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Trump's re-election prospects

by Frank Schnittger Mon Aug 17th, 2020 at 12:35:54 PM EST

Irish Times Columnist Jennifer O'Connell has an article up basically saying that Trump, like all bullies, is afraid of all those who are not afraid of him, and seeks to patronise strong women because he is afraid of them. He is afraid of Kamala Harris because he knows she can beat him. This has provoked two letters to the editor in response from Jim O'Sullivan and myself:

Online text version:

Sir, - There is a much more pertinent question than the one Jennifer O'Connell asks, "Why is Trump afraid of Kamala Harris?" (Opinion & Analysis, August 15th), and that is, why would any person not be afraid of Ms Harris given her record when she held high office?

Interested persons should really take time to look at that record. In the well-publicised case of Daniel Larsen, an innocent man wrongfully convicted, she fought tooth and nail to keep him in prison.

Having failed to overturn a decision to release him, at the last-minute she, as California attorney general, resorted to seeking his retention in prison "because his petition for release was lodged after a legal deadline". That he was an innocent man did not seem to matter.

Might that explain one of the most bizarre cases which saw her office argue that the state could not release some prisoners "because it would deplete its pool for prison labour"? All this led to the US Supreme Court finding, in an unusually forthright judgment, that overcrowding in California prisons on her watch was so bad that it amounted to unconstitutional "cruel and unusual punishment".

Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of the article is the implication that regardless of values and principles held, so long as the incumbent of high office is female, all is well. Have we not suffered enough from the incompetence of leaders ushered into key positions for all the wrong reasons? - Yours, etc,




Sir, - Accusing a bully of actually being an insecure weakling hiding his own failings is hardly an original line of attack, although it is probably consistent with Donald Trump's oft-described narcissism which is also a compensating mechanism for insecurity. But none of this tells us much about Mr Trump's actual re-election prospects in November.

If you look at how Trump is doing in the battleground states compared to 2016, he is currently doing slightly better than he was against Hillary Clinton, having been behind for most of July and August, as shown by an analysis of opinion polls. This means he is still behind in most of the battleground state polls, but by a slightly lesser margin than he was against Hillary Clinton at the same stage in 2016, and we all know what happened in the real poll afterwards.

This time around he has the additional advantage of being the incumbent and being up against an even older candidate generally perceived as being weak.

None of this means he is going to win again in November, but it is still all to play for, and by no means the slam-dunk Democratic win portrayed in some media.

Psychological analyses of candidates you disapprove of really tells us very little about actual voter behaviour in November. Perhaps Mr Trump's narcissism, insecurity, and bullying tactics really are an accurate reflection of much of Middle America in the battleground states that will decide this election.

Voter suppression, counting fraud, endemic voter insecurity, fear of change, racism, and dominance of the mainstream media Middle America actually watches may be enough to get him across the line.

Let's not start counting any chickens just yet. - Yours, etc,


Anyone who wants to climb the greasy poll of US politics probably has to be pretty ruthless, self-centred and career focused and so it should be little surprise that Kamala Harris has form in this regard. Public prosecutors make their name by getting lots of convictions and lawyers tend to be focused on making cases to the satisfaction of judge and jury rather than real world questions of guilt or innocence. After all, it is not their role to convict and sentence.

One would hope, however, that any prosecutor with a bit of humanity would not fight "tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct." Our standards for the office of Vice President should be a little higher than that. So, has Joe Biden, himself a flawed candidate, landed Democrats with a more than flawed Vice Presidential candidate?

One must be careful not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The presidential election is a choice, ultimately between Biden/Harris and Trump/Pence, not an opportunity to vote for one's ideal candidate. Hillary Clinton - almost no one's idea of an ideal candidate - ultimately lost because a lot of progressive voters could not bring themselves to vote for her, and so they got Trump instead.

Being a hard nosed prosecutor probably will help ensure that Democrats won't lose too much of the law and order vote - already riled by the lawlessness associated with some Black Lives Matter protests. So her candidacy may have plusses as well as minuses. But Biden and Harris will have to demonstrate they represent a real and worthwhile change from Trump/Pence, and the jury is still out on that. Basically they will have to resurrect the coalition which voted Obama into office and which failed to unite behind Hillary. Will Kamala - the opposite to Biden in many respects, be able to help achieve that?

