Biden 323
image description
Ties 35
Trump 180
image description
Click for Senate
Dem 51
image description
Ties 2
GOP 47
image description
  • Strongly Dem (206)
  • Likely Dem (69)
  • Barely Dem (48)
  • Exactly tied (35)
  • Barely GOP (60)
  • Likely GOP (42)
  • Strongly GOP (78)
270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2016 2012 2008
New polls: MN
Dem pickups vs. 2016: AZ MI NC OH PA WI
GOP pickups vs. 2016: (None)
Political Wire logo Another Judge Bars Postal Service Delivery Cuts
Quote of the Day
How Trump Is Preparing for the Debates
Trump Still on Defense with 5 Weeks to Go
Brad Parscale Hospitalized After Suicide Attempt
Key Takeaways from Trump’s Leaked Tax Records

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Sunday Mailbag
      •  Today's Presidential Polls

Sunday Mailbag

Donald Trump made his pick of Amy Coney Barrett official on Saturday, so starting with that subject seems apropos.

Replacing RBG

F.S. in Cologne, Germany, writes: My thoughts about the Supreme Court vacancy:

  1. Joe Biden's strategy of appealing to Republican Senators so that they won't confirm a Justice until the inauguration of the new president apparently didn't work, since Republicans probably will vote on Trump's nominee prior to the election. So Biden should say prior to the election if he wants to expand the court or if he wants to reduce the power of the court. Otherwise, the future court with its 6-3 conservative majority will rule many laws that a Democratic Congress passes during a Biden presidency unconstitutional. Probably even a new Voting Rights Act would be (at least partially) struck down since the Supreme Court also struck down parts of the old Voting Rights Act. In my opinion, voters deserve to know Biden's plans regarding the Supreme Court prior to the election.

  2. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) didn't vote for Brett Kavanaugh and apparently doesn't want to confirm Trump's nominee this time. So I can't imagine how she can win the Republican primary for the next Senate election in Alaska in 2022. She should think about switching parties after November 3. This would be a smart move, in my view.

  3. On Monday, you mentioned a survey in which 30% of adults said they were more likely to support Joe Biden as a result of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death and 25% were more likely to support Trump. But other surveys show that approximately 90 percent of voters are absolutely sure whom they will vote for. So most of the voters who now say they are more likely to support either candidate probably aren't telling the truth. I guess what they mean is that they are more motivated to support either Joe Biden or Donald Trump and not "more likely." More interesting to me would be if there are some people who previously didn't plan to vote are now planning to vote and whom they will vote for. But that's probably hard to poll. Undoubtedly there aren't many voters who previously wanted to vote for Trump and are now planning to vote for Biden or vice versa because of her passing.

A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: I fear that the bar for a Supreme Court Justice has been set so low that anyone who hasn't been credibly accused of sexual assault and who doesn't proclaim her love of beer during a Senate hearing will seem saintly by comparison and will sail through the confirmation process.

I just hope that the Democratic Senators will at the very least educate the public about the proper role of a Justice of the Supreme Court and the threat Donald Trump's nominee poses to our democracy. And it is not about her faith. It is about what she believes her faith commands her to do. She believes "a legal career is but a means to an end...and that end is building the Kingdom of God." That statement should terrify every American who is paying attention and who understands what a democracy is and what it isn't. Senate Democrats need to be very vocal about what it would mean to have her on the Court. Not only would she vote to strike down the ACA as unconstitutional, she would do so for every piece of legislation or precedent that she believes doesn't advance her goal of "building the Kingdom of God." And no one will know what she considers to be advancing that goal. But we do know that her decisions will not be based on the law or the U.S. Constitution.

Even with this low bar, she is patently unqualified and unfit to serve as a Justice on the Supreme Court. And even if Senate Democrats can't stop her, they need to make sure every American knows it and knows the consequences of her confirmation.

D.G. in New York, New York, writes: Certainly the folks at the Supreme Court can read or listen to the news, and every day they hear more and more bizarre stuff coming from the current administration. They also hear remedies coming from the Democrats and the left such as adding justices, getting rid of most judicial review, reducing the time justices serve and other mitigations you have mentioned in your question responses and daily analysis.

I would think that they would have to tread lightly or feel the wrath that can significantly change the status quo and put an end to 40-plus years of effort by the conservative movement.

S.S. in West Hollywood, CA, writes: I'm angry and I'm tired and I'm sick of Republicans playing to win, regardless of how corrupt or illegal, while Democrats stay reasonable and get walked all over.

The stunning hypocrisy of Republicans and Donald Trump falling all over themselves to fill RBG's seat was never in question. Anyone paying attention the last 12 years knew that was going to happen. The only question was what were the Democrats going to do about it?

I fear they will do what they always do when pushed to the corner, nothing. No political maneuvering to run out the clock. No lawsuits. No amendments to other Senate business forcing debate on each. No adding provisions to must-pass bills in the House limiting Republican judicial appointments. No self-righteous indignation for the press to shape public opinion.

Instead, once again, Republicans are all over the media justifying their hypocrisy while Democrats are mostly MIA. At best, we'll get another too-cute-for-words comment from Nancy and Chuck that does nothing and goes unnoticed. They're supposed to be the leaders of the opposition party and only the future of democracy is at stake. Act like it, please! (Or spend another 6 months handwringing over impeachment. Pathetic.)

Trump gets away with his lies and breaking the law and ignoring norms because Democrats let him. I think they think that just being in the right is enough. If they had instead fought back, calling Trump out for his lies and corruption loudly and visibly every day from day one, things would be very different today.

I'm working my ass off to make sure Biden is elected and Democrats take control of the Senate. The stakes for our democracy are too high for anything less. The day after that happens, I'm going to work just as hard to replace Nancy and Chuck with leaders who don't live in a bubble of self-fulfilling prophecies telling them all the things they can't do. I'm tired of it and the country deserves better. We've already suffered enough.

M.B. in Belfast, ME, writes: You forgot one more reason Mitch McConnell is ramming through the SCOTUS nominee before the election. Although the polls are somewhat mixed, he is facing a stiff challenge from Amy McGrath, and he would love to announce to his conservative Kentucky constituents that he got three SCOTUS judges appointed, one in record time, to win over their votes.

S.G. in Rochester, NY, writes: In my opinion, the best approach for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris over the next several weeks, given the sad passing of the Notorious RBG, is to hammer Trump for being so "weak" that he has to hurry along this judicial appointment—because he has nothing else to run on, has killed 200,000+ Americans with his mismanagement, is presiding over the worst job-loss presidency of modern times. They should call him "scared" that he's going to lose in November, making this his last chance to stack the Court. There is nothing that Trump hates more than being described as "weak" and "scared." I feel like this would give them a chance to seize control of the narrative in a way that will get under his skin and make him even more aggravated and prone to mistakes over the last few weeks of the campaign. It would also allow them to keep talking about COVID, American deaths, mismanagement, and the weak economy while arguing that the SCOTUS flap is nothing but an attempt to compensate for his rampant inadequacy (wink, wink).

V & Z respond: In other words, when he shook Amy Coney Barrett's hand after their interview, his hands were much smaller than hers?

