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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  What a Sh*tshow
      •  All of Trump's Success Is Based on Two Lucky Breaks
      •  Biden and Harris Release Their 2019 Tax Returns
      •  The Nerd Who Could Save America
      •  A COVID-19 Relief Deal Is Still Possible
      •  House Democrats Are Moving from Defense to Offense
      •  Senate Democrats Are Moving from Defense to Offense, Too
      •  Today's Presidential Polls
      •  Today's Senate Polls

What a Sh*tshow

Normally that would not be an appropriate thing to put in a headline. However, that is how Dana Bash described things, live on CNN, after the debate (and without the asterisk). And you know what they say about "if the shoe fits..."

Going into the debate, nobody knew what to expect, and boy were they right to think that way. There has never, ever been a debate like the one last night—and this is in a world that's already experienced the three Trump-Clinton debates. We took a look at the talking heads on the major news stations after it was over, and with the exception of one network where opinion was divided (guess which!), they all looked crestfallen. Or maybe shell-shocked. In case you are skeptical, here are some of the post-debate headlines:

Politico: An Epic Moment of National Shame: The Debate Was an Embarrassment for the Ages
The Washington Post: Trump incessantly interrupts and insults Biden as they spar in acrimonious first debate
The New York Times: With Cross Talk, Lies and Mockery, Trump Tramples Decorum in Debate With Biden
The Week: The debate was so bad that circus workers say it's offensive to call it a circus
Slate: Cancel the Debates: This degrading spectacle didn't show voters anything they don't already know
San Jose Mercury News: 'An Embarrassment to our country': Should that be the last Trump-Biden debate?
Bloomberg: Trump Embarrassed His Country and Himself
IndieWire: The First Biden-Trump Debate Was an Embarrassing Waste of Time
Chicago Tribune: Trump's toxic debate performance was 90 minutes of disqualifying noise and cruelty
The Bulwark: No More Debates: In Cleveland, our national humiliation continued
National Review: Well, That Was Dispiriting
Fox News: Debate goes off the rails as Trump interrupts, Biden bickers in shoutfest
Fox News: Trump clearly defeats Biden in first presidential debate

Watching a spectacle like that cannot help but leave one feeling depressed and disheartened, and perhaps wanting to take a long shower. For those who hope for civility to return to American politics, it was as uncivil an event as the nation has seen since...the McCarthy hearings? As bad as the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation was, this was far, far, far worse. For those who fear that Donald Trump will do anything to remain in power, well, last night certainly did nothing to assuage those fears. His clear message was that he will do what it takes or, failing that, will try to take the country down with him.

We're going to break this down, person by person, taking a look at each of the three men on stage Tuesday night:

Donald Trump (Sh**show Responsibility: 80%): Early in the debate, FiveThirtyEight's Nathaniel Rakich tweeted: "Biden came prepared for a debate. Trump came in determined to prevent one." That is a very apt summation. He came barreling out of the gate as though he'd spent the day freebasing caffeine or adderall, and only got louder and more aggressive as the evening went on. He constantly interrupted Joe Biden and moderator Chris Wallace (a total of 128 times, or once every 42 seconds). He constantly played the victim card, whining about how he's been wronged by Democrats, the media, pollsters, the deep state, Wallace, etc. He constantly lied. If you want to read some fact-checks, here are the ones from the AP, the BBC, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and CNN. There is no way that any of these is comprehensive. In fact, even if you read all of them, you won't get the full picture, because Trump must have told at least 100 lies.

There were two elements of the debate that really highlighted Trump's indecency and lack of control. Speaking broadly, Trump not only showed constant disrespect for Biden, he gave Wallace—who works for Fox News— the same treatment. The result was that Wallace and Trump ended up spending substantial time arguing with each other. In fact, that is how the debate ended; Trump was still yelling at Wallace when the moderator declared the debate to be over. It's one thing to go after your (perceived) enemy, but to constantly crap on someone who is neutral and institutional, while also refusing to abide by rules that you agreed to? It's a bad look.