My own letter focused more on the somewhat counter-intuitive evidence that Trump could yet secure re-election. It must be the first time that someone has written about Trump without mentioning either misogyny or his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. These things must be "baked in the cake" by now, and yet he continues to perform marginally better in battleground states than he did at this stage in the campaign against Hillary Clinton in 2016 - if the Real Clear Politics poll averages are to be believed.

Yes, Biden is still 7.5% ahead in the overall Real Clear Politics poll averages, but it is the battleground states which determine the election, and these swung decisively away from Hillary in the final weeks/months of the campaign. Even a 2% lead in the popular vote wasn't enough to get her across the line in the end.

So my letter is more by way of a warning against complacency. No amount of printer's ink spent on analysing Trumps lamentable personality or performance in office may make much difference. The Irish Times letters editor actually replaced my term "psychologistic" with "psychological" which, while it may be a more usual term, doesn't actually capture my meaning as precisely.

The term psychologistic is used to describe attempts to explain social or political phenomena through individual psychology. In this case I was criticising Jennifer O'Connell's attempt to infer that Trump's psychological flaws would inevitably lead to his defeat in November. If the past 3 and a half years of Trump's Presidency has taught us anything, it is that psychological flaws or corrupt or incompetent government actually count for very little in most voters electoral choices: It is all a matter of which tribe you belong to, and Trump has reduced the USA to two warring tribes.

Far from making America Great Again, he has reignited the civil war and turned the US from being the world's pre-eminent power into an object of pity. But do the swing voters in battleground states care or even realise that? Let's not count any chickens...

Yeah, there is a lot of counting chickens and measuring drapes right now.

In 2016 I followed the polls and poll aggregators, in particular Sam Wang who used nothing but polls and their margins of error and reached the conclusion that it was 99% certain that Clinton would win and he would eat a bug if he was wrong. The bug was eaten and the rest is history. My conclusion was and is that his model was correctly constructed and the real take-away was large, unrepresented discrepancies between polls and actual vote outcomes. So far, I haven't seen much in terms of coming to terms with that, serious analysis of went wrong and correction of polling. So, sure the polls means something and if you ask the questions with the same methodology you can see movement, but they evidently can't predict the results.

In some sense, the voting population seems to grasp this according to some polls that has Biden over Trump in preference but Trump over Biden when people are asked who they think will win.

by fjallstrom on Wed Aug 19th, 2020 at 08:27:19 AM EST
Regarding the choice of Kamala Harris, I think the relevant aspect is that the establishment faction has chosen a safe pair of hands to take over. And I think the whole Veep-stakes thing that has been going on was mostly to stay in the headlines, it was always Kamala Harris.

Harris was widely promoted by establishment media when she entered the race, resulting in high poll numbers until she was deflated by Gabbard in the debates who pointed out Harris actual record. That Harris went on to drop out before the voting even started doesn't matter. That her record as a prosecutor is a sink in an election year dominated by the question of police violence, doesn't mattter. She is a safe establishment candidate who will only flirt progressive causes (like Medicare for All) when it doesn't matter (like in a Repulican controlled Senate or a Presidential primary race) and be counted on to drop them if it matters.

If Biden wins Harris is the presumtive nominee for 2024  (might even do a Yeltsin/Putin and have Biden resign before the term is up so she can run as incumbent), which the establishment counts on will be enough to head off any progressive challenger.

Given this I think it would be fairly rational for progressive voters to vote Green, leave it blank, or even vote Trump in order to prevent the above scenario. This is a consequence of the actions of the establishment faction, that is so unwilling to share the power that the only way for progressives to advance is for the establishment to lose.

