washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

From “Biden Has 78% Chance of Winning Presidency, Forecasters Say: They raise his chances 3 percentage points a day after a tumultuous debate” by Peter Coy at Bloomberg Businessweek: “Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is a strong favorite to be elected, according to professional forecasters. They raised his probability of victory by 3 percentage points a day after a wild debate in which President Trump repeatedly interrupted Biden and moderator Chris Wallace, while the former vice president called Trump a clown, a liar, and a racist…Good Judgment Inc. says the median estimate of its team of forecasters as of Sept. 30 was that Biden had a 78% chance of victory, up from 75% on Sept. 29 and the highest figure since Aug. 18. In February the unchosen Democratic presidential candidate was given less than a 40% chance of victory. Since then the forecasters have steadily upped their estimates of victory for the Democrat, who we now know is Biden. His chances peaked at 82% in late July. There’s been little change since…The election forecasting model of poll aggregator FiveThirtyEight, released Sept. 30, also gives Biden a 78% chance of winning the Electoral College—78.4%, to be precise. The methodology is different, so it’s pure coincidence that they came up with the same probability…The overnight increase in Biden’s victory chances was not attributed specifically to the debate, but it seems likely to have played a big part in the forecasters’ reassessment, since it was the biggest political event of the past 24 hours.”

According to Vox’s Andrew Prokop, “CBS News and YouGov have been tracking respondents in battleground states, and they were able to quickly contact some of those respondents and ask those who watched the Tuesday debate what they thought. Overall, 48 percent said Biden won the debate, while 41 percent said Trump won, and 10 percent said it was a tie. As CBS elections and survey director Anthony Salvanto pointed out on air, this was pretty close to the support for each candidate going in…Kabir Khanna of the CBS News Election and Survey Unit also points out that 42 percent of debate watchers said they thought worse of Trump afterward, and 24 percent said they thought better of him. In contrast, 32 percent said they thought worse of Biden, while 38 percent thought better of him…CNN and SSRS also conducted an instant poll of debate watchers, and they found a more lopsided margin in Biden’s favor. Sixty percent of their respondents thought Biden won, while 28 percent thought Trump won.”

Another Vox writer, Matthew Yglesias, writes, “A new poll by Data for Progress provided exclusively to Vox shows that viewers thought Democratic nominee Joe Biden decisively won Tuesday’s first presidential debate against President Donald Trump, by a 52-39 margin…The poll surveyed debate watchers but then weighted the demographics of the survey group to the population of likely voters in November. Most pollsters don’t do this, which ends up skewing their results toward Democrats because left-leaning college graduates are disproportionately likely to watch debates…But even with the more Trump-friendly weighting, the poll shows a clear win for Biden and, not coincidentally, a fairly overwhelming sense that Biden’s conduct during the debate was more presidential.”

Ella Nilsen reports that “Joe Biden smashed his single-hour fundraising record after the first presidential debate: Biden raised nearly $4 million in one hour after the debate” at Vox and notes, “At the end of a bruising first presidential debate on Tuesday night, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign announced yet another fundraising milestone…The campaign saw $3.8 million raised between 10-11 pm ET during the debate, breaking its own record for the amount raised in a single hour, according to campaign officials. A couple of hours later, Democratic National Committee officials announced the party had its best fundraising hour on record from 11 pm-12 am ET, although party officials did not say how much was raised.”

Ezra Klein, also at Vox, notes a change in Biden’s position on two crucial issues: “…When moderator Chris Wallace asked Biden to “tell the American people tonight whether or not you will support either ending the filibuster or packing the Court,” Biden refused. “Whatever position I take on that, that will become the issue,” he replied.” In the past, Biden has voiced skepticism about ending the filibuster and expanding the court. But now that Mitch McConnell has abandoned any semblance of bipartisan fairness in filling Supreme Court vacancies, there is no good reason for Biden to hold on to the  outdated hope that Republicans will act fairly. In addition, demographic changes are proceeding in a favorable direction for Democrats at an exponential rate, so this may be their only chance to restore balance to the high court, especially considering that Trump’s appointees are pretty young. Klein concludes, “The question shadowing Biden’s campaign is whether his oft-voiced nostalgia for the Senate that was, will render him paralyzed by the Senate; that is, whether he will be too attached to a past era in American politics to make the decisions necessary to govern well in this one. Early in the campaign, I was reasonably sure it would. I’m less so now.” Of course everything depends on Democrats winning both the presidency and a senate majority.

Charlie Cook disses the expand the court idea as ‘left wing’ folly at The Cook Political Report, writing that “It’s those who want to expand the Supreme Court so they can plug in a liberal majority, quite possibly the dumbest thing that Franklin Roosevelt proposed in his 12 years as president.” However, some  historians have argued that, while FDR failed to expand the high court (mostly because of southern Democrats who no longer dominate the party), the strategy did ultimately help him get some more favorable high court rulings. But all that was 83+ years ago, and today’s Democrats don’t have a lot of options between increasing the size of the Supreme Court and accepting Mitch McConnell packing the court with right-wing ideologues. If anyone has a good idea regarding what Democrats should do if Republicans get a 6-3 Supreme Court majority, now would be a good time to share.

In his Politico article, “How Democrats Could Pack the Supreme Court in 2021.” Jeff Greenfield mulls over the pros and cons of increasing the size of the Supreme Court and provides this stark assessment of the do-nothing approach for Dems: “If a new Democratic president and Senate are taking power just after a blatant GOP power grab in the face of the electorate’s choice, any reluctance on the part of Biden or a Senate Democrat would face the full fury of the Democratic base. Steve Bannon once famously said that, in politics, “We [the Right] go for the head wound, and your side has pillow fights.” If there’s a Supreme Court seat or two to avenge, the pillow-fight approach might end. Apart from the hunger for political payback, a conservative court shaped by Mitch McConnell would mean the all but certain death of the Affordable Care Act, the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade, and a generation of judicial hostility to the core ideas of the Democratic left.” Not to mention the consequences of rulings on a range of important economic issues, including worker rights, deregulation and consumer protection.

Regarding alternative reforms, Greenfield adds, “There are several alternatives that have been debated in legal and academic circles: They range from giving each political party five justices, who would then choose five more; to limiting the terms of judges so that every president gets two picks; to making all 180 federal appeals court judges members of the court, with panels of nine chosen at random to rule on all matters, including which cases the court would take up. (This change would require only legislation; proposals for limiting the terms of justices would require amending the Constitution.)…They all have the quality of careful thought and the nonexistent possibility that any of them becomes reality in the midst of a full-blown constitutional brawl. And if Congress pushes through a restructuring of the court on a strictly partisan vote, giving Americans a Supreme Court that looks unlike anything they grew up with, and unlike the institution we’ve had for more than 240 years, it’s hard to imagine the country as a whole would see its decisions as legitimate.” Yet the size of the U.S. Supreme Court has been changed a half-dozen times in U.S. history, always with a lot of howling, and the Republic has survived.

Political Strategy Notes – Trump Tax Revelations Edition

Thanks to The New York Times, Trump’s tax dodge has finally been outed. The Times bombshell came under a pretty timid headline. But CNN provided a better one from a messaging standpoint, “New York Times: Trump paid no income taxes in 10 out of 15 years beginning in 2000.” But credit the Times with a Pulitzer-worthy investigative report. Here’s an excerpt: “The Times obtained Donald Trump’s tax information extending over more than two decades, revealing struggling properties, vast write-offs, an audit battle and hundreds of millions in debt coming due…Donald J. Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750…He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.” CNN reports that, at a White House briefing, “The President repeatedly refused to answer how much he has paid in federal taxes in the briefing and walked out to shouted questions from CNN’s Jeremy Diamond on the topic.” Of course, Trump and his minions denounce the report. But don’t hold your breath waiting for evidence that the revelations are inaccurate. Here’s a fun question media can ask Republican senators, “Senator, how does your effective tax rate over the last 15 years compare with that of the president/leader of your party?”

