Trump

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 we conduct a live session looking at the election, rotating between two different presentations.  Just bookmark that time and try to make as many of these as you can.   Our presentation today at 2 pm ET will be our 2020 Poll Roundup - sign up today!

Wednesdays at NDN rotate between two presentations:

The 2020 Poll Roundup (this week)– 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.  

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.  Our next showing of “With Dems” will be on August 26th – sign up now if you want to reserve an early spot. 

You can always see the latest schedule and sign up for any of these presentations on NDN’s Events page.  We hope to see you at a future event, and feel free to invite others.  The more the merrier for Wednesdays at NDN!

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.  

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.

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. 

“Long delays in getting test results hobble coronavirus response”

“Long delays in getting test results hobble coronavirus response” reads the Washington Post headline not from March, or May, but from this morning, July 13.  

The story goes on to say: “More efficient testing — such as in South Korea, where results are often given the next day — might have prevented the Bottomses from getting the virus. But such turnarounds seem out of reach in the United States because of a lack of federal coordination, supply shortages and surging demand as outbreaks in some states spiral out of control.”

When briefings with senior Administration officials about COVID and our possible responses began in January, they were told a nation like ours only had a few tools to use until anti-virals and a vaccine were developed – shut down international travel, rapid testing and tracing, internal lockdowns, easy access to PPE. social distancing and masking.  At a strategy level the whole game is to catch a pandemic early, before it spreads widely, and snuff it out.  This is what Europe has done, New Zealand, China.  It’s all we know how to do. 

But here in the United States, our President, and his government, choose to do none of those things, and is still doing none of those things except limiting international travel– and thus is the virus rages here today like no other country in the world.  The damage to our economy, to the physical and mental health of our people, is becoming incalculable; something so immense that we can no longer really easily describe it, understand it, particularly as we may have another year or so of what we are experiencing now.  

For a man who claims to be a nationalist, it remains hard to understand why the President never came to conclude that whatever we did as a nation it had to be done together.  Whatever our strategy was it had to be a national one; we had to work together to snuff out, tame the virus, for if it raged anywhere in America it could re-ignite and spread again across the whole country. To fight this pandemic, as we would any other threat to the nation (invading army, terrorism, cyber attacks, extreme weather, etc) the nation had to act together.  The states weren’t on their own to counter the economic fallout of the pandemic; haven’t been on their own to counter protestors or pursue “rioters and looters;” haven’t been on their own to repel people trying to cross the border……why we still do not have a single national response, fully funded, well run, aggressive to counter this national threat? It remains incomprehensible.  

The simple reality is we can’t stand the economy back up, return our kids safely to school, have sports again until we have a sustained national effort to snuff out the virus.  We have to consider “a test” to be something that comes back in less than 12 hours, and requires mandatory quarantine until the results are back.  We should put unemployed people back to work through a national, unified tracing regime, one that easily crosses states lines and shares information.  The Administration should lead a national conversation about the sacrifices we have to make to get us to the other side – we will have to mask, socially distance, give up our privacy for a time, listen to our local elected officials rather than rage at them – to get there together, as a single nation, as Americans.  And above all else the Administration stop yelling at people to go back to work, to go back to school when the President and his team haven’t done the work other nations have done to make it safe to do so.  For the President to lecture people to be strong and tough it out when he himself is living in a world of rapid testing and tracing – something no one else in the country has – feels feudal, medieval, let them eat cakish.  Trump has become an evil character out of a Charles Dickens novel sending the children and the lows to the mines despite the risks…..it’s just mind-bogglingly horrible.  

If you haven’t yet, spend time at this site to explore the magnitude of the failure we are witnessing now.  It’s breathtaking, and dispiriting.  

What is clear now is that our politics here in the United States is going to be dominated for many years now by our response to the virus.  Can we really as one nation together to defeat it in the days ahead? How do we rebuild, work to prevent anything like this from ever happening again? 

And we end on a bitter note.  Last week, on July 3rd and 4th, the President did attempt to rally the nation against a perceived threat to our great country.  In his July 4th from the White House the President said: "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."

