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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Yet Another Bad Day

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well underway.   It unfolds as Coronavirus presents unprecedented challenges to public policy and the electoral process.

Thursday was a bad day for Trump's prospects.

As the previous post mentioned, the second-quarter GDP figures were terrible.

Herman Cain died of COVID-19. Cain attended the infamous Tulsa rally. No one can say for sure that he caught the disease at the rally, but:

Steven Calabresi, co-founder of the Federalist Society, took this tweet as his own off-ramp.
I have voted Republican in every presidential election since 1980, including voting for Donald Trump in 2016. I wrote op-eds and a law review article protesting what I believe was an unconstitutional investigation by Robert Mueller. I also wrote an op-ed opposing President Trump’s impeachment.
But I am frankly appalled by the president’s recent tweet seeking to postpone the November election. Until recently, I had taken as political hyperbole the Democrats’ assertion that President Trump is a fascist. But this latest tweet is fascistic and is itself grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Economic News: As Bad As It Gets

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax and economics issue in the 2016 campaign.  The update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  In 2020, forecasters always said, a good economy could tip the election in Trump's favor.  A bad economy would drag him down.

A very, very bad economy.

And Trump is weak at managing expectations:

Rachel Siegel and  Andrew Van Dam at WP:
The U.S. economy shrank 9.5 percent from April through June, the largest quarterly decline since the government began publishing data 70 years ago, and the latest, sobering reflection of the pandemic’s economic devastation.

The second quarter report on gross domestic product covers some of the economy’s worst weeks in living memory, when commercial activity ground to a halt, millions of Americans lost their jobs and the nation went into lockdown. Yet economists say the data should also serve as a cautionary tale for what’s at stake if the recovery slips away, especially as rising coronavirus cases in some states have forced businesses to close once again.

GDP shrank at an annual rate of 32.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the agency that publishes the statistics on quarterly economic activity. While it usually stresses the annualized rate, that figure is less useful this quarter because the economy is unlikely to experience another collapse like it did in the second quarter.

Still, while a tailspin at the second quarter rate is unlikely, the nascent recovery that began appearing earlier this summer appears to be in jeopardy.

On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell warned that the most recent surge in infections has begun to weigh on the economy, while reemphasizing that a recovery can’t be sustained unless the virus is under control.

“We’re still digging out of a hole, a really deep hole,” said Ben Herzon, executive director of IHS Markit. “The second quarter figure will just tell us the size of the hole we’re digging out of, and it’s a big one.”

Tami Lubby at CNN Business:
In yet another sign that the economic recovery is teetering in a resurgence of coronavirus cases, the number of Americans filing first-time unemployment claims rose for the second week in a row.
Some 1.4 million people filed for initial jobless claims last week, up 12,000 from the prior week's revised level, which was the first increase in 16 weeks.
On an unadjusted basis, 1.2 million people filed first-time claims, down 171,000 from the week before. The seasonal adjustments are traditionally used to smooth out the data, but that has tended to have the opposite effect during the pandemic.
Continued claims, which count workers who have filed for at least two weeks in a row, stood at 17 million for the week ending July 18, up 867,000 from the prior week's revised level. These seasonally adjusted claims peaked in May at nearly 25 million

Jeffrey Bartash at MarketWatch:
Consumer confidence swooned in July amid a rash of new coronavirus cases in many U.S. states, signaling a rockier economic recovery in the months ahead.
The index of consumer confidence fell to 92.6 this month from a revised 98.3 in June, the Conference Board said Tuesday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected a reading of 96.0.
The level of confidence is still above its pandemic low of 85.7, but it’s likely to be a long time before it returns to its pre-crisis peak. The index stood near a 20-year high at 132.6 in February before the pandemic struck.
The economy is not expected to make a full recovery for at least a year or two.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Decline of Conservatism

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well under  way.  

Lydia Saad at Gallup:
In January and February, an average of 40% of Americans identified as politically conservative. This was up from an average of 37% in 2019 and was tied for the highest rate of conservatism Gallup had recorded in the past six years. This coincided with President Donald Trump being acquitted of impeachment charges. It also came amidst strongly positive economic signals in the form of near-record-low unemployment and the Dow Jones Industrial Average reaching record highs.