The other indecent element, meanwhile, was the below-the-belt quality of Trump's personal attacks against Biden and his family. Early in the debate, after Biden observed that many more Americans are going to die of COVID-19 "unless [Trump] gets a lot smarter a lot quicker," the President fired back: "You graduated either the lowest or almost the lowest in your class. Don't ever use the word smart with me. Don't ever use that word. Because you know what? There's nothing smart about you, Joe." That was pretty unpleasant. And yet, it was nowhere near as bad as the moment later in the evening when Biden was talking about his deceased son Beau and Trump interrupted with some really nasty stuff about son Hunter:

The various claims Trump makes, trying to tie Hunter (and thus his father) to various acts of corruption, are all lies. But the real dirty pool came with the mockery of Hunter Biden's substance abuse problem, and the claim that being a former addict makes Hunter a "loser." The roughly 35 million Americans who have dealt with substance abuse in their lives would surely beg to differ, as would the additional tens or hundreds of millions of Americans who recognize that substance abuse is a disease to be treated and not a moral failing to be shamed.

The slur against Hunter Biden will, we would guess, become the second most talked about moment of the night. We'll get to the first shortly, but first let us observe that Trump's lack of preparation was evident, since he was almost completely unable to answer foreseeable questions. For example, Wallace asked a tough (but totally fair) question, namely: "Where is your healthcare plan?" The President claimed he not only has one, he's already implemented it. This was news to Wallace and Biden, and when asked for clarification, Trump explained that he was referring to getting rid of the individual mandate from Obamacare, and even went so far as to suggest that the name shouldn't be "Obamacare" anymore. When Wallace followed up by observing that "changes to Obamacare" do not constitute a healthcare plan, the President promised that his plan is coming soon. There are, of course, 33 days to the election. Trump announced his presidential bid 1,934 days ago.

In addition to asking obvious (if tough) questions, Wallace also tossed out some softballs that afforded the candidates opportunities to "get right" on a potential weakness. For example, Biden got one about defunding the police, which allowed him to make clear where he stands on that (he said he actually wants to give more money to police, which is true, so they have support from professionals like psychologists who are better equipped to handle certain situations). And having explained that, we now arrive at the talking point of the night. Wallace tossed Trump a softball meant to allow the president to "get right" on white supremacy. Here is the clip:

Sidestepping the opportunity to condemn white supremacy was a huge mistake. And the remark: "Proud Boys—stand back, and stand by" was a colossal blunder. That is the perfect length for a sound bite, or a headline, or a tweet. It's not going to go over well with those "suburban housewives" Trump so badly needs. The President's dithering instantly resurrected one of his biggest Achilles heels. It's hard to imagine what might have harmed him more, unless he made a joke about pu**y grabbing, or maybe admitted that he does indeed owe money to Vladimir Putin. Oh and by the way, members of the Proud Boys took to social media after the debate to celebrate the fact that, as far as they are concerned, they just got their marching orders.

There were, of course, plenty of lesser blunders as well. In particular, Trump displayed a remarkable propensity for making attacks on Biden that actually highlighted Trumpian/Republican shortcomings. For example, the President slammed the Obama/Biden team for leaving so many judgeships open at the end of their term in office, which is equivalent to shouting "Don't forget that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been manipulating the federal judiciary for many years!" Trump also mocked Biden for wearing his mask so often. The President presumably sees that as unmanly, but our guess is that the nearly 70% of Americans who always wear a mask when they leave home see it as a sign of empathy and thoughtfulness. To give a third example, the President defended his record on COVID-19 by slamming the Obama/Biden record on Swine Flu. Biden could scarcely believe his good luck as he responded that Swine Flu killed 14,000 Americans, which is rather less than 200,000, and that it also didn't shut down the economy.

In short, Trump—a man who trails in national polls by 7-10 points, and whose electoral map is getting ugly—did absolutely nothing to add new voters into the fold. In particular, CNN's Gloria Borger observed, "If he was looking to change the minds of any women voters...I think a lot of women would be frightened." Indeed, it is clear the President wasn't even trying to win over new voters. He said absolutely nothing last night that he hasn't said a hundred times before. He is going to live and die with a 100% base-centered campaign, and so he showed up and performed one of his rallies for however many tens of millions of Americans tuned in.

Joe Biden (Sh**show Responsibility: 10%): Joe Biden was not great, and he was not terrible. We'll call his performance "good," but if you wanted to downgrade that to "fine" or "fair" or "ok," we wouldn't argue, because it's definitely somewhere there in the mushy middle. In any case, "good" (or some near-equivalent) was all he needed, and also may have been Biden's ceiling on a night like last night.