So the President has begun rallying the American people not against the virus, not against Russia or champions of totalitarianism, or the very real threats of climate change, or systemic racism; he has chosen it appears to rally one part of America against another.  And as long as he continues to see the big fight as that, as American versus American, rather than all of us together against the virus, the virus will continue to rage, and America will continue to be irreparably harmed and weakened.    

This great country deserves so much better.  

Analysis: Should Dems Go For It?

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.  

Thursday Poll Roundup – Should Dems Go For It?

Top lines – Polls this week show no great change from the basic structure of what’ve been seeing over the past few weeksBiden is up by 8-10 points, Congressional Generic is 9, Trump job approval is -15, battleground states moving toward Biden, and Dems continue to outperform GOP Senate incumbents in AZ, CO, IA, ME, MT, NC – enough to flip the Senate. Early Q2 Senate Dem fundraising numbers show extraordinary, unprecedented hauls, meaning the Dem challengers will have enough money to tell their own stories, in their own words – as Dem candidates did so effectively in the 2018 cycle.  

Should Dems Go For It? A new Politico story about the Dems and 2020 has this passage:

"Simon Rosenberg, who worked as a senior consultant for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2018, when the party swamped Republicans en route to the House majority, said the environment is just as ripe this year.

“The rationale for going big is clear: it can help flip the Senate, create a more powerful mandate for governing, and lock in wins for the coming reapportionment,” he said. “From a governing and party perspective, there will be a powerful case for going big, and trying to get to 400-plus Electoral College votes.” "

Targeting – choosing the strategy for how you win an election – is one of the most important parts of any campaign. Like anything involving strategy, the process of choosing targets must be data driven; and changes to that strategy, which always arise, must also be driven by data and the new campaign art of “analytics.” There is no right way or wrong way – just making calls based on what the data is telling you, and making adjustments as things change.

In 2018, the DCCC knew from its research that there were far many more seats available to us than there had been in previous elections, and the Committee, led by Rep. Ben Ray Lujan and Exec Director Dan Sena, made the decision to go for it, playing in 70 plus districts. Democrats ended up picking 40 seats, the very upper end of what was possible, winning many more seats than most experts predicted. With investment, well run campaigns, and good candidates, Democrats expanded the battlefield, which also had the advantage of spreading the GOP tactically thin and lessening their traditional advantage in fundraising. 

In politics, like life, you can’t score unless you shoot – and sometimes losing comes as much from not attempting or understanding how to win as it does from the other side beating you. In 2018 the DCCC took lots of shots and it paid off. 

To us, the choice the Biden campaign has to make whether to go big and expand the map is similar to what the DCCC’s team was looking at in 2018. Reach states like GA, IA, NC, TX (and maybe OH) are in play, and if there is enough money, investment, smart campaigns in those states these states can be won by the Biden campaign. We are skeptical at this point that the presidential race is going to tighten up – the structure we discuss above wants this to be an 8-10 point race, where it is now. Trump won 46% in 2016 and 44.8% in 2018 and has never shown the ability to crash through that very low ceiling. 45-46 puts the race at 8-10 pts. 8-10 pts means GA, IA, NC, TX are in play. 

The upside Dems are looking at by expanding the map and going for it is significant. Investing in those states and winning there helps the Senate flip; provides a deeper and broader governing mandate for President Biden; and locks in these gains for the all-important re-apportionment to come after this cycle. This is a very big upside indeed. 

Fighting for GA, IA, NC, TX (and maybe OH) doesn’t mean abandoning the core battleground states of AZ, FL, MI, PA, WI (and NH, NV to a lesser extent). The Biden campaign has a very experienced Presidential crew leading it and has been impressively sure-footed these last few months. They know what they are doing, and are agile enough to shift their strategy if the race does indeed tighten, protecting their leads in the core battlegrounds. But the data today sure suggests like 2018 Team Biden should expand the map and go for it – the upside for everything Democrats care about and have fought for is immense.  

