2020 Elections

Trump Is On An Electoral Crime Spree

This essay was originally published by GEN on September 9, 2020.

Trump Is On An Electoral Crime Spree

Cash-strapped and facing lagging polling numbers, President Trump is cheating — knowingly breaking the norms, rules, and laws of our political system — to remain in power. It’s not as if we shouldn’t have seen this coming: When the Senate failed to remove Trump for threatening to withhold federal aid from Ukraine unless it investigated Joe Biden and its — not Russia’s — role in the 2016 election, he would read it as a green light to cheat even more aggressively in the election this year. Sure enough, here we are.

The scale of Trump’s cheating is breathtaking: for his reelection, including on Biden at official, taxpayer-funded events; appropriating itself for partisan activity; launching a clearly illegal right before the election; ; ; itself; for Russia to once again intervene in U.S. politics on his behalf; brazenly and using other disinformation tactics; employing to hide suspicious activity; coordinating with the absurd ; and too many of Bill Barr’s activities to fit into one column. There is also the Senator Ron Johnson–led probe into a debunked conspiracy theory about Joe Biden and Ukraine — a project that reeks of partisanship and which U.S. intelligence has warned will only .

As someone who has been working in national politics and campaigns since the 1980s, I can tell you that this level of rule-breaking is unprecedented. In a very Trumpian way, what we are seeing looks more like an electoral crime spree than a traditional campaign.

In a prescient from 2018, former prosecutor Glenn Kirschner argued that the Department of Justice needed to rethink its policy of not prosecuting a sitting president; there needed to be exceptions, he argued, for election law violations — or “cheating,” as I call it. Otherwise, our system is actually designed to encourage cheating, and cheating at a massive scale. After all, if you cheat a little bit and lose the election, you could get prosecuted. But if you cheat really big and win, you can’t be prosecuted, per DOJ standards. Such is the scenario we’re now seeing: Trump has every incentive in the world to cheat at such a level that it will transform his losing campaign into a competitive one and therefore could help absolve him from prosecution.

Trump knows all this — it’s how he won in 2016. Even with the help of Russia’s attacks on the DNC and the Clinton campaign, Trump was trailing Clinton by six points 10 days out. But the infamous and DOJ norm-breaking Comey letter, which dropped on October 28, helped narrow Clinton’s lead to , and Jill Stein’s improbable campaign shaved off enough votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to give Trump a win. If any of these three things hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t have Trump in the White House today. The combined efforts it took to turn this unpopular, scandal-ridden candidate into a 70,000-vote winner was extraordinary.

As we learned in 2016, all of this cheating can turn a big lead into a small one, and a small one can become an ill-gotten win for Donald Trump.

Right now, Biden leads Trump by seven to nine points. Following the path Trump set in 2016, all of his cheating is designed to chip away at Biden’s lead, to keep it close. Kayne might cut down Biden’s lead by a point or two, as would late or lost ballots. People not voting due to confusion or concerns — another point or two. Illegal use of the White House, daily partisan attacks from government buildings, the illegal $250 million campaign lying about the dark realities of Covid-19 — all combined, maybe two to three points. A Comey-like late hit by Barr or Senator Johnson — a point or two or three. Russia — who knows, maybe the whole election.

These efforts aren’t just about saving Trump; they’re also about saving the party. At the very least, even if all this cheating doesn’t save Trump, it could still prevent Democrats from flipping the Senate and blunt what would likely be a very favorable conditions for the left. That’s why you’ve seen party loyalists like USPS Chair Mike Duncan and Postmaster General Bill DeJoy going so far as to sabotage the Postal Service — they have to hold down Biden’s margin to prevent a game-changing bloodbath for the GOP.

As we learned in 2016, all of this cheating can turn a big lead into a small one, and a small one can become an ill-gotten win for Donald Trump. The more Biden’s campaign looks adroit and well-funded, and the more Trump’s own campaign continues to stumble and struggle, the better the odds the president relies on ways of staying in power that don’t involve winning a free and fair election. Keeping it close also allows Trump to launch a postelection challenge to the results and attempt to block ballots that arrive after Election Day from being counted. These efforts shouldn’t be dismissed, for in 2000, a 5–4 Supreme Court intervened to block the counting of ballots after Election Day. If it happened once, it can happen again.

We all failed to understand what was happening in 2016. There simply is no excuse this time. Trump’s extensive cheating must begin to get covered as a central aspect of his campaign — the way we treat paid media, candidate visits, Get Out the Vote, and so on. on Monday night, the last week. And the American people need to understand that the man they elected to uphold the law is breaking it daily in his dirty bid to hold onto power. The president’s rampant cheating should be a far bigger story than it is.

 

 

 

 

 

Analysis: It Has Been A Very Bad Week of Polling for Trump and the GOP

Analysis: A Very Bad Week of Polling for Trump and the GOP

Every week NDN publishes its 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 is also now holding in depth discussions about the 2020 Election every Wednesday at 2pm ET – join us and feel free to invite others too. 