There is no polling data on attitudes towards the Times revelations yet. But The Guardian headline went with the big question, “Will the New York Times taxes report sink Donald Trump?,”and David Smith responded: “Joaquin Castro, a Democratic congressman from Texas, told MSNBC the Times report “reveals what many people have suspected, which is the larger point that Donald Trump is a fraud, that he’s not what he claims to be…He claims to be a successful, deal-making businessman who built himself up from the ground and his tax records reveal that he’s actually the opposite. He’s basically a deadbeat who doesn’t pay much in taxes.” Smith continues, “Indeed, Trump paid no federal income taxes in 11 of 18 years the Times examined. In 2016 and 2017, his tax bill was just $750 – far less than almost every US citizen…It is tempting to see this as terminal for Trump in the November election against Joe Biden. But we have been here many times before. The same was said after the release of an Access Hollywood tape in October 2016, where Trump was heard bragging about sexual assault…There are also large chunks of Trump’s cult who pay little attention to the New York Times or Twitter as it is….Does Trump’s substantial income from abroad conflict with his responsibilities as president? Did he put his personal interest ahead of the American people? Did he break the law?…The Times has promised more stories to come. They won’t shake the Trump faithful, but they might chip away at enough voters to make an important difference.”

Brian Stelter of CNN Business shared a couple of slaient observations, including: “This is an “emperor has no clothes” moment for the president and the beginning of a long, drawn-out news cycle about his finances…As CNN’s John Harwood said during Sunday evening’s breaking news coverage, the story is “a devastating picture of a president who is bleeding financially and is depending on his presidency to prop him up financially.”…Oliver Darcy said in a text message to me, “Trump’s supporters who are locked in the Fox bubble where this will be handled with kid gloves. And they have been conditioned to believe that NYT is an arm of the Democratic machine.”…Perhaps he’s right. Most minds are made up and some votes are already being cast. But the dollar figures in the story are still astonishing. I think the tax avoidance story is singularly important because it fills in a big part of Trump’s portrait. Voters and reporters and historians should have the fullest possible portrait of both Trump and Joe Biden. So the NYT has performed a real public service…CNN anchor Ana Cabrera pointed out that Trump resorted to right-wing questioners and said that he “could solve all this by releasing his tax returns, by making them public..”

Stelter also shares some nugget insights from various sources, including: “One of the reasons why it matters: “The tax allegations go to the very heart of Trump’s appeal,” Jill Colvin noted… (AP)…Another reason why it matters: If Trump “loses the election,” former prosecutor Michael Bromwich wrote, “he faces federal and state prosecution for bank fraud, tax fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud, as does his entire family…” (Twitter)…The NYT story says Trump has “more than $300 million in loans” coming due in the next four years. One of Monday’s biggest unanswered questions is, as Jim Sciutto put it, “to whom exactly does the Commander in Chief owe this money to?” (Twitter)…Former NYTer Michael Luo, now at The New Yorker, tweeted: “Arguably, no other news org in the world could invest as much time/resources into Trump tax investigations as NYT has. Maybe Washington Post and ProPublica too? Three reporters; unlimited time. Support investigative journalism as a bulwark of democracy.”…WaPo media reporter Paul Farhi: “The subtext of the NYT report is the crucial importance of ‘The Apprentice’ to Trump’s finances and ultimately his political career. No ‘Apprentice,’ no cash flow to prop up many loss-making businesses. No ‘Apprentice,’ no myth of Trump as a financial whiz to run on.” (Twitter)…Michael Cohen is taking a victory lap… (Twitter)…The Biden campaign is selling “I paid more income taxes than Donald Trump” stickers… (Twitter)…Public opinion researcher Gary Langer, summarizing his latest poll for ABC/WaPo, found a “net total of 5% of likely voters who can be considered movable — a thin slice, albeit potentially enough to matter in some states…” (ABC)”

Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted, “Shock of shocks! Donald Trump, the self-proclaimed billionaire, received a $72.9 million tax refund from the IRS while not paying a nickel in federal income taxes in 10 out of 15 years. Yep. Trump l-o-v-e-s corporate socialism for himself, rugged capitalism for everyone else.” Sen. Chris Murphy put it this way: “Seven hundred fifty dollars. SEVEN HUNDRED FIFTY DOLLARS. That’s why he hid his tax returns. Because the whole time, he wasn’t paying taxes. But you were. Plumbers and teachers and fast food workers and accountants were (and still are) paying for his lifestyle. $750.” Actor Patricia Arquette had this succinct take: “If you paid more than $750.00 in Federal taxes (which supports the military and vets by the way) then you paid more than Trump paid.” Former NBA Hall-of-Famer Kevin McHale boiled his comment down even further, “$750.” Actor Steven Pzsquale adds, “I paid more income taxes bussing fucking tables at TGIF’s in Harrisburg PA than the president of the United States who claims to be a billionaire.” Author-activist Meena Harris adds, “Before I saw the news someone texted me “750 is wild,” and I definitely assumed it was $750K NOT SEVEN HUNDRED FIFTY DOLLARS OH MY GOD.” Actor George Takei notes, “Fun fact: In 2016, Trump paid Stormy Daniels more than 173x what he paid the federal government in income taxes.”

In another round-up of short takes, author Amy Siskind tweets, “My son paid more in taxes for his summer internship than mister so-called billionaire stable genius paid in 2017.” Business analyst and commentator Juliette Kayem notes, “Excessive debt is viewed as a national security vulnerability and generally means no security clearance allowed. Why? Not only because a debt ridden person is desperate, but because the entity loaning has undue influence over the person.” And remember that Trump, himself, once tweeted “@Barack Obama, who wants to raise all our taxes, only pays 20.5% taxes on $790K salary. 1.usa.gov/HFZJKH Do as I say not as I do.”

Andrew Prokop notes in “We now know what Trump was trying to hide by holding back his tax returns” at Vox: “For years, the political world has speculated on just what Trump was trying to hide by holding back his returns, and by falsely claiming that he can’t release them until the IRS finishes an extended audit. Was it that he paid no income taxes at all in some years? Was it that he was far less successful of a businessman than he let on? Was he claiming legally dubious deductions?…The answer, it turns out, is all of the above….”That’s just what ended up happening here. Just to name one example, Buettner, Craig, and McIntire sussed out that mysterious write-offs for consulting fees on certain Trump projects matched the amounts of payments to Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump. And there’s far more in the Times’ excellent piece…Initially, he had promised that he would release them. But he kept making excuses, his main one being the false claim he could not yet release the returns because he is under audit…So Trump’s tax returns became the white whale of his critics, with everyone from reporters to House Democrats to New York state prosecutors trying to get ahold of them…”

In “Bombshell NYT report: Trump writes off money he gives to Ivanka by calling her a “contractor””Nine Trump entities have written off at least $95,464 paid to a favorite hair and makeup artist of Ivanka Trump,” Sarah K. Burris reports at salon.com: “Gift taxes are when a living person gives over $15,000 to a person, and Trump has given Ivanka much more than that. But to get around it, he calls his money to her “contractor fees,” which she declares as “income.” She’s also had nearly $100,000 in fees for her hair and makeup paid by the president for years….”Mr. Trump has written off as business expenses costs — including fuel and meals — associated with his aircraft, used to shuttle him among his various homes and properties,” said the Times. “Likewise, the cost of haircuts, including the more than $70,000 paid to style his hair during ‘The Apprentice.’ Together, nine Trump entities have written off at least $95,464 paid to a favorite hair and makeup artist of Ivanka Trump.”…In her public filings, Ivanka Trump said she was paid through TTT Consulting, LLC, which she indicated previously was giving “consulting, licensing, and management services for real estate projects.” It’s one of many companies connected to the Trump family under the tame TTT or TTTT.”

In “Most of Trump’s charitable tax write-offs are reportedly for not developing property he owns,” Catherine Garcia writes at The Week: “In 2014, Trump classified Seven Springs as an investment property rather than a personal residence, and since then he has written off $2.2 million in property taxes as a business expense, the Times reports. That same year, Eric Trump told Forbes Seven Springs is “really our compound,” and served as “home base for us for a long, long time.” The Trump Organization’s website also says the property is currently “used as a retreat for the Trump family.”…Trump also placed a conservation easement on the land in 2015, meaning he signed a deal with a land conservancy, agreeing to leave most of the property untouched. In exchange for this, Trump claimed a $21.1 million charitable tax donation, the Times reports. His tax records show that over the years, Trump has claimed four conservation easement deductions on his taxes, which represent about $119.3 million of the roughly $130 million in personal and corporate charitable contributions he has reported to the Internal Revenue Service, the Times reports. When asked for comment about Seven Springs, Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, did not respond.”

