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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Seniors Against Trump

Who Are the Key Voters Turning Against Trump?

They’re senior voters, and they could be Joe Biden’s secret weapon.

By Ruy Teixeira in The New York Times
Read the Article.

Stan Greenberg in The American Prospect

The Tea Party’s Last Stand

The legions that swept over the Republican Party in 2010 aren’t ascendant today—and they’ve scared a lot of other Republicans away.


Read the Article.

Democrats – Get Ready for the Inevitable Republican Counterattack

It’s coming, and we should be prepared.
By Andrew Levison

Read the Strategy Memo.

Seniors Against Trump

Key Voters Turning Against Trump?

They’re senior voters, and they could be Joe Biden’s secret weapon.

By Ruy Teixeira in The New York Times
Read the Article.

Stan Greenberg in The American Prospect

Tea Party’s Last Stand

The legions that swept over the Republican Party in 2010 aren’t ascendant today—and they’ve scared a lot of other Republicans away.


Read the Article.

The Daily Strategist

October 24, 2020

Political Strategy Notes

Mary Papenfuss notes in “Horrified Walter Reed Attending Physician Slams Trump’s Drive-By Risk To Secret Service” at HuffPo: “An attending physician at Walter Reed Medical Center blasted the “astounding irresponsibility” of President Donald Trump, saying he put the lives of Secret Service agents at risk to wave at his fans from his motorcade on Sunday…Trump made a spur-of-the-moment decision to briefly leave the hospital where’s he being treated for COVID-19 to do a “surprise” drive-by in the presidential SUV to wave to supporters — whom he called “great patriots” — gathered outside. “Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days,” Dr. James Phillips tweeted. “They might get sick…Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity,” Phillips said of the agents accompanying Trump…Phillips — the head of Disaster and Operational Medicine in the Emergency Medicine Department of the George Washington University School of Medicine —  noted that the SUV is hermetically sealed to protect against chemical attacks. “The risk of COVID-19 transmission inside is as high as it gets,” other than during medical procedures, he added.”

Trump’s mismanagement of the pandemic could hurt with senior voters. As Harold Gold writes at Marketwatch, “In an interview, economist Teresa Ghilarducci, a professor at The New School in New York City and one of the nation’s leading experts on retirement, told me that half—that’s right, half—of Americans aged 55 and up will retire in poverty or near poverty…“Our data is showing that, because of the COVID recession, about 50% of workers over the age of 55 will be poor or near-poor adults when they reach 65,” she said.” Gold asks, “What’s behind this? People losing their jobs and health insurance because of COVID-19? Or losing the employer match on their 401(k) contributions? Or having to tap into retirement savings to cover daily expenses? “All of the above,” said Ghilarducci…But it starts with job losses. “Older workers are losing their jobs at a faster rate, relative to younger people and relative to where they had been before than they were in the Great Recession,” she told me…A report done by the New School Retirement Equity Lab found that over half of older unemployed workers may be forced into involuntary retirement. Nearly three million older workers have left the labor force since March and if the economic disruptions caused by COVID-19 continue, another million could join them soon…“

According to Data for Progress, “Our new Senate polling is showing really good signs for Democrats. We find:

  • In Maine, Democrat Sara Gideon has opened up a five point lead over Republican incumbent Susan Collins (46-41).

  • In Iowa, Democrat Theresa Greenfield has a narrow edge over Republican incumbent Joni Ernst (46-45).

  • In Arizona, Mark Kelly has a commanding nine-point lead over Republican incumbent Martha McSally (51-42).

  • In South Carolina, Democrat Jaime Harrison is inches away from Republican incumbent Lindsay Graham — he’s down by just one point (44-45)…That’s right: even in South Carolina, Democrats have a serious shot at flipping Republican-held Senate seats. Read our writeup on these results for Crooked by clicking here.”