Now, voters are not best analyzed as rational robots, so I don't know how big effect that will have, but given the razor thin margins that US presidential elections can turn on, it might be enough. Of course that is as long as the Biden campaign is offering nothing but a restoration of Obama's policies, a bellicose attitude towards Russia and not being Trump. Then again, not being Trump might be enough.

by fjallstrom on Wed Aug 19th, 2020 at 09:39:38 AM EST
US elections, partly because of low turnouts, tend to be about base mobilisation more than persuading swing voters to switch. Trump has been superb at that.   His problem is he may mobilise the Democratic base to vote against him just a effectively as he mobilises his own base.

The remarkable thing is that Trump has never been below 40% in the RCP average of polls. That seems to be his floor. So my guess is that it all depends on the state of the Covid pandemic and associated economic slump in November that will decide the outcome.

No doubt Trump will announced the approval of a Vaccine  and/or effective treatment in the final weeks of the campaign. Then the fact that there may still be 1,000 people dying per day may hardly matter. It will just be the new normal.

What I can't fathom is his talking about postponing the election or even having a re-run if he disputes the outcome. I would have thought that would have even conservatives running for cover - and voting for Biden. But there is no telling how low the US polity can sink.

My best guess, at this stage, is that even lukewarm supporters will come out for Biden just to get rid of Trump. I would be surprised if Biden/Harris manage to stir up much enthusiasm in the Dem base, but this may be one of those rare occasions when that doesn't matter.

After that, the best we can hope for is that some halfway sane/competent people are appointed to key jobs. At least Dems aren't committed to proving government can't work.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 19th, 2020 at 11:13:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In hindsight it does look like there was a deal. I think the turning point came when she went after Biden and her campaign ended up running into money trouble. Biden was the safe choice for the donors after all. Yet different than Castro, Harris seemed to be the heir apparent with strong institutional support from the Clinton faction so they couldn't just shove her off towards the side. (I think Castro has no speaking slot at the DNC?).

And while the past looks clearer now, the future remains muddy. The pandemic is uncontrolled, the number of rent and mortgage delinquencies are the highest on record, the Post Office is dying. It's difficult to say what the electorate is even going to be in a months time.

by generic on Wed Aug 19th, 2020 at 12:34:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Harris is pretty far to the left in the context of American politics.

An October surprise is a standard feature of second-term presidential election campaigns. Belarus would be an opportunity, perhaps. It's easy to think up a suitable scenario.

Each state controls its own voting system. If many the states cannot come up with clear winners because of incompetent ballot counting processes, and the electoral college cannot come to agree on a candidate with an absolute majority of electoral college votes, then the election is put to the house of representatives. In such a contingent election case, each state gets one vote. 30 states out of 50 voted for Trump last time around.

by asdf on Thu Aug 20th, 2020 at 12:56:59 AM EST
For October surprise I have for some years figured Venezuela. Oil-rich, economy battered, no nearby allies that can back them up, and established bi-partisan consensus that Maduro has to go.

IIRC it is the new House that votes on president. What if the House elections are also disputed? Or are the districts to gerrymandered for such an outcome?

by fjallstrom on Thu Aug 20th, 2020 at 05:55:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Then the law of succession goes into action. First, Speaker of the House. If there is no House, that's out. Then comes President pro tempore of the Senate. If Class 2 elections are also screwed up, that usually means the most senior member of the majority party (D), but that's not a firm rule, so it could also mean Biden (or Sanders....)
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu Aug 20th, 2020 at 07:29:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Majority Party of the US Senate is (R). I do not expect that to change.
by StillInTheWilderness on Thu Aug 20th, 2020 at 04:45:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I said
If Class 2 elections are also screwed up
If the election doesn't take place, they are out. The Democrats have a majority among Class 1 and Class 3.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu Aug 20th, 2020 at 04:51:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then we descend into Caesarism. I've been expecting it for some time.
by StillInTheWilderness on Thu Aug 20th, 2020 at 04:44:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The House does indeed select the President if the election is indeterminate, but each member does not have a vote. Each state delegation gets one vote. Alabama iws equal to California. Montana is equal to New York. Without checking, that probably means Trump.
by StillInTheWilderness on Thu Aug 20th, 2020 at 04:48:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
30 states went Trump last time
by asdf on Thu Aug 20th, 2020 at 10:27:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No one perceives Kamala?! in the "left." Not even DJT. He's not given her a byte of interest from the daily dross heaped on Biden's demented 40-year record. Meanwhile, Kamala?! is already struggling to fulfill her symbolic, multi-modal, inter-racial GOTV function; Hard-core cynics expect her to assume Biden's office mid-term, as she has spoken a few times of her duties as president.