Political Strategy Notes

E. J. Dionne, Jr. says it straight in “Capitulating to the right won’t end the judicial wars” at The Washington Post:Republicans lacked the guts to give Garland a hearing or a floor vote in 2016 because a great many in the GOP had praised Garland, a moderate liberal, as an ideal pick for President Barack Obama to make. The perfect way for cowards to avoid a vote on a jurist they admitted had sterling qualifications was — well, not to vote at all…There is no getting around the truth: A Democratic president couldn’t even get a hearing on someone named to the court eight months before a presidential election. A Republican president is entitled to a vote on someone who will be named less than seven weeks before the election. The partisanship is naked, and it’s on one side…This makes Republicans the real “court packers.” Memo to liberals: The GOP’s abuses make expanding the court morally necessary, but stop calling it “court-packing…If Republicans force through Trump’s nominee, they will have abused their power twice to create an illegitimate, long-term 6-to-3 conservative majority. Adding additional justices is thus an effort to make the court less partisan, less ideological and more balanced. It is a moderate aspiration, not a “left-wing” demand. It is a response to the other side’s court-packing…Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and all of the senators who vote with them are the radicals and the aggressors. The language of the fight going forward must make this clear.”

In “Chief Justice Roberts’s lifelong crusade against voting rights, explained,” at Vox, Ian Milhiser writes, “As chief justice, Roberts has occasionally shown moderation. He famously saved most of the Affordable Care Acttwice! And he more recently cast a surprising vote to preserve the constitutional right to an abortion (although he simultaneously signaled that this right is unlikely to last much longer)…But Roberts has shown no such moderation on voting rights. Among other things, Roberts dismantled much of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder (2013), and he’s joined decisions making it much harder for voting rights plaintiffs to prove they were victims of discrimination. On the basic question of who is allowed to vote and which ballots will be counted, the most important issue in any democracy, Roberts is still the same man who tried and failed to strangle the Voting Rights Act nearly four decades earlier…Broadly speaking, the Voting Rights Act created two separate procedures to stop racist voting laws. Section 5 of the act laid out the preclearance regime I described above, while Section 2 permitted voting rights plaintiffs to bring lawsuits challenging racist laws that are already in effect…Ari Berman writes, “Roberts wrote upwards of 25 memos opposing an effects test for Section 2.” He “drafted talking points, speeches and op-eds for” senior Justice Department officials opposing the amendment, and “prepared administration officials for their testimony before the Senate; attended weekly strategy sessions; and worked closely with like-minded senators on Capitol Hill…This moment of profound peril for American democracy is, in many ways, Roberts’s doing. He’s worked his entire career to undermine voting rights. Whatever happens in the 2020 election, we cannot rely on the Roberts Court to protect those rights.”

Also at Vox, German Lopez has a long article explaining  “How Trump let Covid-19 win,” deailing the Administration’s disastrous mismanagement of the pandemic, including these observations: “America now has one of the worst ongoing epidemics in the world, with the second most daily new Covid-19 deaths among developed nations, surpassed only by Spain…In the months before the coronavirus arrived, the Trump administration also cut a public health position meant to detect outbreaks in China and another program, called Predict, that tracked emerging pathogens around the globe, including coronaviruses. And Trump has repeatedly called for further cuts to the CDC and National Institutes of Health, both on the front lines of the federal response to disease outbreaks; the administration stood by the proposed cuts after the pandemic began, though Congress has largely rejected the proposals…The Trump administration pushed for the cuts despite multiple, clear warnings that the US was not prepared for a pandemic. A 2019 ranking of countries’ disaster preparednessfrom the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and Nuclear Threat Initiative had the US at the top of the list, but still warned that “no country is fully prepared for epidemics or pandemics.”

Meredith Conroy and Perry Bacon, Jr. break down “The Partisan, Gender and Generational Differences Among Black Voters Heading Into Election Day” at FiveThirtyEight and observe: “According to recent Democracy Fund polling, 83 percent of likely Black voters favored former Vice President Joe Biden, 10 percent favored President Trump, and 8 percent said they didn’t know which candidate they will back.1Recent Morning Consult polling found almost exactly the same thing — 84 percent for Biden, 10 percent for Trump and 7 percent undecided or favoring a third-party candidate…But this gender gap is favorable to Biden in an important way — Black women tend to vote at higher rates than Black men (64 percent of voting-eligible Black women turned out in 2016, compared to 54 percent of Black men)…Among Black registered voters age 50 and older, 75 percent said they thought congressional Democrats were doing a good job, compared to just 22 percent who thought congressional Democrats were doing a poor job, according to a HIT survey conducted in June. But among Black voters under age 50, only about half (54 percent) approved of congressional Democrats, while 36 percent disapproved…Biden had more support among Black voters who were college-educated and those with higher-incomes, according to the Nationscape data. So it might be that more established Black people (older, more educated, higher income) are more satisfied with the Democratic Party than other Black Americans.”

From “Demographic shifts since 2016 could be enough to defeat Trump” by David Wasserman at the Cook Political Report: “In 2020, noncollege whites are on track to make up about 43 percent of the nation’s adult citizens, down from 46 percent in 2016…Meanwhile, whites with four-year degrees, who are trending blue and increasingly behave like a different ethnic group from noncollege whites, will make up 25 percent of adult citizens, up from 24 percent in 2016. And Black Americans, Latinos, Asians and other nonwhites, historically Democrats’ most reliable supporters, will make up 32 percent, up from 30 percent four years ago…A new interactive collaboration by NBC News and The Cook Political Report finds that if 2016’s rates of turnout and support were applied to 2020’s new demographic realities, Trump would narrowly lose Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — more than enough to swing the presidency to Joe Biden. And, Trump would lose the popular vote by about four points, roughly double his 2016 deficit…At the moment, Trump’s bigger problem is that Biden is winning more noncollege whites than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Biden losing them by 23 points, whereas exit polls showed Clinton losing them by 37 points. That would be more than enough to offset modest gains Trump has made since 2016 among Hispanics and other nonwhites.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall posits “Five Things Biden and His Allies Should Be Worried About.” and notes, “A Democratic strategist — who requested anonymity because his employer does not want him publicly identified talking about the election — analyzed the implications of the most recent voter registration trends for me. In Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, he said, overall registration is up by 6 points through August compared to the 2016 cycle, but net Democratic registrations are down by 38 percent. That’s about 150,000 fewer additional Democrats than were added in 2016. In addition, he continued, registration among whites without college degrees is up by 46 percent while registration by people of color is up by only 4 percent. That gap is made more stark when you realize that over the last four years, the WNC (white non-college) population has increased by only 1 percent in those states, while the number of people of color increased by 13 percent. The pattern was more pronounced in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin than it was in Michigan.”

“The biggest news out of The Economist’s release this week of its Senate model is that it gives Democrats a 67% chance of winning 51 seats (and the the majority) on November 3.” Chris Cillizza writes at CNN Politics. “But look a little deeper into the model’s projection and you see this: Democrats have a 1 in 3chance of winning at least 53 seats and a 1 in 5 chance of winning at least 54 seats…(Quick note: There’s no question, when looking at the landscape, that major Democratic gains — along the line of a 6- or 7-seat net pickup are possible.  At the moment the Cook Political Report, a non-partisan campaign tip sheet, rates 10 GOP-held seats in its most endangered categories as opposed to just two Democratic seats.)…If Schumer, say, is overseeing a 51-seat Democratic majority in 2021, he can only afford to lose two votes of his colleagues on any major legislation…And with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema — both of whom have voted with Trump’s positions more than 50% of the time, according to 538, certain to be in the Senate at that time, it would complicate Schumer’s efforts to go BIG in terms of major reforms as a means of payback for what Senate GOPers are going to do with the Supreme Court…Now consider how different Schumer’s outlook would be if he was sitting on a 53- or 54-seat majority. He could afford to let Manchin and Sinema go their own ways on this issue or that — and still be left with wiggle room to get things passed by simple majority.”

In his post, “States of Play: Ohio: After Trump maxed out the Buckeye State’s rural areas and small town areas, can Biden max out the suburbs?” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik writes: “Ohio insiders believe that the state is closer than last time, and that Donald Trump is struggling mightily in suburban areas…Still, Ohio should vote considerably to the right of the nation, thanks to its high percentage of white voters who don’t have a four-year college degree — a strong group for Trump — and its smaller-than-average nonwhite population, a group that is very Democratic…Suburban areas in general, and the Cincinnati and Dayton areas in particular, would likely be a key part of a Biden path to victory. But Trump is still better-positioned to win the state…Ultimately, the Crystal Ball still rates Ohio as Leans Republican…If Biden were to win Ohio, though, Trump’s path in the Midwest — and to a second term — would be blocked…That Trump spent precious time in Ohio earlier this week suggests that the battle for the state is not yet finished. In 2016, the Trump campaign felt good enough about Ohio that Trump skipped the state in his final tour of swing states the three days before the election. Whether Trump can do so again the final weekend of this campaign might tell us something about how well his campaign believes he’s doing.”