Nevertheless, the percentage of Americans identifying as conservative reverted to an average 37% in March and April as the coronavirus pandemic emerged. It fell further to 34% in May and June as the pandemic has worn on, Trump's job approval rating has tumbled, and the racial justice movement emerged as a national focus following the death of George Floyd.

Meanwhile, the percentages identifying as liberal increased from an average of 22% in January/February to 26% in May/June.

As the United States has been transformed in 2020 from an economically prosperous country to one crippled by high unemployment and a sharp drop in GDP, Americans' perspective on politics has shifted. Part of this may stem from the economic challenges created by COVID-19, compelling large majorities of Republicans and Democrats alike
to support the $2.2 trillion economic relief package passed by Congress in March.
The downward trajectory of President Trump's job approval rating, from a term high of 49% in February to 38% in June, is likely contributing to Americans' swing to the left. When Trump was prevailing over a strong economy and fighting off impeachment, conservative ideals may have had more appeal than today when his approval has fallen below 40% and his administration is struggling to contain the coronavirus.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Akin Ploy in Kansas

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race

In the 2012 Missouri  Senate race, incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill ran ads during the GOP primary campaign saying that Todd Akin was "too conservative."  The idea of the "attack ad" was to drive GOP voters to Akin, her weakest potential foe.  It worked.  

Others have since copied the tactic.

James Arkin at Politico:
A mysterious new super PAC with links to Democrats released a TV ad on Wednesday meddling in next month's Kansas Republican Senate primary.
The super PAC, Sunflower State, formed on Monday and two days later launched its first TV ad, focused on Kris Kobach and Rep. Roger Marshall, two of the Republicans running in the Aug. 4 primary. National Republicans have expressed concern that Kobach — the former secretary of state who lost the 2018 governor's race to Democrat Laura Kelly — would put the seat in jeopardy if he becomes the nominee, while Marshall has attempted to consolidate support from the establishment in the primary.
The ad is engineered to drive conservative voters toward Kobach. A narrator in the ad calls Kobach "too conservative" because he "won't compromise" on building President Donald Trump's border wall or on taking a harsher stance on relations with China. By contrast, the ad labels Marshall as a "phony politician" who is "soft on Trump."
Sunflower State has apparent ties to Democrats. The media buyer used to place the ad, Old Town Media, was also used to place more than $11 million in ads from Unite the Country, the pro-Joe Biden super PAC that spent heavily in the Democratic presidential primary. Sunflower State also holds its account at Amalgamated Bank, which is used by Senate Majority PAC, a top Democratic outside group, among other prominent Democratic groups, including Biden's campaign, according to the filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Monday, July 27, 2020

NRCC Loses in the Triage Tent

Sorry, House Republicans, you get to bleed out on the gurney.

Rachael Bade, Josh Dawsey and Michelle Ye Hee Lee at WP:
Senior House Republicans are pleading with the deep-pocketed Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign to provide financial help as Democrats vastly outraise the GOP, but top campaign officials are so far declining to commit.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has been prodding the RNC to write a check to the National Republican Congressional Committee — a request he has made multiple times. McCarthy specifically has asked Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, to make a financial commitment to the House GOP, according to several officials familiar with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely describe private conversations.

But Kushner, who oversees such decisions and has a greater say than RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, has refused thus far, the officials say. While the Trump campaign and the RNC have brought in record amounts of money, some Trump officials see donating to the House as a wasteful investment as the GOP’s chances of reclaiming the majority sharply deteriorate. Their decline in fortunes can largely be attributed to Trump’s sagging support over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the sliding economy.
 “The campaign just wants the money. . . . They don’t care about the House — it’s not their concern,” one official close with the Trump campaign said. “When you’ve been working in politics for years, and you understand it’s a team sport, you kind of look at these things a little differently. I don’t think they see it that way.”

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Obscurity as an Asset for Senate Challengers

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race

At WP, Paul Kane reports that incumbent GOP senators are reversing the usual pattern by challenging their challengers to debate. The elections may simply be an extension of a referendum on Trump instead of a choice between two candidates -- which is just fine with many of the challengers.
And the pandemic has limited campaign activities that are normal for a big Senate race, activities such as state fairs, beach walks and large church services — and without those staples, there are fewer chances for candidates to make mistakes.

Instead, Republicans are growing fearful that Democratic candidates are receiving such little scrutiny that they could steamroll to victory, and to the Senate majority, mostly by raising huge amounts of money that fund smart media campaigns on TV and social media.

