• RBG Replacement Moves Forward at Breakneck Speed
• Government Shutdown Can Kicked to December
• Topics for First Presidential Debate Revealed
• Bloomberg Raises $16 Million to Pay Florida Felons' Fines
• You Keep a Knockin', but You Can't Come In
• Today's "Barely News" News
• Today's Presidential Polls
• Today's Senate Polls
If you believe Worldometers, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 passed 200,000 late last week. And now, the toll has surpassed 200,000 in all the major counters, with Johns Hopkins bringing up the rear on Tuesday.
Here's an updated version of our "for context" chart:
As expected, COVID-19 is set to finish 2020 as the third-leading cause of death in the United States, behind only heart disease and cancer. In terms of historical events, the pandemic is not likely to catch World War II this year, but sometime next year is probable if the death toll continues at 1,000/day. At the current rate, we will hit the WW II death toll around May 2021. Even if a vaccine is approved this year, it is not likely that it will be widely deployed by April. Of course, WWII was four years long (for the United States, at least), while COVID-19 is set to claim 400,000 dead in about a year.
We've had a few folks write in to suggest we break out the totals for WWII and the Civil War by year, but those stats aren't available and aren't really compilable. It's plausible to figure out how many soldiers did not survive a particular war, at least for 20th century wars. However, assigning each death to a particular year is not so easy, since soldiers often disappear and are eventually declared (or proven) dead. How do you know for sure when a pilot whose plane was shot down, or a POW who never returned, or a soldier who disappeared in the jungle and whose remains were found three years later, actually died? Further, what do you do with a soldier who was mortally wounded on, say, Dec. 20 but did not succumb until Jan. 5? That said, there is no question that 378,000+ would exceed the number of American lives claimed in any single year of any war, should IHME's latest projection come to pass. It is also the case that COVID-19 has claimed more American lives than the United States' last five wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, Persian Gulf, Vietnam, and Korea) combined.
Donald Trump, of course, continues to sing his own praises when it comes to the handling of the pandemic. Speaking to Fox News on Monday, he said: "We've done a phenomenal job. Not just a good job, a phenomenal job. Other than public relations, but that's because I have fake news. On public relations, I give myself a D. On the job itself, we take an A+. A phenomenal job. A+." Trump has thrice before given himself an A+, and has also awarded himself a 10/10, so at least he's consistent. One wonders what it would have looked like if he'd pulled a gentleman's C, as he did in college.
Naturally, nobody takes seriously Trump's self-grading, except for the true believers. Ultimately, the only real hope Trump has (since we all know a vaccine isn't coming) is to distract attention from COVID-19. At the moment, the Supreme Court soap opera ("As the Docket Turns"? "The Old and the Restless"? "Three Days a Week of Our Lives"?) is doing a pretty good job of that, but we doubt that lasts. A story can dominate the news for only so long and, by all indications, the Republicans are looking to get this thing done well before the election (see below). The pandemic is also going to come up at the first debate for sure (see further below) and probably at all the debates. And there's a chance of a COVID-19 surge in fall, as people spend more time indoors, and as some are weakened by having the flu. Which reminds us: Find a place to get a flu shot, and take care of business if you haven't already! (Z)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the Supreme Court isn't even cold, and yet Republicans from Donald Trump on down are in turbo mode as they try to get her replaced. On Tuesday, the President announced (via Twitter, naturally) that he will make his pick on Saturday. Apparently, the list is already pared down to five (current age and undergrad school/law school in parentheses):
- Amy Coney Barrett (48; Rhodes College/Notre Dame): The odds-on favorite, she's a devout
conservative Catholic and something of an Antonin Scalia clone, which makes sense because she clerked for him and
considered him to be her mentor. Her judicial career commenced in November 2017, when she was appointed to the
United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit by Trump.
- Barbara Lagoa (52; FIU/Columbia): She'd be the first Cuban-American on the Supreme Court
which is, in the end, her main selling point. While her state-level judicial experience is pretty extensive (13 years),
her federal experience is not (9 months). Because of that, she's not really been involved in any abortion-related cases,
but given that she's also a devout conservative Catholic, one can probably make a pretty good guess as to her views. She
also shares Chief Justice John Roberts' enthusiasm for limiting voting rights, and has
been open about her view
that there is no constitutional problem with poll taxes. Maybe she never got around to finishing the document, and so didn't see the
which specifically forbids poll taxes. In her view, as long as the tax for voting is not called a poll tax, it is fine.
