Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Another view - Biden should not 'mess with Texas'

Boy, was it fun yesterday to blog that Biden takes campaign to Texas. That would surely rattle some cages in Trumplandia. But now let’s think some more about how else the Biden campaign might proceed.

Joe Biden Should Not Mess with Texas advises Sarah Longwell at thebulwark.com.
“Texas is fool’s gold for Democrats. There’s a smarter way to hunt after a landslide victory.”

News broke over the weekend that Democrats are pushing the Biden campaign to expand their map of target states to include Texas and Georgia. Per Jonathan Martin in the New York Times:

In a series of phone calls, Democratic lawmakers and party officials have lobbied Mr. Biden and his top aides to seize what they believe could be a singular opportunity not only to defeat Mr. Trump but to rout him and discredit what they believe is his dangerous style of racial demagogy.

This election, the officials argue, offers the provocative possibility of a new path to the presidency through fast-changing states like Georgia and Texas, and a chance to install a generation of lawmakers who can cement Democratic control of Congress and help redraw legislative maps following this year’s census.

The Biden campaign trying to make a strong play in Texas is a bad idea for a bunch of reasons.

A parable: Texas is the football. Lucy is the Republicans. And Dems are Charlie Brown thinking that this time, things will be different.

We went through this exercise with Beto O’Rourke and the Senate race in 2018. Beto out-raised Ted Cruz an unthinkable $70 million to $33 million and Cruz still won by more than 2 percentage points. And it’s not like Cruz is popular in the state. Cruz’s approval rating in June of 2018 was a dismal 39 percent.

So with more than twice the money, against an unpopular incumbent, a popular Democrat with a national following who got all of the earned media in the world still couldn’t pull of a win in Texas.

Do you know why?

Because it’s Texas.

Because going into Texas would be a gamble unless Democratic donors can find an additional $300 million in the couch cushions in July. Because that’s the kind of financial juice it would take for Dems to try and push the boundaries on the electoral map without sacrificing their chances in swing states where they hold real, but small, leads.

Pushing into Texas would mean [to the Biden camp?] that Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin are all sewn up with no chance of flipping back. Anyone who sees the race that way must have an awfully short memory.

Those states were Hillary Clinton’s “blue wall.” And while Biden’s polling currently looks stronger in those states than Clinton’s was, there is still a lot of time on the clock.

This weekend Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin—who flipped a house seat in 2018 in a district that Trump won by 7 points—talked with Tim Alberta and warned her fellow Democrats about being confident in the current polls:

“I don’t believe it,” Slotkin says matter of factly. “Listen, if anyone tells me they can accurately predict what major events are coming in the remainder of 2020, I’ll give them a thousand dollars. I mean, this has been the year of black swans…I don’t for one minute think this [presidential] race is safe in anyone’s column. I’ve been literally begging people to ignore those polls. They are a snapshot in time. And if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we have no idea what’s coming next.”

Speaking of not believing polling, there was a Dallas Morning News/UT Tyler poll this weekend that showed Biden leading Trump by 5 points in Texas. Well, that polling outfit gets a B/C rating from FiveThirtyEight. Recent results from more highly rated pollsters, such as Fox News, show a much tighter race with Biden up by only 1 point. Which is to say: Biden isn’t leading at all. He’s just within the margin of error.

Is it crazy that the Democrat is within the margin of error against an incumbent Republican president in Texas? Yes it is. Is it possible Biden could win the state if Trump continues his death spiral? Yes. And the Biden campaign should be pleased, because it’s a sign of how strong his position is nationally.

But you play to win the game.

And in this case, winning the game means getting to 270 Electoral College votes first. And if the blue wave is strong enough to flip Texas on its own, then great.

But you don’t get any extra electors for style points.

This isn’t to say Democrats should focus only on the three key Great Lakes states or decline to press their advantage against a historically unpopular president. But they ought to be smart about it.

Why put all of your chips on one number, where it’s winner-take-all, instead of spreading out your bets across the table? Biden has a bunch of pick up opportunities in states that are more realistic for Democrats, such as Arizona, Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida. Every one of those states is, as a baseline, more favorable ground for Democrats than Texas is. And by putting chips into each of them, they get four chances to win electoral votes, even if the pots are smaller.