We’ve seen many new polls over the past week and there was a remarkable s amount of bad news in them for Trump and McConnell.  The bottom line right now is that the various strategies the GOP have employed to change the trajectory of an election they are losing haven’t worked, and there is evidence that their already weakened position may be eroding further.  

Some key takeaways from recent polling: 

Biden’s lead remains sturdy, no signs of upward movement for Trump/GOP Senate– Despite two big potentially race altering events – the appointment of a new Supreme Court Justice and domestic unrest – Biden retains a very durable and significant lead and the Senate would likely flip to the Democrats.  GOP running out of time, and have no clear mechanism or set of issues, to turn things around. 

Trump saw meaningful erosion in the battleground states – New polls showed Biden tied or even leading in IA and OH, two states which were not part of the Biden target list and where they had not been advertising (the shift in these two states is the biggest news of the week).  Two new polls out in the last 24 hours have Biden up 9 in PA. A Fox poll had Biden up 11 in Nevada, a state where there had not been much polling.  New polls showed Biden leading in ME-2 and NE-2, districts Trump won in 2016.  An Atlanta Journal Constitution poll had GA tied at 47-47, and a new high quality poll in Alaska had Trump only ahead by a new single point, 47-46 (all polls mentioned in this memo can be found on FiveThirtyEight).  

Given how late it is, given Biden’s financial advantage and his sizeable lead, that Trump is seeing erosion in the battleground in places where Biden wasn’t advertising is an ominous development for the President’s campaign.  The polling in MI, MN, PA, WI this past week suggests that none of them may be competitive – which is the whole ball game.  If Biden wins those 4 states he wins the election. 

The Senate– there just isn’t any good news for the GOP here.  New polls suggest Alaska and South Carolina really may be competitive. Iowa’s trending towards Biden is a bad development for an already struggling Senator Ernst. The nomination of Judge Coney Barrows looks like really bad news for Maine’s Susan Collins, a state Biden has a double digit lead in now.  And fundraising for the Democrats in the days after Coney Barrow’s nomination has exploded. If there was any movement this week in the Senate it was towards the Democrats, and as we’ve argued before, we think if the election were held today the Senate would flip.  

GOP very clearly in the minority now –57% of the country is not with the President now.  Most Senate Republican incumbents have 55-59% of their voters not with them.  On issue after issue – COVID, health care, the protests, who caused the recession, should the Senate wait to move ahead on SCOTUS to the next President – 55-61% of the country is not with the GOP position. It is hard to look at all of the polling we see now and not conclude that at least 55% of the US is just not available any longer to Trump and the GOP – and it could actually be higher.  Their only hope is Trump’s decent showing on the economy – something we’ve argued Biden can and should be able to take away in the days ahead.  

As we wrote last week, we think the GOP’s choice of ending the election with the appointment of Coney Barrows, a very vivid reminder of their treachery and radicalism, was a very bad electoral decision. At a time when the country has decided to give the Republicans less power there is little chance for them being rewarded by seizing more of it in such an illicit manner.  

Trump has developed a serious young voter problem– NDN released a new comprehensive analysis of young voters last week.  Recent polling shows a huge swing against Trump here, and among the highest levels of vote intent ever recorded.  In 2016 Clinton won 18-29 year olds 55-36, +19.  In a series of good polls that margin this year is 33-38 points, a shift, depending on final turnout, of 5-6m votes and 2-3% points in national polling.  It’s a huge 2020 development.  

Analysis: Trump Has A Serious Young Voter Problem (Updated)

Analysis: Trump Has A Serious Young Voter Problem

Every Thursday or Friday NDN publishes its 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 is also now holding in depth discussions about the 2020 Election every Wednesday at 2pm ET – join us and feel free to invite others too.

In 2007 Pete Leyden and I wrote a long form magazine piece called the “50 Year Strategy” which made the case that two new, large and growing demographic groups – Millennials and Hispanics – had the potential to give Democrats a significant political advantage for many years to come.    We wrote that piece because in the 2006 midterms, these two groups, starting to get to a significant size in the electorate, swung dramatically towards the Democrats.  Hispanics went from 53-44 (9 pts) Dem in 2004 to 69-30 (39 pts) in 2006, and 18-29 year olds went from 54-45 (9 pts) to 60/38 (22 pts).  

2006 was the election where the modern Democratic coalition began to take shape.  Barack Obama leaned into this emergent coalition and rode it to two Presidential victories.  Democrats have outperformed the GOP in 5 of the 7 elections starting with that 2006 election, and in the two that went bad, 2010 and 2014, Democratic performance with these groups was way off (see here for an historical look at this data). 

Like 2006, the 2018 midterms saw Democrats performing at extraordinary levels with these groups. The Hispanic vote went 69-29 (40 pts) for the Dems, rivaling Obama’s 41 point margin in 2012.  But it is with young people where we saw an even bigger movement towards the Democrats, Democrats had their best performance in the modern era with both 18-29 (35 pts) and 18-44 year olds (+25): 

Turnout rose dramatically in 2018 too, as the chart graph below captures. . 