For example, if a state required a voter to show a "certificate of eligibility to vote" and charged $100 for these
certificates, that would be OK with her.
- Joan Larsen (51; Northern Iowa/Northwestern): She spent 2 years on the Michigan Supreme
Court and has served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit for the last 2 years. Larsen also
clerked for Scalia, spent about a year as part of the George W. Bush administration, and has been professor of law at
the University of Michigan. Her political views are not well known but, as a Scalia fan and longtime Federalist Society
member, can be inferred. That said, Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters (D-MI) planned to block her nomination
to the federal bench back when blue slips were still a thing. She met with them personally, convinced both to withdraw
their objections, and actually got both to vote for her confirmation. That is at least slight evidence that Larsen might
not be as extreme as some of the other candidates on Trump's list.
- Allison Jones Rushing (38; Wake Forest/Duke): She is closely associated with the Alliance
Defending Freedom (ADF), having interned with them as a law student and then having worked frequently with them after
graduating. ADF describes itself as committed to "religious freedom, sanctity of life, and marriage and family." In
other words, Rushing is the most evangelical and the youngest of all the finalists. That said, she only commenced her
career as a judge in March of last year. She will have an advocate in Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch,
however, whom she once clerked for.
- Kate "Harriet Miers" Todd (45; Cornell/Harvard): She is currently serving as deputy assistant and deputy counsel to the president, and has zero experience as a judge at any level.
Reportedly, the battle among people who have some influence over the president is between Barrett and Lagoa. The former faction says that Trump owes a debt to movement conservatives who drove his rise to power and sustained him for four years, the latter faction says that the President should be laser-focused on getting reelected, and Lagoa, a Latina from Florida, helps more with that than Barrett. Reportedly, Trump has cooled on Lagoa, and is leaning heavily toward Barrett. Of course, given how mercurial he is, take that with a grain of salt. You can't really be sure what his decision will be until he tweets it out on Saturday.
Meanwhile, as Trump is busy handling his part of the process, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has taken care of his. He has reportedly rounded up every Republican vote in his chamber except those of Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), an accomplishment that became all-but-official when Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) announced on Tuesday that he would support the President's nominee. Romney tries to frame himself as a model for the post-Trump Republican Party, and approximately 5% of the time, he acts in a manner consistent with that. The other 95% of the time, however, he's a loyal Trump foot soldier. Explaining his decision, the Senator said:
My liberal friends have over many decades gotten very used to the idea of having a liberal court, but that's not written in the stars. [It is] appropriate for a nation that is ... center-right to have a court which reflects center-right points of view.
Romney squeezed so much intellectual dishonesty into a few dozen words here that he might as well be Trump. To start, the Supreme Court has not had a liberal slant since Earl Warren stepped down in 1969. That's 51 years ago; there is no liberal under the age of 85 today that could plausibly be "very used" to a liberal Supreme Court. Beyond that, the fact that the Republicans have won the popular vote in one of the last seven presidential elections makes clear that the U.S. is not a center-right nation (or a right-leaning nation of any stripe, unless we're speaking in comparison to Canada/Europe). Indeed, neither of 2016's presidential candidates were center-right, since one was center/center-left and the other was far-right/populist. That actually suggests that the center-right is a decided minority in the United States, not a majority. And finally, arguing for a Court that reflects a certain political outlook runs entirely contrary to Republican rhetoric—often echoed by Romney—that judges should call balls and strikes, and should not "legislate from the bench."
As to the Democrats, there is no indication that they have any tricks up their sleeves, or that they plan to attempt any of the maneuvers that we and others have discussed (like, for example, filing a lawsuit against McConnell for violating the "McConnell Rule"). Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has reached agreement on a spending deal with Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin (see below), and apparently made no attempt to use that bill as leverage in the SCOTUS fight. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has thus far contented himself with flaccid symbolic measures; on Tuesday he refused to get behind a Senate resolution honoring Ruth Bader Ginsburg unless it included her dying wish (i.e., "Don't replace me until next year."). The GOP caucus refused, and so the measure didn't pass. That'll certainly show 'em, Chuck!
In short, it looks like Ginsburg's replacement will take her seat within the month, with nearly all of the Senate's Republicans lining up behind Trump and McConnell, and all of the Senate's Democrats sitting and watching dejectedly.