P.L. in Castle Valley, UT, writes: I think the Democrats should emulate 42's effective use of playground language and tell the Republicans "You do what you have to do and we'll do what we have to do." Leave it at that, with nothing more specific, and they may think a bit more about the consequences of a vote before the next president takes office.

C.B. in South Bend, IN, writes: As I consider the rush of His Turtleness, Mitch McConnell, to confirm a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before her bench is even cold, I am not at all surprised. I think he (likely rightly) has reasoned that if the Republicans are going to lose the Senate, then they might as well do damage while they can and hope that it somehow gives them a boost in the November 3 election.

That said, I have somewhat resigned myself to the fact that there will, for a time, be a 6-3 majority for the conservative justices on SCOTUS. But I wonder if Clarence Thomas will then feel safe in retiring. If Biden wins and the Democrats claim control of the Senate, then maybe we can at least get back to the 5-4 conservative majority with Roberts as the "swing" vote.

In short, I believe the Biden campaign is taking the right tack in focusing on the potential impact of SCOTUS on healthcare, LGBTQ+ rights, DREAMERs, and things other than the abortion debate. If 2018 proved anything, it is that healthcare is a winning issue for the Democrats.

I sure hope that is a right reading of things.

J.G.P. in Glendale, AZ, writes: Some believe allowing President Trump and the Republican Senate to ram through a conservative Supreme Court Justice will energize the Republican electorate, easily reelecting "you know who." I have been looking for a silver lining. Certainly, there must be something good for the Democrats in all of this; and I think I found it.

A friend of mine, an LDS and Arizona voter, has been discussing the election with me for many months. He believed that he would have to hold his nose and vote for Trump again, stating that his conservative values require that he choose the Republican candidate. I have been arguing to my friend that he is a family man, holds strong personal values, and that Trump's behaviors do not deserve his vote. The Republicans' haste to choose and install a conservative Justice has changed all that for my friend. My friend told me today he will be casting his vote for Biden. He said the Supreme Court appointment gave him permission to do so. As a conservative, he said, installing a conservative justice was very important to him. Since that is now happening, and he believes the surviving justices are healthy enough so that another appointment would not be happening for at least a few more years, he can now vote for Biden with a clear conscience. I wonder if his type of thinking will catch on?

T.F. in Phoenix, AZ, writes: Regarding the latest polls of Arizona, there are a lot of members of The LDS Church in the state and they vote in great numbers. If there is one issue that would keep them from voting for Joe Biden it would be abortion. This is in spite of the fact that the Church advocates for a degree of abortion choice in its handbook and has expanded that choice. Most of its members don't read its handbook and just say they are against abortion, period. And a vast majority of its members don't watch much more than Fox News and spend a lot of time reading things like propaganda from The Daily Caller and Facebook. The combination of all of this, not to mention that the vast number of the Church's members in the U.S. are white, means they are nearly always removed from the consideration of the facts of abortion and the societal and medical complexities of it.

So, back to the Arizona polls. With RBG being equal to saying "baby killer" to many members of the Church (how ill-informed and wrong they are), her immediate replacement by Republicans reminds them that there is a reason they voted for Trump in 2016. And it gives a reminder of the fears of everything else they've been propagandized to for the last 25+ years (Tea Party anyone?), not to mention the last few months, and so based on fear and ignorance and confusion they will re-arm themselves and vote Republican. Trump and his cronies know this. The Republican data says this. And it's not just members of the Church, it's everyone else that is religious who falls into the same "belief" system. We've seen it among our friends who are members, and it's very tough to watch. (Quite isolating for us, also as members.) They spout off talking points from Don Jr. as though they were facts—and, in the past few months, they vomit out these points in long hateful multiple paragraphs, which makes relationships with them very difficult, often moving us to heavy boundary-setting. Our Church friends have become, over the last four years, incapable of critical thinking. They are literally a walking and talking basketful of whatever hits their alt-right Facebook feed. It's all incredible yet predictable. Sad. Maddening.

J.F. in Sloatsburg, NY, writes: Yesterday, and earlier this week, you brought up the idea of the McConnell Rule as precedent and whether the Democrats (or others, presumably) could sue over its breach. The reason that the Democrats aren't suing over the McConnell Rule now is the same reason that the Republicans didn't sue over the exact passage of the ACA, nor over the elimination of the filibuster for federal appointments in 2013: The Constitution gives each chamber the sole authority to sets its rules as it sees fit, so long as the basic requirements for legislation, treaties, veto overrides, impeachment/conviction, and appointments that are specifically set out in the Constitution are followed. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the Judiciary has virtually no power to force the House or Senate to follow particular rules, nor to enforce "customs" or "traditions" or rules that go beyond the Constitution's bare minimum requirements.

T.M. in Odessa, MO, writes: The big difference between a Senate vote and Trump's taxes is the nature of the relief being sought.

If the Democrats were to sue, they would need a court order granting a preliminary injunction. There is a specific legal test for an injunction (which includes likelihood of success) that the Democrats would be unlikely to meet (and thus the Supreme Court would quickly stay any preliminary injunction).

For Donald Trump, he is trying to block the enforcement of a subpoena. The parties who were served the subpoena are semi-supporting Trump by not complying with the subpoena until its validity is resolved. And in the case of the Manhattan DA, he has not tried to have the state courts compel compliance with the subpoena. If the Manhattan DA filed a motion to hold the subpoenaed parties in contempt, things might go differently.

I would also note that while Trump's claims are ultimately meritless, they are at least colorable. There are cases (for example, Nixon) recognizing that there is something of an executive privilege and cases recognizing some restriction on the ability to use legal proceedings against the President (for example, Clinton). While the general rules in both lines of cases do not support Trump, they do give him a basis for asking the court to review these subpoenas to say if they are valid under those rules.

On the other hand, the Constitution clearly permits a president to nominate people to fill vacancies—whether on courts or in the executive branch. And the Constitution allows the Senate to set its own rules of procedure (and to enforce those rules). So any challenge to proceeding with a Supreme Court nomination would clearly be a political question that the courts should not address. So any lawyer worth his or her salt would be telling the Democratic leadership that a lawsuit is unlikely to succeed in delaying the votes, may look bad politically, and could even lead to a court imposing sanctions for a "frivolous" lawsuit.

Other Legal Matters

D.S. in Silver Spring, MD, writes: I think we need to stop using the term "court packing." Yes, it is an evocative term, good for social media and partisan arguments. But embedded in its meaning is the concept of "dirty tricks." Thus, it would be deployed unfairly if the Democrats were to win power in November and attempt to increase the number of Supreme Court justices. Their "court packing" would be construed as unfair and unethical, even though Mitch McConnell and the GOP have been engaged in court packing for more than a generation, seeking to place partisans throughout the federal system and especially on the Supreme Court.

Instead, we should be talking about "court reform" or "rebalancing." Those are more neutral terms. Liberals and progressives must learn to not play on a rhetorical field designed by McConnell and the GOP. Second, we should understand that there are good reasons to expand and reform the Supreme Court that go beyond the current moment. Nation editor Elie Mystal has an excellent article from back in February about a large expansion of the Court to make it operate more like circuit courts.