“The more voters see their candidates, the worse off they are. This is a very weak crop of recruits,” said Jesse Hunt, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Democrats contend that their candidates are doing as much as anyone could expect with the novel coronavirus still raging in many states, suggesting that the Republican senatorial nominee in Alabama, Tommy Tuberville, is the most shut-in candidate in the nation. Tuberville refused to debate former attorney general Jeff Sessions in the primary and has yet to agree to debate Sen. Doug Jones (D) in the general election campaign in a state that Trump won by nearly 30 percentage points.

That phenomenon gets combined with a national news corps that is heavily focused on covering coronavirus stories, limiting the number of stories from key Senate battlegrounds. GOP strategists feel that their incumbents still have to face the Capitol press corps every day that the Senate is in session, while the Democratic challengers carefully choose their public appearances.

This election season has not yet had a single big “tracker” controversy — involving those usually young staffers who follow opposing candidates from event to event, hoping to capture them on camera doing or saying something controversial.

With their ammunition limited, Republicans keep fighting over debates, nowhere as fiercely as in Maine.
Also note that newspapers have slashed their reporting staffs. 

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Senate Signs

Jessica Taylor at Cook Political Report:
Ultimately, every day that Trump stubbornly refuses to change course is another day that it becomes increasingly likely he may not only tank his own re-election bid but could be on a kamikaze mission to take the Republican-held Senate down with him. At this point, a net gain of five to seven seats for Democrats looks far more probable than the one to three seat gain that would leave them shy of a majority.
July Ratings Changes:
  • Arizona: Martha McSally (R) — Toss Up → Lean D
  • Iowa: Joni Ernst (R) — Lean R → Toss Up
  • Georgia: David Perdue (R) — Lean R → Toss Up
  • Minnesota: Tina Smith (D) — Likely D → Solid D
  • New Mexico: OPEN (Udall) — Likely D → Solid D 
Shane Goldmacher at NYT:
“As Republicans get more and more in tune, it’s hold the Senate at all costs,” said Dan K. Eberhart, an energy executive and a major Republican donor. “The House is gone. And the White House is looking increasingly like an uphill battle. This is not a good picture for us.”
A wave of Democratic challengers raised more in the second quarter than their Republican rivals, according to campaign filings made last week, including in Montana. In North Carolina, a relatively unknown Democratic challenger, Cal Cunningham, nearly tripled Senator Thom Tillis’s haul, raising $7.4 million to $2.6 million. In Maine, Senator Susan Collins, the Republican, was substantially out-raised by her Democratic opponent, Sara Gideon — more than $9 million to $3.6 million.
And in Arizona, Mark Kelly, a Democrat who is a former astronaut and the husband of former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, raised almost $12.8 million. His nearly $24 million in the bank is more than twice as much money as Senator Martha McSally, the Republican incumbent, reported in a race a number of Republicans fear is slipping away.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, has been warning donors in dire terms about permanent and systemic shifts that could come about in a fully Democratic-controlled Washington next year: adding Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., as states, expanding the Supreme Court, and the end of the legislative filibuster, which has previously served as an institutional brake on congressional majorities, according to people who have heard his pitch.
“We recognize that the Senate is the backstop,” said Scott Reed, the chief strategist for the United States Chamber of Commerce, calling it the group’s “top priority” in 2020.

Friday, July 24, 2020

COVID and Trump Campaign Woes

In Defying the Odds, we discuss campaign finance and campaign technology.