Recent polls show Biden performing at 2018 levels with 18-29 year olds: 

NYT/Siena            Biden 60 Trump 26 (34 pts)  June 2020

CIRCLE/Tisch       Biden 58 Trump 24 (34 pts)  June 2020

Quinnipiac             Biden 63 Trump 27 (36 pts)  (18-34 year olds) Sept 2020

Harvard IOP          Biden 60 Trump 27 (33 pts)  Late Sept 2020

Morning Consult    Biden 65 Trump 27 (38 pts)  Late Sept 2020

In 2016, Trump lost 18-29s by 19 points, 55-36.  So he is 9-12 points below his 2016 numbers here – a truly significant under-performance in a group that is likely to be about 20% of the electorate this year.  A new poll by Clean and Prosperous America, while cutting the data bit differently, also shows big problems for Trump wth the youngest part of the electorate. 

Recent polls from NextGen, CIRCLE and Harvard IOP suggest the higher levels of youth turnout we saw in 2018 are likely to carry over to 2020.  The newly released IOP poll found 18-29 year old vote intent levels equal to or greater than 2008, a year which saw one of the highest youth turnouts in the modern era.   So this age group has swung dramatically towards the Democrats, and could vote in record numbers this year. 

Recent state polls by NYT/Siena give snapshots into how significant this emerging youth problem is for Trump: 

Georgia (45% Biden, 45% Trump) - Trump is tied or leads in all age groups over 30.  Biden leads among 18-29s by 63-34 (29 pts).   3% are undecided or with a third party candidate. 

North Carolina (45% Biden, 44% Trump) – Trump leads in all age groups over 30.  Biden leads among 18-29s by 62-20 (42 pts).   18% are undecided or with a third party candidate. 

Texas (43% Biden, 46% Trump) – Trump leads among 45 plus, Biden has a 45-43 lead with 30-44, and a 60-15 (45 pts) lead with 18-29.  25% are undecided or with a third party candidate.  

Arizona (49% Biden, 40% Trump) – Trump only leads here with 45-64 year olds (remarkably).   Only 18-29s it’s 53-25 Biden (28 pts), and 22% are undecided or with a third party candidate.  

Note the Trump number here – 15, 20, 25, 34.  Rough stuff for him and the Rs. 

New Fox News polls out Thursday have similar spreads:

Nevada (52% Biden, 41% Trump) - Biden leads with voters over 45 49-45; he leads with 18-34s by 63-27 (36 pts) and 10% are undecided or with a third party candidate. 

Ohio (50% Biden, 45% Trump) - Biden leads with voters over 45 49-47; he leads with 18-34s 58-35 (23 pts) and 7% are undecided or with a third party candidate. 

Pennsylvania (51% Biden, 44% Trump) - Biden leads with voters over 45 49-46; he leads with 18-34s 64-31 (33 pts) and 5% are undecided or with a third party candidate.

We did some rough calculations about what this means for 2020.  Assuming 18-29 year olds are once again 19% of the electorate (as they were in 2016), and turnout is 10% higher across the board (this may be conservative), if 18-29s end up +35 for Biden it means a 5-6m vote gain for Biden, or 2.5-3pts in the race.  And if Biden’s lead is about 7 pts, 50.5 to 43.5 now, this means that this shift just among 18-29 year olds accounts for at least half of the 5 point shift towards Biden we’ve seen since 2016 (Clinton +2 to Biden +7). 

In many of these polls the number of 18-29 year olds (in many cases 30-44 year olds too) who are currently undecided or supporting a third party candidate is much higher than the older electorates.  This suggests a few things.  First, it means that a plurality or even majority of the undecideds left in the race are in age cohorts which favor Democrats – bad news for Trump.  It also suggests that the Biden and other Democratic campaigns should be spending heavily now on winning over the younger voters who remain uncommitted and pushing turnout as high it can be.  Young voters, particularly 18-29s remain a very powerful area of opportunity for Democrats in the home stretch.  But like all voters Democrats should only expect them to vote for them if they are asked, and asked in culturally appropriate and compelling ways.  Both the CIRCLE poll and the new one from Clean and Prosperous America suggest that Democratic campaigns still have work to do to reach and connect with many millons of these young voters still very open to voting for them. 

As for Hispanics, our view now is that Biden is likely to come close to Democratic 2016 and 2018 margins of 38 and 40 pts.  The polling with Hispanics has been all over the place, and this is a voting group which is hard to poll due to the requirement of needing truly bi-lingual phone banks to get an accurate sample.  There are polls showing Biden below Clinton’s 2016 numbers, but there also polls showing Trump below his 2016 results.  The best recent national poll of Hispanics (NBC/Telemundo) had it 62-26 - so a 36 point lead for Biden with many undecideds. Trump is 2 points below his 28% 2016 result here, and it is likely that the undecideds break heavily towards Biden, which would get him up to the high 30s, low 40s as late undecideds usually break towards the challenger and the Biden campaign has an awful lot of material work with.  Again what we are seeing here is Trump below his 2016 number with a critical emerging part of the electorate.  

