2020 Election

Taking Trump’s Ongoing Assault On Our Democracy Seriously

Taking Trump’s Ongoing Assault On Our Democracy Seriously

In an NBC News column a while back, Glenn Kirschner, MSNBC legal analyst and former prosecutor, made a really compelling point – the current DOJ policy preventing the indictment of a sitting President, whether just or not, should not apply to crimes against our democracy, or cheating to win an election.  “If a president can act unlawfully to influence an election,” Kirschner wrote, “he does not deserve the protections of his ill-gotten office. This incongruity encourages lawlessness in the quest for the presidency and then rewards that lawlessness by inoculating the criminal president against prosecution. Such a construct is dangerous.”

In my conversations with Kirschner we discussed how this absurd formulation has created a massive incentive for American Presidential candidates to cheat and cheat big – for the candidate who doesn’t cheat, loses; or if you cheat just a little bit you lose and can be indicted.  The candidate who cheats in a big way and wins escapes prosecution.  We are in such a horrific situation right now with President Trump.  Trump is struggling to win a traditional free and fair election and has begun cheating/law breaking/ignoring the Constitution at a level never seen before in an American election (this thread details all the ways Trump is cheating now – it’s an exhausting list).  

And Trump does all this knowing that if he wins AG Barr will be there to ensure he isn’t indicted, and if staff broke laws getting him elected – even working directly with Russian intelligence assets – he can pardon them (as he did Roger Stone example).  As Kirschner predicted, there is no reason once you start cheating to do it at the margins of an election – you just have to go for it.  For if you cheat and lose, you and your team can be indicted.  Immunity only comes from winning or staying in power illicitly.  

That Trump is a cheater/law breaker/criminal is well established.  Despite all the cover the AG has given him, the President is under criminal investigation in NY for tax and insurance fraud.  A trial involving rape allegations against the President is moving forward.  Michael Cohen went to jail for their plan to repeatedly break election law in 2016, and the Trump family foundation’s law breaking (including 2016 election law) was so extreme the foundation was dissolved by the state of New York.  We know the President accept and encouraged illicit help in 2016, and even built and designed campaign strategy around information Russian assets provided to the campaign in advance.  And then there is whatever drove Comey to make his dramatic intervention ten days out in 2016 – a move which gave a losing Trump campaign an ill-gotten victory.  Trump was Impeached in 2019 over a truly brazen and months- long effort involving senior leaders of his government to cheat in the current election – a lawless move which was given sanction by the Attorney General and the Senate Republicans.  

The political crime spree the President is on right now has no precedent in American history.  He is breaking/damaging ancient foundations of our democracy – the Postal Service, the Census, Separation of Powers, our Election itself.  He’s using the vast powers of the US government to illegally aid his re-election every day, every day – it’s the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars of campaign spending paid by you, me and other American taxpayers.  The absurd, fake Kayne campaign. Russia has returned, and this time the collusion is out in the open, overt; and this time, the government is providing intentional cover for Russia’s intervention, laundering it to make it legitimate.  The President asked China for electoral help, his Ambassador to Brazil asked the Brazilian government for electoral help too.   He’s invented a domestic terror threat which doesn’t exist.  He’s using authoritarian means to stifle domestic dissent, and is threatening an all-out war by the United States government itself against “The Radical Left” (whatever that is).  His Presidency has become an orgy of illiberalism – and as we see in the crack downs in Hong Kong and Belarus, we cannot look the other way, pretend this isn’t happening here.  Trump has shown too much admiration and kinship with authoritarian oppressors throughout the world for us to believe it cannot happen here.  Of course it can.  

In 2016 the media and political elites were slow to recognize the illicit activity which helped give Trump an ill-gotten win.  We naively “waited for Mueller.”  The Republican burying of Trump’s Impeachment – essentially not even allowing a Constitutionally required trial – was for us here at NDN a “Crossing the Rubicon” moment, a moment when the US was no longer really a functioning democracy as we have been taught to understand them.   And so here we are, the place Rep. Adam Schiff and my friend Glenn Kirscher predicted we would be – the President has launched enormous effort to stay in power using all means necessary.  He’s in the process of denying America a free and free election.  He is cheating and breaking American election law at a truly massive scale, right now, every day, in front of our eyes.  His partner, Putin, has returned, and is aiding his re-election again.  There simply is no reason to believe he is going to leave office without a fight.  