Data for Progress also noted of the first presidential candidate debate that “Viewers also thought Biden was more “presidential” than Trump by an even wider margin (53-33). Crucially, this includes Independents and Third Party voters, who rated Biden as more presidential by a 20-point margin…But Biden didn’t just win the debate on character — he won it on policy grounds as well. Voters think he’ll handle race relations, the coronavirus pandemic, the integrity of our elections, and the Supreme Court better than Trump. That said, respondents narrowly preferred Trump’s position on the economy.” A chart:

In “Post-debate CNN poll: Six in 10 say Biden won the debate,” Jennifer Agiesta writes at CNN Politics: “Six in 10 debate watchers said former Vice President Joe Biden did the best job in Tuesday’s debate, and just 28% say President Donald Trump did, according a CNN Poll of debate watchers conducted by SSRS…In interviews with the same voters conducted before the debate, 56% said they expected Biden to do the better job while 43% expected that Trump would…About two-thirds said Biden’s answers were more truthful than Trump’s (65% Biden to 29% Trump), and his attacks on the President were more frequently seen as fair. Overall, 69% called Biden’s attacks on Trump fair while just 32% said Trump’s attacks were fair…A majority of debate watchers (57%) said that Tuesday’s debate did not affect their choice for president, while the minority who said they were moved were more apt to say they became more likely to vote Biden (32%) than Trump (11%).” However, “The voters who watched the debate were more partisan than Americans as a whole — 36% identified as independents or non-partisans compared with around 40% in the general public, and the group of debate watchers was more Democratic than a typical survey of all adults, with 39% identifying as Democrats and 25% as Republicans.”

“Joe Biden’s national lead over President Donald Trump nearly doubled after Tuesday’s presidential debate, with voters saying by 2-to-1 that Biden has the better temperament to be president, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. As Mark Murray writes at nbcnews.com, “The poll was conducted in the two days after the unruly and insult-filled debate Tuesday but before Trump tested positive for Covid-19 and was hospitalized Friday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center…Biden is now ahead of Trump by 14 points among registered voters, 53 percent to 39 percent — up from his 8-point lead in the previous poll, before the debate…The biggest declines for Trump were among seniors (who now back Biden by 62 percent to 35 percent) and suburban women (58 percent to 33 percent)…And men 50 years and older moved to a 1-point advantage for Biden in the latest poll, compared to a 13-point advantage for Trump in the pre-debate NBC News/WSJ poll.”

Regarding Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Murray adds, “The poll asked voters about Trump’s pick to succeed the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett…Thirty-five percent of registered voters say they support Barrett’s nomination, while 33 percent oppose it; 30 percent say they don’t know enough about her…The findings are similar to the first NBC News/WSJ numbers on Trump’s 2018 Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, whom the Senate confirmed by a narrow 50-48 vote…In a separate question, 50 percent of voters say they would prefer the Senate to wait to fill the Supreme Court seat until there’s a winner in the presidential contest, while 38 percent want a vote before the election.”

Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman explain why “Biden Lead Looks Firmer as Midwest Moves His Way” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and note, “Joe Biden is now over 270 electoral votes in our ratings as we move several Midwestern states in his favor.” Kondik and Coleman move Ohio and Iowa from “leans Republican” to “toss-up” and they now have Minnesota moving from” leans Democratic” to “likely Democratic,” and they move Wisconsin from “toss-up” to “leans Democratic. They add, “Changes in the battle for Congress benefit Democrats almost exclusively. We’re moving two Senate races in their direction, as well as several House contests.” Their updated Electoral College map:

Trump Still Preaching Only To His Choir

After pondering the first presidential candidate debate, I noticed a telling habit of Trump’s and wrote about it at New York:

Viewers who endured to the end of the first Biden-Trump presidential debate in Cleveland did not come away with the impression that either candidate was a modern-day Demosthenes; indeed, there were long stretches in which a complete sentence was not uttered. But unlike Joe Biden, who was as intelligible as most people his age when forced to stay up late, President Trump exhibited an increasingly visible habit of speaking in a sort of shorthand or code. National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty explains it very well:

“By far Trump’s most self-defeating habit in these debates is to refer to stories rather than tell them. He speaks as if he’s talking to people who, like himself, spend hours a day watching Fox News and have a shared folklore of scandal stories that can be referred to in shorthand. He refers to events, like ballots found in a wastepaper basket, but doesn’t tell the story of where they happened, or why they matter.”

