart politics, but unlikely to matter much in the end, since the Republicans do not control the House now, nor are they likely to after the election. Further, even when the GOP controlled both chambers of Congress, it is not like they passed a long list of legislation (unless you count renaming post offices).

Of much more interest is the proposal put forward by a group of 50 centrist House Democrats and Republicans who call themselves the "Problem Solvers." Their plan tries to strike a middle course between the Democratic and Republican proposals, allotting $1.5 trillion for another round of $1,200 checks, $450-$600/week in extended unemployment benefits, $100 billion for COVID-19 testing, and $500 billion for states and cities. Thus far, leadership on both sides of the aisle is saying "not bad, but no thanks." However, you never know which way the political winds will blow.

Things are a little quieter on the Senate side, though Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) did warn on Tuesday that the Trump tax cuts of 2017 may have to remain in place for the foreseeable future. He's been around the block a few times, enough to know that a threat to raise taxes is not usually a winning electoral proposition, while actually raising taxes is not usually a great idea in the middle of a recession. Some progressive Democrats howled at the news, but they'll have to live with it for now.

The one member of Congressional leadership who had very little to say on Tuesday was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). He'll have to be careful; if he continues to do nothing while all of his colleagues are at least doing something, then voters might conclude he's not really interested in addressing the pandemic, and that just maybe he's the fly in the ointment that's keeping something from getting done. (Z)

Poll: Maybe America Is Less Divided Than it Seems

Harvard University's Carr Center for Human Rights and Institute of Politics has a very interesting new poll out, addressing exactly how divided America really is. They produced two major findings. The first is that more than 70% of Americans (including 74% of Democrats and 78% of Republicans) think that the people of the United States have more in common than it seems. The second is that the vast majority of people take an expansive view of "rights" that goes far beyond those spelled out in the Constitution. That includes, among other things, a belief in the right to clean air and water (93% support), to data privacy (also 93%), to a quality education (92%), to equal treatment regardless of race (92%), and to affordable health care (89%).

Clearly, it is much easier to find agreement when speaking in abstract terms. For example, there is undoubtedly much variety of opinion about exactly what "equal treatment regardless of race" actually means. Still, the idea that "rights" go beyond what is laid out in black and white in the Constitution is more a Democratic position than a Republican one. Further, the fact that a large majority of respondents envisions a more unified America, and believes that it can (and, to an extent, already does) exist, suggests on some level that people are weary of the divisiveness of the last decade or so. If so, then that will give the presidential candidate who can successfully sell themselves as a unifier and not a divider a leg up on November 3. Both major-party candidates are trying to make that argument about themselves but, from where we sit, one has a much better case than the other.

As has been reported many, many times, there are tens of millions of voters who say: "Why can't the parties work together?" The answer is that they want contradictory things. How about that right to clean air and water? Suppose a potential Biden administration wanted to spend $200 billion to clean up the nation's air and water and wanted to pay for it by raising taxes on the rich. We can guarantee you that the Republicans will howl. It's not that they are against clean air and water. It's just that they are against the taxes needed to pay for it. What about affordable health care? Republicans want to keep the current system of private, profit-making insurance companies in place. It is to the insurance companies' advantage to deny as much coverage as they can get away with and have as many co-payments and deductibles as is feasible. Democrats are moving toward the government as insurance company, whether via a public option to Medicare or M4A. Private insurance and government insurance are not compatible, except maybe for minor extras not covered by a government plan. The voters don't understand this, but the leaders of both parties certainly do. (Z)

About that "Blue" Puerto Rico

If the Democrats retake the Senate, there are many assumptions out there about what will happen next, among them:

  1. They will kill the filibuster.
  2. Then they will admit Washington, D.C. as a state.
  3. Washington will elect two Democratic senators.
  4. That will probably lead to the admission of Puerto Rico as a state, soon after.
  5. Puerto Rico will elect two Democratic senators.

Politico has an item pushing back on #5 on that list (should the first four come to pass), and arguing that—at very least—Puerto Rico is no slam dunk to be a blue state.

It is true that Latinos in general, and that Puerto Ricans who relocate to the U.S. in particular, skew Democratic. However, the most common party identification among Puerto Rican-American voters is "unaffiliated/independent." Overall, 42% identify that way, as compared to 38% who identify as Democrats, and 20% who identify as Republicans. This reflects the politics of Puerto Rico itself, where the two main parties, the New Progressive Party and the Popular Democratic Party, don't cleanly line up with the Republicans and the Democrats. Further, the more conservative of those two parties (the New Progressive Party) has dominated elections in the commonwealth in recent years.

There is also much in common between the worldview of the Republican Party (at least, before Donald Trump) and that of Puerto Ricans: emphasis on hard work, family values, Christianity, etc. The thing that has kept many Latino groups out of the GOP tent is the Party's harsh stance on immigration. However, that is an issue that is less salient to Puerto Ricans than it is to, say, Mexicans or Venezuelans, since it doesn't affect them directly. In that way, the Latino subgroup that Puerto Ricans have the most in common with is actually Cubans. Cubans, of course, are reliably Republican.

This is all just guesswork, of course, until such time that Puerto Ricans are granted statehood and start to vote. It's possible that Democratic leadership, taking the lay of the land, may decide to put the brakes on statehood. It's also possible that Republicans, taking their own lay of the land, insist on Puerto Rican statehood as a counterbalance to D.C. statehood (in the same way that conservative-leaning Alaska and liberal-leaning Hawaii were admitted nearly concurrently). Whatever happens, Democrats who are counting on an easy four additional blue-state senators would do well to review the old line about counting your chickens. (Z)

About that "Blue" Minnesota

Customarily, Minnesota skews a little more Democratic than its upper Midwestern neighbors, Wisconsin and Michigan. And yet, there have been several polls that have the Gopher State surprisingly close, perhaps even more so than its neighbors to the east. Truth be told, those polls are likely outliers. Still, it's worth taking a look at the dynamics in Minnesota since, after all, knowing is half the battle.

