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Trump Does Kenosha

September 2, 2020
Trump Does Kenosha
Donald Trump speaks to the press as he tours an area affected by civil unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin on September 1, 2020 (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Pauline Kael.

The name I was trying to think of yesterday’s podcast was Pauline Kael, the New York film critic who famously said after Richard Nixon’s 1972 landslide victory: “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.” (Other versions have been cited over the years, but that’s her direct quote.)

Perhaps unfairly, Kael became a decades-long symbol of insular elites who live in demographic/political bubbles. Now, it seems, we all live in one or another of them. People in northern Wisconsin see nothing but Trump signs and I’m guessing there are still folks in Manhattan who don’t know a single Trump voter. Many of them have their own shows.

Welcome to the Daily Countdown. We have 61 days to go until the election; and then 78 days after that until Inauguration Day

As we white-knuckle our way to Election Day one thing we have to keep in mind is the difference between anecdata and actual data. Anecdata is basically our attempt to turn random anecdotes and our mom’s Facebook feed into a picture of reality.

This is basically how Trump sees the world. One of his buddies tells him a story and it becomes one of his “Sir” tales. There are people on a plane who look a certain way, somebody tells Trump, and before you know there is the president of the United States is sharing stories about airplanes “filled up with the looters, the anarchists, the rioters, people that obviously were looking for trouble.” (Has anybody asked the TSA about this?)

In the first version, the plane was heading toward Washington DC where the thugs were going to do “big damage.” Yesterday, he changed the story to say that they were on a plane from DC. It doesn’t matter, because it’s all under investigation and we’ll learn the details after we’ve all forgotten about it. Or maybe he’s just making shit up.

Ok, see what he did there? He distracted me. I wanted to make a point about the need to distinguish data from personal impressions. And, today, we are getting some actual data. The new national Selzer poll is out and shows Biden with an 8 point lead. (Unlike some of the other polls you are seeing in your timelines, Selzer is considered an A+ polling outfit.)

If the election were held today, the newest edition of the Grinnell College National Poll shows Joe Biden winning the popular vote in his quest to become to be the 46th President of the United States. Former Vice President Biden leads President Donald Trump 49-41% according to the poll, which was conducted August 26-30, 2020 as part of a continuing partnership between Grinnell College and nationally renowned polling firm Selzer & Company.

Biden’s support is strongest among women (56-34%), including a better than 2-to-1 margin among suburban women (64-31%). Biden also has a wide advantage among non-white voters (64-23%) and those who live in larger metropolitan areas (56-30% for Biden among city dwellers, 58-35% among those from the suburbs).

“Beyond the overall eight-point advantage, this poll shows some areas of underlying strength for the former Vice President,” said J. Ann Selzer of Selzer & Company. “Mr. Biden holds a wide lead with moderates 55-33%, who are a plurality of the electorate; he benefits from a 10-point lead among independents who do not lean toward any political party, 44-34%.”

The Selzer poll comes out the day after a new Morning Consult poll also showed Biden leading nationally by 8 points, and leading in Arizona (!) by 10 points.

Lest this induce any premature optimism, you also need to know about the whole ‘Red Mirage” thing. Yesterday, Axios had a story about a head-spinning scenario.

A top Democratic data and analytics firm told “Axios on HBO” it’s highly likely that President Trump will appear to have won — potentially in a landslide — on election night, even if he ultimately loses when all the votes are counted. 

Why this matters: Way more Democrats will vote by mail than Republicans, due to fears of the coronavirus, and it will take days if not weeks to tally these. This means Trump, thanks to Republicans doing almost all of their voting in person, could hold big electoral college and popular vote leads on election night.

Is this a real thing? I assure you that it is. In fact, I’ve predicted that Trump could declare victory on Election Night, and would then insist that the election is being stolen when later votes erase his lead.

In the end, this model has Biden ultimately winning the Electoral College vote by a whopping 334-204, but not before days of heartburn. So brace yourself.

A reminder: more than 1,000 Americans died of the coronavirus yesterday. Trump continues to peddle bogus statistics about the pandemic.

Scenes from the circus: On Tuesday, Trump denied that he had suffered mini-strokes, which was an oddly specific denial of an allegation no one was making.

But we also got a reminder that Trump has lost the Drudge Report, which had backed him relentlessly in 2016.

This may not matter to you, but it mattered to the President of the United States who tweeted: “Drudge didn’t support me in 2016, and I hear he doesn’t support me now, Maybe that’s why he is doing poorly. His Fake News report on Mini-Strokes is incorrect. Possibly thinking about himself, or the other party’s ‘candidate.’”

Also on Tuesday: Trump visited riot-ravaged Kenosha, which he turned into a campaign prop. He did not meet with the family of Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times in the back. And he continues to defend the 17-year-old vigilante who shot and killed two people and wounded a third. He promised some federal aid and battered the truth. “The president has wrongly claimed credit for sending in the National Guard. He has also made misleading assertions in attacking his Democratic rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr.”

How will this play? Here’s an interesting take from the Atlantic’s David Graham, who thinks that contra-last week’s conventional wisdom, Kenosha could cost Trump the election.

Perhaps Kenosha will prove a turning point for this presidential campaign, but if it does, it’s far more likely to be because it has turned voters against Trump than because it has rallied them to his support.

There are 61 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.