Yes I know there are big issues in front of our campaigns now – COVID, our recession/depression, return to school, health care, climate, fighting systemic racism.  But we all must find time in this challenging time to talk about what our President is doing to our democracy itself.  It is a betrayal of country without peer or precedent.  We simply have to do everything we can to make it harder for him to cheat, or stay in power illicitly. We have to prepare the American people for the struggle ahead, and we have to fight – using the Congress, state legislatures and Governors, Attorney Generals and city prosecutors.  The director of the USPS should be in front of Congress explaining himself TOMORROW not in mid-September.  If state and local laws are being violated by Trump prosecutions should happen.  State AGs can subpoena the USPS, WH COS Meadows, others in the WH and ask them to explain in public what they are doing.  Our electeds in the states should hold hearings and events educating the public about how to vote, and the threats we see.  There has to be an enormous national effort to not just defeat Trump in a traditional election but to defend our democracy from his ongoing assault.  But that starts with not looking the other way, pretending there are more important issues to talk about – we can wage both a traditional campaign, and a campaign to preserve our democracy.  We have no choice really.  We can and must do both now. 

We know from history how dangerous this moment is – fellow patriots, let us commit to rise to this moment, together, and do everything we can to defeat this extraordinary threat to everything that has made America great, and an inspiration for free people throughout the world for centuries.  

Analysis: Another Brutal Week of Polls for Trump/GOP

Thursday Poll Roundup -  Another Brutal Week of Polls for Trump/GOP

Every Thursday NDN publishes its Thursday Poll Roundup, a deep dive into recent polling and political trends. You can sign up to receive it each week and feel free to review previous editions too. NDN’s Simon Rosenberg also does a regular Wednesday webinar on national polling trends – learn more, sign up here.  

Top Lines– Polling continues to be shockingly bad for Trump and McConnell.  Trump’s job approval is now at 40.7/56.1 (-15.4), among the worst spreads of his Presidency, and 7 points worse than where he was on Election Day 2018 when Rs lost the House by 8.6 percentage points. The Congressional Generic is up to 49.2/40.3 (-8.9) for the Dems, and the Real Clear Presidential average is now 49.7 Biden 40.3 Trump (-9.4).  

Important to note that 8-10 point spread.  Biden winning by 8-10 pts would put the final vote at 55-45, 54-46.  Trump/GOP received 44.8% of the vote in the 2018 House races, and 46% in 2016.  45-46 is where he’s been these last few years, and it is likely where he will be on Election Day 2020.  It’s not our view that the race will tighten in the coming months, as it would require Trump to get up into the high 40s, a place of job approval and popularity he hasn’t shown the ability to get to in his five years on the national stage.  And why given his awful performance would he gain new supporters at this point? Worst economic record since Hoover, historic deadly surrender on COVID, selling out the US to Russia and China, very public embrace of white supremacy, repeated efforts to strip pre-existing coverage from hundreds of millions of people in the midst of a pandemic…… yikes on defending all that.  

Two Trends To Watch- There are two notable trends we want to drill down on this week, both involving North Carolina. 

The first is the continued suppression of the GOP brand in the Senate races, something we’ve been discussing with you for some time.  In almost every poll battleground GOP incumbents are at 40-41-42-43, and trail their Democratic challenger.  It’s true in AZ, CO, IA, ME, NC – enough states right now for Dems to flip the Senate.  Yesterday a new poll dropped in Montana, and it had Governor Bullock leading 47-43 – remarkably similar numbers to polls we’ve seen in these other states.  AZ and CO look like they are gone now for McConnell, so Dems have to win 2 of these other 4 (IA, ME, MT, NC) to flip it and right now Dems lead in all 4 (and are competitive in the two GA races, and maybe KS and SC too).  