The Washington Post is doing a "put the swing states under a microscope" series right now, and Minnesota is the latest entry, so that's a good jumping off point. They chop the state into five sections: Twin Cities, Twin Burbs, Iron Range, Greater Minnesota, and Southeast. Here's how the vote broke down, by region, in 2016:

Region Clinton votes Trump votes
Twin Cities 606,881 262,771
Twin Burbs 303,094 326,644
Iron Range 96,679 101,186
Greater Minnesota 212,468 433,639
Southeast 148,412 199,140
Total 1,367,534 1,323,380

As you can see, Trump won every region of the state except the Twin Cities, but the Democrats' urban dominance was enough to carry the day (as is the case in many states). Still, Clinton won by only 44,154 votes, which is as close as Minnesota has been since 1984, when Ronald Reagan lost the state to native son Walter Mondale by just 3,761 votes.

In view of this, not to mention the fact that Minnesota is chock full of noncollege white men, it is clear why Team Trump is so tempted to take a shot at the state. Besides Nevada, it's the only Clinton state that the Republicans could plausibly flip in 2020. And to that end, the Trump campaign has spent significant resources in the Iron Range, trying to flip votes there. You might think that the focus should be Greater Minnesota, given the larger number of people and Trump's greater success there, but that part of the state is pretty well set. It's like trying to find more Republican votes in Oklahoma. The Iron Range, by contrast, is home to a lot of longtime union-member Democrats who are wavering on the Party, and might be amenable to looking elsewhere for their electoral needs.

While the thinking of Team Trump is clear, and is probably sound, it should also be obvious they are fighting an uphill battle. The tally in 2016 was close but no cigar, and Minnesota has only gone red one time in the last 60 years (in 1972). Further, it's going to be very hard for Trump to pick up 45,000 or so votes in a region where only 200,000 people voted four years ago. And that is before we talk about the fact that the President is bleeding support in the Twin Burbs, and so has to make up those votes, too. Add it up, and it makes sense that a pollster could have the state pretty close, depending on who answers their phones and who does not. However, it's also clear that the chance of Minnesota actually flipping is very, very small. (Z)

Scientific American Announces Its Presidential Endorsement

Perhaps you do not recall which presidential candidates the long-running publication Scientific American has backed in the past. That is because, since the day they commenced publication on August 28, 1845, the magazine never felt the need to get involved in politics. Every president and presidential candidate was sufficiently pro-science enough for the editorial staff's tastes, and so they remained above the fray.

Not anymore, though. Yesterday, the magazine published a blistering "endorsement" of Joe Biden that, in the end, is really more of an anti-endorsement of Donald Trump. It begins:

Scientific American has never endorsed a presidential candidate in its 175-year history. This year we are compelled to do so. We do not do this lightly.

The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people—because he rejects evidence and science. The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cost more than 190,000 Americans their lives by the middle of September. He has also attacked environmental protections, medical care, and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges. That is why we urge you to vote for Joe Biden, who is offering fact-based plans to protect our health, our economy and the environment. These and other proposals he has put forth can set the country back on course for a safer, more prosperous and more equitable future.

The rest of the piece is not any more flattering to the President.

We cannot imagine that this piece, in and of itself, is going to change any minds. Someone who is pro-science enough to subscribe to Scientific American surely made their decisions about whether or not they can tolerate Donald Trump's anti-science posture long ago. That said, "Donald Trump is anti-science" is a message that might reach some of the small number of undecided voters, and that the Democrats have not particularly focused upon. Perhaps the editorial will cause them to rethink that choice. Meanwhile, we look forward to learning who The American Philatelist, Cigar Aficionado, Better Homes and Gardens, Civil War Times Illustrated, Wine Spectator, Arizona Highways, Architectural Digest, and especially Playboy will be endorsing this year. (Z)

Today's Presidential Polls

As noted above, we don't think Minnesota is actually as close as Morning Consult has it, and we think Langer Research is more on the mark. Meanwhile, as per usual, Joe Biden is outperforming Hillary Clinton in pretty much all the swing states. (Z)

State Biden Trump Start End Pollster
Florida 50% 45% Sep 10 Sep 13 Monmouth U.
Florida 50% 50% Sep 11 Sep 12 Florida Atlantic U.
Georgia 52% 46% Aug 20 Aug 30 HarrisX
Minnesota 57% 41% Sep 08 Sep 13 Langer Research
Minnesota 48% 44% Sep 04 Sep 13 Morning Consult
North Carolina 49% 46% Sep 09 Sep 13 SSRS
Virginia 53% 39% Aug 28 Sep 07 Virginia Commonwealth U.
Wisconsin 52% 42% Sep 09 Sep 13 SSRS
Wisconsin 52% 46% Sep 08 Sep 13 Langer Research

Today's Senate Polls

After a bad poll yesterday, Thom Tillis has a bounceback today. That said, he only leads in about one poll in twelve, and North Carolina is far more expensive to campaign in than, say, Iowa or Montana or Maine. At very least, he's gotta be on life support with the NRSC, and that's if they haven't already told him he's on his own. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Georgia Jon Ossoff 40% David Perdue* 47% Aug 20 Aug 30 HarrisX
North Carolina Cal Cunningham 47% Thom Tillis* 46% Sep 09 Sep 13 SSRS
Virginia Mark Warner* 55% Daniel Gade 38% Aug 28 Sep 07 Virginia Commonwealth U.

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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