He also talks about these ideas on the Nation podcast that came out this week. I think he makes a compelling case.

J.B. in Hutto, TX, writes: The sheer hypocrisy of the Republicans on the question of filling a Supreme Court vacancy in an election year makes me just as angry as the next person. But I do not support the idea of expanding the Supreme Court to eleven (or thirteen, or twenty-one) justices and packing it with left-leaning judges if the Democrats regain the White House and Senate in the upcoming election. If they do that, I would expect the Republicans to do exactly the same the next time they are in control of the White House and Senate. What I would favor instead is a constitutional amendment that reads as follows:

Amendment XXVIII

Section 1: The Supreme Court of the United States shall consist of one Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices, and no more.

Section 2: The President shall appoint judges of the Supreme Court, with the advice and consent of the caucus of the political party with the largest number seats in the Senate and the caucus of the political party with the second largest number of seats in the Senate.

In effect, this would require any nominee to the Supreme Court to have the support of both the Republicans and the Democrats in the Senate, ending the age of justices being divided into "conservative" and "liberal" wings and, I would like to think, inaugurating a new age of pragmatic justices focused on adhering to the Constitution and the law rather than being beholden to ideology of a particular political tribe. I recognize that the chance of this happening anytime in the foreseeable future is about as likely a Central Texas snowstorm in August, but a man can dream, right?

A.B. in Brussels, Belgium, writes: About the lifetimes appointments, it makes me think of the "Secrétaire perpétuel" of the Royal Academies (Sciences, Medicine and Language & litterature) here in Belgium. Until recently, it was really "perpetual"—until death or resignation. But now, there is a limit at their 75th birthday.

And for the Academy of Medicine, there are terms of 5 years (renewable) and at 75, they have to quit, at which point they become "honorary."

In France, they do believe they are Immortals... Hélène Carrère d'Encausse is 91...

G.H. in Chicago, IL, writes: I agree with S.C. of Caracas, Venezuela. Brown, Loving, and Roe were all examples of judicial review: finding a law in conflict with the Constitution is the very definition of "judicial review." (What's yours?)

The terms "judicial activism" and "judicial restraint" have to do with how liberal you are in your application of judicial review. Conservatives favor "judicial restraint," deferring to state law, and criticize liberals of "judicial activism" for inferring rights that aren't explicitly stated in the Constitution. That's what the debate over Roe has been all about. (I took prelims in Courts and Public Policy from Twiley W. Barker Jr. in 1993. If I'm wrong about this, he shouldn't have passed me.) Roberts' dissent in Obergefell was an example of "judicial restraint" when he stated "This is not a legislature."

It gets confusing when the conservatives and liberals switch roles, as they did in Bush v. Gore, with the liberals deferring to Florida while the conservatives applied the 14th Amendment in a way it had never been used, causing RBG to omit the customary "respectfully" in her concluding "I dissent." Marbury is a difficult case to teach because Chief Justice Marshall knew that President Jefferson would simply ignore a decision in favor of Marbury. He opined that although Marbury deserved his commission as a Justice of the Peace, the federal law by which he brought his case directly to the Supreme Court was unconstitutional. That, again, fits the definition of judicial review. He couldn't hear the case and therefore couldn't decide in Marbury's favor. Jefferson was angry, despite being on the winning side. He wanted Marshall to say that his administration didn't have to honor judicial appointments made by Adams after Adams lost the election of 1800.

V & Z respond: Generally, when speaking of the pros and cons of judicial review, the type of judicial review in question is the type created out of whole cloth by Marshall—judicial review of the actions of the other two branches of government. That is the meaning we applied in our answer to S.C., observing that none of the cases named in S.C.'s letter involved the Court going beyond the functions that the authors of the Constitution intended.

J.W. in Indianapolis, IN, writes: In this week's Q&A, G.Z. of San Francisco asked about the legality of abortion in blue states should Roe v. Wade be overturned. Your answer was that states would be able to determine their own abortion laws and that the practical effect would be to eliminate access for poor women in red states.

I agree with all of this, but I think you've overlooked a possibility which I first heard raised by Andrew Torrez of the "Opening Arguments" podcast. In the original Roe decision, Justice Harry Blackmun wrote, "If this suggestion of personhood is established, [Roe's] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment."

In other words, if fetuses are granted full constitutional protection, then abortion would immediately be illegal nationwide. If and when Barrett is confirmed, look for pro-life groups to make this play hard and fast. Maybe that will be a bridge too far, but with 6-3 conservative court, I wouldn't bet my life on it.

D.G. in Silver Spring, MD, writes: In your response to G.Z's query about the effects of a Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, you explained that such a ruling would not ban abortions completely in the United States. You wrote, "Since blue states (and probably purple states) would not exercise that prerogative, and since wealthy and middle class people in red states generally have the wherewithal to travel to a blue state when needed, the primary effect of this would be to compel poor women in red states to carry pregnancies that they do not want to term."

You did not mention, however, one of the most important aspects of the ruling. Before Roe, a poor woman might resort to what were called "back-alley" abortions which were dangerous and often put the life of the woman in danger. That could happen again in states which would completely outlaw abortions.

L.B. in Savannah, GA, writes: You are, of course, correct in that overturning Roe v. Wade would only give states that were so inclined the opportunity to ban abortion, leaving it legal elsewhere. As for poor women in red states being unable to travel to blue states for abortions, volunteer networks currently exist in some places where abortion clinics are few and far between to drive women to clinics who otherwise have no way to reach them. These networks could easily be expanded to transport women longer distances; there could even be a ridesharing app to allow volunteers to daisy-chain women across the country.

The problem is that, at least in my state of Georgia, the anti-abortion law the legislature passed after Brett Kavanaugh's appointment not only makes abortion after six weeks of pregnancy a capital offense, it also forbids women from Georgia from leaving the state to have abortions elsewhere. There's no guarantee that a draconian law like this won't be upheld by the new 6-3 Supreme Court. Our only hope is that the Catholics on the court—Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, and, very soon, Amy Coney Barrett—will place their assumed opposition to the death penalty over their opposition to abortion. Otherwise, the only options will be buying mifepristone over the Internet, or hoping that any woman (or doctor) accused under the new laws be the beneficiary of jury nullification.

D.R. in Massapequa Park, NY, writes: I, for one, have always bought into the notion that the GOP does not really want Roe v. Wade overturned. There is no other issue that brings the evangelicals to the polls like abortion. Yes, they have things like "Prayer in school" and "gay/trans rights" but abortion truly gives the fire in the belly. I know the faithful evangelicals want it overturned, but if it is overturned what else will bring those precious voters to the polls?

Many evangelicals are willing to overlook Donald Trump's (and to a degree Trumpism's) glaring faults because the possibility of overturning Roe is too great an opportunity to pass-up. I liken it to the whole "outlawing gay marriage" conversations in the mid 2000's. In 2004, the promise of a constitutional amendment gave Bush and the GOP a much needed push in the election which allowed Bush to win another term and the GOP to gain in the House and Senate. At the same time, many states specifically outlawed gay marriage in their states, regardless of if there is an amendment or not. In 2006, with the GOP in trouble, they tried to reintroduce the amendment to motivate these groups again. The amendment failed (as they knew it would) and since so many states outlawed gay marriage anyway, it wasn't a motivator.