Facing the Dark Turn of Trump's Presidency Head On

So, over the past few weeks, faced with plummeting poll numbers, one would have imagined the President would have changed course, ending a period of historic fecklessness, and attempted to work with Congress on tackling one of America’s many problems.  He could have easily reached out and worked to finally adopt a national strategy to tame the virus; advanced a next round of economic support and stimulus; found ways to honor the protests and promote racial reconciliation in America; discussed the best paths to reopen our schools this fall; improved the ACA, and ensured access to all during a pandemic; countered and challenged China’s swallowing of Hong Kong, stopped Russia’s attacks on our soldiers, people and interests; adopted a next generation approach to climate change; supported long term investments in improving our aging infrastructure……

Instead, the nation has been subject to an extraordinary, relentless and extended screed from the White House about the existential threat posed by the President’s perceived domestic political opponents, much of it imagined and fictional.  The performance of the President, the White House and its allies these past few weeks has been reprehensible and dangerous; the rhetoric we’ve been heard is outside what one could ever expect or accept in a democracy.  

If you haven’t read or watched the President’s speeches on July 3rd and 4th – just do it.  The language, the hyperbole, the violence will shock you. You will find phrases like "there is a new far-left fascism," "this left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution," "radical assault" "the radical view of American history is a web of lies," "unleash a wave of violent crime.”  The Washington Post reported:  "He celebrated Independence Day with a dystopian speech in which he excoriated racial justice protesters as “evil” representatives of a “new far-left fascism” whose ultimate goal is “the end of America.” "

The single most poisonous passage came from his July 4th remarks: "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."

Friends, we know the guy is loose with his words, but this is the President of the United States conjuring up some dangerous domestic enemy who needs to be fought the way we fought Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, ISIS and Al Qaeda, with the American military, with death and assassinations.  This wasn’t a campaign speech, and the President wasn’t talking about politics or the 2020 elections.  It was an official speech by the President, from the White House, on the 4th of July, and it is was a call to arms by the leader of our government to kill and hunt down a dangerous domestic other.  

These words were not spoken in a vacuum.  A few weeks ago the Trump campaign bought ads on social media which screamed “Dangerous mobs of far-left groups are running through our streets and causing absolute mayhem. They are DESTROYING our cities – it is absolute madness.”  And in some ads the Trump campaign added a symbol used by the Nazis to “identify Communists, and was applied as well to Social Democrats, liberals, Freemasons and other members of opposition parties incarcerated by the Nazis.” Like in the President’s July 4th speech what the Trump campaign is clearly floating here is an authoritarian crackdown against domestic “enemies” and using to a Nazi symbol to do it – how in the world did we get here? 

Finally, the President has made these calls in a time of dangerous growth of a new international white supremacist extremist movement, one with clear ties to Russia.  In the last few weeks right wingers assassinated two law enforcement officers in Northern California, have been arrested on terror charges in Las Vegas, and an active duty Army private was arrested on terror charges for conspiring with an European Neo-Nazi group to kill American troops stationed there.  The President is using language and symbols these groups would understand as allied with their aims, and warning after warning has come from the FBI/DHS in recent weeks about the growing threat of these groups here in the US.  

What we have been worried about now is that the President really appears to be exploring, in word and deed (his gassing/shoot of unarmed protestors, use of the US military in DC), some kind of sustained violent assault against his domestic political enemies.  The language of his government and allies has grown far more apocalyptic and violent, and in recent days the President called on his supporters, some of whom are well armed, to take up the fight.  It feels as if we are the edge of something truly dangerous, illiberal and dark.   

We know, we know, it just can’t be that bad.  Trump doesn’t want Americans to die from COVID, lose their jobs and health insurance; doesn’t want the planet to burn; isn’t allowing Putin to kill American troops without challenge; isn’t really using Nazi symbols, encouraging domestic terrorism, threatening to hunt down and kill other Americans.  But, yes, of course, it is that bad; and our job is to stop pretending otherwise.  We’ve run out of innocent explanations.

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. 

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