Almost every day, Trump threatens to disrupt the election and prevent a fair vote count, and yes there are reasons to worry about what he can get away with. A lot of attention will rightly be focused on election returns in the bigggest swing state, Florida, which looks like a close contest. At New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait notes that “the rickety constitutional structure is poorly suited to handle a disputed election. One of its massive loopholes allows state legislatures to ignore voters altogether and appoint any electors they want to the Electoral College. Respecting the results of the election is merely optional, a norm. And norms have been falling by the wayside.” However, “Biden is currently on the cusp of a victory decisive enough that Trump’s machinations probably cannot stop it. Florida, which is roughly tied, tabulates mail-in ballots quickly, and a Biden win could cut short Trump’s room for mischief.”

Dems Face Strategic Options on High Court

Manu Raju discusses Democratic strategic options regading Justice Ginsburg’s replacement  at CNN Politics:

The debate underscores the challenge facing Democrats as they try to nail down the right strategy to battle a nomination that appears to be on the glide path to confirmation on the backs of Republicans.

On private conference calls in the aftermath of the death last week of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Democrats have had a wide-ranging discussion about their plans and tactics.

Overwhelmingly, they believe they must focus their message on how the new nominee would jeopardize the health care of millions, with the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court and persistent court challenges against abortion rights. They also believe they should focus on what they view as a blatant power grab by the GOP to jam a nominee through on the eve of a national election, contradicting the Republican refusal to move on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee eight months before the 2016 election.

Fair enough. But Democrats should entertain no delusions that the Republican Senators who will vote on Trump’s Supreme Court pick will care much about putting the health care of millions at risk or reproductive rights. Raju adds,

And increasingly, Democrats are trying to steer clear of talk that they would change the makeup of the Supreme Court by adding seats to it if they take the Senate majority this fall, with some arguing that gives the GOP ammunition in the battle for control of the chamber.

“I’m not for retaliatory moves,” said Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, the Democrats’ most vulnerable senator this cycle, pushing back on calls to add seats to the court. He wouldn’t say if he would oppose a Trump pick no matter what.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, who also faces voters in November, said: “No” when asked if she backs adding more seats to the court if Democrats take the majority.

“I think the important thing right now is that people need to make our Republican colleagues and the Trump administration aware … if they believe, as I do, that they should let the election go forward and the next president, whoever that is, nominate the nominee to the Supreme Court,” Shaheen said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat and progressive firebrand, sidestepped questions when asked if she favored adding seats to the Supreme Court.

“We need to talk about what’s at stake now: What’s at stake in the lives of millions and millions of families,” Warren said Tuesday.

I hope Sens. Jones, Shaheen and Warren are nonetheless ready to kill the filibuster and enlarge the Supreme Court, if need be, as appears more likely, if Dems win the presidency and a senate majority (and if Jones and Shaheen win their races). Meanwhile, Democrats should start start honing their messaging on the topic to include a couple of key talking points.

1. Repeat whenever asked about “packing the court” that it is actually Mitch McConnell who is packing the court. McConnell, Republican senators and Trump have betrayed years of bipartisan agreement to pack the court with extremists. Make it a meme that sticks.

2. But Dems should say they are expanding the court, because the phrase, “packing the court” is using Republican terminology designed to make changing the court’s size sound radical. Dems should note also that the size of the Supreme Court has changed 7 times in U.S. history. The founders allowed flexibility for changing the size of the Supreme Court by not requiring a constitutional amendment.

Democratic senators should not be so intimidated by the GOP’s “packing the court” rhetorical boogeyman. If Trump and McConnell get their 6-3 majority, Democrats don’t have to eat it — if they win both the presidency and a senate majority. That should provide plenty of motivation for Dems to mobilize the most energetic GOTV effort ever.

Political Strategy Notes

Republican lawyer and activist Chris Truax explains why “Filling Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat would be a disastrous Republican move” in a USA Today op-ed. As Truax writes, “even if Senate Republicans were to manage to vote on a nomination before Nov. 3, retribution would be swift, predictable and dire should Democrats seize control of both the Senate and the presidency. Here’s the likely scenario…On the first day of the new Congress, the Senate would amend its rules to eliminate the legislative filibuster…On the second day of the new Congress, a bill would be introduced to amend 28 USC 1 and increase the size of the court from nine to 15…Within a month, the Senate would confirm two new Supreme Court justices with the rest following shortly thereafter. The conservative Supreme Court Dream Team wouldn’t last a single term…There is simply no way congressional Democrats are going to smile ruefully at their Republican colleagues and let bygones be bygones. There will be retribution, and that retribution will be expressly calculated to teach Republicans the meaning of powerlessness. It won’t be pretty to watch. It won’t be good for the country. But it will happen, nonetheless.”

In one of his best Washington Post syndicated columns, E. J. Dionne, Jr. argues “Allowing President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to complete a judicial coup and install a 6-to-3 conservative majority will be, in both form and substance, a triumph for anti-democratic forces and anti-democratic thinking…This is why we must reject the fake moderation of those who pretend that both sides in this fight are equally partisan, equally stubborn and equally at fault. No. It’s the American Right that has been willing to abuse power again and again to achieve its goal of imposing a radical approach to jurisprudence that would undercut democracy itself…There is no liberal analogue to the Shelby County and Citizens Uniteddecisions, which changed the rules of the game in anti-democratic ways; no liberal analogue to the Merrick Garland blockade; and no liberal analogue to the lawlessness of Bush v. Gore…The real court-packers are McConnell, Trump and conservatives who draw inspiration from what some of them call a “Constitution in exile…If the court-packers succeed in forcing another conservative onto the court regardless of the outcome of the 2020 election, enlarging the court would be a democratic necessity, not payback.”

In “The wildly unpredictable politics of the SCOTUS opening” at CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza writes, “Several prominent Democrats have floated the idea of expanding the court, including California Sen. Kamala Harris, Joe Biden’s running mate. (Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said during his presidential campaign that he would go from 9 seats to 15 on the court.)…Biden, however, has been resistant to that idea. “I would not get into court packing,” he said at an October 2019 debate. “We add three justices; next time around, we lose control, they add three justices. We begin to lose any credibility the court has at all.”…The question for Democrats, then, is how much — if at all — they inject the idea of adding court seats into the fall campaign. On the one hand, it might excite their base. On the other, it could play into Trump’s hands by giving a preview of what Democratic control at all levels of government might look like.”

Reproductive rights are not the only reform that will be reversed if the Republicans get a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court. Abdul El-Sayed explains why “Obamacare could be doomed if Trump fills another Court seat.” El-Sayed writes, “The stakes couldn’t be higher. In the middle of a pandemic, a confirmation of one more Trump justice could end protections for Americans with preexisting conditions and kick millions off their health insurance…On November 10, the court is scheduled to hear arguments in California v. Texas, a case which could, yet again, decide the fate of the Barack Obama-era Affordable Care Act. Republican-appointed judges have already deemed it unconstitutional in a series of lower court rulings in 2018, setting up this appeal…Obamacare survived its last Supreme Court battle by one vote, and the man who has spent years trying to destroy it now wants to hand-pick the successor of one of the five justices who voted to uphold it. If Trump’s appointee is seated prior to November 10, it could mean the end of the law as we know it — and leave millions of Americans without healthcare in a pandemic.”

“Trump’s shortlist is littered with people who have spent years trying to get the Affordable Care Act overturned or repealed, El-Sayed continues. The list is a stark reminder that he has spent his entire presidency trying to kick millions of Americans off their healthcare — and is continuing to do so even during a global pandemic that has taken the lives of almost 200,000 Americans…With millions being thrown off their private health insurance, this moment calls for more protections for people with preexisting conditions and public healthcare — not less…ending the Affordable Care Act would be catastrophic for public health at any time, and even more so in the middle of a pandemic…More than 100 million Americans with preexisting conditions would lose legal protections that block insurance companies from denying them coverage. Tens-of-millions of Americans who rely on Medicaid expansion would have the rug pulled out from under them. Our healthcare system would be thrown into chaos at a time where it’s already scrambling to save lives.”

It should matter more that “62% Say Winner Of Election Should Choose RBG Replacement,” as Martin Perez reports at Forbes. “A majority of United States adults think the winner of the November election between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden should decide who fills Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court vacancy, according to a new poll conducted by Reuters and Ipsos and published on Sunday, a sentiment not shared by Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and President Trump…Surveying Americans on September 19 and 20 following Ginsburg’s death on September 18, the poll found that eight out of 10 Democrats and five out of 10 Republicans believe lawmakers should wait until after the election to nominate a successor to the Supreme Court.”