Younger people are generally less religious than the older generations and in general favor abortion rights. Put in things like the environment, health care, taking care of the poor and other issues, without Roe as a wedge issue the GOP could be shut out for a generation.

The 2020 Election

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: You had an answer about the "XX% matches" that political campaigns use to motivate potential donors. You pointed out several good reasons to be skeptical of such pitches.

Commercial enterprises often use similar pitches: "Buy this overpriced package of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs and Ginormous Foods will donate $1 to Worthy Charity!*" At some point I decided to read the fine print on these promises and discovered that almost always, the promised donation is limited to some maximum amount, regardless of the amount of product the company actually sells. I concluded that it's extremely likely the maximum amount is routinely reached, so my buying the product would likely enrich Ginormous Foods and mean nothing to Worthy Charity. I'd rather buy a cheaper product, donate to Worthy Charity myself, and take the tax deduction myself, thank you very much.

With political contributions, there are probably other considerations, but it's hard to believe that a campaign would forgo huge money from Rich Donor just because Small Donor didn't whip out the checkbook. I suspect that often these "matches," if they exist at all, come from sources that are legally acceptable. For example, a party's presidential candidate could claim a "match" from spending by the party's National Committee, which of course has its own fundraising apparatus.

V & Z respond: Agreed. The key is that the implication that "but for your donation, we won't get this extra money" is a deliberately constructed falsehood.

D.C. in San Francisco, CA, writes: I think the Berkeley poll of California is a good reminder: even in the bluest state, more than a quarter of voters, or around 5 million people, support Donald Trump.

The only reason states end up as dark red or blue is because there's no proportional representation in this country. If there were, the red/blue dichotomy would disappear, and the whole country would look a lot more purple.

M.M. in Atlanta, GA, writes: With the Libertarian candidate polling as high as 5% in the Perdue-Ossoff Senate election, it seems quite plausible that both Georgia seats will go to runoffs. In this case we would not know the results until January 5.

With Raphael Warnock finally starting to campaign and advertise sincerely, he is showing signs of possibly making the runoff against the winner of the Loeffler-Collins mudslinging spat. Imagine if control of the Senate hangs in the balance and the two Georgia seats end up the deciding factor based on two January runoffs. We'll be treated to two more months of David Perdue explaining his deep and abiding commitment to healthcare, and—if Biden wins—poor Loeffler or Collins will have to figure out something else to campaign on besides how much they love Donald Trump. Warnock and Ossoff could find themselves buried in campaign contributions from across the country, but they would have to decide if "vote for us and Democrats will control the Senate" is actually a winning message in Georgia.

J.N. in Columbus, OH, writes: There's responding to people on the other side of the aisle and there's giving oxygen to trolls. It is obvious which is which in the letter you ran last week from L.B. in Phoenix, AZ, who suggested you change the name of the site to, and who accused Jill Biden of elder abuse.

That troll wrote that to inject their slime onto your site. If they write further, they will not argue in good or even mediocre faith. Is there no conservative that will not troll that you could have published instead?

V & Z respond: We get plenty of poison pen letters, and occasionally we run one as a reminder that those folks are out there. Further, the nakeddemocrats thing was too good to pass up. After all, there is a reason that even Shakespeare's tragedies always had a clown or a fool. We do have a number of readers who are conservative and quite reasonable, and we run their letters far more often than we run troll letters.

P.Z. in Great Falls, VA, writes: You've noted that U.S. forces suffered about 400,000 combat deaths in World War II and that about 200,000 Americans have already died from COVID-19. U.S. participation in the Second World War lasted 43 months (August 1945 was a short month); COVID has been a significant cause of death for 7 months.

So the rate at which Americans are dying from COVID-19 is three times the rate at which Americans were dying from German and Japanese bullets and bombs. This may account for my feeling like a resident of London during the blitz.

J.T. in Orlando, FL, writes: This morning, I was hastily tearing through my mail before rushing to work, and caught a glance of a statement for hundreds of dollars from Florida Blue, my health insurance company. Of course I assumed I somehow owed them money I wasn't aware of. After some skimming, I was shocked by a refund check for hundreds of dollars. The check was accompanied by a letter explaining that Florida Blue was required to pay me this money because less than 80% of premiums taken in were spent on benefits in 2019, and the Affordable Care Act required that Florida Blue "rebate" the difference. (I doubt a business would willingly send out a letter so unflattering to itself, so I have to assume the ACA not only mandates the letter, but also the two paragraphs of aggressive phrasing and math that basically spelled out "Obamacare gave you your money back that the greedy insurer tried to overcharge you.")

I also have to wonder whether the timing of the letter, coming in September, was also ACA-mandated. If so, is it really just considerate of health insurance accounting timelines, or did the Democrats time it for political benefit? If the latter is true, it worked. After I read the letter, the first thing I thought of was how excited I was to vote Democratic. I doubt I'm the only one. Florida Blue is, by itself, nearly the entire ACA presence in the state, and also a substantial share of the employer-group market. Maybe UnitedHealthcare, Humana, and others sent similar letters too. I can see these letters ginning up Dems and pushing some of the (half-dozen?) undecided voters still left.

S.K. in Chappaqua, NY, writes: As to swaying voters, (Z) accurately and perceptively noted months ago that it is part of human nature to err in thinking that others share one's own motivations, beliefs and values.

We liberals who favor Biden must admit that we err when the ads we pay for emphasize what is important to us. Democrats who flipped House seats proved in 2018 that the issue most likely to gain votes is healthcare. The voters whom we need now care most about the appointment of judges who share what they call "religious beliefs," and also maintaining the primacy of those who share their skin color. But if we can persuade them that Trump's war on the ACA might cost them the health insurance that keeps them and the people they love alive, that may trump (no pun intended) their religious and racial drives.

Ads that address other issues may effectively rally our "base," and that is valuable, but in the end they may provide too little bang for the buck.

J.R. in San Francisco, CA, writes: You wrote: "In fact, if we assume [Joe Biden] wins the one rogue Nebraska EV (and he leads in polling there by a fair margin)."

While I hope for a landslide (as the election officer prays), I would love for Joe to win exactly 270 EVs, with NE-2 providing the 270th vote and putting snotty coastal types to shame for looking down their noses at the Midwest.

M.A. in Reston, VA, writes: I VOTED. That is all.

V & Z respond: Excellent! The thoughts that should remain in the back of everyone's minds for the next month-plus: (1) I need to make sure I cast my ballot, and (2) Hundreds of thousands of ballots are being banked each day, which means that the race becomes less and less susceptible to "surprises" the more time goes by. Also, people who are healthy enough to vote in person early (possibly very early or late in the day when crowds will be much less), should do so to make the tally on the evening of Nov. 3 closer to the final result and prevent "surprises" when the final tally comes in.

A.W. in Jülich, Germany, writes: I know that many of your readers are overseas voters like myself, and I would like to share a bit of information with regards to mailing ballots.