Maggie Haberman, Patricia Mazzei and Annie Karni at NYT:
Bowing to threats posed by the coronavirus, President Trump reversed course on Thursday and canceled the portion of the Republican National Convention to be held in Jacksonville, Fla., just weeks after he moved the event from North Carolina because state officials wanted the party to take health precautions there.
The surprise announcement threw one of the tent-pole moments of Mr. Trump’s re-election effort into limbo, with the president describing in vague terms how the Republicans would hold his renomination in North Carolina and do “other things with tele-rallies and online.” It was an ill-defined sketch of an August week that Mr. Trump once envisioned drawing huge crowds and energizing his struggling bid for a second term.
While Mr. Trump has spent weeks urging Florida and other states to reopen their economies and return to life as normal, virus cases have surged in Jacksonville and across the region. The president had insisted on moving ahead with the event until Thursday, talking up the big party that Republicans would hold in Jacksonville even with the dangers of large gatherings and some G.O.P. leaders saying they would not attend.
The Jacksonville convention host committee had about $6 million in various accounts, and had spent some of that money already. It had $20 million in commitments that were still firm on Tuesday, according to two officials involved in the fund-raising. On Thursday, they were still assessing whether donors would be able to get their money back but assumed they would not be able to do so in full.
But as cases surged, voters, donors and elected officials from both parties expressed skepticism about holding a big gathering just several weeks away. A Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday showed that 62 percent of the state’s voters thought the convention would be unsafe to hold. The poll also showed Mr. Biden leading Mr. Trump by 13 percentage points in Florida; in a Quinnipiac poll in April, Mr. Biden had a four-point lead.
Alex Isenstadt at Politico:
News that Kimberly Guilfoyle contracted the coronavirus had barely surfaced on July 3 before she hopped on a private flight from Mount Rushmore back to New York with her boyfriend, Donald Trump, Jr.

Left behind in her wake after President Donald Trump’s pre-Independence Day address were more than a half-dozen junior campaign staffers whom Guilfoyle oversees as the president’s national finance chair. The aides, who’d been in proximity to Guilfoyle, were forced to quarantine in their Rapid City, S.D., hotel rooms for three days and barred from face-to-face contact with colleagues as they pleaded with the campaign to get them home.

The episode was the latest example of upheaval within the fundraising unit that Guilfoyle oversees, which is primarily responsible for cultivating networks of donors who cut checks in increments up to $2,800. Interviews with nearly a dozen Republicans familiar with the campaign’s fundraising depict an operation beset by departures, staffers with no prior fundraising experience and accusations of irresponsible spending.
Trump is raking in big money online and has amassed an enormous war chest. But Joe Biden has outraised the president for two consecutive months, and there are growing concerns among senior Republicans about whether the dysfunction within Guilfoyle’s team is translating into money left on the table for what has become an uphill fight for a second term.
Guilfoyle’s unit is part of a massive Trump fundraising apparatus. Her department raises money into Trump Victory, a joint account between the reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee. While Guilfoyle’s team is mainly responsible for gathering $2,800 checks, the committee focuses on collecting donations into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. There is also the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, which vacuums up small-dollar contributions.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Bad Milestones

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well underway.   

Coronavirus presents unprecedented challenges to public policy and the electoral process.

The number of people known to have been infected with the coronavirus in the United States passed four million on Thursday, another grim milestone in a pandemic full of them, according to a New York Times database.
And it’s not just cases that are rising. The numbers of hospitalizations and deaths reported in the U.S. each day have also been increasing.
Public health experts have warned that the actual number of people infected by the virus is certainly far higher than the number of reported cases, and could be up to 13 times as high in some regions.
Cases are trending upward in 39 states, as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and are decreasing in only two. In the past week, cases have risen most quickly, relative to population, in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi. Texas has added more than 10,000 cases each day, on average.

Florida reached a new milestone Thursday with 173 reported coronavirus deaths and pushed the total number of cases in the state past 389,000, the state health department reported.
There were 10,249 new coronavirus cases reported Thursday. The latest death count brings the seven-day average to about 121 deaths per day in Florida.
The previous high death toll reported in a single day was 156 on July 16.

The numbers show that hard-hit Miami-Dade County reported 2,732 of the new cases and 12 deaths. Miami-Dade has more than 95,000 coronavirus cases and more than 1,300 deaths, according to the health department.
More than 3.2 million people have been tested for coronavirus in Florida. The seven-day average for positive tests in Florida stood at more than 18% on Wednesday.
Houston Chronicle:
Texas set a grim new one-day record for increases in COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, evidenced in part by such occurrences as Hidalgo County hospitals being forced to store bodies in refrigerated trucks, according to Reuters.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez has issued a call for new stay-at-home orders for all residents starting Wednesday.
"We've got to lasso this virus, this stallion, bring the numbers back down and get control of this thing, " Cortez zaid. "Because our hospitals---they're war zones, they are really struggling now."