The flashpoint for issue voters will be establishment of LAW 'N' ORDER. The violent protests--diverse factions under one caption--this summer will not be forgot by either liberals or conservatives. However, DNC media run on Trump "voter suppression" through US Postal Service sabotage has temporarily dampened feedback on the conspicuous absence of police reform in its official platform. (R) and (D) are barely indistinguishable from moderates, "center right," or conservatives from this domestic aspect. (R) target ethnic immigrants; (D) target lawless Trump. I fear, neither candidate will relate agitation to commercial disruption, attributable to global dependencies severed by the pandemic. US interstate commerce has rebounded sufficiently under press neglect of heroic "essential workers" and despite dismal failures of (5) five "Covid" stimulus bills enacted by congress--which has recessed until 16 Sep. Dramatic stimulus and FY budget appropriation bottle necks await. Unless the press relates imminent housing and credit losses, there will be no "October surprise" here.

The president-elect may well be contested, but neither party would permit any such archaic solution as prescribed by US Constitution to arbitrate. It didn't happen in 2000, and it won't happen now.

by Cat on Sat Aug 22nd, 2020 at 11:38:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I watched the senate hearing Friday and read the GAO report (8 May 2020), following a month of marked "stakeholder" complaints and another month of lathering by DCCC to depose USPS Governors-appointed PM General. who started work June 16, 2020. The irony is, the DNC agitated for universal absentee voting all spring in fear of polling station infections.

House passes an additional $25 billion for Postal Service as Trump tweets opposition

The House of Representatives passed legislation Saturday to prevent any further changes at the United States Postal Service and to provide $25 billion in funding ahead of an expected surge in mail-in ballots in the November election. [...] President Donald Trump, in a Saturday tweet, called the controversy over the Postal Service a "hoax" and told Republican lawmakers to vote against it, but over two dozen House Republicans joined all Democrats in voting for the bill. It passed by a 257-150 vote.
The statement below is factually incorrect. The CARES Act didn't appropriate funds for USPS.
Democrats asked for $25 billion in recent coronavirus stimulus talks to help the Postal Service handle the uptick in mail-in ballots, but the stimulus talks have stalled without a deal in sight.
And USPS funding in the HEROES Act (House bill referred to senate), Title III, is restricted.

Which explains the stand-alone bill with the tawdry title Delivering for America, H.R.8015.

by Cat on Sun Aug 23rd, 2020 at 12:18:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
typical twitter swarm, in which one may note with interest not a single inquiry into USPS workforce, ie. number relieved from duty by SARS-CoV-2 positive test or COVID hospitalization.

The Dejoy did answer the question generally during the hearing. USPS national workforce "availability" shrunk 4%, led by pop-dense metropolitan areas like Philly, NY, LA, etc--not rural USPS districts.

btw, In my search for any version of Maloney's bill that actually specified a grant amount, I found that much disparaged Susan Collins (R-ME) had introduced her own dead letter 2 July, Postal Service Emergency Assistance Act.

by Cat on Sun Aug 23rd, 2020 at 01:36:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
C-SPAN | Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee on the U.S. Postal Service
PORTMAN (R-OH): What advice would you give voters? This is an opportunity for you to speak to the voters of Ohio and the country: Would you advise them to wait until the last minute? Or would you advise them at least a week?
DEJOY: The general word around here is, vote early.

Inside the Democratic Party's plan to prevent vote-by-mail disaster

But voting by mail is also more complicated than voting in person, and the party's campaign machinery has rapidly transformed itself into a system for helping voters navigate those obstacles. There's the matter of getting an absentee ballot to begin with, which voters must apply to do in most states. Esoteric factors from signature requirements to delivery times and even rules about how the ballot envelopes are sealed all result in more mail votes getting tossed each election compared to in-person votes. And unusual delays in mail delivery this summer have heaped more stress on the situation.

