2020 election
October 12, 2020

President Trump is employing an interesting strategy to gather support in three of the most populous, solidly blue states in the U.S.

On Monday morning, the president went on a tweeting spree, targeting California, which he said "is going to hell," and New York, which he claims is already there.

Illinois' fate, from Trump's perspective, isn't quite so dramatic, but still "sad," since it apparently "has no place to go." Tim O'Donnell

October 12, 2020

"Modern Texas as a swing state?" David Weigel asks at The Washington Post. "Democrats started to dream it after 2008," and "Republicans started to warn about it in 2013," but in 2014, "Republicans dominated every statewide race — as they had for 20 years — and made inroads with Hispanic voters. 'Blue Texas' became a punchline. Then came Donald Trump."

California and New Mexico have become fairly reliable Democratic states, and Republicans in neighboring Arizona and Texas are starting to get nervous about a solidly blue Southwest. Some blame President Trump.

"Democrats are on track to win big in Arizona next month — from the presidential election to the state House," Sabrina Rodriguez reports at Politico. The shift predates Trump, but it "has only been further accelerated over the past four years by his divisive presidency and the Arizona GOP's evolution from the party of John McCain to that of Trump." There are clear signs Trump's politics "won't play well in Arizona in 2020 — or ever," Rodriguez adds, and if the state flips, "Democrats could cement control of state politics, as they have in other suburban-heavy states, like Colorado and Virginia."

Still, "unlike Arizona, where defeat in the suburbs can close off the GOP's path to a majority, Texas has millions of rural, White, conservative voters who are alienated from the modern Democratic Party and can overwhelm it with high turnout," Weigel cautions.

But even in Texas — especially the suburbs and exurbs around Dallas and Fort Worth — "first suburban women and more recently, their husbands," have been "moving from one camp to the other," Southern Methodist University political science professor Cal Jillson tells the Post. "Those have traditionally been Republican voters, they're now in transition, some of them will go home, others of them will vote for [Democratic nominee Joe] Biden over Trump. That's where the real movement is."

"Trump destabilizes politics enough that you can see Texas is in play, but it probably wouldn't be if you had a regular Republican candidate for the presidency," Jillson added. At least not yet.

"It's Republicans' own fault this is happening," veteran Arizona GOP strategist Chuck Coughlin told Politico. "Under the party of Trump, you're just vilifying people, not coming up with ideas. ... Like Sen. John McCain would say, 'It's always darkest before it's totally black.' And, in this case, black is blue. I hope the party will do some soul-reflecting." Peter Weber

September 21, 2020

A federal judge in Wisconsin on Monday extended the state's cutoff day for absentee ballots to be counted in the presidential election.

Under current law, for an absentee ballot to be counted, it must be returned by 8 p.m. on Election Day, but U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled that absentee ballots can be counted up to six days after the Nov. 3 election. He also extended the deadline for mail and electronic voter registration from Oct. 14 to Oct. 21.

The Democratic National Committee, Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and other organizations sued to extend the deadline, citing the long lines and shortage of staffers during April's presidential primary. Conley paused the ruling from going into effect for one week, and Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt said the state GOP is determining next steps.

For the April primary, Conley extended the deadline to return absentee ballots for a week, and almost 7 percent of all ballots cast came during that time, The Associated Press reports. The Wisconsin Elections Commission said that so far, more than one million absentee ballots have been requested for the Nov. 3 election, and the state expects as many as two million will be cast. Catherine Garcia

September 15, 2020

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's campaign has created what it calls the largest election protection program in U.S. presidential history, assembling a team of hundreds of lawyers to fend of expected legal challenges and work to ensure a fair election. The new legal operation will be headed by Dana Remus, the Biden campaign's general counsel, and former White House counsel Bob Bauer. Its "special litigation" unit includes two former U.S. solicitors general, Donald Verrilli Jr. and Walter Dellinger, and former Attorney General Eric Holder has signed on to act as liaison to allied independent voting rights organizations.

The legal war room is girding itself for potentially decisive legal battles after the election, but it is also combating voter suppression efforts, teaching voters how to cast their ballots, guarding against foreign interference, and protecting access to mail-in voting in the face of issues at the U.S. Postal Service and voter fraud conspiracies touted by President Trump. With the COVID-19 pandemic still active, "some unique challenges this year," Bauer said.

"We can and will be able to hold a free and fair election this November," Remus said, "and we're putting in place an unprecedented voter protection effort with thousands of lawyers and volunteers around the country to ensure that voting goes smoothly." Peter Weber

September 14, 2020

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has gone on the record calling former Vice President Joe Biden — the man he is trying to help get elected to the White House after he was defeated by him in the race to become the Democratic presidential nominee earlier this year — a "good friend," but his wife, Jane Sanders doesn't love the characterization, which she describes as a false one, BuzzFeed News reports.