According to Texas Health and Human Services, Texas reported 217 deaths and 10,893 COVID-19 hospitalizations. Hidalgo County has reportedly seen cases climb by 60 percent in the last week, with deaths now doubling more than 360.
The government reported on Thursday that more than 1.4 million workers filed new claims for state unemployment benefits last week, the first time that the weekly tally has risen in more than three months.
The upturn, from about 1.3 million in the two preceding weeks, comes just days before an extra $600-a-week jobless benefit is set to expire.
An additional 975,000 claims were filed last week by freelancers, part-time workers and others who do not qualify for regular state jobless aid but are eligible for benefits under an emergency federal program, the Labor Department said. Unlike the state figures, that number is not seasonally adjusted.
“At this stage, you’re seeing all the wrong elements for recovery,” said Gregory Daco, the chief United States economist at Oxford Economics. “A deteriorating health situation, a weakening labor market and a softening path for demand.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Census Politics

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race.   The census, of course, shapes reapportionment and redistricting.

Aaron Blake at WP:
The Supreme Court was confronted with a difficult question in the past year. The Trump administration wanted to put a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, and its stated reason was to enforce the Voting Rights Act. But opponents argued this was, in fact, a thinly veiled partisan gambit to draw more GOP-friendly districts.

The court issued a remarkable rebuke of the Trump administration’s stated reason. And now, the Trump administration is pretty much acknowledging its motivation was precisely what its critics claimed.

President Trump on Tuesday signed a memorandum stating that undocumented immigrants should not be included as part of the next process of apportionment — i.e., the doling out of congressional districts that follows every census. Such a move would reduce the representation of states (many of them blue) with higher undocumented populations.


Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. strongly rebuked Ross and the administration, saying, “What was provided here [as a justification] was more of a distraction.”

Absent from the Trump administration’s legal defense was any indication that this was part of an effort geared toward apportionment or redistricting — the latter being the decennial drawing of new districts to reflect population shifts.

But it was part of the opposition’s case. Critics in the past year pointed to a previously unpublished 2015 presentation from the late GOP redistricting expert Tom Hofeller, which stated that using citizenship data in a state such as Texas “would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites” by diluting the influence of Democratic-leaning Hispanics. The critics argued that the Justice Department’s case for a census citizenship question closely mirrored Hofeller’s 2015 study, reinforcing the political motivations of the move.

And Trump himself seemed to affirm that aim. As the case was progressing, the president blurted out that, “Number one, you need it for Congress — you need it for Congress for districting.”
 Trump’s move Tuesday suggests his comments were more than just a coincidence — and that his administration’s disavowals of this alleged goal were dishonest, at best.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Sessions Likens Trump to Trump's Favorite Dictator

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's approach to governing

Trump has always liked dictators.

Jeff Sessions recently lost his comeback primary.  Trump attacked him and endorsed his opponent.  Before this most recent humiliation, Sessions explained why some Christians back Trump.

Elaina Plott at NYT Magazine:
Sessions referred back to an earlier moment in the conversation, when I asked him how he considered his support of Trump from the standpoint of his faith as an evangelical Christian. “You asked how Christians could support Trump,” he said. Consider Egypt’s Christian minority under president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, he said: “It’s not a democracy — he’s a strongman, tough man, but he promised to protect them. And they believed him, because they didn’t want the Muslim Brotherhood taking over Egypt. Because they knew they’d be vulnerable. They chose to support somebody that would protect them. And that’s basically what the Christians in the United States did. They felt they were under attack, and the strong guy promised to defend them. And he has.”

From 2019:

 Nancy A. Youssef, Vivian Salama and Michael C. Bender at WSJ:
Inside a room of the ornately decorated Hotel du Palais during last month’s Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France, President Trump awaited a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi.
“Where’s my favorite dictator?” Mr. Trump called out in a voice loud enough to be heard by the small gathering of American and Egyptian officials. Several people who were in the room at the time said they heard the question.

The witnesses said they believed the president made the comment jokingly, but said his question was met by a stunned silence.
It couldn’t be determined whether Mr. Sisi was present or heard the remark.
The White House declined to comment. Egyptian officials couldn’t be reached for comment.
Even if lighthearted, Mr. Trump’s quip drew attention to an uncomfortable facet of the U.S.-Egypt relationship.

Monday, July 20, 2020

COVID Calamity

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well underway.   

Coronavirus presents unprecedented challenges to public policy and the electoral process.

As of Sunday, 3.8 million cases and 140,000 deaths in the United States.