Of course, Schumer and Pelosi know there is nothing they can do to stop the train and it may be to their advantage to just stay quiet. If the Democrats win all the marbles and in January start doing things the Republicans really don't like, such as packing the Court, killing the filibuster, enacting a tough new voting rights act, or even passing a law restricting what the Supreme Court can do, the Republicans will scream. Then Schumer and Pelosi will say: "Your appointment to the Court was legal and we didn't scream. Our new actions are legal, so please sit down and be quiet like we were." (Z)
Both parties have clearly decided that a government shutdown right before the election would be disastrous for them. And so, as noted above, Steven Mnuchin and Nancy Pelosi got together this week and hammered out a deal that will fund the government at current levels until Dec. 11. The deal was announced on Tuesday afternoon, and was passed by the House shortly thereafter. It is expected to clear the Senate and to receive a presidential signature by the end of the week.
In the end, both sides got a little bit of what they wanted. To wit, the Democrats got extensions on food and nutrition programs geared towards those who are in poverty, while the Republicans got some money for farmers affected by Donald Trump's trade wars. The real hot-button issues, like funding for the wall, were pushed to after the election. At that point, depending on the outcome of the election, those issues will be even hotter-button, or will be moot. Meanwhile, at least a few voters are surely going to wonder why the parties can get something like this done in roughly 24 hours, but can't seem to figure out any further pandemic funding. (Z)
The first presidential debate is less than a week away; the big event is next Tuesday and will be moderated by Fox News' Chris Wallace. Yesterday, Wallace and the team that is helping him to prep announced that the 90-minute affair would be broken into six 15-minute segments, each with a theme. Those themes will be: Trump's and Biden's records, the Supreme Court, the coronavirus pandemic, race and violence in cities, election integrity, and the economy.
There is an episode of the show "Cheers" where the sexually repressed postman barfly Cliff Clavin goes on "Jeopardy!" and gets the perfect board for him (Civil Servants, Stamps From Around the World, Mothers and Sons, Beer, Bar Trivia, and Celibacy). One might craft a list of debate topics for Donald Trump that would be similarly ideal (United Arab Emirates diplomacy, Bahrain diplomacy, Transferring of Israeli capitals, Kim Jong-Un photo ops, Killings of men named Qasem Soleimani, and F**k Obama?), but any realistic list is almost certainly going to leave the President on the defensive. Certainly, this list does. While Biden has soft spots in his record (e.g., Anita Hill), Trump has many more. The Supreme Court could be a wash, since Trump is not the one who came up with the McConnell Rule. And the other four topics are all real Achilles heels for the President.
David Gergen, who is the single-best commentator in CNN's stable, has just written a piece about his work helping Ronald Reagan to prepare for the 1980 presidential debates. And the three lessons he shares are that: (1) Preparation matters a lot; (2) However, you have to prepare smartly; and (3) Arrogant candidates set themselves up for a fall. Obviously, Donald Trump will not be heeding any of that advice; he's reportedly not prepping for the debates at all, and he will walk on to the debate stage like he's the cock of the walk.
The real question, then, is how well Joe Biden does in these three areas. He is already preparing, and he is not especially vain or arrogant, so numbers 1 and 3 are not too much a problem. It's the second bit of advice that's the real challenge for the Democratic nominee. In the examples that Gergen discusses (mostly involving Reagan, but also some involving other candidates, like Barack Obama), all of the debaters were playing by the same set of debate rules. Trump, of course, is not going to do that. He's going to lie, and gaslight, and huff and puff, and may even pull other stunts, like storming out of the debate. Since there's no historical analogue to that, Team Biden is going to be working without a net as they try to figure out how to proceed. Maybe he should come to the debate with a picture of Pinocchio and hold it up whenever Trump lies and hope that the camera points at him.
The good news for Biden is that, even if he doesn't stick his landing on Tuesday, he'll have two more chances. The lists of topics for the other two debates, as we just noted, are not likely to be more Trump-friendly than the list for the first debate. And, as Gergen points out, the three most lethal debate performances he's seen were all second debates (Reagan 1980, Reagan 1984, Obama 2012), in which the candidate learned from their errors in the first debate and adjusted their tactics accordingly. In other words, next week's debate is going to be big news, as well it should be, but don't sleep on the second debate, set for Oct. 15. (Z)
Florida Felons' Fines. Say that 10 times fast. In any case, billionaire and former New York mayor/Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg appears to be making good on his promise to help drag Florida into the Democratic column. According to multiple news reports on Tuesday, he leaned on his friends and scraped together $16 million to discharge the outstanding fines levied against 32,000 Florida felons, thus restoring their right to vote.