So while Biden may not be seeing a big swing with Hispanics as he is with younger voters, even keeping Clinton’s 38 pt margin means that he will gain votes as the Hispanic electorate grows meaningfully every two years; and it is possible that +40 with Hispanics really is the upper limit with this constituency, and that Democrats got to its upper limit here earlier than they did with younger voters.  

This analysis has been updated since it was originally published on September 24th. Some enw data became available and we included it in the current version.

Analysis: Biden running strong, the Hispanic vote, Senate leans Dem, more

Analysis – Biden running strong, a look at Hispanic voters, Senate leans Dem, more

Every Thursday or Friday NDN publishes its 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 is also now holding in depth discussions about the 2020 Election every Wednesday at 2pm ET – join us and feel free to invite others too. 

Top line– the basic contours of the race haven’t changed since last week’s Poll Roundup. Biden has a large, sturdy lead, is strong in the battlegrounds, and Dems have an advantage in the Senate.

We’ve entered a new phase in the general election.  The Biden campaign has started rolling out more state and demographic specific media, and in-person voting has begun.  Democrats continue to put up impressive fundraising numbers, and will likely outspend the GOP in the closing days.  The debates are coming – Sept 29, Oct 7, 15, 22 – and Trump’s extraordinary efforts to cheat/manipulate show no sign of abating.  With FEC reports coming out in a few days we will also learn a lot more about the financial health of the Trump campaign – something that could matter a great deal this fall.  

Biden’s emerging strength in the battleground states perhaps is the most important electoral development this week.  He is at or almost at 50% in states equaling 273 electoral votes, including MI, MN, NH, PA and WI.  He also leads in AZ, FL, ME-2, NC and NV, and is within 1-2 points in GA, IA, OH and TX. Statistically at this point we are closer to Biden winning all of these states then we are Trump making the race competitive.  The campaigns are both on the air in AZ, MI, MN, NC, NV, PA, WI – read this CNN analysis to get an in-depth look at what’s happening with campaign ads and state/demo targeting.  Continued strong polling from Arizona this week for the Democrats remains a very significant development in the campaign. if Arizona slips away, Trump has to flip at least 2 of MI, MN, NH, PA, WI – all states Biden is far ahead in, and at or over 50.  

Hispanics– In a new thread Simon takes an in-depth look at recent polling with Hispanics, and doesn’t find some of the weakness we’ve been hearing about. He characterizes it more as “not yet realized opportunity.” In new high quality polls this week in AZ and FL Biden is matching Clinton’s 2016 numbers, which is a problem for Trump – bigger Hispanic electorates in these and other states means for Trump to prevent Dems from gaining votes he actually has to INCREASE his share not just hold.  There just isn’t any evidence this is happening anywhere.  There is some data suggestion Biden underperformance wit Hispanics and more broadly in Nevada, which is why I think the campaign has gone up on the air in recent weeks.  

Finally, given Trump’s record, I think almost two months of heavy engagement by the Biden campaign with Hispanic voters could do a lot of damage to Trump and get Biden up over Clinton’s strong 2016 showing with Hispanics everywhere.  Why we view the current state of Biden and Hispanics as one of unrealized opportunities, and not in any way a weakness or problem.  

Monday update - A new NBC/Telemundo poll has Biden beating Trump with Hispanics 62-26, 36 points.  In 2016 Clinton won them 66-28, 38 points.  It's another sign that Biden is holding his own here, and yet another poll showing Trump BELOW his 2016 totals.  In the past week Monmouth in FL, Equis in AZ and now this national poll have Trump below his 2016 numbers with Hispanics. 

Either way this poll is a reminder that there is a lot of vote out here still to be gotten, and that of course is far more problematic for the incumbent than the challenger. 

The Senate– AZ and CO continue to look very strong for the Democrats, and polling continues to show Dems with meaningful leads in ME and NC.  While polling for Theresa Greenfield in Iowa has been very steady for months a new poll showed Earnt with a lead – so let’s wait and see there.  Harrison and Ossoff  have made their races competitive in SC and GA, and while Bullock has had a few not so good polls in Montana, he remains a very strong candidate.  AK and KS are underperforming for the Rs so we need to keep an eye on both of them.  Bottom line – the Senate leans Dem but it is going to go down to the wire.  

All the President’s Cheating– It’s becoming increasing clear that out and out cheating has become central to Trump’s understanding of how to stay in power this year.  We think far more attention had to be paid to the President’s illicit appropriation of government resources for his campaign (what got him Impeached); the erasure of the line between campaign and government; clear election law violations; undermining of the integrity election and rancid voter suppression; the holding of rallies which violate COVID protocols and common sense; the relentless lying, disinformation and use of manipulated media…..cheating has become a central strategic pillar of Trump’s campaign, up there with paid advertising, candidate visits, GOTV, debate prep.  It is wrong, illiberal and needs to be far more aggressively challenged in the days ahead. 