There were two tactical issues that the Democratic nominee had to deal with very early on. The first of these was what to do about the President's lies. Here, Biden was helped enormously by the fact that the debate was largely televised as a split-screen where viewers could see both candidates simultaneously. Early in the debate, Biden said: "I'm not here to call out his lies, everyone knows he's a liar." And then, with only a couple of exceptions (like the attacks on Hunter Biden), the Democratic nominee would smile and roll his eyes a bit whenever a falsehood was uttered. In other words, the body language equivalent of "There you go again!" From where we sit, it worked pretty well.

The other tactical issue was what to do about Trump's aggression. Biden didn't want to let himself be dominated, but he didn't want to undermine his nice-guy image, and he certainly didn't want to let Trump get under his skin (because Biden gets flustered when he's angry). For the first 30 minutes of the debate, the former VP struggled to find the right balance, and some of his early answers were flabby and unfocused. For example, he did a terrible job of explaining why Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the Supreme Court should be held open until Jan. 20, 2021. The other problem, as Biden tried to find the right tone, is that he sometimes crossed the line a little bit, such as when he called the President a clown. That was a little icky, and is why Biden has 10% sh**show responsibility.

Eventually, the Democratic nominee realized that he was best served by small dollops of passive aggression, like when he rolled his eyes and muttered "good luck" after Wallace ordered Trump not to interrupt for two minutes (per debate rules). And once Biden settled down, his answers got much stronger. He got off some good bon mots, like "I'm in favor of law, you show a little bit of order," "He's Putin's puppy" (which would make a fine t-shirt), and, on the havoc wrought by COVID-19, "It is what it is because you are who you are." Biden answered questions on racism, the economy, and the suburbs with great skill. He saved his strongest answer of the night for last, in response to Wallace's query about honoring the outcome of the election and keeping supporters from participating in civil unrest. Here are both candidates' responses:

Even if you choose not to watch it, you can presumably guess exactly what each candidate said (Hint: One said "yes" to both, and one said "no" to both).

As we said above, we're not sure that Biden had an opportunity to do much better than he did. Nobody can know what it's like to try to stay on course while facing near-constant verbal assaults as something like 100 million people look on. Maybe he could have done more to communicate the specifics of some of his policy plans. He also failed to score a bullseye (or anything close to it) on Trump's tax returns, which was surprising. That said, Biden's primary objective was to make clear that he's still in command of his faculties, and that all of Donald Trump's talk about senility and drug use and the like is nonsense. He certainly did that; not only did he not run out of gas, he got stronger as the evening went on.

Chris Wallace (Sh**show Responsibility: 10%): "Wallace lost control of the debate" was a popular talking point during the post-debate commentaries, and presumably it will remain so today. We think that's not at all fair. He preferred to be "as invisible as possible," and so probably wasn't as assertive as he should have been for the first 10-15 minutes of the debate. He also spent a bit too much time early on being "fair," and trying to blame both men for the tone and tenor of the debate, when it was clearly just one of them who was doing the heavy lifting. However, to Wallace's credit, he pretty quickly realized that the "invisible" bit wasn't going to fly, and that the "fair" bit wasn't indicated, and he shifted gears. And with Trump determined to turn the debate into a wrestling match, we just don't know how much more Wallace could have done. If you watch (or watched) any of the clips above, you can see how frequently and how aggressively Wallace sparred with the President in an effort to maintain order.

Wallace's questions were also, on the whole, fair and well-considered. As we've already noted, he gave the candidates opportunities to clarify positions that may be murky in voters' minds, and also to sell their wares. At the same time, he also asked each candidate some toughies, like asking Trump about his healthcare plan or asking Biden about court packing. And contrary to his pre-debate vow, Wallace actually did do a little fact-checking. Of the three folks scheduled to moderate presidential debates this cycle, Wallace is the only one with experience. Steve Scully and Kristen Welker will review Tuesday's footage many times, and will get some good ideas. Meanwhile, the Commission on Presidential Debates really needs to step in and insist that candidates' microphones be turned off when the stage is not theirs. If that change isn't made, there is no point in having any more debates.

