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Some Things Matter, After All

Countdown Journal: 49 Days To Go
September 14, 2020
Some Things Matter, After All
A firefighter keeps watch on flames that could jump the Angeles Crest Highway at the Bobcat Fire in the Angeles National Forest on September 11, 2020 north of Monrovia, California. California wildfires that have already incinerated a record 2.3 million acres this year and are expected to continue till December. The Bobcat Fire has grown to more than 26,000 acres. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)


After four years of being told that “nothing matters”, new polls suggest that some things just might matter, after all.

A new ABC/Ipsos poll finds that Americans “by a 2-to-1 margin, think Biden has more respect for those who serve in uniform than Trump does.”

“Huh,” tweeted Arc Digital’s Nicholas Grossman. “Turns out that calling people losers, denigrating national service, shrugging at Russian bounties, ordering deployments on US soil as a political prop, attacking protesters, undermining alliances, and saying head trauma isn’t a real injury has an effect on public opinion.”

Welcome to the Daily Countdown. We have 49 days to go until election day; and then 78 days after that until Inauguration Day.

The outcome remains unpredictable, but perhaps the picture is getting a bit clearer. Look around you.

The West is burning, the pandemic is spreading (and the death toll will hit 200,000 within days), the economy remains shaky, urban unrest continues, the president is holding maskless indoor rallies, and bragging that he is now free to be “really vicious.”

This is American Greatness? The president trails in every poll for a reason and time is running out. Early voting starts within days in some states.

On Saturday night, at a rally in Reno, NV, Trump was visibly unhappy with a new Biden ad that focused on comments Trump had made disparaging the military.

“Pathetic Joe. He’s a pathetic human being to allow that to happen,” Trump said of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and the ad Biden’s campaign released last week, which seized on comments Trump reportedly made about America’s fallen soldiers.

“But you know the good part?” Trump continued. “Now I can be really vicious. Once I saw that ad, I don’t have to be nice anymore.”

This may be vintage Trump, but it’s worth noting that at this point in the campaign a confident incumbent president would be pivoting to a message that might win over undecided voters by making himself seem more appealing. Not Trump.

Instead, he promises to be “vicious”, which will definitely appeal to suburban housewives.

He will also be more reckless.

Last night, he held an “unmasked, indoor superspreader event in Henderson, Nevada on Sunday night, running afoul of Nevada regulations and his own administration’s guidelines.” Make sure you read Tim Miller’s piece in the Bulwark on the event. But here is the nub of it:

For those who have been beaten down by the Trumpian disaster porn, rallies such as this don’t really make a mark any longer. The cable networks and even the three C-SPANs landed on the BORRRRING side of the ledger: None of them chose to air the event. And for political junkies and Trump-watchers, these rallies increasingly have the feel of a boring nostalgia act with a lead singer halfheartedly crooning his old hits. And there’s something to be said for that. But it is important to take a moment to shake yourself free from the blunting effect of the orange Trumpian film that has subsumed our daily lives (and here in northern California, our atmosphere). Seen with fresh eyes, the Henderson rally was truly a shocking and unimaginably wheels-off undertaking given that it came amid a pandemic that is still killing a thousand Americans a day and with wildfires making much of the West Coast uninhabitable.

This occurs as the ABC/Ipsos poll shows him deeply underwater on his handling of the coronavirus. Only 35% of Americans approve of his handling of he pandemic, while 65% disapprove — a gap of a staggering 30 points.

Bloomberg makes his move.  The former NYC mayor says he will put $100 million into helping Biden win Florida. Numbers this big can be a bit eye-glazing, and it’s possible that we overestimate the importance of money. But this seems like a genuine BFD.

To state the obvious: It’s a lot of money. In a very important state. Florida has 29 electoral votes, so it is objectively important. But it is also subjectively important as well.

Unlike other crucial states, Florida is expected to report its results early on election night. Because results will be so slow this year, there is a very real possibility that Trump will try to declare victory on election night and throw the process into chaos.

But if Biden wins Florida early, he will have effectively won the election and shaped the narrative for the night; and it will become far more difficult for Trump to shape his own alternative reality. Of course, he might try anyway.