Analysis: Biden Retains A Sturdy Lead, Focusing On The President’s Cheating

Analysis: Biden Retains A Sturdy Lead, Need More Focus On The President’s Rampant Cheating

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 is also now holding in depth discussions about the 2020 Election every Wednesday at 2pm ET – join us and feel free to invite others too. 

Summary – The Presidential race remains pretty static and stable, with Biden holding a 7.6 pt lead (50.5/42.9) in the 538 polling average this morning. While the President has gotten a few good polls in Florida this week, there has been no significant shift in the battlegrounds and Biden still retains sizable leads in 4 key states – AZ (Biden leads by 5.1 pts in the 538 polling average), MI (7.4), PA (5.1) and WI (7.1).  In each of these states Biden is at 49 or above, reminding us, as we wrote last week, If Biden can gain just a single point in the coming weeks, up to 51.5%, he will be over 50 in the core battlegrounds and will be in control of the race.

For Trump to win he will have to win 2 of those 4 states (assuming he wins the remainder of the close battleground now).   This will require him to gain 5.1 points net, and turn a 7.6 pt Biden lead to a 2.5 pt one.  2.5 pts is 51.25 to 48.75, which means Trump is will have to get up to 48.5% -49% to have a shot.  

Getting up to 48-49% is going to be very hard for Trump.  Late undecideds usually break against incumbents, not for them.  He and Republicans are going be outspent down the stretch.  He’s only hit 48-49% job approval for a few days in the earliest day of his Presidency. Using the Real Clear Politics poll averages, Trump HAS NEVER been above 45% against either Clinton or Biden, and only got to 46% in 2016 for about 48 hours at the end of the race (Rs received 44.8% of the vote in the 2018 House races). Getting to 48-49% will require him to get a place of job approval and vote share he’s never earned before – no easy thing given the state of things today.   

As we wrote on Monday, it’s hard to see an issue path forward for him.  The economy is realistically his only card to play, and he will have to somehow convince the country his record of worst job loss since Hoover, worst deficit since WWII, millions losing health insurance, give ways to companies and rich people is worthy of a second term.  Yesterday revelations about his lying about COVID and his manipulation of the intelligence about threats to the homeland will make it far harder for him to use COVID or “law and order” to his advantage.

We don’t yet know how these two big new understandings of Trump’s mendacity are going to play out, but they are far more likely to make any potential rebound for the President more challenging. There were already faint signs of the race moving slightly against the President in the daily trackers over the past few days.  As we’ve written, even a shift of a point against the President would be very perilous now.  We should all watch the daily trackers in the days ahead…….

Will Biden Expand the Battlefield?– Now that we know Democrats are likely to outspend the Republicans in the home stretch, the Biden campaign has some interesting decisions to make about whether it expands its targets both geographically and demographically.  The campaign is currently on the air in 9 states – AZ, FL, MI, MN, NC, NV, OH, PA, WI.  Will they add GA, IA and TX to the mix? With Trump cash strapped and struggling there is an argument for spreading him as wide as possible; creating a degree of complexity and difficultly that will be hard for the Trump campaign to manage.  We will keep watching this important strategic call in the days ahead.  

All The President’s Cheating– In a new GEN Magazine essay, I argue that we all need to be paying far more attention to the President’s extensive cheating this cycle.  As his campaign struggles, the President appears to relying on and exploring far more on illicit ways of staying in power.  This is no small matter, as it was cheating and outside manipulation which allowed Trump to win in 2016.  It’s my belief we should be making far more of Trump’s lawlessness in this campaign and be challenging it far more aggressively in the days ahead.  Do read the essay – it is worth your time.   

On Labor Day, the President Is Losing and Has No Clear Path Forward

On Labor Day, A President Losing and Without A Clear Path Forward

On this Labor Day, the official start of the “home stretch,” let’s take a look at the race and how important economic issues are now and will be in its final days. 

First, the race itself. Most of the big post-Convention polls have come in and their findings have been remarkably consistent – Donald Trump’s Convention failed to alter the trajectory of a race he’s losing by 7-9 points. His numbers in the battleground states remain problematic, particularly in must wins AZ and WI.  Democrats are more likely than not to flip the Senate, and Democratic candidates at all levels are raising historic amounts of money.  It’s not a pretty picture for Trump and the GOP two months out. 

We also learned that at least for now the big investment the President has made in blaming Joe Biden for the unrest we are seeing simply isn’t working.   The questions have been asked in different ways in the polls, but the new CBS poll released yesterday was pretty representative of where the polls have been this week: 

Calm the situation - Biden 49 Trump 39

Encourage the fighting – Trump 47 Biden 30

Make you feel more safe – Biden 48 Trump 43

Approve of handling of protests – Biden 51 Trump 44

Better way to end the protests – Police reform 60, punish protestors 25

It’s true in some polls support for Black Lives Matter and the protests have declined.  But those declines do not necessarily hurt Biden, as one can worry about the protests but still be with Biden on his response to them. Last week Biden’s campaign did a very good job taking on Trump’s attacks head on, and carving out a cogent and clear position on the unrest.  Whatever opening Trump had here we think has been blown, for once again the President advanced an extreme position rather than a consensus one.  Encouraging high schoolers to illegally acquire assault weapons and kill people is not something any suburban mom wants from their President, nor is encouraging and excusing police violence. It’s possible these issues turn against Biden at some point, but as of today we think the adroit Biden campaign has gained the upper hand and can win this complex and vital debate about race, policing, protest and public safety in the coming months.  