We blew testing. President Trump regularly brags and complains about the number of COVID-19 tests conducted in the U.S., but America hasn't built the infrastructure necessary to process and trace the results.
We blew schools. Congress allocated $150 billion for state and local governments as part of the CARES Act, but that was aimed at maintaining status quo services in the face of plummeting tax revenue There was no money earmarked for schools to buy new safety equipment, nor to hire additional teachers who might be needed to staff smaller class sizes and hybrid learning days.
We blew economics. The CARES Act was bold and bipartisan, a massive stimulus to meet the moment. It's running out, without an extension plan not yet in place.
We blew public health. There's obviously a lot here, but just stick with face masks. Had we all been directed to wear them in March — and done so, even makeshift ones while manufacturing ramped up — you might not be reading this post.
Michael D. Shear, Noah Weiland, Eric Lipton, Maggie Haberman and David E. Sanger at NYT:
Mr. Trump had missed or dismissed mounting signals of the impending crisis in the early months of the year. Now, interviews with more than two dozen officials inside the administration and in the states, and a review of emails and documents, reveal previously unreported details about how the White House put the nation on its current course during a fateful period this spring.
  • Key elements of the administration’s strategy were formulated out of sight in Mr. Meadows’s daily meetings, by aides who for the most part had no experience with public health emergencies and were taking their cues from the president. Officials in the West Wing saw the better-known White House coronavirus task force as dysfunctional, came to view Dr. Fauci as a purveyor of dire warnings but no solutions and blamed officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for mishandling the early stages of the virus.
  • Dr. Birx was more central than publicly known to the judgment inside the West Wing that the virus was on a downward path. Colleagues described her as dedicated to public health and working herself to exhaustion to get the data right, but her model-based assessment nonetheless failed to account for a vital variable: how Mr. Trump’s rush to urge a return to normal would help undercut the social distancing and other measures that were holding down the numbers.
  • The president quickly came to feel trapped by his own reopening guidelines. States needed declining cases to reopen, or at least a declining rate of positive tests. But more testing meant overall cases were destined to go up, undercutting the president’s push to crank up the economy. The result was to intensify Mr. Trump’s remarkable public campaign against testing, a vivid example of how he often waged war with science and his own administration’s experts and stated policies.
  • Mr. Trump’s bizarre public statements, his refusal to wear a mask and his pressure on states to get their economies going again left governors and other state officials scrambling to deal with a leadership vacuum. At one stage, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California was told that if he wanted the federal government to help obtain the swabs needed to test for the virus, he would have to ask Mr. Trump himself — and thank him.
  • Not until early June did White House officials even begin to recognize that their assumptions about the course of the pandemic had proved wrong. Even now there are internal divisions over how far to go in having officials publicly acknowledge the reality of the situation.
 Alexander Burns, Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman at NYT:
President Trump’s failure to contain the coronavirus outbreak and his refusal to promote clear public-health guidelines have left many senior Republicans despairing that he will ever play a constructive role in addressing the crisis, with some concluding they must work around Mr. Trump and ignore or even contradict his pronouncements.

In recent days, some of the most prominent figures in the G.O.P. outside the White House have broken with Mr. Trump over issues like the value of wearing a mask in public and heeding the advice of health experts like Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, whom the president and other hard-right figures within the administration have subjected to caustic personal criticism.

They appear to be spurred by several overlapping forces, including deteriorating conditions in their own states, Mr. Trump’s seeming indifference to the problem and the approach of a presidential election in which Mr. Trump is badly lagging his Democratic challenger, Joseph R. Biden Jr., in the polls.

Once-reticent Republican governors are now issuing orders on mask-wearing and business restrictions that run counter to Mr. Trump’s demands. Some of those governors have been holding late-night phone calls among themselves to trade ideas and grievances; they have sought out partners in the administration other than the president, including Vice President Mike Pence, who, despite echoing Mr. Trump in public, is seen by governors as far more attentive to the continuing disaster.

“The president got bored with it,” David Carney, an adviser to the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, said of the pandemic. He noted that Mr. Abbott, a Republican, directs his requests to Mr. Pence, with whom he speaks two to three times a week.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Trump, the GOP, and Survey Data

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well underway.   

Dan Balz and Scott Clement at WP report on a new poll showing Biden ahead of Trump 55 percent to 40 percent among registered voters
Despite the president’s attempts to shift the electorate’s focus to his criticisms of Biden, both candidates’ supporters are treating the November election as a referendum on Trump. Among Trump voters, 72 percent say what is most important is reelecting the president, including 47 percent who say this is extremely important, while 21 percent say their motivation is to defeat Biden.