Much of TrumpWorld seems to be descending into paranoia and hysteria.

A headline in the Federalist declares: “The Left Is Setting The Stage For A Coup If Trump Wins”.

Meanwhile Trump whisperer Roger Stone is calling on Trump to seize total power if it looks like he’s losing.

Others in Trump’s orbit are also echoing the charge that “they” are “trying to rig this election”.


And, of course, there is the president himself. Just this weekend, Trump “repeated unsubstantiated claims that mail-in ballots would contribute to widespread voter fraud in the November election.”

“The Democrats are trying to rig this election because that’s the only way they’re going to win.”

Here’s something to keep in mind: Despite the polls, Trump’s backers believe with a moral certainty that he will win — and win big. His defeat will come as a considerable shock to many of them who have fallen down the rabbit hole and they will be an eager audience for the most lurid conspiracy theories and charges of fraud.

Bad faith all the way down.

ICYMI: the mail-in ballot situation in my home state of Wisconsin is a hot mess.

Last week, the state supreme court’s conservative majority put a last-minute hold on the mailing of the ballots as it decides whether to allow the Green party to be on the ballot. As the Wapo notes, “That has left election clerks across the state in limbo. They warned that millions of ballots have already been printed, and cities and towns have begun stuffing and labeling envelopes and preparing to send out more than 1 million ballots that have been requested so far by voters.”The court’s ruling means that election officials may miss both state and federal statutory deadlines for sending out the ballots  State law requires that requested ballots be sent by September 17, while the federal deadline for mailing ballots to overseas and military voters is September 19. Why would the court make such a disruptive move?

The Green Party is represented by a Milwaukee-based law firm with close ties to state Republicans. That is a tell, but the details of the case are puzzling:

Questions about the Green Party ballot petition began in August, when a state voter complained that there was a discrepancy in [Green Party running mate, Angela Walker’s]  address on the party’s signature pages. The campaign said that Walker had moved during the signature-gathering phase.

But campaign officials failed to respond to a request from the state elections commission to fix their signature sheets, which they could have done by submitting an affidavit explaining the address discrepancy.

In a report to the Wisconsin Elections Commission ahead of its Aug. 20 meeting, the commission’s staff argued that the affidavit would have “easily cleared up confusion” — but absent that, the commission is left with “legitimate arguments” against the petition’s validity.

Weeks later, the Green Party ticket asked the Supreme Court to intervene….

“If they had just sent an email confirming that they had moved, they would be on the ballot right now,” [Scott McDonell, the clerk in Dane County] said. “We could have added the Green Party and it would have been fine, and that’s not still true today. The fact that the Green Party took two weeks to file — I don’t even know what to say about that.”**

Meanwhile, Wisconsin Democrats took time out from trying elect Joe Biden by attacking Never Trump conservatives for being *checks notes* conservatives.
This is the state’s lieutenant governor and one of its Democratic congressmen liking a tweet that blames everything on…. me.

Anti-NeverTrump Leftism is a thing. And temporary coalitions can be tricky.

Biden is not out of woods yet on “law and order.”  This analysis suggests that concern over disorder could still cost the former VP the election.

Biden’s problem is that, on the broad issues of crime and policing, he appears to have a larger group of soft supporters — people who could flip — than Trump does. As Nate Cohn, a Times reporter who helped oversee the poll, told me, “There is definitely some Biden support with worry about crime.” Those worries span Black, Latino and white voters.

Don’t get cocky in that progressive bubble out there.

So what is the state of race on this beautiful Monday?

New polls show Biden leading in MinnesotaArizona, and Wisconsin.

A new Fox poll has Biden up nationally by 5 points, but the Real Clear Politics average has him up nationally by 7.4 percent. CNN’s “Poll of Polls” has Biden up by 8 points — 51% to 43%.

The Fivethirtyeight election forecast is giving Biden a 76 percent chance of winning.

There are 49 days to go.

Charlie Sykes

Charlie Sykes is a founder and editor-at-large of The Bulwark and the author of How the Right Lost Its Mind. He is also the host of The Bulwark Podcast and an MSNBC contributor.