Yesterday the right of center business network CNBC released a slew of polls which caught our eye. These particular polls had been trending a little pro-Trump this year, but this batch came in square in the mainstream of polling right now in battleground Presidential states and Senate races.  With one exception – North Carolina.  CNBC had Dem Senate candidate Cal Cunningham up 51-41 (10 pts!) over Senator Thom Tillis, and Biden beating Trump 51-44.  While this is a single poll, the question now is has Trump’s yanking of the GOP Convention from North Carolina doing damage to the GOP brand there? 

If NC is joining AZ and CO as lost Senate causes, Dems only need one more to flip the Senate.  But if North Carolina is really moving away from the GOP right now, the impact on Trump’s re-elect will be profound (this is the second trend). As we’ve written, recent weeks have seen other must win Trump states FL and WI trend away from Trump.  If North Carolina is joining them, it means that Trump’s Electoral College hill is getting that much steeper and the prospect he could win the Presidency without winning a majority of the vote seems ever more distant. Need to keep an eye on North Carolina polling in coming weeks to see if CNBC picked up a new trend early or was an outlier.  

The other emerging Electoral College challenge for Trump is the utter failure of his COVID response in three critical Sunbelt battlegrounds, AZ, FL, and TX (the CNBC release has a lot of good data on this).   If even 2-3% of the electorate in those states decide to now vote for the Democrats because of this massive GOP policy error that too will make the President’s already steep EC hill even steeper.  This too is a trend to watch.  

The Coming Reckoning With Russia

The Coming Reckoning With Russia - Someday, soon, America will have to look at and make sense of Russia’s years of attacks on our interests, its penetration of our political system, its brazen manipulation of our President.  It will be a very ugly but necessary process. It is possible that news of Russia waging a successful campaign of assassination of US and UK troops in Afghanistan will be the impetus for a thorough public accounting of Putin’s slow burn insurgency against the US and the West – and it should.

The Jan 2017 Intelligence Community report on Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election starts this way: “Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations.”

Escalation here is the key.  Since its successful installation of a friendly in the White House, Russia has worked hard to leverage this new valuable new ally.  As NDN has written, over the past several years Trump has worked diligently to align the US with Russia’s interests in Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Iran, Europe, and the UK, and has systemically weakened core pillars of the US-imagined global order including the G7, NATO, the WTO, WHO, the CIA and the FBI.  He has feted autocrats in the White House, and supported Putin friendly right wing politicians in Europe working to weaken the EU and democratic institutions there.  And the US itself if far weaker today – tens of million unemployed, a virus raging unchecked, racial division, rising right wing domestic political violence – and our standing in the world perhaps permanently diminished.

Reviewing the news in recent months, it is clear that Putin’s strategic campaign against the US is still very active, and evolving.  Russia has waged an expansive campaign to forge online relationships here in the US with military veterans: is helping turn white supremacy into a transnational terror movement with US affiliates; is stepping up efforts to cyber exploit new remote working arrangements by the US government and companies; is working to once again influence/intervene in our domestic politics and elections; and now we learn of this new campaign of assassinations of US troops in Afghanistan.

What remains so concerning is that not only has the US government not launched a sustained and public effort to get Russia to back off, the Trump White House keeps creating space for Russia to executive its campaigns against the US.  Trump has downplayed or ignored rising right wing violence in the US and abroad, so much so that our European allies are unhappy with current levels of cooperation; fired the acting DNI over briefing Congress about Russia’s operations targeting the US; has worked to exonerate Mike Flynn and Roger Stone, aides who most directly conspired with Russia against US interests in 2016 and 2017; resumed his rancid campaign to re-admit Russia to the G7, and this year blew up the G7 itself;  just last week brought the illiberal Polish leader, Duda, to the White House days to bolster his re-election; and has now on the issue of the Russian assassination campaign issued a statement which could have been written by Putin himself.

NDN believes that when it comes to Russia, the President has been committing treason or its philosophical equivalent since the infamous Trump Tower meeting in June of 2016.  However the illicit bonds were formed, the US has become aligned with Putin, acting as a global partner and ally in advancing his dark agenda, here and abroad.  It is critical that US policy makers use this new Putin outrage to launch a sustained discussion about what’s happened, begin to plan a sustained response to roll back the gains Putin has made, and put the US back on the side of the global liberal order we’ve built and led for decades.  There are many messes which will have to be cleaned up form this terrible chapter in our history – but Trump’s appeasement and embrace of Putin may be among the important and consequential for the world and the future of our once inspiring republic.