Paul Waldman brings the political moment into clarifying focus at The American Prospect, and writes, “the ruthlessness gap between the two parties has widened to a chasm. As I’ve often said, Republicans are the party of “Yes, we can” while Democrats are the party of “Maybe we shouldn’t.”…That has seldom been more clear than it is right now. Should the Senate confirm whichever 40-something far-right Federalist Society judge Donald Trump picks, it will mean that conservatives will enjoy a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court despite the fact that they lost the popular vote in six out of the last seven presidential elections…That majority will be used to reinforce this age of minority rule, in which Republicans enjoy the support of far fewer Americans than Democrats and pursue a remarkably unpopular agenda, but nonetheless control most of the country’s key centers of power…Does that make you angry? It should. And it should make you want to do something about it…But if you really want to get ticked off, think about what this new conservative Supreme Court—one so conservative that depending on how you measure it, Brett Kavanaugh will sit at its ideological midpoint—is likely to do…if Biden does win and Democrats take control of the Senate, they should immediately eliminate the filibuster, then pass bills to give statehood to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Not only would it be the right thing to do, it would likely mean four more Democratic senators, which would at least begin to address the fundamental tilt that gives Republicans an unfair advantage in the Senate, where far more Americans vote for Democratic senators yet Republicans hold a majority.”

“The Trial-Heat and Convention Bump Forecasting Models have an excellent record for accurate predictions of the presidential elections going back to 1992,” James E. Campbell writes in “The Trial-Heat and Convention Bump Forecasts of the 2020 Presidential Election” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “The forecasts, taking into account the economic indicator’s problem this year, indicate that the national popular vote division should be very close. The four versions of the forecasts are quite consistent in predicting an even narrower popular vote margin for Democratic candidate Joe Biden than Hillary Clinton received in 2016 when she won the popular vote, but lost the electoral vote. The electoral vote division in 2020 could easily go either way…And, lest we forget, there are a number of nearly equally brutal congressional races to be decided and with them the partisan control of the House and Senate. My “Seats-in-Trouble” forecasting models based on the Cook Political Report’s handicapping of congressional contests in mid-August predicts Democrats to gain five seats and with them majority status in the Senate and predicts Republicans to gain five seats in the House — but we should not be too surprised if the likely turbulence of the presidential contest in the remaining weeks reverberates into some of these congressional races as well.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Kayleigh Rogers shares some disturbing data about ballot-rejection: “In North Carolina, absentee ballots have already been sent back and the state has been updating statistics on those ballots daily. As of September 17, Black voters’ ballots are being rejected at more than four times the rate of white voters, according to the state’s numbers.1Black voters have mailed in 13,747 ballots, with 642 rejected, or 4.7 percent…North Carolina allows for a process called “vote curing,” where voters are notified that there’s a mistake and given a chance to fix their ballot. But that’s not an option in every state: only 19 states currently allow some form of ballot curing. And even that isn’t foolproof. In Nevada’s statewide primary in June, for example, 12,366 ballots had a missing or mismatched signature, but even after voters were notified to fix it, only 45 percent were successfully cured…In North Carolina alone, 837,685 of the state’s 7.1 million voters have requested absentee ballots so far…In Florida’s 2018 midterm elections, ballots cast by Black voters, Hispanic voters and voters from other racial and ethnic minorities were rejected at twice the rate of ballots cast by white voters, according to a report from the Florida ACLU. A team of university researchers found a similar pattern in Georgia that year, where ballots from Black voters were rejected at a higher rate than those from white voters, even when accounting for county-level differences in rejection rates…In Georgia, 5.8 percent of mail-in ballots were rejected [in 2016]. But there were a lot fewer voters casting ballots by mail in 2016. Any vote lost is a problem, but 1 percent of a few million votes can be an election-defining one…In Oregon, which has had mail-only elections for 20 years, 0.69 percent of mail ballots were rejected.”

Political Strategy Notes

In “Election Update: Where Biden And Trump Have Gained The Most Ground,” Geoffrey Skelley explains at FiveThirtyEight: “underneath the topline numbers, there has still been some fairly big movement in a handful of key battleground states, and the news has been mostly good for Biden. If we look at how much Biden’s odds have changed in states where both he and Trump have at least a 1 in 10 shot of winning since we launched the forecast on Aug. 12, Biden has improved his chances in 17 of 20 states. And in some cases, Biden’s improvement has been considerable — +15 percentage points in Minnesota, +12 points in Arizona and +10 points in Wisconsin, for instance. By comparison, Trump’s odds have really only improved in Florida, although he hasn’t lost much ground in states such as Georgia and Ohio, which may signal that Biden’s electoral gains will not be that expansive. (Trump still leads in Texas, for instance, despite Biden’s improvement there.)”

Charlie Cook has some cautiously-comforting observations for Democrats at The Cook Political Report: “The new CNN poll gives Biden a 48-percent-favorable, 43-percent-unfavorable rating for a net of plus-5 points. Trump’s current numbers are 40 percent favorable, 56 percent unfavorable—a net -16 points,”  the same as Hillary Clinton’s net unfavorability in September, 20-16. Also “given that voting has already begun in some states, Trump does not even have 54 days to make a comeback. Similarly, an October Surprise may need to happen in mid-September for it to have any impact. It is a good bet that a lot of votes will be cast before that first debate on Sept. 29…I understand the caution that many in my business have after the surprising outcome in 2016, but the only way this year resembles 2020 is that they both are presidential years, Trump is the Republican nominee, and both years begin with a 2. That’s it. Alan Greenspan’s irrational exuberance has given way, in my mind, to irrational caution. This is not 2016.”

In his syndicated Washington Post column, E. J. Dionne, Jr. warns “Because of the pandemic, this is an election in which unprecedented numbers of Americans will vote by mail…This is no problem in states such as Washington and Colorado that have well-established mail voting systems. It is an enormous challenge in states where massive mail balloting is something new, and where antiquated laws don’t even allow election officials to certify ballots and slit open envelopes to get legitimate votes ready for counting until after the polls close…Fortunately, states are responding, but about a dozen still have highly restrictive laws that will slow the tallying of mail ballots.” In Pennsylvania, “Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, is asking the Republican state legislature to allow officials to begin processing ballots three weeks before Election Day, though a compromise at 10 day.” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson “wants the GOP legislature in her state to give local officials a week, but so far the state Senate has approved only a 10-hour window, which, she said, amounts to only three hours in practice given various extra reporting requirements legislators tacked on..She said she has pointed GOP skeptics toward states with Republican legislatures or secretaries of state or both, including Kentucky, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio, where the law already provides for reasonable amounts of time to process mail ballots…Trump, as my Post Opinion colleague Greg Sargent shrewdly observed, is simply “trying to get within cheating distance.” It will be harder for him to cheat, lie, distort and divide if we follow the advice of the Bipartisan Policy Center and give election administrators “a chance to do their jobs well.” Rarely have our liberties depended so much on simple competence.”

There are good reasons to root for a Biden landslide, other than raw partisanship, like, well, a riot-free transition. Thomas B. Edsall writes in his New York Times column, “As Election Day approaches, the incentives are already plentiful to protest an adverse outcome in the courts, in Congress, in state capitols and on the streets. The intensity of such protests will increase in proportion to the closeness of the results. One thing is virtually certain: If the outcome is unresolved by the day after the election, or if Biden wins by a slim margin, Trump will do everything in his power to discredit the process and to ignite the anger and resentment of his most ardent supporters.” Edsall quotes Danish political scientist Michael Bang Petersson: “The final match that might set this bonfire ablaze is Covid-19. Stress and marginalization is key contextual driver of aggressive responses. If a second wave hits the U.S. hard in November, the lives and jobs lost will create an additional psychological push toward a potentially very dangerous situation.”