Sometimes Trump adopts characterizations from conservative media that are axiomatic to their audiences, but not to puzzled undecided voters. A good example from the debate was the follow-up to Trump’s charge that Biden wants to eliminate private health insurance, which he hotly denied (unsurprisingly to anyone who watched the interminable discussions of Medicare for All in the Democratic primary debates). Trump’s riposte was not entirely in the English language:

“Joe, you agreed with Bernie Sanders, who’s far left, on the manifesto, we call it. And that gives you socialized medicine.”

Trump is alluding to the policy recommendations of the “unity task force” set up by Biden and Sanders in the wake of their primary fight. In a Wall Street Journal column someone must have clipped for Trump, former Republican senator Phil Gramm called the agreement a “manifesto,” and claimed that Biden was accepting Medicare for All “on an installment plan.” In fact, the “unity task force” recommendations and his own campaign’s plans don’t go in that direction at all, which produced some bitter disappointment among single-payer health-care fans at the time

But Trump wouldn’t let go of it during the debate:

President Donald J. Trump:

Listen, you agreed with Bernie Sanders and the manifesto.

Vice President Joe Biden:

There is no manifesto, number one.

Chris Wallace:

Please let him speak, Mr. President.

Vice President Joe Biden:

Number two.

President Donald J. Trump:

He just lost the left.

Vice President Joe Biden:

Number two.

President Donald J. Trump:

You just lost the left. You agreed with Bernie Sanders on a plan that you absolutely agreed to and under that plan … they call it socialized medicine.

Convinced that he had nailed Biden for abandoning an imaginary deal with “the left” that conservative media invented, Trump seemed very pleased with himself.

At another juncture, the president showed an impressive ability to telescope multiple conservative myths about crime policy:

President Donald J. Trump:

You did a crime bill, 1994, where you call them super-predators. African-Americans are super-predators and they’ve never forgotten it. They’ve never forgotten it.

Vice President Joe Biden:

I’ve never said …

Chris Wallace:

No, no, sir. It’s his two minutes.

President Donald J. Trump:

So you did that and they call you a super-predator and I’m letting people out of jail now, that you have treated the African-American population community, you have treated the black community about as bad as anybody in this country.

Conservative media have gleefully seized upon progressive criticism of Biden and the Clinton administration’s sponsorship of a 1994 comprehensive crime measure that, among many other things, toughened mandatory federal sentencing for drug offenders. The bill at the time was attacked by Republicans as weak and loaded with liberal social spending (e.g., “midnight basketball” programs), not to mention gun control. Biden indeed never referred to anyone as “super-predators” (a term actually devised by crime policy maven John DiIulio, who later worked in the Bush White House), and Hillary Clinton’s single use of the term for members of gangs working for drug cartels came two years later.

The idea that Biden locked up Black voters while Trump is “letting people out of jail” comes from the claim by Trump and his fans that his single step toward criminal-justice reform, his signature on the First Step Act, executed reluctantly after he stalled more substantial legislation for years, was of revolutionary significance. Indeed, the idea that Trump single-handedly opened prison doors has been reinforced by some conservative attacks on “his” legislation.

It’s hard to imagine anyone who wasn’t familiar with this elaborate backstory understanding that exchange between Trump and Biden. But it was crystal clear compared to what the president did when the subject of election integrity came up at the very end of the debate, when Wallace asked the candidates: “What are you prepared to do to reassure the American people that the next president will be the legitimate winner of this election?”

Biden went first and assured viewers that he’d accept an election loss once all votes were counted, and that Trump would have no choice but to do the same. Here’s how Trump responded:

“So when I listen to Joe talking about a transition [he really didn’t], there has been no transition from when I won. I won that election. And if you look at crooked Hillary Clinton, if you look at all of the different people, there was no transition, because they came after me trying to do a coup. They came after me spying on my campaign. They started from the day I won, and even before I won. From the day I came down the escalator with our First Lady, they were a disaster. They were a disgrace to our country, and we’ve caught them. We’ve caught them all. We’ve got it all on tape. We’ve caught them all. And by the way, you gave the idea for the Logan Act against General Flynn. You better take a look at that, because we caught you in a sense, and President Obama was sitting in the office.”