Yesterday my partner received her Wisconsin ballot (I'm still waiting for mine). We noticed that the outer envelope had paid for international shipping ($2.24), but the return envelope was only prepaid for domestic $0.55. Because of the recent price changes that the U.S. charges for international mail, along with USPS shenanigans, she asked at Deutsche Post about the postage. Indeed, $0.55 was not enough, and she paid 3.70 EUR.

We do not recall the postage on our return envelopes from previous elections, but we have never added postage before, and our voting records indicate that our past ballots were received. I don't know whether this was a mistake, a change due to new policies, a subtle act of voter suppression, or the way that it's always been and the kind-hearted folks at Deutsche Post and USPS managed to deliver our past ballots anyway. We are non-military, but I assume that $0.55 is sufficient when mailing from on-base.

In any case, I encourage everyone voting by mail (especially those overseas) to double check whether the return postage is sufficient on the prepaid return envelopes.

V & Z respond: Excellent advice.

B.P. in Cheshire, NY, writes: The October Surprise will be...the massive numbers of voters turning out to specifically defeat a reviled incumbent.

Lies, Tricks, Shenanigans and Chicanery (Plus Some Funny Business)

L.E. in Santa Barbara, CA, writes: I want to thank you for running your very detailed assessment of the post-election scenarios that the Atlantic article ("The Election That Could Break America") discussed.

During these fraught times, these articles only serve to panic and potentially depress not only the vote, but the mental health of so many currently in isolation. I fear that many will conclude that nothing they do will influence the downward trajectory of our democracy and so won't vote. Even I got caught up in the sense of hopelessness that the author was conveying. Thank goodness for your excellent assessment--it helped bring me back on track.

Further, I have family and friends who live alone, far from other family, and thus are truly isolated during this pandemic. They have lost the option to safely connect with others, in person. The emotional and mental strain is huge. They worry about our country without having someone right there to bounce their anxieties off of--no access to immediate reality checks. I have already started sending the link to your assessment to them, so that they can see a balanced evaluation.

At the end of the day, your conclusion that, "The plausible shenanigans for stealing the election all involve things that would happen before the election," is what we really, really need to focus on. My spouse and I have started making contributions to Get Out The Vote groups, like Stacey Abrams' efforts. This is the best way to save our democracy. (And thank you, too, for your link to Force Multiplier in last weekend's mailbag, as this was the fastest way for us to find GOTV groups.)

Thank you, again, for everything you are doing to bring balance and perspective during this very unsettling time in our country!

V & Z respond: We did not run your letter because it is complimentary (though we appreciate that!) but because you made a very important point, even better than we did. We have argued that the things most likely to work for Team Trump are the pre-election high jinks. Even if some do not agree with us, it is unquestionably the case that the average citizen has far more power to help counteract those things than shadowy post-election schemes involving gross corruption at the highest levels of power. And so, we hope people will consider focusing their energy, etc. on the things they can affect, and will not spend too much time worrying about the things that are currently unknown and that will be much harder to affect.

C.J.R. in Seattle, WA, writes: Thank you for your analysis of how a contested presidential election would be almost impossible for Donald Trump to declare victory.

I have one point to make.

Coups (and revolutions) are not legal.

Coups and revolutions do not gain success by following a legal procedure. The coup leaders declare victory, and enough people follow the coup to enforce their rule while the legal government is undermined and eliminated. The Declaration of Independence was high treason. The Second Continental Congress wildly overstepped its authority and dissolved the Articles of Confederation. The French Revolutions ignored existing law time and again, as did Napoleon. The Confederacy had no legal justification for seceding from the United States, but it took the largest army in the world at that time (and 625,000-750,000 deaths) to enforce that legal decision. Czar Nicholas II did legally abdicate his throne, but the provisional government was basically making up the rules as it went along. The Bolshevik Revolution simply made up their authority through the mob. Ditto the abdication of the Emperor of Austria-Hungary and Imperial Germany at the end of World War I. Even the Soviet Union collapsed through a backroom deal between Boris Yeltsin of the Russian Federation and the remaining members of the USSR, after the Baltic States had already left. Gorbachev was left as head of a government that basically exerted no control.

Donald Trump and his administration have demonstrated that they are able to exert almost cult-like devotion among his followers. Trump does not need to win the election in order to rally a sizable portion of the population to believe the election was corrupt. The current storm over nine misplaced ballots in Pennsylvania is proof enough that the Trump faction of the GOP may be willing to ignore whatever results the legal process of the election, and I fear that a small percentage of that faction will be willing to take up arms over that belief. The armed occupation of the Michigan state house over quarantine restrictions, and armed marches on the North Carolina state house are proof enough that dry runs for an armed takeover of state governments have already taken place.

Legally, Donald Trump may not be able to win the election. But that may not matter.

V & Z respond: We ran your letter for much the same reason that we ran the one above: You made a point we've been trying to make, and better than we did. All of the "Here's how Donald Trump could steal the election" articles essentially imagine that he and his team will find nominally legal ways to claim a false victory. What we've tried to argue is that the line there is too fine to walk successfully. If Trump & Co. remain even nominally within the bounds of the law, presumably forced to do so by judges and other stakeholders, we (and especially Z) believe their schemes won't work. And if those who might control Trump (the Senate, the Supreme Court) ignore the law, then we are talking about an entirely different kettle of fish, namely a coup, and nobody can really know what will happen next.

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: I want to thank you for your continued items listing the reasons why you don't think Trump can pull off a coup in the upcoming election. When I read them they do a lot to calm my fears about the upcoming election. Unfortunately, right after I read them, my fears come roaring back because none of them address what I believe is the most combustible of factors. This site frequently talks about the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns. Ironically, after your list of reasons why Trump can't succeed legally you then (a couple of articles later) address one of the huge known unknowns, Trump's supporters and their propensity for violence. I really hope all of the site's readers read the Guardian article that you linked, which exposes some of the communication going on between these radical alt-right militias.

Do I believe, like you, that any legal or quasi-legal attempt by Trump and his blundering associates is destined to fail? That would have to be a resounding yes! But answer me this, how many political coups are based on the finer points of the legal system? We have been warned by experts for decades about the potential for terrorism by these extreme right wing militias and vigilante groups. We have seen just recently how one heavily armed, incredibly stupid and guilible man-child caused violence and panic in Kenosha. Within the same incident, we saw how the police were bending over backwards to mollycoddle these armed terrorists. We have seen this summer in multiple instances where these armed groups of Trump supporters have intimidated local officials and gotten away with threatening acts. Now this Guardian article exposes that these same groups are now proposing even more violence including political assassination of Democrats. We know that some of these groups have for a long time been preparing and sometimes hoping to instigate a racial war which they feel will bring about their "All White American Fourth Reich." The Guardian article also makes clear that these groups are waiting for "the presidential go to start open firing." Which bring us back to what Trump and some Republicans will be willing to do?