There are some indications that Democrats are not going to quietly accept anything resembling a scenario like the 2000 “Brooks Bothers Riot,” or other forms of intimidation of the election or ballot counting. As Ronald Brownstein writes at the Atlantic, “Adam Green, a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, another group participating in postelection planning, told me that he can “guarantee” that “we will not have asymmetric warfare this time around. We won’t have litigation on the left and thuggery and election disruption on the right.” If Trump tries to stop the counting of mail-in ballots after Election Day, or otherwise tries to short-circuit the results, Green predicts, the scale of protests would be that of “the Black Lives Matter protests on steroids, as people come into the streets to defend their democracy and to defend the counting of votes.”…The prospect of massive protests on both sides is only one of many ways the contest between the parties could extend beyond Election Day in an unprecedented manner—perhaps up until Inauguration Day, on January 20. If the November 3 voting produces anything less than a blowout lead for either side—and perhaps even if it produces a blowout lead for Joe Biden—the post-election period is likely to test how far both GOP leaders and rank-and-file Republican voters will go in tolerating efforts from Trump to subvert the rules of small-d democracy…“Al Gore made a big point of accepting the Supreme Court [ruling] even though he disagreed with it,” Foley says. “That’s a way, 20 years on, [that] the situation could be very different” now.”

What would America’s powerful corporate leaders do in the event of ballot-counting chaos? Brownstein quotes Rashad Robinson, the executive director of Color of Change, who believes “that a cornerstone of progressives’ postelection strategy will be to try to isolate Trump by pressuring business and other social leaders to fight any effort to overturn an apparent Biden win. “There will be absolute focus on enablers, corporations, and media and other elite institutions,” he said. “There will only be so many yachts and towers for them to hide in, and I think a lot of folks will direct their energy [toward that]. I hope they don’t actually need that. I hope they show up. I want to invite them into the early thinking and work about what they are going to do.” No doubt some business leaders who prioritize deregulation and corporate tax cuts will be all-in for Trump during any ballot-counting chaos. But others will realize that Trump’s re-election will guarantee continued chaos in trade and public health, chronic civil unrest and the possibility of boycotts of companies that support Trump.

But don’t place any bets on any Republican leaders outside of the Lincoln Project standing up for Democracy if Trump tries to steal the  election. Brownstein cites “the lack of meaningful protest from leading Republicans as Trump has moved to tilt the results of the Census, attacked the use of mail-in balloting, regularly repeated wild and disproven allegations of voter fraud, weakened the Postal Service, and dispatched federal law-enforcement agents into Democratic cities over the objections of local officials—not to mention the decision by every Senate Republican except Utah’s Mitt Romney to side with Trump during his impeachment trial, despite the overwhelming evidence that he tried to extort Ukraine into manufacturing dirt on Biden. “From the very beginning, I have urged progressives [to recognize] … that moderate Republicans are not going to save us,” Robinson said. “They are way more invested in maintaining their status quo of leadership than they are in defending democracy and defending basic rules.”

For the outrage du jour, consider Fredreka Schouten’s report at CNN Politics, which notes “A federal appeals court last week sharply restricted Florida’s successful 2018 referendum that aimed to restore voting rights to more than 1.4 million ex-felons who had completed the terms of their sentences, including parole and probation…Last year, the Republican-controlled legislature and the state’s GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis approved a law that defined “all terms of sentence” as including outstanding fines, fees and restitution before they could register to vote. By a 6-4 ruling, the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld that law, reversing a lower court decision that concluded Florida had set up an unconstitutional “pay-to-vote” system…The ruling also has big political implications for November’s election. An expert witness testified at trial that more than 774,000 people with felony convictions were ineligible to register to vote because of outstanding financial obligations. That represents a significant number of potential voters left on the sidelines in a presidential swing state. Recent polls show a close contest in the state between Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden…Voting-rights advocates argue the state lacks a centralized system to let former felons know exactly how much they owe, leaving them to navigate a patchwork of court systems across Florida’s 67 counties…Time is running out. The last day to register to vote in Florida is October 5.”

More And More Americans Aren’t Religious. Why Are Democrats Ignoring These Voters?,” ask Daniel Cox and Amelia Thomson Deveaux at FiveThirtyEight. My short answer would be” because they are not organized into a political force.” Also, their religious/spiritual beliefs are enormously disparate, which makes them hard to target. Cox and Deveaux note, however, “Right now, voters with no religious affiliation look like they might back Biden in record numbers. According to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in early August, 72 percent of nonreligious voters — a group that includes people who identify as atheists, agnostics and nothing in particular — are planning to support Biden. That’s 4 percentage points higher than the 68 percent who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016. And that’s a big deal, because despite being frequently overlooked, nonreligious people make up a sizable part of the electorate. An analysis of validated voters by Pew found that religiously unaffiliated voters accounted for one-quarter of the electorate in 2016, and 30 percent in 2018… A majority (56 percent) of religiously unaffiliated Americans — including nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of atheists and agnostics — say Trump has been a “terrible” president. And there are signs that religiously unaffiliated people have become more politically engaged since Trump was elected — one survey conducted in 2018 found that nonreligious people were more likely than their religious peers to have attended a rally or contacted a political official.”

Biden Should Raise More Hell About Trump’s Betrayal of Puerto Rico

I was glad to read Matt Dixon’s Politico article, “Biden woos Puerto Ricans in Florida — and gives new hope to state Democrats,” in light of the buzz about Biden’s lagging support from Spanish-speaking voters in the largest swing state. It appears Biden is doing a good job of addressing this concern. As Dixon writes,

Buoyed by promised ad buys, new hires and Joe Biden’s visit on Tuesday to Kissimmee — home to a sizable Puerto Rican population — Florida Democrats are growing more confident of the party’s chances with Hispanic voters as Election Day approaches.

Florida Democrats haven’t been shy about launching attacks at their own candidate and party leadership as Biden and Donald Trump remain neck and neck in the battleground state. But that tune is changing after Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate, made a stop in Miami last week and Biden chose Kissimmee for his first in-person campaign appearance.

In The Miami Herald, David Smiley, Bianca Acasio Padro and Alex Daugherty note:

Polls have shown a tightening race in the state — a must-win for President Donald Trump — and suggest that Biden is struggling to win over Latino voters. An Equis Research survey of more than 1,000 Latinos in Florida completed Aug. 25 found Biden up 53% to Trump’s 37% in the state. That’s well ahead of Trump but behind Hillary Clinton’s 2016 support. Among Puerto Ricans, who make up about one-third of Florida’s 2.4 million Hispanic voters, the Equis Research poll found Biden up 62% to 28% over Trump.

In Kissimme Biden outlined a far-reaching relief plan to help Puerto Rico recover from the devastation following Hurricane Maria. Biden’s plan will “make it easier for Puerto Rico to get federal assistance after years of fighting with the Trump administration for help in the wake of devastating natural disasters, boost payments to the island’s Medicare Advantage System and expand coronavirus services.” His plan would also restore utilities. Dixon notes, further,

For years, the political fight for Florida’s Hispanic vote has centered on South Florida, home to huge patchwork of Hispanic voters, including conservative-leaning Cubans, Venezuelans and Nicaraguans. That focus is starting to shift to Central Florida, where more than 1 million Democratic-leaning Puerto Ricans have become a powerful voting block that has helped offset conservative Cuban voters. Florida’s complex Hispanic electorate now makes up 17 percent of all registered voters.

“We are going to have a full-court press in the Central Florida region,” Biden campaign adviser Christian Ulvert said. “The Puerto Rican vote is critical, and the campaign is going to work hard to earn every one of their votes.”

I hope that Biden’s visit will be followed by a tsunami of ads pointedly attacking Trump for his shameful neglect of Puerto Rica’s devastation, holding him accountabvle for his insults of Puerto RTicans and his betrayal of a people who have provided more than their share of military veterans, who have fought courageously under the U.S. flag. Florida has a disproportionate share of active military, as well as veterans (1.5 million), so it wouldn’t hurt to slant some of the ads towards them, urging them to stand in solidarity with Puerto Rican vets. The budget for such an ad campaign is surely in place. As Dixon notes, “Biden’s visit on Tuesday builds on excitement over a $100 million ad pledge from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a portion of which will target Hispanic voters throughout the state. Detailed plans for the commitment have been kept under wraps, but the ad campaign will focus on Hispanic turnout.”

Florida allows only one week of early voting, from Saturday, October 24, 2020 to Saturday, October 31, 2020, with dates and hours varying based on locations. Given the state’s sorry history of voter suppression, Democrats will emphasize banking as many early votes as possible.