And the truth is, while Texas has been the Democrats’ white whale for a generation, the real opportunity to break Trump’s back is in Florida where the pandemic is raging, seniors are frightened, and Biden is leading Trump by 9 points according to a Fox News poll from late June.

Florida is a big prize. Because while Biden has multiple pathways to 270, even without Florida, Trump simply cannot win without it. If Democrats want to bet big on realignment, then Florida is where they should do it.

And if Democratic donors do somehow find that extra $300 million in July, there are still smarter places to invest it than Texas. Like Georgia. Because Georgia is not only theoretically gettable for Biden, but it has two competitive Senate races, too. Dramatic over-performance by Biden could help help flip two Senate seats, making a Democratic takeover of the upper chamber very much within reach. (Democrats would then only need to flip two seats from Arizona, Maine, and Colorado.)

Meanwhile in Texas, most of the good polling still has Republican Senator John Cornyn up by double digits over his potential Democratic challenger (even if he is looking more wobbly this cycle).

Why?

Because it’s Texas!

Democrats have their eye on a potential landslide victory, a reality most Republican operatives now understand is a genuine possibility.

But there are smart ways to go hunting for a big win. And there are risky ways.

Don’t mess with Texas.

Sarah Longwell is publisher of The Bulwark.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Behind the scenes at the Lincoln Project

Is Working with the Lincoln Project Sleeping with the Enemy? asks Nick Paumgarten at The New Yorker. Heath Eiden, a video producer who volunteered for Walter Mondale’s campaign as a kid, followed the “enemy-of-my-enemy” principle when he shot the new anti-Trump “Betrayed” ad.

[SNIP]

A couple of weeks ago, [Heath] Eiden, who now lives in Stowe, Vermont, and works as a video producer, got a call from Stuart Stevens, the political consultant, who also has a house in Stowe. Stevens has advised five Republican Presidential candidates, including George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, but has recently abandoned the Party, in the belief that it has abandoned him. (His eighth book, to be published next month, is called “It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump.” Last week, he said, “The Party always had a dark side. We thought it was a recessive gene, but it turned out to be the dominant gene. I feel like a sucker.”)

Stevens was calling on behalf of the Lincoln Project, the confederation of G.O.P. apostates who, appalled by Trump, had formed a political-action committee to defeat him. The Lincoln Project had been producing sharply negative TV ads about Trump, which have run mostly in Washington, D.C., mainly to needle their subject, but which, because of their sass and their source, almost always go viral on social media.

Stevens wanted Eiden to shoot the Lincoln Project’s new spot. This one would feature an emergency-room doctor down the road, in South Burlington, named Dan Barkhuff, a former Navy seal and a graduate of the Naval Academy and of Harvard Medical School, who had started an organization called Veterans for Responsible Leadership. The occasion was the news that the President had ignored intelligence reports that a Russian military unit had been paying bounties to the Taliban for the killing of American soldiers in Afghanistan.

Eiden was torn. On the one hand, work was scarce during the pandemic, and, of course, he abhorred Trump and had been frustrated by the Democrats’ failure to hit back. But, as a dyed-in-the-down Minnesota liberal, he had misgivings about working with what he called “the dark side”—some of the Republican operatives who, by way of rough tactics, had engineered the demise of so many of his favored candidates through the years. Ultimately, though, the enemy-of-my-enemy principle pertained.

The previous week, he’d driven to Minneapolis with his teen-age son, to pay their respects (and shoot some footage) at the memorial for George Floyd. That experience, plus a few days in the suburbs among covid truthers, and an encounter with a waiter making an “I can’t breathe” joke, had only quickened his revulsion. “If it takes working with Republicans to get this fucker out of the White House, fine,” he said.

“What kind of style do you want?” Eiden asked Stevens.

“Think Swift Boat,” Stevens replied.

“I knew exactly what I’d found myself in the middle of,” Eiden recalled.