Analysis: It's Bad Now for Trump/GOP, But It Could Get Worse

Thursday Poll Roundup – It's Bad Now for Trump/GOP, But It Could Get Worse

new NYT/Siena poll confirms the central argument of our last Poll Roundup – to make the race competitive Trump is going to have to get up to 48.5/49, a place he’s never really been, and a place that just seems out for reach of him now.

Trump received 46% of the vote in 2016, and 44.8% in 2018. According to 538 Trump’s job approval has only been over 46% for a few days in his entire Presidency (his first week in the job), and most of the time it’s lived in the low 40s. He’s down in this race by about 10 points which would put the final margin at 55-45 – a familiar place for him, 44/45/46. Trump’s only got to 46% in 2016 with the extraordinary help of a massive Russian effort, and the Comey letter, and as this 538 analysis shows Trump was only at 46% for a very brief window in those final weeks. It was not a place he had sustained for a long period of time.

The big question on the table - is there any reason to believe that Trump can break beyond the percentage of the vote he’s been hovering at for this entire time on the national stage – 44/45/46? It matters for this time, without a third party candidate, he has to get up much higher, 48/49, to have a shot at winning the Electoral College. Our analysis last week using 538’s numbers showed that given current battleground state polling Trump would have to get 48.5/49 to have a shot at winning the Electoral College, and it is very likely he would have to get to 50% to lock it down. The NYT/Siena poll has similar findings. Looking at their battleground state polling, Trump would have to turn a 50/36 race into a three point race, 51.5/48.5, to have a shot at winning the EC. To assure his win he would have to go higher, 49, 49.5, 50. As the NYT’s Nate Cohn writes this morning: “And at the moment, there are limits to what Trump can hope to extract out of the electorate right now. 55% of registered voters said there was "almost no chance" they would support him.” There is that Trump at 44/45/46 number again. Winning the election will require Trump to win 3-4 pts in the electorate he has never had – meaning that to win now Trump has to keep everyone who voted for him in 2016/8 and pick up millions of new voters he’s never had. Yikes to that.

As bad as the race is now for Trump and the GOP, there are three ways it could get worse in the months ahead:

Biden still has room to grow – Biden has not yet picked his VP or formally won the nomination. It is very possible these events, coming soon, would allow him to pick up another 2-3 pts nationally. If his vote share starts to consistently hit 52/53/54, not the 49/50 number he is at now, he will start putting the race away. Keep in mind that in this NYT poll Trump was at 36%, meaning that 64% of the electorate was not supporting him. If that holds, Biden’s upper limit may not be in the mid 50s but in the high 50s. 

COVID – the clear failure of the Trumpian re-open fast strategy may have a significant impact on the fall election. It may not only reinforce broader Trump failures, making any future political recovery for him more challenging, but if it erodes the GOP brand by even 2-3 points in the states heavily impacted right now – AZ, FL, TX and potentially IA and SC – it would make the Electoral College and holding the Senate that much harder for the GOP. A 2-3 point shift in AZ and FL would almost certainly put those two must win states out of play for Trump. Given how close Texas is now a 2-3 pt shift could end up flipping Texas, which has not only would be an EC disaster for the GOP, but a redistricting one as well. 

Young Voters – In 2018 Democrats won younger Americans by enormous margins - +25 for under 45s, +35 for under 30s. Recent Trump job approval measures had suggested that this margin was holding, or even getting worse for Trump. The NYT/Siena poll has some pretty startling findings in this area – 

18-29 Biden 60 Trump 26 +34, 15% undecided/not voting

30-44 Biden 56 Trump 24 +32, 20% undecided/not voting

This would put the under 45 vote at +33 for Biden (OMG), and Trump at 25% (!!!!) with this portion of the electorate (which will make up around 45% of the total vote in 2020). But what should worry the GOP here is if this large uncertain vote that breaks along these current lines, going basically 70/30 for Biden, it will give the former VP another 2-3 points nationally on election day.