The Bottom Line: We don't know if it's quite correct to say that Biden won the debate, but we are quite confident that Trump lost, big-time. First, because he produced the negative viral moment of the night when he refused (yet again) to distance himself from white supremacists. We are generally reluctant to predict that anything is going to hurt him, because so few things do, but here we will say it: This is going to hurt. Anyone who is wavering just got a reminder and a confirmation of one of their biggest concerns about the President.

The second reason that Trump lost is because, as we have already noted, he did nothing to improve his position vis-à-vis Biden. Trump is down in polls, and this was his best remaining chance to change the trajectory of the race. Maybe his only remaining chance, in fact. It was estimated that there would be a bit less than 1 million ballots in the bank by the time the debate began last night, but the total has actually jumped up to nearly 1.4 million, including nearly 250,000 in North Carolina and more than 300,000 in Wisconsin. By the time of the next debate, it's estimated that more than 30 million ballots will already be in. Those are 30 million votes that will no longer be available, no matter how brilliantly Trump performs. Oh, and the numbers continue to make clear that Democrats are submitting absentee ballots at twice the rate of Republicans. A little quick math suggests that by the time the next debate begins, Biden could already have a lead of 10 million votes. As a reminder, Hillary Clinton's margin in 2016 was just 2,868,686 votes. But remember, Republicans could make it all up on Election Day. A vote on Nov. 3 counts just as much as a vote on Oct. 3.

For what it is worth, CNN commissioned an insta-poll of debate watchers, and they favored Biden by a margin of 60% to 28%. CBS News also commissioned an insta-poll, focused on battleground states, and had it 48% for Biden to 41% for Trump.

Before Trump and Biden meet up again, Mike Pence and Kamala Harris will have their chance. That's scheduled for Oct. 7, with USA Today's Susan Page moderating. The next presidential tilt is scheduled for Oct. 15. However, there are many Democrats who feel Joe Biden should not participate in any further democracy-shaming spectacles, and should agree to appear only if there are serious restrictions placed on Trump. There is also scuttlebutt that Trump, once he sees the negative coverage, might skip the next debates in a fit of pique. So, maybe there won't be another debate. Wolf Blitzer, who is not prone to histrionics, said he would not be surprised if Tuesday night was it. We'll find out in a couple of weeks. (Z)

All of Trump's Success Is Based on Two Lucky Breaks

Donald Trump got his first lucky break by being born into a wealthy family. He received $40 million from dad in 1974. That's a pretty good start. Some calculations show that if he had put the entire amount in an S&P 500 exchange traded fund and never touched it, he would have had $3.4 billion when he started his presidential run in 2015. His actual net worth then was probably under $3 billion, so all of his business deals had a net negative effect.

The second installment of the New York Times' series on Trump's taxes discusses the second lucky break in great detail. He took the $40 million and made a lot of investments, nearly all of which lost money. He was bleeding the green stuff right and left. His casinos all failed. His hotels lost money. Six of his companies filed for bankruptcy. Only Trump Tower in New York was profitable. In all, throughout the 1990s and somewhat beyond, his tax returns showed huge losses. In his worst year, he reported losing $350 million. Smart businessmen don't lose $350 million in a single year.

In 2002, that all changed due to a freak accident, not through Trump's business savvy. A young British television producer, Mark Burnett, who produced the successful show "Survivor," decided to make a sequel set in a corporate boardroom rather than on a deserted island. He had the idea of would-be millionaires competing for the approval of some hot-shot businessman, who would fire them one at a time until there was a single survivor. All he needed was to find some hot-shot businessman who was willing to become an actor.

One fine day, when Burnett was filming other material at the Wollman skating rink in Central Park, he saw Trump and then-girlfriend Melania Knauss sitting in the audience. Burnett knew that Trump had leased the rink and plastered his name all over it. He didn't know that Trump was pretty much down to his last dollar and was anything but a successful businessman. So he praised Trump over and over. Afterward, when he told Trump about his plans and asked him if he wanted to take the role, Trump, smitten by Burnett's praise and aware of the financial hole he was in, immediately accepted. If Burnett had gone to Bill Gates instead of Trump, Gates might be president now.