Yes, it is true that Trump is a coward and if his devoted followers start shooting he would scurry off to the White House bunker. But experience has shown that while Trump is a personal coward he is extremely willing to egg on his followers to violence. Look at the last election where Trump promised his rally goers he would pay for their legal defense if they got violent with protesters—of course, as in many instances, he never lived up to that promise, but that didn't stop his rabid MAGAHatters. Just recently members of Trump's inner circle, Roger Stone and Michael Caputo, have been talking up armed insurrection for the coming election. No one else commented on this at the time, but during Trump's recent interview with Jeanine Pirro after she asked him if he would be willing to accept the outcome of the election, Pirro herself brought up the idea of insurrection. We know Trump keeps most of the Fox Talking Heads on speed dial for friendly late-night talks. Is Pirro inadvertently shedding some light as to the direction of Trump's thoughts?

Yes, it is true that there are a lot of Republicans who wouldn't support legalistic shenanigans by Trump in the upcoming election. But it is also equally true that there is a very real subsection of Republican thinking of the past decade that has supported "Second Amendment Solutions." I, for one, have no difficulty imagining Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Ron Johnson (R-WI), John Kennedy (R-LA), Joni Ernst (R-IA) and even Mitch McConnell (R-KY) jumping on that bandwagon if they felt it would keep them in power. We have a recent example where an act of violence caused an elected official to try to postpone an election and seek re-election for a term they were term-limited from obtaining: Trump's dearest crony and lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, after the 9-11 attacks!

Historically, a lot of wars have started because of one hot-headed yahoo with a gun. Yes, in most of those cases the macro forces were making the armed conflict almost inevitable, so the likelihood is that those wars would have started even without the armed yahoo instigation. Maybe it's just me being a pessimist but the country seems to have a feel of this inevitability in the air. There is a lot of dry timber lying around in the form of the pandemic; racial unrest; economic downturns and instability; catastrophic natural events brought on by climate change; the naked power grab by the Republicans after Justice Ginsburg's death; a super abundance and availability of weapons; a police force that often times seems impervious to oversight; a plethora of disinformation and propaganda; an ever widening political divide where political arguments seep into our leisure activities such as sports and the arts; income inequality with an elite group of the superwealthy who are not bound by the same rules and regulations as the rest; insistence on anti-scientific thought and a reliance on magical thinking; an attraction to authoritarianism; a growing sense of resentment and misplaced rage within the general population; etc. With this super abundance of dry kindling, what do we see but Donald Trump and too many Republicans gleefully handing out free books of matches? They appear to be preparing to dodge the blame while at the same time taking full advantage of the chaos. And that is the flaw in the thinking that Trump can't steal the election. Please prove me wrong so I can start sleeping peacefully at night.

E.F. in Baltimore, Maryland, writes: While your tipping point chart of 9/25 spells out quite clearly the difficulty of states pre-empting the selection by popular vote of electors without "the trifecta" of legislature, governor and SoS, the relevant text of the Constitution states: "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors..."

This is the argument Trump's lawyers will use, should they try to bypass the existing popular vote laws in the relevant states. That the power to choose electors resides solely with the Legislature. That the governor and Secretary of State have no constitutional authority in this process. That existing popular vote laws are a "gift" from the Legislature to the people, which can be rescinded by the Legislature at any time, for any reason.

A flimsy argument, but possibly sufficient for this Supreme Court.

V & Z respond: But that is the point. The legislatures have already directed a method for the appointment of electors, namely the popular vote. If they do not rescind those laws (which requires a gubernatorial signature or a veto override), then they would, at best, be adding a second method of appointment to the list. Quite clearly, existing law privileges the pre-election arrangement over the post-election arrangement. At worst, state governors, who are granted the privilege of reporting results to the archivist, would have two sets of instructions to choose from. Which set do you think the Democrats (not to mention moderate Republicans like Gov. Charlie Baker, R-MA) would choose? Especially since nearly any officeholder who participated in such schemes (unless they are in an R+15 or greater district/state) would be ending their political career. Do you think there are really that many GOP officeholders willing to sacrifice their futures for Donald Trump?

J.L. in Wanamingo, MN, writes: With all due respect, your naiveté regarding the ability for Trump to steal the election is staggering. You often cite "the law" as the reason X will not happen, as though you've been asleep for the last 4 years of our lawless president. All you have to do is work backwards. If you want to retain any credibility, we must agree on this: When a case lands in the (next) supreme court, 5 of the justices will rule in favor of Trump. Doesn't matter what the case is or what the facts are. In Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, the law doesn't have to change. The legislatures there simply have to decide to send the Trump electors, which, sure as I'm breathing, they will do. Once they do, as you've stated, the Democratic governors and Secretaries of State will sue. After that, it doesn't matter that Trump has only appointed 25% of federal judges. All that matters is 5 votes, and he has 'em. I've been saying for years, there are very few ways to remove a lawless president. An election isn't one of them.

V & Z respond: If two slates of electors show up in Congress on Jan. 6 from one or more states, when the electoral votes are counted, the ball will be in Congress' court to decide what to do. If the Democrats control both chambers, odds are that they will pick the Biden electors. If the Republicans sue and the Supreme Court says: "Sorry, folks, you got it wrong," there is a fair chance that Congress will reply: "It's our call, not yours. Please sit down and be quiet for Biden's inauguration."

P.C. in Toronto, Canada, writes: While I hope with all my heart that Trump will be trounced November 3 and then indicted, convicted and jailed soon after, I see a landscape in which he appears to be running circles around the Democrats. He is surrounded by corrupt sycophants, in control of the legal system, still supported by some 40+% of the voters, will stop at nothing to stay in power, and appears to be unstoppable in his pursuit thereof. No matter how outrageous his behavior, including openly and brazenly subverting the electoral process in his favor, the election outcome is still a horse race due to the absurd Electoral College system that has only a passing acquaintance with democracy. His appalling behavior has elicited only hand wringing from the Democrats, who in four years have been unable to stop it or bring him to book.

Despite having just about every responsible media outlet reporting furiously on his egregious illegal behavior and his attempt to steal the 2020 election, it is likely that Trump will lead the results for some time on November 3rd before the electorate eventually turf him out. He seems to know this and has turned it to his advantage, already frustratingly framing Biden and the Democrats with his own criminal scheme. While my head knows what the polls are suggesting, my Spidey-sense tells me that Trump has been summoning the spirit of Roy Cohn, whose long dead claw is all over this past four years from hell. After 74 years of getting away with murder, it seems to me that Trump's latest victim will be the American Experiment.

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: As quoted in The New York Times:

"People wonder about the peaceful transfer of power," Mr. Graham said on Fox News on Thursday. "I can assure you, it will be peaceful. I promise you as a Republican, if the Supreme Court decides that Joe Biden wins, I will accept the result. The court will decide, and if Republicans lose, we'll accept the result."

Several points:

  • Is "I promise you as a Republican" basically the same as "I promise you with all ten fingers crossed behind my back"?

  • Graham didn't promise to accept the result if the voters give Biden an Electoral College win. Oh no—only "if the Supreme Court decides that Joe Biden wins." "The court will decide," says the Senator. Really? We've seen that movie before. Did Graham just tip an already-determined strategy?

  • Should we believe this just as much as we could believe what Graham said about a 2020 Supreme Court vacancy?