For an extended discussion of the under 45 vote do watch my new video presentation, “With Democrats Things Get Better.” It does a deep dive into this critical vote in recent elections.

Things are bad now for Trump, McConnell, and the GOP. But they could get worse in the days ahead. 

With Democrats Live Presentation - June 24, 2020

NDN is excited to release the first public version of our new deck, "With Democrats Things Get Better." It was recorded on June 24th, 2020 so all of the data you see will be current as of then.  The presentation, narrated by NDN's Simon Rosenberg, lasts about 25 minutes, and there is another 35 minutes of questions and discussion if you are interested.   

You can learn more about the thinking behind "With Democrats" here.

Daily Beast Column Gives High Praise to NDN's "With Democrats" Presentation

We are excited to report to you that our new presentation, “With Democrats Things Get Better,” is the subject of a new Daily Beast column by noted author Mike Tomasky (for those who would like to see the presentation you find the dates of future showings and register here).

Tomasky writes: “Simon Rosenberg heads NDN, a liberal think tank and advocacy organization. He has spent years advising Democrats, presidents included, on how to talk about economic matters. Not long ago, he put together a little PowerPoint deck. It is fascinating. You need to know about it. The entire country needs to know about it.

The presentation compares how the economy has performed by various measures under Democratic and Republican administrations, going back to 1989. That means that it fairly compares 16 years of Democratic presidencies (Clinton and Obama) to 16 (almost) years of Republican presidencies (Bush, Bush, and Trump). It uses official government numbers, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and so forth. There’s no cooking of any numbers. It’s just the facts.

And the facts are that it’s not even close. The economy does better—far better—when we have Democratic presidents. In terms of job creation, median income, health care, and yep, even the stock market, the economy does better—the American people do better—under Democratic presidents. By a mile.

“We’ve been making a version of this ‘Dems good, Reps not-so-much’ argument for a few years now, but decided to really lean into this year because the magnitude of Trump’s failures has just made the contrast that much more stark, and even more essential for Democrats to establish,” Rosenberg told me. Amen to that.”

Tomasky goes on to review some of the key slides and arguments from the deck, adding his own insights and observations.  Do read it all – it is a terrific and smart piece, and register for one of our future showings. Our next three will take place on Wednesday, June 24th, July 8th, and July 22nd. We are proud of this deck and are working hard to bring it to as many people we can in the months ahead. 

A big shout out to former NDNer Chris Taylor who contributed significantly to the deck, and current NDNer Georgia McLean who has worked hard these last few weeks keeping it current. Chris who did so much good work for us is now working on the staff of the very able Rep. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, and we are sure he's helping out that great office as much as did ours.

Analysis: Trump’s Plummeting Poll Numbers Clearly Threatening McConnell’s Majority Now

This is the sixth piece in NDN's new weekly polling round-up, published every Thursday. You can find previous weeks' analyses here.

As we’ve been writing these last few months, the President’s bungling of his COVID response has been both a policy and political failure.  The policy failure is manifest – the US still has among the highest infection rates in the world, up there with Russia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Sweden and the UK; 100,000 are dead; we are 35th in per capita testing; the US economy took a far bigger hit than other developed nations; and at least 10 states are now seeing their hospitalization rates increase. 

What continues to remain hard to understand is how the President has chosen to play his policy disaster politically.  Rather than appearing to learn from his mistakes and course correcting, he’s chosen to question and undermine aspects of our response designed to keep us safe and are popular with voters – masks, smart stay at home efforts, even testing and tracing.  Republican Governors who’ve attacked the virus with force have seen their poll numbers shoot up.  Not Trump – his numbers are dropping to what now has to be seen as a very dangerous place for him.  Using 538’s Trump job approval aggregate with likely and registered voters, the President begins the morning at 42.7% approve/54.0% disapprove (-11.3), among the worst showings of his Presidency.  On Election Day 2018 the 538 tracker had Trump at 44/52.4 (-8.4) and he lost that night in the House races by 44.8/53.4 (-8.6).  He is three points lower today, -11.3, and dropping. 