Among Biden voters, the results are roughly the opposite, with 67 percent saying what is most important is defeating the president, including 48 percent who say this is extremely important, and 24 percent saying that electing the former vice president is their main motivation.
The current standing between the president and his challenger appears closely tied to overall impressions of how Trump is dealing with the country’s major problems. His job approval rating has dropped sharply in the past two months and stands at 39 percent positive and 57 percent negative among voting-age adults, with 48 percent of Americans saying they strongly disapprove of the way he is doing his job. In a late-March poll, when just two points separated Biden and Trump in a head-to-head test, Trump’s approval rating stood at 48 percent positive and 46 percent negative.
The Post-ABC poll finds Trump’s recent decline in support is concentrated in states that have averaged at least 30 daily coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents over the past week, a group that includes Florida, Texas, Arizona and Georgia. Trump led by double digits among voters in these states in May, but the latest survey shows Biden with a slight advantage. 
Scott Clement and Dan Balz at WP:
Americans’ views of President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic have deteriorated significantly as cases rise across the country and personal fears of becoming infected persist, a Washington Post-ABC News poll finds.

The Post-ABC poll shows 38 percent of Americans approve of his handling of the outbreak, down from 46 percent in May and 51 percent in March. Sixty percent disapprove, up from 53 percent in May and 45 percent in March.

More than half of the public — 52 percent — now disapproves “strongly” of Trump’s handling of the outbreak, roughly double the percentage who say they strongly approve of his efforts and an increase from 36 percent in strong disapproval since March.As Trump’s numbers have declined in recent weeks, our NBC/WSJ poll shows that some of that erosion has come from inside his own party — among the non-Trump wing of the GOP.

Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Carrie Dann and Melissa Holzberg at NBC News:
One figure continually stands out for President Trump in our new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll: 50 percent.
And not in a good way for him.

Fifty percent of all registered voters in our poll “strongly” disapprove of the president.
Fifty percent say there is no chance at all they will vote for him.

And another 37 percent of voters saying the same about Biden.
That leaves 13 percent who are up for grabs, saying there is a fair/small/slight chance they might change their minds about either Trump or Biden.
So who are these 13 percent? They have negative impressions of both Trump and Biden, but Biden’s fav/unfav with them is slightly worse (11 percent positive, 45 percent negative) than Trump’s (22 percent positive, 43 percent negative).
They prefer Republicans in control of Congress by almost a 2-to-1 margin, 42 percent to 25 percent.
But their 2016 vote was split four different ways: 20 percent of them voted for Trump, 21 percent for Hillary Clinton, 21 percent voted third party, and 27 percent didn’t vote.
And it’s that last thing that should give us pause about these up-for-grabs voters: Just 40 percent of them have high interest in the 2020 election, versus 77 percent of all voters in our poll.
Bottom line: Many of them aren’t likely voters.
Jeffrey M. Jones at Gallup:
Since January, Americans' party preferences have shifted dramatically in the Democratic Party's direction. What had been a two-percentage-point Republican advantage in U.S. party identification and leaning has become an 11-point Democratic advantage, with more of that movement reflecting a loss in Republican identification and leaning (down eight points) than a gain in Democratic identification and leaning (up five points).

Line graph. Fifty percent of Americans identify as Democrats or are independents who lean toward the Democratic Party while 39% are Republicans or Republican leaning independents. In January, 47% were Republicans or Republican leaners and 45% were Democrats and Democratic leaners.
\Currently, half of U.S. adults identify as Democrats (32%) or are independents who lean toward the Democratic Party (18%). Meanwhile, 39% identify as Republicans (26%) or are Republican leaners (13%).
These results are based on monthly averages of Gallup U.S. telephone surveys in 2020.
In January and February, the months in which the U.S. Senate tried and acquitted President Donald Trump on impeachment charges brought by the House of Representatives, slightly more Americans preferred the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.
In March, as the nation began to deal with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Democrats gained a slight two-point advantage, which persisted in April and May.
The greatest movement occurred in June -- likely because of increased attention to racial injustice that followed the death of George Floyd while in police custody on May 25, as well as increased U.S. struggles to contain the coronavirus spread.
In June alone, there was a three-point increase in Democratic identification and leaning, and a corresponding five-point drop in Republican identification and leaning.