Eiden and Barkhuff met up at Stevens’s house. The Lincoln Project had sent a script, by a screenwriter of the HBO series “Band of Brothers,” but Barkhuff ditched it for one of his own. Identifying himself as “a pro-life gun-owning combat veteran,” he said into the camera, “Any Commander-in-Chief with a spine would be stomping the shit out of some Russians right now, diplomatically, economically, or, if necessary, with the sort of asymmetric warfare they’re using to send our kids home in body bags. Mr. Trump, you’re either a coward who can’t stand up to an ex-K.G.B. goon or you’re complicit. Which is it?”

Afterward, Eiden went home and uploaded the footage. An editor named Joey, in Denver, put it together overnight. The following afternoon, Stevens noted that the spot, called “Betrayed,” had been viewed online more than six million times. To what end, time will tell.

I think we have part of the answer already. The Lincoln Project ads give Trump the heebie jeebies.

Even as a progressive and Democrat I am very supportive of what these conservatives are doing to save our democracy. In other times and situations I suspect they and I would disagree about many things. But this is here and now, and truly, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

You too can at least get more familiar with the Lincoln Project at https://lincolnproject.us

'October Surprise' - Recovery is mainly fizzle and little sizzle

If there is an “October Surprise” it won’t be a surprise to economists and business leaders because of what we see as a wimpy recovery.

After the fastest recession in U.S. history, the economic recovery may be fizzling reports David Lynch at the Washington Post.

There is no “V-shaped” recovery. What is out there resembles an L-shaped trend. Here are examples of how American business is reacting to the pandemic from Lynch’s report.

After two surprisingly strong months, the economy could begin shedding jobs again this month and in August, Morgan Stanley warned Friday. Many small businesses that received forgivable government loans have exhausted their funds while some larger companies are starting to thin their payrolls in preparation for a longer-than-expected downturn.

In a worrisome sign, more than two months after states like Georgia lifted their shelter-in-place orders, layoffs are spreading beyond companies that provide services requiring direct human contact. As disruption from the pandemic lingers, this could mean that the job loss is starting to feed on itself in a classic recessionary spiral, economists said.

Businesses have to be conservative and cautious and resize their business for the worst-case scenario of an economy that doesn’t bounce back,” said Coronado. “We’re now seeing the normal recession dynamics we were trying to avoid.”

As the virus has raged longer than first expected, some companies are concluding that they just don’t need as many workers as they did in February, said Heidi Shierholz, former chief economist at the Labor Department.

"These are more of a normal recession layoff. It definitely has a more permanent feel to it,” said Shierholz, now with the Economic Policy Institute.

  • “United Airlines announced plans to lay off more than one-third of its 95,000 workers.”
  • “Brooks Brothers, which first opened for business in 1818, filed for bankruptcy.”
  • “Bed Bath and Beyond said it will close 200 stores.”
  • “Harley-Davidson last week said it was eliminating 700 jobs as part of a restructuring plan it described as unrelated to fallout from the pandemic”
  • “Wells Fargo, the nation’s fourth-largest bank, is drawing up plans to cut “tens of thousands” of jobs later this year”
  • “For Levi Strauss, booming online sales were not enough to offset the impact of the closure of most of its retail outlets in March and April. The company said last week it would lay off 700 workers, aiming to trim quarterly expenses by $100 million.”

… Now states such as Florida, California, Texas and Arizona are setting daily records for coronavirus cases and more than 70 percent of the country has either paused or reversed reopening plans, according to Goldman Sachs.

[In contrast,] Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, spoke of hopes “that by July the country’s really rocking again.”

"I created the greatest economy we’ve ever had. And now we’re creating it again,” [Trump] said before leaving for Florida.

Come again?

Reopen all the schools - what could go wrong. Nothing according to Betsy De Vos

In his morning’s Bulwark, Charlie Sykes predicts The Coming School Fiasco.

If you are at all concerned about the rush to reopen schools, Betsy DeVos’s appearance Sunday morning probably did not reassure you. Lots of robotic talking points, not much clarity.

Here is part of the exchange.

BASH: “Yes or no: Can you assure students, teachers and parents that they will not get coronavirus because they’re going back to school?”

DEVOS: “Well, the key is that kids have to get back to school.”