As Jane Sanders sees it, she and her husband "don't go out" or "get dinner" with Biden and his wife, Jill Biden. But, ultimately, it might just boil down to semantics. Jane Sanders told BuzzFeed the relationship she and her husband have with the Bidens is "built on work," and even if she has a more specific definition of friendship than the senator, she seems to view that work relationship positively. "There's a mutual respect," she said. "There's a trust and a collegiality."

Whatever the best way to describe the Sanders' connection with the Bidens is, it sounds stronger than the one they had with the Hillary and Bill Clinton in 2016, when the former beat Bernie Sanders out for the Democratic nomination. Jane Sanders did not explicitly criticize the Clintons, but she told BuzzFeed that she feels "better about this election than I do about 2016," and even though "it's not personal," she doesn't want to "revisit" four years ago. Read more at BuzzFeed News. Tim O'Donnell

Opinion
August 6, 2020

Will a COVID-19 vaccine be available this year? President Trump seems to think so — in fact, he told Geraldo Rivera in an interview Thursday it might be ready by Election Day. Though he said he is "rushing it," Trump hastened to insist he is "doing it not for the election," but because he wants "to save a lot of lives."

Be that as it may, the election timing — and possible political benefit — has clearly occurred to him, and he hardly conceals his abhorrence of defeat. But it's not clear that a vaccine would be an electoral guarantee.

On the one hand, I find plausible a secondary, economic bump for Trump, as is argued in this July article at Fox Business. Before the pandemic, two decades ago or whenever that was, Trump made the economy a major portion of his re-election pitch. Insofar as that's a strong selling point for keeping him around, a vaccine-induced economic rebound might well win him some votes. It likely would need to be a jobs rebound, though, not merely a rising stock market.

On the other hand, I wonder what the early compliance rate with a COVID-19 vaccine may be. First there are the standard issue anti-vaxxers. A January poll found one in 10 Americans think vaccines are more dangerous than the diseases they prevent. Then there are the specific political fears and biases of this situation. On the right, some think the pandemic is wildly overblown and being used to introduce totalitarianism. It's difficult to imagine anyone who refuses a mask accepting an injection. On the left, I've encountered suspicion that Trump and "big pharma" are rushing the COVID-19 vaccine for their own gain. The number of Americans who will refuse "the Trump vaccine" won't be zero. And still more people will worry, on nonpolitical grounds, about a rushed vaccine's safety. They might decide to wait a while, just to be sure.

These reasons are how we get survey results saying the vaccine compliance rate might be as low as 50 percent. The Atlantic's Yascha Mounk has made a case for greater optimism, however, and he might be right. Hopefully we'll get the chance to find out sooner than later — maybe even, as Trump hopes, by Election Day. Bonnie Kristian

Opinion
August 6, 2020

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is "against the Bible," President Trump told Geraldo Rivera at the 17:30-mark of a radio interview Thursday morning. "That may be a little harsh," Rivera responded. "Well, okay, take a version of it," Trump replied. "The people that control him totally are. It may be a little harsh for him, but he's gonna have no control."

This "against the Bible" line seems to be a new phrase for Trump, his latest rhetorical trial balloon. I've found no example of him using it, on Twitter or off, before the three times he said it this week. The first was Sunday in a tele-rally with Pennsylvania supporters, where Trump described Biden as being against guns, fracking, the Bible, and God himself, a list from which he selected fracking as being the "big factor" to discuss at greater length. He used the phrase again in a Fox Business interview Tuesday in nearly identical context, then repeated it to Rivera.

Trump never explained what being "against the Bible" means. As many reactions have noted, Biden is Catholic and Trump, a professed Presbyterian, is visibly clueless about Christianity. But in speaking, presumably, to white evangelicals whose support he has lately been losing, I think Trump intends two meanings at once.

The first is that a Biden administration will be unfriendly to conservative Christians. Trump's playing to fears that, though Biden personally is religious and a comparative moderate among this year's Democratic contenders, the younger Democrats who'll run his White House will hail from the party's leftmost wing. They'll be "against the Bible," Trump is saying, in the sense of viewing traditional religious practice as an obstacle to the progressive future they were elected to create.

The second sense, if I'm right, suggests someone with more evangelical background than Trump advised him on use of this phrase. I grew up in evangelical churches, and to say something or someone is "against the Bible" can be an interpretive statement, a shorthand for, "against God's message in Scripture as we rightly understand it." But notice that simply tossing off a charge of "against the Bible" doesn't do any interpretative work: There's no explanation, no citation of chapter and verse. It relies on the assumption that speaker and listener both know that right interpretation already. It is, in other words, another Trump attempt to tell evangelicals he's one of them — when he very clearly is not. Bonnie Kristian

See More Speed Reads