Surely the first question everyone had upon reading that headline was: Why does Bloomberg need to raise $16 million? Yes, it's easy to casually spend $16 million when it's not your $16 million, but for Bloomberg that represents approximately .003% of his $54.9 billion net worth. We would think he'd write a check just to avoid the hassle of a bunch of phone calls, or power lunches, or whatever he did to get that $16 million together. In any event, the 32,000 folks that Bloomberg and friends assisted are almost exclusively Black and Latino voters who specifically petitioned to get their right to vote back. Given the partisan slant of those demographics and the interest of these specific folks in voting, it seems fair to guess that will add a net of 10-14,000 votes to the Democratic column in a state that was decided in 2016 by 112,911 votes and that was decided in 2000 by 537 votes. (Z)
This weekend, we answered a question about the decision of the Trump campaign to do lots of door-knocking, and the decision of the Biden campaign to forgo that generations-old tactic in the time of a pandemic. We guessed that Biden would not be hurt by that choice for two reasons: (1) Opinions for and against Trump are so baked in that there are few persuadable voters out there to be persuaded, and (2) People may not be happy about in-person interactions that could plausibly cause them to contract COVID-19.
A new poll from Politico/Morning Consult confirms our second supposition. It reveals that even under normal circumstances, more people dislike door-knockers (47%) than are ok with them (42%). And with the pandemic in full effect, 63% would prefer the door-knockers stay away, as compared to just 28% who are comfortable talking to them. That's more than a 2-to-1 advantage in favor of the Biden approach, and is yet another indication that Biden 2020 is evidence-driven while Trump 2020 is running more on gut feel. (Z)
We might not have run the above item, which is kinda "inside baseball," if not for the fact that we got a door-knocking question this weekend. Well, that and it gave us an opportunity to use a Little Richard lyric as the headline, which is always a bonus. But now we move on to two items that are even more debatable, because we're not 100% sure that they are even news. Maybe, maybe not.
The first is that Cindy McCain, widow of former Senator John McCain, has come out and endorsed Joe Biden. Under normal circumstances, "widow of recent Republican nominee endorses Democratic nominee" probably would be pretty big news, and it was certainly treated as such by many outlets (it was the lead story on Politico for several hours, for example). However, nobody can seriously think that McCain would vote for the man who repeatedly insulted her husband, both in life and in death. Further, she appeared in a pro-Biden video during the DNC. That's why we're not sure this is actually news. But we pass it along, in case it is.
The second borderline news item is that Kanye West has just hired longtime shady GOP operative Nathan Sproul to help with the West 2020 campaign. Again, this was treated as big news by many outlets because it's "proof" that West is doing some ratfu**ing on behalf of Donald Trump and the Republican ticket. But didn't we already know that? After all, West is best buds with the Donald, and met with Jared Kushner in the White House just over a month ago. Further, as we pointed out just last week, West is only on the ballot in two states (Minnesota and Iowa) that could even plausibly be described as swing states. He and Sproul can ratfu** to their hearts' content, and they are still unlikely to affect the election. Once again, though, we pass it along, just in case it's newsier than we think. (Z)
Just in case you were wondering if Donald Trump has a shot in deep-blue Vermont or deep-blue Washington, it turns out...he doesn't. Meanwhile, Michigan is slipping away from the President, and far too many of his must-have states remain on the "coin flip" list. (Z)
|Georgia||47%||47%||Sep 11||Sep 20||U. of Georgia|
|Iowa||47%||47%||Sep 14||Sep 17||Selzer|
|Michigan||46%||41%||Sep 14||Sep 19||Marketing Resource Grp.|
|Michigan||49%||44%||Sep 11||Sep 16||Ipsos|
|North Carolina||47%||47%||Sep 11||Sep 16||Ipsos|