COVID Navigator chart from last week captures the challenge for those making strategy for the Trump campaign now:

Trump Job Approval  Approva/Disapprove

His job as President   43/55

Health Care                41/55

Corona                        43/55

The Economy             49/49

The Protests               41/54

If are you running the Trump campaign, and you are sitting at 42-43%, and you need to get up to 48-49%, what would you do? How do you get there? Playing the protests hard hasn’t worked, and risks continued exposure of the President’s extremism.  COVID is more likely to be worse by November than better. Your position in the midst of a pandemic is to take away health insurance and pre-existing condition coverage from Americas while your opponent was the lead in passing a popular and effective modernization of the health care system.  Legitimate questions about your candidate’s patriotism are being asked. Where do you go, what do you do? For the game now is not just taking Biden down but you have to improve your candidate’s standing to make the race competitive. 

It’s clear the President has to try to spend the final months living in the only place where gets up into the high 40s and that’s the economy.  But consider how hard that will be to sustain – Trump is running with one of the worst economic records in US history.  He will be the first President since Hoover to see net job loss on his watch; the deficit is hitting its worst annual rate since WWII; millions have lost their health insurance; the trade deficit has exploded.  And yes the stock market has performed well but of course that will become an opening for Biden to go after Trump for his give-away-to-the wealthy and blow-the-deficit tax cut.  It’s not easy to see how Trump wins this debate against Biden, who will also be able to evoke the important role he played in helping lead America out of the last Republican-caused recession.  

We have to remind ourselves that the President was so scared of running against Joe Biden that he committed High Crimes and was impeached over them earlier this year.  He’s continued his desperate law breaking and cheating, sabotaging the postal service, wrecking the census, incessantly and illegaly using tax payer dollars to support his re-election, creating an illegal 3rdparty strawman candidate, clearing a path for Russia to once again come to his aid and every day it seems doing something to undermine our collective confidence in our election system.  

In 2016 this cheating and election manipulation worked for Trump. It made his long shot campaign competitive, and he squeaked it out in the end.  And that’s why we have to view all this cheating as part of his electoral strategy. If he can shave off a point or two through each of these strategic initiatives – mail ballots being lost, voter suppression/confusion, Kayne’s lunacy, hundreds of millions of free and paid media stolen from tax payers, Russia’s ongoing efforts, who knows what else to come from Barr or others - then he can make another long shot race close at the end, and then anything can happen. But they have to make it close, and that’s what worries us the most.  It’s not clear he can make it close through traditional politics as we just reviewed.  So the cheating becomes more important, essential.  

It is Labor Day 2020 and things look bleak for the President and his party.  Perhaps there is no greater measure of that then the scale of the cheating we are seeing and will likely continue to see in the days ahead. But this cheating is very risky. People are breaking laws, and getting caught. State AGs are getting involved, who are outside the reach of Barr and the President’s pardon power.  And it is going to be very hard to defend this lawlessness in the upcoming debates, where it is certainly going to be an issue.  

Joe Biden and his campaign have had a very good few weeks and head into the final stretch with a bit of wind at their backs, a good candidate in touch with who he is, a clear plan for the future, lots of money, a strong leadership team and an united party behind him and his exciting partner, Senator Kamala Harris.  

Wednesdays at NDN - A Weekly Deep Dive on the 2020 Election

A quick note to invite you, your friends and colleagues to the 2020 election series we are calling “Wednesdays at NDN.”  Each Wednesday at 2 pm ET we conduct a live session looking at the election, rotating each week between two different presentations.  Just bookmark that time and try to make as many of these as you can. 

Wednesdays at NDN rotate between two presentations:

The 2020 Poll Roundup – A live look at recent national polling, this Wednesday presentation dives into the most current data the way political analysts do.  Along the way you will not only get up to speed on all this important election, but you will learn how to analyze public opinion data the way the pros do.   The presentation is live over Zoom, takes about 25 minutes and we will leave 30 minutes for discussion.  Our next Poll Roundup is on October 28th.  Feel free to invite friends and colleagues - all are welcome. 

With Democrats Things Get Better – This is our signature 2020 presentation, and a deep dive into the performance of the two political parties over the past generation of American politics.  This too is about a 25 minute presentation, with 30 minutes of discussion which follows.  You can learn more about this presentation and the broader project behind it here and read Mike Tomasky’s glowing review of “With Dems” in the Daily Beast.