This is an elaborate reference to the conspiracy theory known as “Obamagate,” the claim that the former president — along with his Justice Department, law-enforcement leaders, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden — conspired to persecute the Trump campaign and administration (and notably former national security adviser Michael Flynn) with fake charges of collusion with Russia, partly to cover up their own treasonous interactions with shadowy foreign powers. It’s been the go-to conservative counterpunch in response to the many investigations of the president in Congress and elsewhere, but it’s really not something you can even begin to grok unless you watch a lot of conservative media, as the Guardian noted earlier this year:

“According to research compiled by the Internet Archive, analysed by GDELT and released on Wednesday, since last week Fox News and Fox Business have mentioned Flynn, the FBI and Obama far more often than the coronavirus.

“Nor has such coverage just been pursued by opinion hosts like Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson. Hosts of supposedly straight news content have happily followed suit.

“Critics and other media outlets have been quick to call out the supposed scandal, which the former Obama adviser David Plouffe called a ‘sideshow to distract from the shitshow.’”

After his Obamagate digression, Trump dealt with Wallace’s request (to which Biden responded positively) about reassuring viewers that the election results would be accepted by both candidates by saying: “It’s a disaster … this is going to be fraud like you’ve never seen.” And he then related an assortment of anecdotal claims about alleged mail-ballot fraud along with the big lie that Democratic-controlled states are sending out ballots “all over the place” in order to manufacture fake votes for Biden after Election Day.

Trump has himself been the trendsetter in this area of conspiracy-mongering, but what he is alluding to was laid out starkly in the reliably Trumpy journal The Federalist (among many, many examples):

“[W]hen you go to your local precinct to vote this fall, remember that coming behind in many states will be bags full of ballots from unseen persons. There will be no guarantee they’ll arrive on time. No, we will be told that the new system takes a little longer, with some likely tallied long after election day. And if the margin is narrow, is there any question as to which way the vote count will drift?

“More than this year’s election contests will be at stake. We may be witnesses to the end of election integrity.”

Trump and his acolytes have been discussing such lurid (if completely fabricated) scenarios for so long that it’s no wonder he feels little need to explain it methodically. And that’s his biggest problem, not just as a debater, but as a presidential candidate behind in the polls and struggling to deal with a dubious record. He seems incapable of talking to anyone who isn’t already a member of his base, familiar with its rituals, its catchphrases, and its eccentric view of history and current events. It’s likely far too late in this election cycle for him to change.

DCorps: Race unchanged, but millennials assured and white working class men impressed

The following article is cross-posted from a DCorps e–blast:

Debate leaves structure of the race untouched, which is extremely favorable to Biden uniting the country, on middle class values, education, and dealing with the racial strife. The debate affirmed powerfully that Trump governs only for his party and for billionaires and elites.

  • The debate cut the undecided in half — breaking evenly for Biden and Trump, but that helps Biden too.
  • Biden was strong and self-confident in the debate and gained standing with white millennials who were a key part of consolidating the progressive coalition.
  • White working class men may end up playing the biggest role. They came away feeling less positive about Trump (7 points) and they gave Biden 6 more points in the race against Trump.
  • White working class women move to Trump after the debate, but turned to Biden on every issue affecting the middle class.
  • Trump’s aggressive open up the economy drove away white millennials and other voters, but not the white working class who gave him higher marks on the economy.
  • Trump made big gains on health care and keeping health care costs down, but they were most pronounced with white working class women – who went in giving Biden an 11 point margin and came out, supporting Trump on health care by 6 points. Trump led on drug costs while Biden was defending the ACA.
  • The debate put Biden ahead on the big battle for the forgotten Americans that may settle how far Biden can take his advantage.
Download the slides here →

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.

Trump Clearly Threatens Election Coup in First Debate

I was ready to write a muddy assessment of the first Biden-Trump debate, until the last question, which got my attention, as I wrote about at New York:

Viewers fatigued by the first Trump-Biden debate and the endless cross-talking punctuated by fights between debate moderator Chris Wallace and the president may have missed the final topic and its significance. But it was potentially a bigger deal than anything else discussed. Directly challenged to forswear an early victory claim based on his plenary dismissal of the legitimacy of slow-to-be-counted mail ballots, Trump refused, instead suggesting that the U.S. Supreme Court (buttressed by his nominee Amy Coney Barrett) resolve the election, after tossing a word salad of nearly incoherent complaints about voting by mail.