|South Carolina||44%||50%||Sep 11||Sep 20||Morning Consult|
|Vermont||56%||32%||Sep 03||Sep 15||Braun Research|
|Washington||58%||36%||Sep 08||Sep 14||Strategies 360|
Now we know that "credibly accused child-molester" is much worse to Alabamians than "carpetbagger" and "white-collar scam artist." That is how it should be, so good for the Yellowhammer State. Meanwhile, those races in Georgia and South Carolina are getting very interesting, indeed. Graham was up by 17 when Harrison entered the South Carolina race, and now we have three polls in a row that have it as a statistical tie (and two of those had it as an actual tie). Perdue, meanwhile, had a pretty steady 5-7 point lead in Georgia, but just about every recent poll has it as a coin flip (or close to it). (Z)
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||Start||End||Pollster|
|Alabama||Doug Jones*||34%||Tommy Tuberville||52%||Sep 11||Sep 20||Morning Consult|
|Arizona||Mark Kelly||49%||Martha McSally*||40%||Sep 11||Sep 20||Morning Consult|
|Colorado||John Hickenlooper||49%||Cory Gardner*||42%||Sep 11||Sep 20||Morning Consult|
|Georgia||Jon Ossoff||44%||David Perdue*||43%||Sep 11||Sep 20||Morning Consult|
|Georgia||Jon Ossoff||45%||David Perdue*||47%||Sep 11||Sep 20||U. of Georgia|
|Kentucky||Amy McGrath||37%||Mitch McConnell*||52%||Sep 11||Sep 20||Morning Consult|
|Michigan||Gary Peters*||42%||John James||40%||Sep 14||Sep 19||Marketing Resource Grp.|
|Michigan||Gary Peters*||47%||John James||40%||Sep 11||Sep 20||Morning Consult|
|Michigan||Gary Peters*||49%||John James||43%||Sep 11||Sep 16||Ipsos|
|North Carolina||Cal Cunningham||44%||Thom Tillis*||38%||Sep 17||Sep 20||Harper Polling|
|North Carolina||Cal Cunningham||47%||Thom Tillis*||38%||Sep 11||Sep 20||Morning Consult|
|North Carolina||Cal Cunningham||48%||Thom Tillis*||44%||Sep 11||Sep 16||Ipsos|
|South Carolina||Jaime Harrison||45%||Lindsey Graham*||46%||Sep 11||Sep 20||Morning Consult|
|Texas||Mary "MJ" Hegar||39%||John Cornyn*||45%||Sep 11||Sep 20||Morning Consult|
* Denotes incumbent
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep22 Another Day, Another Adverse Ruling for the Trump Administration
Sep22 How Low Will Barr Go?
Sep22 Trump Gone Wild
Sep22 Do You Believe in Magic?
Sep22 Biden Is Rolling in Cash
Sep22 Today's Presidential Polls
Sep22 Today's Senate Polls
Sep21 Some Thoughts on the Supreme Court Vacancy
Sep21 More Thoughts on the Supreme Court Vacancy
Sep21 Poll: New President Should Pick Ginsburg's Successor
Sep21 Collins: New President Should Nominate Ginsburg's Successor
Sep21 Biden Has a Plan to Deal with RBG's Death
Sep21 Michigan Judge Rules that Late Ballots Must Be Counted
Sep21 Democratic Donations Are Skyrocketing
Sep21 Poll: Biden Has a Big Lead among Latinos
Sep21 Four More States Begin Voting This Week
Sep21 Democrats Are Eyeing the Texas and North Carolina State Legislatures
Sep21 Trump's Lawyers: Census Doesn't Have to Be Accurate
Sep21 Today's Presidential Polls
Sep21 Today's Senate Polls
Sep20 Sunday Mailbag
Sep20 Today's Presidential Polls
Sep20 Today's Senate Polls
Sep19 Ruth Bader Ginsburg Passes Away
Sep19 Saturday Q&A
Sep19 Today's Presidential Polls
Sep19 Today's Senate Polls
Sep18 Biden Has His Town Hall
Sep18 Another Sexual Assault Claim Lodged Against Trump
Sep18 So, What's the Deal with Bill Barr?
Sep18 Federal Judges Aren't Playing Ball with Trump...
Sep18 ...Nor, for that Matter, Is Olivia Troye
Sep18 Tea Leaves Appear to Have Some Good News for Biden
Sep18 Not a Great Year for Third-Party Presidential Candidates
Sep18 Lindsey Graham Backs Lindsey Graham into a Corner
Sep18 Trump Gets His Big Ten Football
Sep18 COVID-19 Diaries: Brace for a Long, Drawn-Out Fight
Sep18 Today's Presidential Polls
Sep18 Today's Senate Polls
Sep17 A Fire Hose of Lying
Sep17 Trump Surprises Republicans with a Call for a Stimulus Package
Sep17 Trump's Fate Could Be in DeSantis' Hands
Sep17 Adelson Will Spend Up to $50 Million to Help Trump
Sep17 Biden Undercut Years of Trump's Courting of Indian-Americans with One Decision
Sep17 The Mail Really Is Slow
Sep17 Cunningham and Tillis Joust over Vaccine
Sep17 Ohio Board Rejects Sending Postage-Paid Envelopes with Absentee Ballots
Sep17 Alaska Changes the Ballot to Hurt Independents
Sep17 How to Fix a Broken Democracy