Political Strategy Notes

Some useful message points from “Trump doesn’t care if wildfires destroy the west – it didn’t vote for him” by Robert Reich at The Guardian: “Starting with his unilateral decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, Trump has been the most anti-environmental president in history…He has called climate change a “hoax”. He has claimed, with no evidence, that windmills cause cancer. He has weakened Obama-era limits on planet-warming carbon dioxide from power plants and from cars and trucks. He has rolled back rules governing clean air, water and toxic chemicals. He has opened more public land to oil and gas drilling…He has targeted California in particular, revoking the state’s authority to set tougher car emission standards than those required by the federal government…In all, the Trump administration has reversed, repealed, or otherwise rolled back nearly 70 environmental rules and regulations. More than 30 rollbacks are still in progress…Americans have a clear choice. In a few weeks, when they decide whether Trump deserves another four years, climate change will be on the ballot…The choice shouldn’t be hard to make. Like the coronavirus, the dire consequences of climate change – coupled with Trump’s utter malfeasance – offer unambiguous proof that he couldn’t care less about the public good.”

WaPo columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. frames this political moment succinctly “It is former vice president Joe Biden, the challenger, who has the sunny view. The heart of his argument is that there is nothing wrong with our country that can’t be cured as long as we throw Trump out of office…A big Biden win would help Democrats take control of both the Senate and the House, creating a real opportunity to govern effectively. Okay, never underestimate the Democrats’ capacity to tear each other apart. But confronting a pandemic and an economic catastrophe would concentrate minds. Every Democrat, from center to left, would understand that blowing it this time would cause irreparable damage to themselves and to the country…And while the differences across the party’s wings are real, they’re also exaggerated. Between single-payer health care and simply expanding Obamacare, there’s a lot of room for compromise. Ditto on how to combat climate change and expand access to education and training. And the economy is in sufficiently dire shape that boldness, in both a short-term recovery plan and a long-term investment strategy, could look simultaneously like realism to centrists and a “New New Deal” to progressives.”

The downer post of this edition of Political Strategy Notes has to be Amy Walter’s “Electoral College Rating Changes: Florida and Nevada Shift Right” at The Cook Political Report. As Walter writes, “Today we are making two ratings changes in Pres. Trump’s favor, moving Florida from Lean Democrat to Toss Up, and Nevada from Likely Democrat to Lean Democrat. summer, Biden held a 308 to 187 lead.” Chalk it all up to the normal ebb and flow of electoral politics in the U.S. in September. Regarding the largest swing state, Walter notes, “Bottom line: a more competitive Florida contest is good news for Pres. Trump, who can’t afford to lose this state. Even so, many Democrats never expected Biden to be able to win here, having long written off the Sunshine State as a loser. This isn’t to say that Biden can’t win here. Or that Trump is certain to lose it. The race is simply too close to call. It moves from Lean Democratic to Toss Up.”

Now for the upper, Ella Nilsen’s “The ways Democrats could retake the Senate majority, explained” at Vox. Nilsen sees Medicaid expansion as a key issue in senate races in several states, and notes, “Democrats, meanwhile, are running a playbook that was successful in many 2018 House races: backing moderate candidates and focusing on health care and jobs in the middle of a pandemic that has millions of newly unemployed people losing their health insurance along with their jobs. Democrats will highlight Medicaid expansion as an issue in states that didn’t expand it, including North and South Carolina, Kansas, Georgia, Texas, and Alabama. They’re already going after North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis for his role in rejecting Medicaid expansion when he was leading the state legislature…Biden and Democratic Senate candidates alike are hoping that message will appeal todisaffected suburban voters — especially women — who voted for House Democrats in 2018.”

Also, Larry Sabato, Kyle Kondik and Miles Coleman note at Crystal Ball that “Joe Biden is better positioned to win the presidency than Donald Trump, but it would be foolish to rule out another Trump upset…Trump’s potential winning map would look a lot like 2016, with perhaps a few changes; Biden’s potential winning map might feature Democratic advances in the Sun Belt and retreats in the Midwest compared to past winning Democratic maps…We are moving the single electoral vote in Nebraska’s Second Congressional District from Toss-up to Leans Democratic, which pushes our Electoral College count to 269 electoral votes at least leaning to Biden, 204 at least leaning to Trump, and 65 Toss-up electoral votes (Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, and Wisconsin)..We now have Biden right on the precipice of an Electoral College majority, with 269 electoral votes at least leaning his way. Although we have them as Toss-ups, we also think Biden is in a good position to carry Arizona and Wisconsin, as of today. That would put him at 290 electoral votes…Florida and North Carolina are significantly closer. Of the Leans Republican states, Trump’s leads in Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, and Texas, as well as for the single ME-2 electoral vote, appear to be quite small.”

It ain’t over till it’s over, but here are some political odds just calculated by the numbers-crunchers at FiveThirtyEight of “weird and not-so-weird possibilities: The chances that these situations will crop up”: “Trump wins the popular vote, regardless of whether he wins the Electoral College” – 13 in 100; “Biden wins the popular vote, regardless of whether he wins the Electoral College” – 87 in 100; “Biden wins in a landslide, defined as winning the popular vote by a double-digit margin” – 30 in 100; and  “Biden wins the popular vote but loses the Electoral College” – 11 in 100.”

By now, you have probably read at least one “What If Trump Loses And Won’t Leave?” articles, and the number of such screeds already out there is a testament to the fragility of the ‘world’s oldest democracy.’ But read one more, Geoffrey Skelley’s take at FiveThirtyEight, in which he concludes, “But even if the worst scenarios don’t come to pass, the fact that we lack a neutral electoral arbiter is surely a ticking time bomb for our democracy. Such an institution may sound difficult to create, but many individual states have used judicial panels to successfully sort through close elections, and other democratic nations have far better laws to adjudicate contested elections. For now, though, in the absence of such measures, the peaceful transfer of power hinges on the expectation that that is how American elections work, but that may be increasingly hanging in the balance, as anyone living in this incredibly polarized era of U.S. politics will tell you.”

Amid a surfeit of timidly-stated headlines about Trump’s super-spreader rallies in Nevada, here are a few which meet the standard of honest journalism: “Nevada governor: Trump ‘taking reckless and selfish actions’ in holding rally” by John Bowden at The Hill; “‘Shameful, dangerous and irresponsible’: Nevada governor blasts Trump for indoor rally against state rules” by Timothy Bella at The Washington Post; “Trump held an indoor rally in Nevada against medical advice. Only supporters whose faces would be on TV were required to wear masks” by Tom Porter at Business Insider; “Trump’s risky rallies are straight out of ‘Hunger Games’” by Dean Obedallah at CNN opinion. But for snarky chuckles, you can’t beat “Trump Says He’ll “Negotiate” Third Term, Warns Democrats Will Rig Election” by Daniel Politi at slate.com. Headlines, good and bad, are nearly always written by editors, and good articles are too often crippled by lame headlines. Most of the networks reported on the rallies from outside the indoor gatherings in Nevada, but the white house press pool and some local reporters had to go inside. Their unions should speak up.

Marshall: Why Dems Must Kill the Filibuster – If They Get the Chance

In “Who Supports Ending the Filibuster?” at  the Editor’s Blog of Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall writes:

Two big non-policy/legislative questions and decisions will determine the politics of the coming years. One is whether there is an audit of the executive branch after Trump leaves office, if he loses the election on November 3rd. But just as important in its own way is whether the Senate filibuster is abolished. You can basically guarantee that no progressive legislation will ever get passed as long as the filibuster exists. The filibuster is undemocratic to start with. But the Republican party’s extreme use of it along with their locked in small state advantage mean that the GOP has what amounts to a permanent veto on all legislation and a guaranteed veto of any progressive legislation.

Marshall shares his concerns about Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s position on killing the legislative filibuster, should he become Senate Majority Leader:

The current thinking from Chuck Schumer seems to be that, assuming the Democrats win the Senate, he’ll keep abolition in his back pocket if Republicans obstruct legislation. This is a bad, bad idea. We’ve seen this movie before. In 2009, a group of Republican Senators – who clearly had no intention of ever supporting any health care insurance reform legislation – got President Obama and Democratic Senators to waste a year and water down legislation by engaging in meandering and ultimately bad faith negotiations.

Just as importantly, this ‘hold it in reserve’ approach will inevitably shape all potential legislation from the outset. The shape of legislation you write to pass with simple majorities is quite different than legislation you craft to try to coax Republican senators into allowing you to pass legislation with 51 votes.

It all comes down to a simple point. The legislative filibuster needs to end on day one of the next Congress. And if Democrats control the chamber it can happen. But will it?

Marshall urges his readers to ask their U.S. Senators to declare their positions on “abolishing the legislative filibuster on day one of the next Congress” and report back to him.

Republican senators have used the filibuster as a sledgehammer to smash hopes for any progressive legislation under McConnell’s scorched earth rule of the senate. Ironically, however, the 60-vote requirement worked against the Republicans this week, as they failed to pass a “skinny” (watered down) Covid-19 relief bill to give some cover the Republican senators, who feared going home to their constituents without without passing at least a token relief bill.