V & Z respond: We suspect you're right that Graham wasn't yet supposed to say that part about the Supreme Court out loud.

J.S. in Wheaton, IL, writes: In response to the "What's wrong with Senate Republicans" question and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), I too have been racking my brain over what explains his behavior, and the only explanation I see that fits the facts is that he's planning to run for president again in 2024. Hear me out.

The whole foundational idea of Sen. Romney was that he was going to be a moderating elder voice in Congress to stand up to Donald Trump, or restore balance in the Force, as it were, and that he was in a unique position to do so. Clearly, that hasn't happened. He's been a rubber stamp for Trump on judges, on appointees, and on legislation, of which there hasn't been much of importance in the last two years. If Mitt Romney wanted to put a leash on Trump, he's not doing it. If Mitt Romney wanted a rubber stamp for Trump and McConnell, any generic Republican from Utah would do. And there isn't exactly a shortage of conservatives in Utah who would be interested in the seat. Anyone the state elects would be both a reliable social conservative and a reliable rubber stamp, so it's clearly not that either. If Mitt Romney wanted to rehabilitate his image to improve his legacy, he could have just sat back and written a book like Jeff Flake. Finally, he's certainly not in it for the money.

So if Mitt Romney isn't in it for the country, for the party, or for the money, then why is he in it? I can't think of any other reasonable explanation to run for the U.S. Senate for the first time at age 71 unless he's trying to re-establish himself among conservatives for another presidential run. He's 4 years younger than Joe Biden and appears at least as physically healthy, so ipso facto there's no problem there. And he's probably in no worse position than anyone else to capture the establishment: "Come with me if you want to live" lane in 2024. If it's not that, why is a guy worth a quarter of a billion dollars and zero Value Over Replacement Senator (from a GOP perspective) toiling away on a $174k government salary in his 70s?

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: Thanks for giving me a place to try to uplift the dialogue. Or just vent.

I am a proud graduate of the University of Oklahoma and am "Sooner born and Sooner bred and when I die, I'll be Sooner dead." In the late 1980s, a few years after I graduated, the football program blew up the news; not with recruiting violations but with criminal conduct like gang rape, drug dealing, theft, and illegal discharge of firearms. I wanted to blame the coaches and administrators for all this, but in the end I realized that I and my fellow fans/alumni were to blame. We had turned a blind eye to the lives of the players and their behavior as long as they won football games. We knew we were recruiting kids from tough situations but not acting to provide them good examples and an ethical foundation to go with their sport. We silently supported a system that had gone off the tracks and it was our collective responsibility to set it right.

We did get it turned around. Retired U.S. Senator David Boren (D-OK) deserves a lot of credit. We are now known for aggressively reporting our own infractions to the NCAA. Our players and coaches win national recognition for public service. We still play winning football. We deserve to be proud again.

I just realized the same dynamic is going on with Republicans. The system is off the tracks and their leaders are a byword for corruption, selfishness, and just plain meanness. It is time for Republican voters to own their responsibility. Every voter or elected official that remains silent or shrugs off the problems is responsible for the moral decay and unprincipled action of their party. "Concern" is consent, and consent is support, and support of dishonorable leaders is just wrong. But, if my OU example is any guide, hope is not lost.

E.H. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: Every time Donald Trump has gotten into a situation when he wants out, he always negotiates a package for himself. At the moment, no one outside the family really knows what is going on with his books and tax situation, but he does. And if he loses, come January 20, he and his organization will lose their "but I'm the President" defense on his records, possible indictments, charges against his family and organization, and he may find himself sitting on $100 million after a major sell off of assets in a down market. Not a bad deal, unless you were supposed to be worth a lot more. He will also, along with lots of his associates and family, be called in as witnesses for lots of cases. Instead of being the first round of appeals through the court system, this will be the second and the courts will be less interested in his lawyers' new ideas.

Trump is threatening to keep the court fight going for years. So, maybe his shady tricks are his way of telling folks to drop the charges and issue the pardons, or he will continue to claim, via the courts, that he was re-elected President or at least consider the matter unresolved so indictments cannot proceed.

Z.C. in Beverly Hills, CA, writes: Since we may be on the precipice of tyranny, can I make a suggestion to preserve important history? (V) & (Z) should publish all of your posts starting on or around June 16, 2015 (the day Trump declared his candidacy). You can sell that book as a daily log of our country losing its collective minds. And maybe you could place a few copies in various secure and hidden safes so they can survive the coming 1984 information purge? So one day we can tell future generations what actually happened.

S.D.L. in Monrovia, CA, writes: The film "The Pelican Brief" has become topical. It begins with an aging Supreme Court justice, who says: "...That was a quote from one of your unnamed senior White House officials. White House son of a bitch who got in there by stirring up these people one against the other. It never fails to amaze me what a man will do to get an oval office."

V & Z respond: Not to mention the beginning of "Macbeth": Fair is foul, and foul is fair/Hover through the fog and filthy air.

Open for Debate

J.S. in Wheaton, IL, writes: I agree with your analysis, as well as that of B.R. in Union and S.K. in Sunnyvale, that Joe Biden needs to call out Donald Trump's lies at the debates quickly and forcefully, but at the same time not waste all of his time responding to them. I'd go with a different movie reference, though, specifically Joe Pesci in "My Cousin Vinny": "Everything that guy just said is bull**it." And use the profanity. If the sitting president of the United States can call African nations "sh**holes" and NFL players "sons of bitches," then nobody should have a problem with the Democratic nominee saying "bull**it". What are they going to do, bleep him?

V & Z respond: Not in a live debate, they're not.

A.L. in Osaka, Japan, writes: Giving debate advice seems to be a popular trend at the site of late. Most of the advice tends to focus on how Joe Biden can "own" Trump. Finished a book by Matt Taibbi and the main theme of the book is that politics have been turned into pro wrestling. Couldn't agree with that assessment any more. There are even records of Trump clowning up court cases and no one takes him seriously.

At some point someone will need to make the issues clear. The foremost of the issues is our democracy in crisis. This is followed by the health crisis and upcoming financial/housing crisis and further down the road the climate crisis. If we get to the end of the debates and a majority of Americans clearly understands Biden's stance on these issues then I'll put it in the win column.

E.M. in Pasadena, CA, writes: You wrote that if Donald Trump stalks Joe Biden during the debates, then a good line Biden could use would be "The president needs to use the men's room badly. Can one of the stage hands please show him the way?"

I'd love to hear him say "The president is lurking around behind me like it's the Miss America Pageant. Let's hope he keeps his hands to himself this time."

K.H. in Ypsilanti, MI, writes: If Donald Trump starts wandering around the stage Tuesday night like he did with Hillary Clinton, rather than making a comment about the bathroom, Biden's best response would be "Are you lost, Donald?"