As I was quoted in the New York Times last Friday saying, what has to concern the national GOP the most right now is that Trump’s poor showing may be creating a dangerously low ceiling for Senate incumbents too.   If the 538 job approval tracker was pretty accurate in picking Trump’s final vote share in 2018, and it’s 42.7 today, let’s assume Trump is sitting at 42-44 now (Real Clear Politics has Trump at 42.4).   Here are the head to head numbers for GOP Senators in public polls released since April 15th via 538 (adding MI Senate GOP challenger James too):

Arizona – 38, 41, 42

Colorado – 31, 31, 36

Iowa – 42, 43

Kansas (Kobach) - 42

Maine – 42, 43

Michigan – 35, 36, 37, 37, 40, 43

Montana - 39

North Carolina – 33, 34, 39, 40, 41, 41, 44

South Carolina – 42

Georgia, which has a June 9th primary

Purdue - 45, 45, 46

Collins – 44, 45

Loeffler – 32

Of these 10 GOP held seats (2 in GA), Rs do not have a clear lead in any of them; they only have a few polls showing leads at all; and as we can see there sure does seem to be a very low ceiling for all these Senate Rs this year - the numbers 41, 42, 43 keep showing up again and again.  Incumbents in the low 40s this late in an election cycle seldom win their elections. 

If Biden wins the election, Democrats need to win 4 of what are now 10 competitive GOP Senate seats to flip the Senate.  What we are seeing here, above, are signs of a wave election, consistent across the board depression of one party’s numbers regardless of the experience or talent of the incumbent.  While of course it is too early to know if 2020, like 2018, will be anti-GOP wave, the chances of it are rising significantly now.  While we don’t know if Democrats will win those 4 seats (AZ/CO look good now, IA/ME/NC really promising), the chances of Democrats not just winning 4 but winning 6-7-8 seats is now something that is clearly on the table. 

As we’ve written before, it is impossible to explain what Trump is doing now.  His COVID response has been a governing and political failure.  His refusal to acknowledge it all, and course correct remains ever harder to understand.  Mitch and his colleagues have to be increasingly aware that their captain is steering their ship towards the iceberg.  Let’s see if mutinies begin in the coming days, or if they are all just resigned to living the good life of a retired Senator/lobbyist and have begun talks about the next chapters in their lives.

On COVID, What's Next for the US, Trump and the 2020 Election

Phase I of America’s response to COVID is coming to an end, and there is little question that it has been a disaster for the country and increasingly for the Republican Party.  The numbers are staggering - 50,000 lives lost, depression level unemployment numbers, and historic levels of debt.  As we wrote in our new Thursday poll roundup, recent polling has begun to once again show broad dissatisfaction with the President and his Party - if the election were held today, Democrats would almost certainly win both the White House and the Senate. A new New York Times story confirms that the GOP establishment is increasingly worried about this very thing this fall. 

All of this takes us to the question that is likely more than any other going to define the 2020 election - why has America’s response to COVID been so ineffective, and will Trump learn from his extraordinary missteps and course correct?

There are two principle ways that a nation can fight a pandemic like COVID-19: mandatory stay at home policies to slow the spread of the virus and a national testing/tracing/isolation program that allows things to stand backup.  Remarkably, five months after the US first learned of COVID, the President has chosen to do neither of these things.  He has refused to stand up a national testing/tracing regime and, through his recent embrace of the very unpopular “Liberate!” movement, has actually worked to undermine the stay at home orders which have done so much to slow the spread of the virus after it was allowed to run wildly across the country due to his early inaction. That the President chose to essentially call an end to the national stay at home efforts, ones he didn’t call for and wasn’t enforcing, prior to establishing a plan for Phase II - standing up the country - remains one of the most reckless things that our very reckless President has ever done. 

America now has no plan for what happens next; we have no Phase II.  In fact, the President has repeatedly said that it isn’t his job to manage this and instead that it is up to the states.  But do we leave it to the states to repel foreign armies, defeat terrorism, counter cyber threats from abroad, hunt down serial killers, respond to extreme weather events, or even, let’s say, fashion an economic response to COVID-19? No, of course we don’t leave it to the states to fight such extraordinary battles on their own; and nor did we fund or design our public health system to do so in a case of a pandemic.  There is no way forward here without the President and his team leading us.  Or perhaps Congress forcing him to do so if he continues to refuse to do what’s necessary now.