Yet Marshall is right. If Democrats win a Senate Majority, scrapping the filibuster should be the top priority — if they want to leverage their momentum and mandate before it fades and actually pass needed legislative reforms.

Political Strategy Notes

At CNN Politics, Stephen Collinson comments on the political fallout Bob Woodward’s revelation that Trump knew of the severity of the Covid-19 virus threat, but decided not to inform the public, even though it would have saved lives: “When Trump’s time came — in February — we now know that he perfectly understood the pernicious nature of the threat posed by the novel coronavirus. But while he told Woodward in a phone call “this is deadly stuff” and that the pathogen caused a viciously contagious illness much worse than the flu, Trump didn’t level with the American people. In fact, he deliberately misled them and failed to prepare the government for a vast national effort. Worse, for weeks he continued to misinform the country about the severity of the pathogen that caused the worst global pandemic in 100 years…The 190,000 American families who lost loved ones and could never say goodbye, the millions of unemployed, the business owners who went bust, a generation of kids who haven’t been in class for months and everyone else self-distanced from their regular lives now face the same question: How different would things have been had the President done his job properly?…the latest controversy probably won’t help him win back defections from suburban voters and will bolster Biden heading into their first debate in three weeks.”

“The pandemic has killed some 190,000 Americans, and 8 in 10 of the deaths reported have been among those 65 or over,” Clare Malone writes in “Why Trump Might Be Scaring Off Older Voters” at FiveThirtyEight. “President Trump’s delayed and fractured response to the outbreak appears to have reshaped the political dynamics for older Americans. Four years ago, he won voters 65 or over by a margin of 13.3 percentage points. But looking at an average of the nine most recent national polls, voters age 65 or over1 favored Biden to Trump by 49.5 percent to 45.7 percent…Despite these provocative pro-Trump images coming out of Florida, the shift toward Biden is evident in the state, a key to winning the Electoral College. A late August Quinnipiac University poll in Florida showed Biden leading Trump among older voters, by 54 percent to 44 percent and another late August poll of Florida voters, this one by Public Policy Polling, showed Biden in the lead among the same group,2 by 52 percent to 47 percent. This stands in contrast to the sentiments of older Florida voters at around this time four years ago.”

Trump’s epic mismanagement of the response to the pandemic is further amplified by his relentless undermining of the Affordable Care Act, as well as his failure to offer any reforms of America’s profit-driven health care “system.” Framing the arguments for comprehensive national health care coverage is tricky at this political moment. But German Lopez shares some compelling statistics at Vox, including: “If the US had the same death rate as the European Union overall, nearly 84,000 Americans wouldn’t have died from Covid-19 (out of the nearly 190,000 who have died so far)…If the US had the same death rate as Canada, nearly 109,000 Americans wouldn’t have died from Covid-19…The US is doing about seven times worse than the median developed country, ranking in the bottom 20 percent for Covid-19 deaths among wealthy nations. Tens of thousands of lives have been lost as a result.”

At The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuval explains “How the Biden Campaign Can Turn Trump’s ‘Strength’ Into a Weakness,” and writes, “For all of Trump’s boasts that jobs are returning, the country is still down about 11.5 million jobs. Temporary furloughs are turning into permanent layoffs; long-term unemployment is rising: Some 29 million Americans were drawing unemployment in mid-August…He and the Republican Senate oppose raising the minimum wage. They oppose proposals for employer-paid parental leave and sick days. The Biden campaign should be pounding the reality of Trump’s economy over and over again while talking about what Biden would do to create jobs and lift wages. Instead, the Democratic convention focused largely on Trump’s lack of character and empathy. Biden traveled last week to Pennsylvania, where the jobless rate is 13.7 percent, and…he talked about looting and violence rather than about jobs…too many Americans still give Trump unwarranted credit for the economy…Too many working people believe that while Trump is a cad, he is their cad, on their side. That’s his strength — and it’s where Democrats should focus. Bringing down Trump won’t take lies or exaggerations. Just lay out the truth and hammer it over and over to turn Trump’s “strength” into a weakness.”

In “Election Beat 2020: Where did all the swing voters go?,” Harvard professor Thomas E. Patterson, author of Is the Republican Party Destroying Itself?, writes at Journalists Resource: “The hostility that many partisans have for the other party is a larger driver of the vote than might be assumed. Party identification was once the best predictor of how people would vote on election day — Democrats lining up behind their party’s candidate and Republicans backing their party’s nominee. But party identification no longer has that distinction. When Alan Abramowitz and Steven Webster examined post-1990s elections, they found that “ratings of the opposing party were by far the strongest predictor” of vote choice. “The greatest concern of party supporters,” they write, “is preventing the opposing party from gaining power…So how many undecided voters are there at the moment and how will they respond to Trump and Biden in the campaign’s remaining weeks? They  number less than 10% of self-described likely voters, down even from recent campaigns and a mere third of the number of presidential campaigns of a few decades ago. It’s unlikely that either candidate will capture a super-majority of the undecided. Typically, the split is within a narrow range, enough to tip a razor-thin election but otherwise a footnote in post-campaign analyses.”

In his New York Times column, Thomas B. Edall asks “Can Trump eke out an Election Day victory by focusing attention and capitalizing politically on the looting and fire-setting associated with some of the Black Lives Matter protests spurred by the police killing of Floyd and other African-Americans?” In response, Edsall quotes from several studies and experts on political attitudes, including “Christian Davenport, a professor of political science at the University of Michigan and the author of “Media Bias, Perspective and State Repression: The Black Panther Party,” who “does not believe there will be much movement either to the left or the right among racially conservative whites. In an email, he argued that The truth of the matter is that there is probably very little that could take place during the protests that would shift the opinion of some whites. Their positions are fixed already and they would likely only see the negative manifestations which you could almost always find during extended campaigns.

Edsall adds, “But Trump continues to trail Biden in head-to-head surveys. Unlike Nixon or Bush, Trump’s appeals to law and order have not yet paid off in the polls. Why not?…I think my colleague Ron Brownstein may have pinpointed the reason Trump has had trouble capitalizing on the violence in a Sept. 3 Atlantic article, “The Huge Snag in Trump’s Re-election Pitch”: The biggest problem with Trump running on restoring order is that his performance in office has caused many voters to view him as the candidate of disorder. Edsall notes further, “An August 27-28 Yahoo/YouGov survey asked registered voters “which comes closest to your view, ‘Trump will protect us from the chaos’ or ‘Trump is the source of the chaos’?” 30 percent chose protect and 50 percent said Trump was the source of chaos…A more recent September 2-4 CBS News survey asked whether Biden and Trump are “trying to calm the situation down” or “trying to encourage fighting.” By 49-30, voters said Biden was trying to calm the situation while, in the case of Trump, voters said he was trying to encourage fighting by 47-39.”

Regarding he politics of marijuana legalization in 2020, Natalie Fertig and Paul Demco write at Politico: “As more states legalize medical marijuana, recreational cannabis, or both — at least four states will put recreational legalization on the ballot in November — over 250,000 people remain in prison for nonviolent drug offenses at the state or federal level. According to the ACLU, Black people are on average four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people — and in some states the ratio is as high as 10 to one — even though studies have shown they use the drug at comparable rates…According to his campaign, Biden believes that “no one should be in jail for using marijuana.” He supports removing criminal penalties and expunging past records, but wants to move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act. The Controlled Substances Act is a list of all federally banned substances which became law in 1970, and it has five tiers, or “schedules.”…In July, the DNC adopted Biden’s position on cannabis — a step back from the pro-legalization platform of 2016. But advocates reason now that the former VP’s platform is essentially in line with the MORE Act, arguing that both want to remove criminal penalties, expunge records and let states decide how to further legalize.”

Lest it get lost in the daily deluge of Trump’s moral atrocities, Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes that “the Justice Department’s move to intervene in the defense of President Trump in a defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who says he raped her should have friends of freedom shouting from the rooftops. For the U.S. government to substitute itself for Trump as the defendant puts the department at the disposal of one man, forces taxpayers to cover the costs of the president’s defense in what is a quintessentially private matter and is plainly aimed at preventing the public from learning more about the charges in the lawsuit before the election…Barr’s minions are, quite literally, trying to deny [Trump’s accuser] Carroll her day in court. At taxpayer expense…Which is why voters need to resist becoming numb to forms of corruption that not only violate the norms of good government but also threaten to undermine equal justice and democratic rule. They are the only ones who can stop Trump.”