Burnett's show, "The Apprentice," was a huge success and made Trump world-famous. He was previously a "celebrity," but his fame was limited to certain niche audiences (late-night TV viewers, wrestling fans, Howard Stern listeners, etc.). It also made him a lot of money. Trump's profits from the show's 16-year run came in at $197 million. But Trump also licensed his now-famous name to all kinds of unrelated businesses and made $230 million in licensing fees. This $427 million, largely due to Burnett's genius as a producer that made Trump's "brand" valuable, rebooted Trump.

Some of the licensing deals simply permitted some company to sell "Trump steaks" or "Trump vodka," or "Trump gold bullion chocolate bars," or Trump something else, with no effort required on Trump's part other than signing the contract his lawyers wrote. Some of Trump's partners were shady. He made almost $9 million from ACN, a multilevel marketing company that was basically running a pyramid scheme. Nominally, it had products and services for sale, but its real business was getting people to buy the rights to becoming an ACN dealer. Then when they signed up more dealers, ACN and the person who signed them up got a cut of the revenue they and the dealers below them in the pyramid brought in. So the real business was selling worthless dealerships, not products or services. But, hey, $9 million is nice money; too bad a lot of people got fleeced in the process of making it. Their fault for being so gullible.

Another murky relationship was with an obscure company called Bayrock, which leased space in Trump Tower. It was founded by a Soviet-era official from Kazakhstan, Tevfik Arif. His right-hand man was a former felon, Felix Sater, a Russian émigré with ties to Russian mobsters. Bayrock proposed building condo-hotels, in which private buyers would buy condos and then make them available for rent as hotel units when they were not using them. Bayrock mostly wanted to use Trump's name. The money for building them came from undisclosed (and likely criminal) sources. Undoubtedly, large-scale money laundering was going on here, and it is hard to imagine that Trump was unaware of where the money was coming from. Only one building was built, the Trump SoHo condo-hotel, which generated $9 million for him in licensing fees without putting any of his own money at risk. But that gave Trump the idea that he could make money, risk-free, by licensing other companies to build Trump-branded condo-hotels. And he insisted that the developers pay him up front, so even if the project failed (which many of them did), he still made out like a bandit.

Beginning in 2006, Trump began spending the money he made from "The Apprentice" and the related licensing deals. He bought a dozen golf courses over time. All of them cost a fortune and all of them lost money. He not only spent all the money he made from "The Apprentice," but also hundreds of millions of dollars he borrowed from sources not yet disclosed. He is now in debt to the tune of something like $400 million, and all of those loans are due in the next four years. Trump has no liquid assets to pay them off. Selling off money-losing golf courses and hotels at fire-sale prices will be tough, which is why he is trying to exploit the presidency for all it is worth (literally). Having foreign countries hold big, expensive bashes at his properties helps, as does charging the Secret Service top dollar for staying at his clubs and hotels when he is staying there. The possibilities for corruption and subverting American policy for Trump's personal needs are enormous. Suppose Putin were to ask for America's most important top military secrets in exchange for forgiving Trump's debt. One can only hope and pray that Trump's $400-million debt is to Deutsche Bank, not Mafia Bank.

Will this new newsdrop have any effect? Our guess is no. It is too complicated for most people to understand and some people will say there is nothing wrong making money licensing your name. There isn't, but nobody is suggesting that Kim Kardashian is qualified to be president simply because she is famous (although her husband seems to think otherwise). We think that people who are already committed to Trump aren't going to suddenly admit that they were scammed. That's too painful. But Trump is currently behind Biden by 7-10 points. He needs to get Biden voters to switch to him, and this story isn't going to help.

And the story isn't over. The missing ingredient is: Whom does Trump owe the $400 million to? Normally when a project goes south, he just declares bankruptcy and moves on. But there are two problems here. First, he guaranteed the loans personally, so if he declared bankruptcy, he would lose all of his personal assets, something he is never going to do. Second, if it turns out he owes the money to a bank owned by the Russian mafia, he has a serious problem. The Russian mafia works closely with Russian President Vladimir Putin and provides many undercover services to him. In return, he protects them. If the loans are from Putin's criminal buddies, stiffing them must be done with great care, lest Trump's tea suddenly starts glowing in the dark. To be continued. (V)

Biden and Harris Release Their 2019 Tax Returns

Yesterday both Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) released their 2019 tax returns, in the expectation that Donald Trump's taxes might just come up in the debate. Biden reported an adjusted gross income of $985,233 and paid $299,346 in taxes, a rate of 30%. The Bidens gave $14,700 to charity.