Let’s talk for a bit about what a national Phase II plan could look like.  It can and should include:

1) A national testing/tracing/isolation plan

2) A permanent fix to the medical supply chain

3) A national approach to social distancing and masking at work and in public spaces

4) Clear rules regarding international and domestic travel and foreign entrants into the US

5) Immunity certification, if immunity in fact exists

6) Creative solutions to giving our young people and students something to do this summer and potentially this fall

7/ A plan to ensure the 2020 elections take place without challenge

8) Safe harbor liability protections for entities which adhere to agreed-upon national guidelines

What we have to do before standing up the country in the next few weeks and months is incredible - hundreds of thousands of tracers have to be hired, hundreds of millions of tests produced, an entire type of testing not even approved yet by the FDA - antibody testing - has to be launched, rules regarding travel have to be established, decisions about coming testing and isolation regimes being mandatory or voluntary have to be debated and settled on...

It is hard to see how all of this will be established across the US as quickly as we need without Congress starting to get involved and helping to lead and fund Phase II.  The urgency of a true national response is perhaps best understood using an example.  Let's say that in a few weeks I travel from DC to Boston for a meeting.  While there I test positive for COVID.  What happens next? Am I quarantined in Boston? If so, where? If a hotel, who pays? We know that the MA-based tracers would work to establish my contacts locally, but how will my tracing down here in DC/MD/VA happen? Who is responsible for that, and how are these efforts coordinated? Let’s assume I took a plane to Boston.  Everyone who was on that plane will have to be traced and tested.  But they have now scattered to 10 other states - who does this work and coordinates it all?

The point of this example is that there is no possibility that the US can stand itself back up as we all envision without the federal government playing a leading role.  If it doesn’t, then we may not be able to travel inside the US (let alone outside) until we have a vaccine.  For why would Massachusetts, now without community transmission, accept any traveler from parts of the US where the virus is still live and spreading? Or is the idea that MA would essentially set up a border, and test everyone who comes into the state? To enable travel, even potentially across state lines for a daily commute, the public must have confidence that we have a way of effectively and rapidly isolating new infections, and removing those people from society - a confusing, erratic, and inefficient state by state regime isn’t going to cut it, and nor should the American people accept it - we are one nation, and should act like one. 

What is worrisome about where the President’s head is at right now is that in a recent press briefing he weighed in on all this, and endorsed the idea of internal borders.  It was a bit shocking at the time, but it is pragmatic recognition that if he does not set up a single national system then we will break into parts, separate regions or states, for what could be two years. 

Okay, you get it.  Phase II is going to be hard, really hard, and we are way behind where we should be.  Important pieces of the plan are months away from being ready and critical debates haven’t even begun.  And we have to get it right to stand our society and economy back up.  The President’s current approach, like his approach to Phase I, is profoundly stupid and unserious.  Congress needs to step in now, and work to forge a cogent and effective plan for Phase II.  It should consult with the nation’s governors, particularly from the most impacted states, and lead where the President refuses to. 

This has been a terrible few months for this great nation.  But in order to make sure this tragedy doesn’t become something which damages the nation beyond repair, our leaders must come together in the coming days around a single national approach to Phase II of our response to COVID - living with it and returning to work in the months before we have a vaccine.   

US Not Ready to Open, Trump's Poll Numbers Continue to Slide

Monday 4/20 Notes On 2020 - While polling remains bouncy right now, Trump’s bump is largely gone and things have reverted back to about where they were prior to the COVID crisis - Democrats with a 6-9 point structural advantage, similar to where things stood in 2018.  Consider how similar these spreads/margins are:

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Yes, we have a long way to go in this challenging year. But in the coming months, one can easily imagine Biden gaining 1-3 more points from consolidating the party behind him and winning the nomination, and Trump losing a few as the costs and pain of his mismanagement of COVID become more evident.  That movement would put us closer to the 2018 vote numbers than we are today, and would put the White House and Senate in Democratic hands.