CNN reports the critical exchange:

“’Will you urge supporters to stay calm during this extended period not to engage in any civil unrest and pledge tonight that you will not declare victory until the election has been independently certified,’ asked moderator Chris Wallace.

“’I’m urging supporters to go into the poll and watch very carefully,’ Trump said tonight, beginning to slam vote by mail. ‘If it’s a fair election, I’m 100% on board. But If I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can’t go along with that.’”

Earlier today, I noted that Trump has been repeating several ludicrous arguments against voting by mail. In this one debate segment, he hit nearly all of them. He mentioned delays in counting mail ballots that his party is fighting in court to maintain, and that actually reflects an excessive focus on fraud. He touted a Pennsylvania incident of discarded military ballots that affected a grand total of nine votes. And he repeatedly suggested that random people are being sent mail ballots “without solicitation,” which isn’t true anywhere and isn’t even remotely accurate when it comes to any of the the battleground states.

Both candidates were asked by Wallace how they would reassure voters of the integrity of the election. Trump replied: “It’s a disaster … this is going to be fraud like you’ve never seen.” So much for reassurance.

Biden, by contrast, vowed to accept the results once all the ballots are counted, encouraged his supporters to vote in person if they can, and made this veiled threat to fight against any preemptive victory claim by Trump: “He cannot stop you from being able to determine the outcome of this election.”

Deliberately or not, Trump raised the stakes in the Barrett confirmation fight by admitting he’s counting on the Supreme Court to look at mail ballots, as the Washington Post reports:

“Noting that early voting has begun in many states, Wallace asked Trump: ‘Now that millions of mail-in ballots have gone out, what are you going to do about it? And are you counting on the Supreme Court, including a Justice Barrett, to settle in any dispute?’

“Trump answered: ‘I’m counting on them to look at the ballots, definitely. I don’t think we’ll — I hope we don’t need them in terms of the election itself. But for the ballots, I think so.’”

This represents more or less a presidential guarantee of a post–Election Day legal challenge to the legitimacy of mail ballots, which he expects the Supreme Court, to which he has appointed three members (assuming Barrett is confirmed by then), to address.

If you weren’t alarmed by Trump’s threats to fight against a full count of ballots before, it’s time to get worried.


Dann and Jennings: A Law and Order Platform to Unite Working-Class Voters

The following article, by Marc Dann, former  Attorney General of Ohio and head of DannLaw and Leo Jennings III, a leading Northeast Ohio political consultant and media specialist, is cross-posted from Working-Class Perspectives:

Donald Trump has positioned himself as the “law and order” president, because the term provides a positive framing for the racially-tinged rhetoric he uses to divide members of the white working and middle classes from people of color. The Guardian’s Tom McCarthy explains the tactic as “convincing voters that crime is a threat – scaring them into such a belief, if necessary – and then convincing them only you can stop it.”  For decades, American politicians have used it “to play on racist fears, using code language – ‘crime’, ‘inner cities’, ‘quiet neighborhoods’ – in an attempt to connect especially with white voters.”

Pundits continue to debate how large a role Trump’s explicit and implicit racism and his promises to crack down on crime and criminals—particularly those with dark skin–played in his 2016 victory. He’s now directing his hate-filled oratory at the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests that started after the killing of George Floyd and have ramped up again last week after the officers who shot Breonna Taylor were not charged with her murder. Such rhetoric seems more effective than ever at motivating his hardcore supporters and some white suburbanites who are appalled by the violence they see in the news every day.

Teixeira: Pennsylvania – Ground Zero of the 2020 Campaign

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Pennsylvania is widely believed to be the “tipping point” state of the 2020 election, including by the Trump campaign apparently. Right now, the 538 rolling average has Biden ahead by around 5 in the state, pushing 50 percent support, and their model gives him a 3 in 4 chance of taking the state. The latest high quality poll in PA (Fox, Biden +7) shows Trump’s difficulties and Biden’s potential winning formula in the state.

* Biden’s 8 point margin among white college graduates is running slightly ahead of Clinton’s 2016 support.

* Biden’s 17 point deficit among white noncollege voters is 15 points less than Clinton’s in 2016.

* Biden’s 74 point advantage among nonwhites (who are dominated by black voters) is essentially identical with Clinton’s margin in 2016.