Harris and her lawyer husband Doug Emhoff reported an AGI of $3,095,590 and paid $1,185,628, which represents a tax rate of 38%, putting them very close to the top rate. They donated $35,390 to charity. If you want to view the tax returns, here they are.

With this new release, Biden has published all his tax returns for the past 22 years. Harris has released all of hers for 16 years. Trump has released all of his for 0 years, although the New York Times has obtained 20 years' worth and is writing a series of stories about them (see above). (V)

The Nerd Who Could Save America

That's Arnon Mishkin. Does that name ring a bell? He is a 65-year-old data nerd who runs Fox News' Decision Desk. He's the one who will call (or not call) the election for Fox on the evening of Nov. 3. Not Tucker Carlson. Not Laura Ingraham. Not Sean Hannity. Arnon Mishkin, a registered Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Unless he says Donald Trump won, none of the others are allowed to say it. Here is Mishkin:

Arnon Mishkin

He is a data nerd and a straight shooter, but the pressure on him to make a premature call for Trump could turn a lump of coal into a diamond. On Election Night, Trump will probably call Rupert Murdoch and order him to have the on-air talent announce that he won. But Murdoch lives in England and might be tucked in his comfy bed in Oxfordshire at midnight ET (5 a.m. in the U.K.) Trump might then successively call Lachlan Murdoch, Fox Corporation's CEO, Viet Dinh, who runs Fox News' parent company, and Suzanne Scott, who runs the network. But none of them will dare order the on-screen talent to declare a Trump victory unless Mishkin and his staff of eight statisticians, pollsters, and political scientists are on board.

Mishkin got his 15 minutes of fame in 2012 when Fox News called Ohio and the election for Barack Obama. Megyn Kelly was interviewing Karl Rove then and he insisted that Mitt Romney would win Ohio. So Kelly got up from the set and walked down the hall to the Decision Desk room (known at Fox as the nerdquarium) and interviewed Mishkin on camera. He insisted it was all over. Here is the video of it:

People who know Mishkin say that he is unbending and will resist the pressure, no matter how great it is. He won't call the election until he is sure who won, even if that takes a week after Election Day. So this time, it could be Clark Kent, not Superman, who saves America. (V)

A COVID-19 Relief Deal Is Still Possible

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are still trying to make a deal to help people hurt by the economic fallout resulting from COVID-19. They have spoken several times in the past few days. Pelosi is under pressure from members who want to show their constituents they can deliver, and Donald Trump needs an accomplishment to tout, especially with all the bad news concerning his tax returns out there, not to mention the lousy debate performance.

If it were up to Pelosi and Mnuchin, they would have had a deal months ago. The problem is that many Senate Republicans—especially those not on the ballot in November—don't want to give out government money unless it is carefully targeted to go to rich people. The Democrats' plan doesn't do that. It has another $1,200 check for most Americans and help to states and cities hard hit by the virus. It also has money to help the USPS deliver absentee ballots and money for virus testing. The GOP senators don't want any of that.

It is not completely hopeless though, because Trump thinks a bill will help him. So there is still a chance he will intervene and tell Mnuchin to make a deal, any deal, and then order the Senate to approve it. (V)

House Democrats Are Moving from Defense to Offense

At the start of this cycle, House Democrats were in panic mode, worried silly that the 30 new representatives in districts Trump won in 2016 would be swept out to sea when Trump was once again on the ballot. The DCCC's media-buying strategy indicates that the fearful phase is over. Ads are being pulled from Democratic-held districts and moved to Republican-held districts. The focus now is as much on flipping new Republican seats as it is on holding Democratic seats first won in 2018. Such a change would not have occurred if Democrats were afraid of newbies like Haley Stevens and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan losing their seats after one term.

All in all, the DCCC is providing air cover to roughly two dozen Democrats, but also going after an equal number of Republicans. It can do that because it is sitting on $105 million in cash. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL), a moderate who is running the DCCC, said: "We're raising money like it's falling from the sky." When Bustos was elected as head of the DCCC, she was in a competitive race with Suzan DelBene, a progressive. Progressives were unhappy with Bustos, but it now appears she is doing a good job and Democrats stand a good chance to increase their 34-seat House margin rather than see it decrease.