America Still Needs A COVID Plan - Given the structure of this race right now, it is very hard to understand what President Trump is choosing to do on COVID. The data is pretty clear that the American people believe he blew the early response to COVID, and do not support a fast re-opening.  Stay at home efforts are very popular, as are the front line governors who’ve made the tough calls for their residents.  So, from a political and public health standpoint, his attacks on both seem stupid and misguided. Trump’s only shot to win in 2020 at this point is to successfully manage this next phase of our response to COVID - the re-opening.  He had a second chance, a chance to rise to the moment and lead us through this terrible scourge.  But instead he seems to be retreating to a place of ideological extremism, Hannityville let’s call it, which will almost guarantee that we fail at this next critical phase of battling the virus.   

Consider all that should be in place prior to the US re-opening - a federally run testing/tracing/isolation regime with wide deployment of far more tests and tests which yield results in minutes, not days; a stronger, better equipped, and better prepared US health care system; a national approach to social distancing/masking at work and in communities; some strategy for what parents and communities are supposed to do with young people this summer and perhaps this fall; the establishment of a clear national process for certifying immunity if immunity does in fact exist; clarity on how international and domestic travel is going to work; and a plan to ensure our election takes place thiis November as is Constitutionally required, free from foreign interference and virus proofed. At this point, the President doesn’t seem to be committed to doing any of these things; in fact, his central strategy now seems to be focused on undermining the popular state and local stay at home regimes which have successfully slowed the spread of the virus. 

Throughout this COVID crisis, the President has repeatedly expressed what can generously be described as magical thinking - the virus would just go away, it wouldn’t come here, we have millions of tests, etc.  In what may be a looming tragedy for the country, this past week he seems to have once again chosen magical thinking - Liberate!/Open - over sound science and experience from what has worked in other nations.  What remains remarkable about it all is that he is not just acting outside science and reason, he is acting outside of polling too - which is why 2020 is shaping up to be a very bad year both for the United States and for what’s left of the Republican Party. 

Dems Fight It Out, Delusions of A Mad King, Nevada This Saturday

Notes on 2020 - There has been lots of polling over the past few days and it tells a simple story – the Democratic race is very competitive and what happens in Nevada and South Carolina is really going to matter. Perhaps the most important development has been the slew of good polls for VP Biden in NV, SC, and other states showing him very much in the game.  Tomorrow’s Nevada debate, with Mike Bloomberg on the stage, will be a significant moment. Lots of drama ahead for the Democrats.

One bit of drama we hope we don’t see again is the troubles which plagued Iowa and which may repeat in Nevada this weekend. NDN believes it would be wise for DNC Chair Tom Perez to take some concrete steps to improve his operation in the coming days, sending a clear signal that he knows he needs to do better, and regain the trust of Democrats across the country.  This will be particularly important if Dems look like they are headed to a brokered convention, something which will put a much greater burden on the DNC to carry a negative message against Trump for the next 4-5 months, build a true general election operation for the nominee, and manage a divisive and challenging convention.  

As for Trump, his numbers remain bad and he has not shown any kind of significant bump from his illicit acquittal.   There is no doubt he is building a powerful juggernaut, which is why Dems not having a nominee until late July will be so problematic.  But some perspective here please.  Trump only won 2016 with the extraordinary trifecta of Russia’s enormous intervention, a left leaning third party candidate, and the Comey letter;  the GOP has had three truly awful elections since including the 8.6 point win for the Dems in 2018; incumbents in the low 40s as Trump is now almost never win; and do we expect him to behave more like Reagan and less like Caligula in the coming months?

The big story with Trump remains his dangerous disregard for the rules and laws which make our democracy, and all democracies, work.  In just the past few months he has solicited campaign help from a foreign nation, illegally held back information for a legitimate Congressional investigation, and corrupted the Senate Impeachment trial, and he now appears to be trying to turn the Department of Justice into an arm of his political project and campaign (something he did with the White House and State Departments in the Ukraine affair). 

What worries us the most is that the latest revelations about Trump and Barr are not just corrupt and illegal, but represent an attempt by the President to replace the story of the past few years with a new, fictitious, and delusional one.  It feels really crazy and dangerous  - as if the President has really lost contact with the real world, becoming in every way the Mad King our Founders so feared.  It remains shocking that the Senate GOPers and Barr are playing along with this destructive and out of control man. 

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