Due to interest in current polling we are suspending our regular presentations of "With Dems" until after the election. 

We hope to see you at a future event, and feel free to invite others.  The more the merrier for Wednesdays at NDN!

Returning to School Is Going To Be Very Hard

Just think about what is going to be attempted in the next few weeks.  Some very large number of young Americans – 75m or so - will try to go back to school.  Kids will ride school buses and use other public transportation; they will be, play and eat together again; they will be required to social distance and mask, all day; many will have no access to daily exercise.  Millions of college age kids will travel to their schools via driving long distances, (staying where?), flying, while needing also to somehow transport their stuff.  Some significant percentage will have to quarantine for some time, being restricted to their dorm rooms.   

For those schools which are going virtual we know that virtual school doesn’t really work; that kids can’t sit front of a computer all day, and stay engaged; they miss their friends and are unhappy, depressed; that a large percentage of kids don’t have access to the Internet at home and can’t go to school at all, or have two parents who work out of the home, and many millions may be about to take a huge reduction in their temporary government benefits.  

Behind all of this is the fear that all parents have about either sending kids into the a place where the likelihood of them getting sick, and eventually spreading it to the rest of the family, skyrockets; or the fear of keeping kids at home, taking them away from friends, and attending to them all day, regardless of their age.  

Going back to school should have rightly been seen as an extraordinary national undertaking.  Our government should have been there helping families and communities grapple with a series of terrible choices; it should waged a national effort to defeat the virus this summer so return to school could have been easier; the President and his team should have been conducting discussions with governors and mayors on how to grapple with a DDay like mobilization.  Instead, our government has screamed at all of us to go back five days a week even though the virus is raging and killing across most of the country;  has LIED repeatedly about the threat the virus poses to young people and their families; has watered down CDC school guidance when it didn’t fit their ridiculous vision; has repeatedly undermined a societal wide embrace of masking and social distancing, basic tools we need to re-open; has more focused on golf outings and gassing two hundred protestors in Portland than making all this happen safely.  

As the author Anne Applebaum wrote today America’s attempt to return to school is “both tragic and grotesque.”  I wake this morning with a sense of impending doom.  As in almost every other moment in the COVID crisis we think it can’t really be this bad, this stupid; that somehow, it is just going to get better, or “disappear” as the President repeatedly says.  And it has been that magical thinking, that dangerously delusional thinking – that it was all going to just go away – which has prevented America from at any point in the COVID crisis from doing the right thing, preparing properly for the storm which continues to kill and cause so much harm.   

The President knew about COVID in early January of this year, perhaps as early as November.  We had a lot of time to prepare, like knowing a hurricane was coming a week out.  We could have sensitized the country to the difficult choices we had to make – lock downs, testing and tracing, what to do with the kids, social distancing/masking.  Nursing homes could have started taking precautions.  Testing centers could have been established.  All of those conversations, all of these things could have begun in January.  We could have locked down in February and been opened by April, May.  We could have come together as one country and worked together - as neighbors, parents, colleagues, friends, family – to have defeated the virus, together.  Instead we have this.  A public health catastrophe.  An economic catastrophe.  A human catastrophe.  A governing catastrophe.  A weakened nation, further divided, poorer, more in debt, less capable of looking out for itself.  It is both tragic and grotesque; and the President’s party will need to be held to account for what they’ve done to this once great country for a very long time.  

To the parents, teachers, school administrators, young adults, students, student-athletes, staff out there NDN wishes you the best this fall.  What is about to happen will be indescribably difficult.  As Americans we will give it our best, try to make it all work as best we can, adjust, recalibrate and keep fighting for our kids who deserve so much better.  One could only wish that the most powerful man in the country was right there fighting along with us. 

PS - "This is highly infections, and MLB didn't do what NBA did to put in place a really strict bubble.  It is a warning of what could potentially happen if we aren't very careful with the schools." Dr. Scott Gottlieb, CNBC, 8/3/20. 

PS2 - “The problem is the White House and the task force could never organize themselves to lead a federal response and bring virus transmission down to containment levels,” said Hotez, who has argued for the necessity of a federal containment plan that, if executed effectively, might allow the nation to reopen comprehensively as soon as October. “Instead they took a lazy and careless route, claiming schools are important, as we all know, and the teachers and principals need to figure it out. What they did was deliberately set up the teachers, staff, and parents to fail. It’s one of the most careless, incompetent, and heartless actions I’ve ever seen promoted by the executive branch of the federal government.”  From The Atlantic, 8/2/20.

Analysis: More Ghastly GOP Poll Numbers, Loud Dems, Trump's Strategy

Analysis: Another Week of Ghastly Polls for the GOP, Loud Dems, Trump’s Illiberalism

Our weekly poll roundup took a break last week for there just wasn’t a lot of news – everything was still terrible, worst case scenario bad for Trump and the GOP.  There wasn’t much to add to that story.  This week, same thing but couldn’t let two weeks pass.  So, let’s go to the polls!  