To a small extent, Bustos' good luck is due to Republican failures. Members in some swing districts, like Antonio Delgado (NY-19, R+2), Lauren Underwood (IL-14, R+5), and Josh Harder (CA-10, Even) aren't going to cost the DCCC a penny because the Republicans nominated such weak opponents to face them. The millions saved there allow Bustos to expand the map and go after long-shot seats in Arizona, Texas, and North Carolina. Part of the reason is that while Hillary Clinton was toxic to many voters, Joe Biden is not really toxic anywhere (except to the extent that any Democrat is toxic in some places). People may choose not to vote for him, but few people hate him with a white-hot passion.

The uncertainty of the presidential race has affected the DCCC's funding decisions due to a peculiarity of the Constitution. Suppose Joe Biden wins all the states Clinton won plus Michigan and Pennsylvania and also ME-02. This gets him to 269 electoral votes, tied with Trump. There are also other ways to get to 269. In that case the House picks the president, with each state getting one vote. That means that Montana's lone representative and Alaska's lone representative, who combined represent 1.8 million people, have the same clout as the California and New York delegations combined, even though they represent 59 million people.

The consequence of this possibility is that the DCCC is putting serious money into the Montana and Alaska House races. Currently Republicans control 26 House delegations, Democrats control 23, and Pennsylvania is split evenly. If Democrats can flip Montana, Alaska, and one seat in Pennsylvania, they would have control of 26 House delegations. That would be enough for the House to elect Biden, should it come to that.

If the Democrats pick up Pennsylvania and one of Alaska and Montana, the House would be deadlocked 25-25 and then the person the Senate chose as vice president would be the acting president until the House could make up its mind—probably not until January 3, 2023, unless there were special elections before then. That would mean acting President Kamala Harris or Acting President Mike Pence, depending on how the Senate was divided. (V)

Senate Democrats Are Moving from Defense to Offense, Too

Not in terms of the election. Everybody knows which Senate seats are flippable and which ones aren't, and the DSCC is not having problems funding the candidates that need it. No, in this case, it's in terms of Senate business. On Tuesday, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer decided to pull out one of those parliamentary tricks we talked about yesterday, and took control of the Senate floor in order to force a vote later this week on a measure that would protect people with existing conditions even if the ACA is struck down in November.

The bill will never become law, of course; Schumer merely wants to get vulnerable Republicans (and possibly the President) on the record in opposition to protecting these folks. Meanwhile, it is theoretically possible for any senator to force a vote like this, but they almost never do it, for fear that Senate business would grind to a halt. It is this tradition that gives Mitch McConnell such an iron grip on the Senate's agenda. Tuesday's maneuver marked the first time, since he became Minority Leader, that Schumer forced a vote like this. It may be an early sign that he and his caucus are no longer interested in observing traditions that leave them toothless, and allow the majority party to completely gum up the works. (Z)

Today's Presidential Polls

Joe Biden is ahead in Georgia but behind in North Carolina??? Seems improbable. But remember, 5% of all polls are expected to be outside the margin of error. (V)

State Biden Trump Start End Pollster
Georgia 50% 47% Sep 23 Sep 27 Quinnipiac U.
Georgia 50% 47% Sep 26 Sep 29 Civiqs
North Carolina 48% 49% Sep 18 Sep 25 U. of Mass.
New Hampshire 53% 44% Sep 17 Sep 25 U. of Mass.
New Hampshire 56% 42% Sep 23 Sep 25 Pulse Opinion Research
Texas 46% 50% Sep 18 Sep 25 U. of Mass.

Today's Senate Polls

Our guess here is that those Georgia polls both had too many Democrats in them. The North Carolina polls are plausible because Cal Cunningham really is running ahead of Biden. (V)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Georgia Jon Ossoff 48% David Perdue* 46% Sep 26 Sep 29 Civiqs
Georgia Jon Ossoff 49% David Perdue* 48% Sep 23 Sep 27 Quinnipiac U.
North Carolina Cal Cunningham 49% Thom Tillis* 43% Sep 18 Sep 25 U. of Mass.
New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen* 56% Corky Messner 37% Sep 17 Sep 25 U. of Mass.
Texas Mary Hegar 40% John Cornyn* 50% Sep 18 Sep 25 U. of Mass.

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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