These data make clear the contours of Trump’s challenge in the states. No wonder he’s spending so much time there.

Teixeira: The Bluing of the Buckeye State?

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Ohio hasn’t perhaps gotten as much attention as it deserves this cycle. That’s a little odd because it is very much in play–indeed, more so than GA and TX about which one hears much more. Right now, Biden is running a 1 point lead in the 538 polling average for the state and their model very slightly favors Biden (52 percent) to take the state. In contrast, the 538 averages have Biden behind by a point in GA and 2 points in TX and their model currently favors Biden in neither state.

How’s Biden doing so well in OH? In my Path to 270 in 2020 report with John Halpin we remarked on how the Democrats might be able to take back OH:

“For the Democratic candidate, even increasing Black turnout and support back to their strong levels in 2012 (they both declined significantly in 2016) would still leave them with a 4-point deficit in the state. The most efficacious change for the Democrats would be to cut Trump’s advantage with white non-college voters, concentrating on white non-college women, where Democrats’ deficit in 2016 was 30 points less than among men. Shaving 10 margin points off of Trump’s advantage among white non-college voters would, by itself, bring the Democratic candidate within 2 points in the state, and replicating Obama’s 2012 performance among this demographic in the state would allow them to actually carry the state, all else from 2016 remaining the same.

In all likelihood, a combination of these changes, at different levels, would be necessary for the Democrats to prevail. Trump, in a sense, just needs to hold serve.”

So, how’s Biden doing by these metrics? Cue the data! The two most recent OH polls are Fox and Quinnipiac.

In the Fox poll (Biden +5), Biden is carrying white college graduates by 7 (an 8 point swing in the Democrats’ favor) and white noncollege voters by 18 points (a 15 point pro-Democratic swing).

In the Quinnipiac poll (Biden +1), Biden is carrying white college graduates by 13 (a 14 point swing) and losing white noncollege voters by 19 (also a 14 point swing). And he is carrying black voters by 85 points, actually 5 points better than Clinton did in 2016.

So let’s hear it for the great state of Ohio! May the bluing last through election day.

For a very detailed geographic analysis of political dynamics, I recommend the Crystal Ball piece by Kyle Kondik on the state. Excellent.

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.”

Pelosi Serves Up Stimulus Bait for Trump

The maneuvering over COVID-19 stimulus legislation has been going on for months, but as I noted at New York, Nancy Pelosi may have just made the definitive move:

It might be a symbolic gesture designed to placate vulnerable House Democrats who want to say they’ve voted on stimulus legislation recently. Or it might be a gambit designed to tempt the president to break definitively with his congressional allies and get some serious COVID-19 stimulus money out the door before facing voters.

Either way, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is signaling that House Democrats are formalizing a $2.4 trillion version (close to the $2.2 trillion compromise price tag she’s been offering for a good while) of the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act that the House passed way back in May, as Roll Call reports:

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi has directed House committee leaders to put together a more slender coronavirus relief package than the one that previously passed the chamber, in their latest offer in talks with the White House.

“The House could vote on that as-yet-unreleased $2.4 trillion bill as soon as next week if GOP cooperation doesn’t materialize, according to Democratic lawmakers. But Democrats say they’re hoping for renewed talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and a compromise agreement that can actually become law.”

There will have to be some nips and tucks, particularly since Pelosi now wants some items not in the HEROES Act (notably targeted aid for airlines and restaurants). But you can be sure it will include the key elements the White House has already signaled it could support — particularly a second round of 160 million $1200 stimulus checks — and some new small business money, along with as much state and local fiscal assistance as Democrats think the market will bear.

Yes, there’s talk of cutting a deal with Congressional Republicans: Number Two House Democrat Steny Hoyer told Forbes he wanted to “get an alternative [bill] sent to the Senate that is a compromise.” But Senate Republicans, having already made their pre-election gesture with the famously meager “skinny stimulus” bill, won’t be interested unless the White House forces enough of them to get on board. It’s all about Trump imagining his signature on those 160 million checks right before Election Day and taking the bait. And if he doesn’t? It’s no big deal for Pelosi, who can have her show vote for the benefit of vulnerable Members and then wait until after November 3 in hopes that Democratic leverage for more stimulus will only go up with a Democratic president and Congress on the way.