New Fox New polling had Biden up 13 in MN, 11 in MI, 9 in PA.  Quinnipiac had Biden up 13 (!!!!!!) in Florida and 1 in Texas.  2 national polls had Biden up more than 10 yesterday, Gallup found Party ID going from 47D/44R to 50D/38R last month, and there is a growing body of evidence Trump’s numbers on the economy have begun to head south – an ominous development for the GOP.  Democrats continued to put up very strong numbers in the key Senate races, and the DCCC reported 50% more cash on hand than the NRCC heading into the home stretch.  

Some notes on what we are seeing: 

What is Trump’s Strategy? As people who have been in politics a long time, it’s just impossible to explain what Trump and his campaign are doing now.  When you are down like he is, you need to associate yourself with issues which bring you more voters.  But again and again – on masking, the schools, refusal to fight COVID, letting the stimulus lapse, obeying Putin, challenging the protestors/defending rogue policing – the President embraces an extreme position, ones which often poll in the mid 30s.  Not one time in recent months has he chosen the popular thing, something that would allow him to work together with Democrats, and get his numbers up.  Instead this strategy of embracing extreme positions – send all kids back to school regardless of COVID! – has driven him to some of the worst numbers of his entire Presidency, and some of the worst an incumbent President has ever seen.  It’s a baffling re-election strategy.  

This lack of interest, or effort, in raising his standing concerns us.  It’s as if he has given up maintaining power through the election itself, and begun to lean into a series of truly extraordinary illiberal acts as his means for maintaining power – weakening the Postal Service, partnering again with the Russians to smear his Democratic opponent, delegitimizing the election, throwing Michael Cohen in jail/pardoning Roger Stone and perhaps most importantly, his fascistic mobilization against his domestic enemies, “the Radical Left.” 

As we’ve written, we worry that the speeches the President gave on July 3rd and 4th were an open admission that he was now going to attack “the left” not just through ads and a campaign, but with the United States government itself.  How else can you read this passage: “American heroes defeated the Nazis, dethroned the fascists, toppled the communists, saved American values, upheld American principles, and chased down the terrorists to the very ends of the Earth. We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters”?

And as we’ve seen in Portland in recent days, that process of using the government itself to attack his domestic opponents appears to have begun.  Everyone has to have eyes wide open here.  

The Democrats Are Going To Be Very Loud In the Home Stretch – Another thing which will make a GOP recovery this year far more difficult is what’s happened below the Presidential level these last two cycles.  As we enter this final push Democrats are going a new, extraordinary array of capable, well-funded candidates and newly elected statewide elected officials augmenting Biden’s campaign message – Senate races in battlegrounds with unprecedented amounts of money, inspiring House freshman running full out from their re-elections and incumbent Dem governors in MI, NC, PA, WI.  Despite not having the White House, the Democrats will have the money, the talent, the argument and superior campaigns to potentially control the dialogue in the final weeks, or at the very least, make it far harder for Republicans mount a serious counter in the closing days.  A good example is Arizona.  What does Mark Kelley spending $60m and leading by 7 in the Senate race mean for Joe Biden there? A whole heckuva lot.   

Another thing to watch for which may matter in this closing dynamic is whether Trump/GOP money begins drying up.  My guess is that it will, which could create an even more powerful vicious cycle for Trump and his party – to raise grassroots money in the end they have to embrace ever greater extremism, that extremism drives their poll numbers down even further, and so on……That stories appeared this week raising questions about the Trump family’s mismanagement of the campaign’s fundraising could be a sign that money is indeed beginning to dry up.  

The President's Illiberal Escalation in Portland Needs to End

Over the past few weeks, NDN has been raising the alarm (herehere and here) that the Trump Presidency had taken a dark turn, and that the likelihood of some kind of domestic crackdown or illiberal assault on the President’s perceived enemies was growing.

In his July 4th speech from the White House the President told us that he believed he and the US government were engaged in a war against a new enemy, a domestic enemy: "American heroes defeated the Nazis, dethroned the fascists, toppled the communists, saved American values, upheld American principles and chased down the terrorists to the very ends of the earth. We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and people who, in many instances, have absolutely no clue what they are doing."

In the past few days, we’ve gotten a taste of the kinds of things the President may be contemplating as part of his war against the “Radical Left.” We’ve learned there are unmarked federal troops grabbing Americans off the streets in Portland, Oregon, and taking them away in unmarked vans. The troops are snatching people off the streets of Portland, not just on federal property, and no one has any idea what is happening to the people who’ve been detained. None of these activities are being coordinated with local law enforcement, the city of Portland, the state of Oregon; and DHS has refused to explain what is happening to the public or the media.

Leaders of both parties, in Washington and the states, have to rise up with one voice today and demand the Administration end these lawless actions in Portland, and withdraw these troops and any others which have been “pre-deployed” to other cities in recent days. We also must demand that the President turn the attention of his government from these ridiculous and dangerous provocations to the main task at hand – defeating COVID19. The battle the President should be fighting and winning is against COVID, not a Putinesque one against his fellow Americans. 

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