We Seem to Have Invented a New Form of Polling

E.B. in Seattle, WA, writes: Inspired by J.P. in Falls Church, VA's story of the road trip poll from last week, here's one from the northwest. We drove from Seattle, WA, to Bozeman, MT, (approx. 700 miles) this week for a college tour. A few observations:

  • There seemed to be fewer Trump/Pence signs in rural Eastern Washington than in 2016. There were more signs for Loren Culp, the Republican gubernatorial candidate who will get crushed by Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) in November. The east side of the Cascade Curtain doesn't really matter all that much because most of the population is on the west side. A political consultant friend once said that you can see every vote you need to win an election in Washington from the top of the Space Needle.

  • There are a lot of Steve Bullock signs in Bozeman, probably outnumbering Daines signs 10 to 1. That's not too surprising for a college town, but it was surprising how far the Bullock signs went out into the rural areas. There was one custom banner on a field fence line that read "200,000 deaths on your hands. Heck of a job, Trumpy!" The Democrats are also really well organized. Virtually everyone who had one sign had several, including Senate, gubernatorial, state legislature, conservation district, etc. The Republicans were more likely to have one or two signs rather than a whole group.

  • I don't watch much commercial TV at home, so I don't see the political ads. Oddly, Biden is advertising on local basic cable in Montana. His spots are mainly clips from his DNC speeches and don't seem all that convincing or well done. Bullock had a really nice spot up about funding a veterans service center. There were a bunch of photogenic veterans from Vietnam forward singing his praises and saying that Daines hung them out to dry by voting against funding the center. It was also local to Bozeman. The super PAC supporting Daines has a few "Bullock is corrupt" ads connecting the dots between state money going to a Bullock relative and then on to Bullock. I presume that locals would know more about what's going on there.

  • Also, a friend of ours just started at MSU in Bozeman. There was a voter registration form on their desk when they moved into the dorm. That was apparently standard in their entire 600-resident dorm.

Again, totally unscientific, but it might be interesting to your readers.

D.B. in Kirkland, WA, writes: In response to the comment by J.P. from Falls Church, VA, I'd like to offer an equally unscientific poll based on observational data for consideration.

A few weeks ago, I took a road trip through the mountain west—starting in the Seattle area, I headed east through eastern WA, then through Montana and Wyoming before reaching Denver. From there, I headed west into Utah, up through Salt Lake and southern Idaho on the way back to Seattle.

On this 3000+ mile trip, I didn't see a single Biden sign. However, what surprised me was that, while I did see Trump/Pence signs, I didn't see nearly as many as I would have expected for so much driving in red-state areas. I don't know if that indicates less enthusiasm for Trump than you would normally see, or if maybe there is something to the theory of "shy Biden voters."

The most ironic thing was that the area with the highest density of Trump signs was along I-90 in the farmland of eastern WA...a state where he will lose by a pretty huge margin.

V & Z respond: Waaaaait a minute. From Seattle to Montana and back? Has anyone ever seen E.B. in Seattle and D.B. in Kirkland in the same room together?

I.D. in Richmond, VA (by way of Elon, VA), writes: I was amused to read J.P.'s comment on the relative abundance of Biden signs in North Carolina because my wife and I are helping out her parents, who live in Amherst County, VA, a county that cannot possibly have been carried by any Democrat since the Johnson administration. We took a short drive to an apple orchard today and picked up groceries, covering perhaps 20 square miles, and counted at least 10 Biden signs. They may have equaled the number of Trump signs, which would have been inconceivable before this year. My poll is probably even less scientific than J.P.'s, but if Trump can't win Amherst County by 30+ points, I think he's done.

P.S.: Thanks for your service, J.P., and your daughter's.

K.P. in Huron County, MI, writes: Bad surveys are fun, so I would like to participate and report on rural Michigan:

  • Trump signs lead Biden signs 4 to 1.

  • Half the Trump supporters have Trump flags rather than yard signs.

  • Biden supporters have taken to planting American flags next to yard signs. Maybe to show patriotism or just reduce the number of bottles on their front lawn.

  • Third most popular yard sign is: My Governor is an IDIOT. In some yards it's the only sign.

My analysis is that "Make America Great Again" did inspire some voters while "Keep America Great" does not strike home as much. Also, I'm old and while I have seen Joe Biden get off to a good start in elections, he is capable of stepping in it, even at this point.


S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA (originally of Skokie, IL) writes: It's true. Of Chicago's five major sports teams (da Bears, da Cubs, da Sox, da Hawks, and da Bulls), it's da Bears that have won a championship least recently. (Go figure dat da year da Cubs finally won da World Series, some crackhead New Yorker also won da White House.)

V & Z respond: It's been a while since Mike Ditka could win the Super Bowl all by himself, while seated in an armchair.

R.H.D. in Webster, NY, writes: Pence just retired today. That's San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence, who retired from MLB. Now we'll see if the other Pence will join him November.

C.Z. in Sacramento, CA, writes: Randy Rainbow (yes, that's his real name) should get the Nobel Peace Prize! I just discovered his anti-Trump song parodies on YouTube and I haven't felt this good since Trump took office.

V & Z respond: These are very good.

Today's Presidential Polls

Our database has four polls where Minnesota was close, 10 where it wasn't, and Donald Trump was not up in any of them. (Z)

State Biden Trump Start End Pollster
Minnesota 48% 42% Sep 21 Sep 23 Mason Dixon

If you wish to contact us, please use one of these addresses. For the first two, please include your initials and city.

To download a poster about the site to hang up, please click here.

Email a link to a friend or share:

---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep26 Saturday Q&A
Sep26 Today's Presidential Polls
Sep26 Today's Senate Polls
Sep25 The Trump Full-Court Press Has Commenced...
Sep25 ...But Will It Work?
Sep25 Deep in the Heart of Texas
Sep25 Biden Picks Up Some More High-Profile Endorsements
Sep25 Barbara Lagoa May Have Violated Ethics Rules
Sep25 About That Violence in the Streets...
Sep25 Unsurprisingly, There Will Be No "October Surprise" from Ron Johnson
Sep25 Today's Presidential Polls
Sep25 Today's Senate Polls
Sep24 Two National Polls Have Biden Leading Trump by 10 Points
Sep24 Schedule Set for Confirming the New Supreme Court Justice
Sep24 Intelligence Agency Won't Give Very Intelligent President Any Intelligence
Sep24 Trump Falls into His Own Trap
Sep24 The RNC Is Sending Money to Texas
Sep24 House Democrats Unveil Bill to Curb the President
Sep24 Feinstein Pours Cold Water on Court Packing and Filibuster Reform
Sep24 Pregnant Chads Meet Naked Ballots
Sep24 The Preemptive Attack on the Vote Count is a Five-Alarm Fire
Sep24 Why Is McConnell Ramming Through a Supreme Court Appointment?
Sep24 Today's Presidential Polls
Sep24 Today's Senate Polls
Sep23 200,000
Sep23 RBG Replacement Moves Forward at Breakneck Speed
Sep23 Government Shutdown Can Kicked to December
Sep23 Topics for First Presidential Debate Revealed
Sep23 Bloomberg Raises $16 Million to Pay Florida Felons' Fines
Sep23 You Keep a Knockin', but You Can't Come In
Sep23 Today's "Barely News" News
Sep23 Today's Presidential Polls
Sep23 Today's Senate Polls
Sep22 The Supreme Court Maneuvering Is in Full Swing
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