So how will this play out? Will schools even be able to enforce the mask rules? What happens if staff members get sick? I think this is about right:

Gabriel Malor
@gabrielmalor
1. School reopens in full, with social distancing, masks, temperature checks, etc.
2. Five teachers/staff get COVID–19.
3. The rest of the teachers/staff revolt.
4. School no longer open, as there aren’t enough teachers/staff to operate.
Figure it’ll take about three weeks.

Trump hits 20,000

The Daily Beast reports that Trump Just Made His 20,000th Misleading Claim as President, Says Report.

It’s almost impressive how dedicated President Trump has been to misleading the public during his time in office. According to a tally from The Washington Post, Trump made his 20,000th misleading claim as president last week. The newspaper’s Fact Checker has kept track of Trump’s dubious claims since his inauguration—and it seems that he’s lied more and more often as time has gone on. The first 10,000 misleading claims came during his first 827 days as president, which equates to a rough average of 12 claims a day. But he hit his 20,000th claim on July 9, just 440 days later, which means he’s uttered 23 unverifiable claims a day over those 14 months. The newspaper’s tally now stands at 20,055 misleading claims over 1,267 days. Fittingly, an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News helped Trump shoot over the 20,000 mark. Trump offered 62 misleading claims on July 9, around half of which were said to Hannity.

The Trumpy Horror Picture Show

American Horror, Starring Donald Trump by Charles M. Blow. The coronavirus pandemic is spiraling out of control, largely because of the president himself.

Thanks to Roving Reporter Sherry

Following are a few snippets.

It is because of Donald Trump that America has now reported 3.2 million cases and has tallied nearly 135,000 deaths.

But, instead of centering on the sick, dying and dead as the true victims of his malfeasance, Trump casts himself as the victim of circumstances. …

We have a situation in this country where a disease is spiraling out of control, largely because of the president himself, and there is little sign or hope that it will be constrained soon.

We are living in a horror film, one starring Donald Trump.

How did it come to this? For answers to this and other questions see the accompanying post this morning on the psychopathology of the president.

Understanding the psychopathology of the president

The Psychopath in Chief. I spent hundreds of hours with Donald Trump to ghost-write ‘The Art of the Deal.’ I now see a deeper meaning behind his behavior. –Tony Schwartz.

Here are concluding excerpts. (For the full article see https://gen.medium.com/the-psychopath-in-chief-aa10ab2165d9.

So what does all this tell us about how we can expect Trump to behave going forward? The simple answer is worse. His obsession with domination and power have prompted Trump to tell lies more promiscuously than ever since he became president, and to engage in ever more unfounded and aggressive responses aimed at anyone he perceives stands in his way.

In the end, Trump does what he does because he is who he is, immutably. The research now strongly suggests that the absence of conscience has a strong hereditary basis, even as it may also be activated by adverse childhood experiences. The genetic abnormality itself manifests in the limbic system, the set of brain structures involved in the processing of emotions. People without a conscience, it turns out, often have an undersized or under-active amygdala and less gray matter in the limbic area of the brain.

For four years, along with millions of other Trump critics, I have wrestled with the best way to respond to a president who is incapable of shame or empathy and cares only about his self-interest. There is no effective treatment for a person with these traits, and Trump wouldn’t seek one if there was, because he genuinely doesn’t believe there is anything wrong with him. The horrifying truth is that it’s precisely what he’s missing that gives him a permanent advantage over the vast majority of us who are guided by a conscience and concern for others.

Trump revels in attention, domination, and cruelty. “The sociopath wants to manipulate and control you,” explains Martha Stout, “and so you are rewarding and encouraging him each and every time you allow him to see your anger, confusion or your hurt.” Even so, in order to protect our democracy and our shared humanity, it’s critical to push back, calmly and persistently, against every single lie Trump tells, and every legal and moral boundary he violates. We must resist what Hanna Arendt has called “the banality of evil” — the numbness and normalizing that so easily sets in when unconscionable acts become commonplace. “Under conditions of terror, most people will comply,” Arendt has written, “but some people will not.”

Understanding what we’re truly up against — the reign of terror that Trump will almost surely wage the moment he believes he can completely prevail — makes the upcoming presidential election a true Armageddon.

Vote as if your life depends on it, because it does.

Thanks to Janet Connell for calling our attention to this article.