That's why Michelle Obama took time out from lacerating Trump in her Monday convention speech to implore supporters to vote early -- but also to keep close track of their ballots if they vote by mail or, if they feel able, to vote in-person.

"We've got to vote early, in person if we can. We've got to request our mail-in ballots right now, tonight, and send them back immediately and follow-up to make sure they're received," Obama said.

archived Thu Sep 20th, 2018; in no particular order; Mon Sep 24th, 2018

For the first time in my life, I requested an absentee ballot from the Maryland State Board of Elections two weeks ago. I still haven't have it, and the notification app hasn't confirmed my order.

by Cat on Sun Aug 23rd, 2020 at 03:08:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Trump is going to war on low-income housing in suburbs. He once embraced it.
Trump's dramatic about-face on the issue came as he began to hammer a "law and order" theme after widespread racial justice protests this summer, lifting a page from the Richard Nixon 1968 playbook.
"This is an attempt to make a law-and-order case to an audience that no longer exists," Dworkin said. "The people who live in the suburbs today are largely going to be embarrassed by these arguments and do not want to be associated with racist housing policies, even when they have reservations about affordable housing."
evergreen NIMBY bloc meets HUD Sec.8 "Housing Choice" rental vouchers seeping into post-2009 REITs inventory. Baltimore city Community Development actually subcontracts NGOs to steer voucher tenants into adjacent county markets rather than rehab inner-city stock with HUD project-based-vouchers (PBV). This bias maximizes private-sector rental prices and RE speculation.
"The 'suburban housewife' will be voting for me. They want safety & are thrilled that I ended the long running program where low income housing would invade their neighborhood," [Trump] tweeted on Aug. 12. "Biden would reinstall it, in a bigger form, with Corey Booker [sic] in charge!"
by Cat on Sun Aug 23rd, 2020 at 04:15:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Republicans have been appealing to the racism of white suburban women since the 1970s.  See Lee Atwater & etc.  And it worked well until it stopped working in 2018.

The Known/Unknown of this election is how well it will work in 2020.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Tue Aug 25th, 2020 at 06:32:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
waaaaaaill, I've long been skeptical of the learned helplessness, penury, and nobility of "suburban white women" (and minorities) in 'Merica. So I'm not inclined to put airs on the cheeto heir-apparent, especially after finishing the WONDERFUL novel about Cromwellian, "episcopal", and papist legacies, The Entailed Hat (1884).

What a hoot!

by Cat on Tue Aug 25th, 2020 at 09:09:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sunday, one of Podesta's so-call swing states set the scene of another police homicide followed by "vandalism and arson". Presumably, some kind of scout for the village's Blue Lives Matter "militia" turned a pack of protesters into casualties. Meanwhile, the twitterverse argues whether or not P&C insurance normally excludes claims attributable to "riot" and "acts of war".
Teen arrested in shooting deaths at Wisconsin protest against police brutality
"TODAY, I will be sending federal law enforcement and the National Guard to Kenosha, WI to restore LAW and ORDER!" Trump wrote on Twitter, without elaborating.
Having initially eluded Kenosha police, he was apprehended in IL today.
by Cat on Wed Aug 26th, 2020 at 07:37:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
btw, The Intelligence Community "has seen no evidence that foreign powers intend to manipulate mail-in voting"
by Cat on Wed Aug 26th, 2020 at 08:36:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"In 'law-and-order' speech, U.S. Vice President Pence warns against Biden win"
< wipes tears >
irreproachable Economist/YouGov poll
Aug 23-25, 2020
by Cat on Thu Aug 27th, 2020 at 12:38:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If Der Drumpfenfuehrer remains in office, kiss it all goodbye.  Imagine Pinochet's Chile with the world's biggest military, more nukes than everyone else combined, and the world's reserve currency actively and globally exacerbating racism, economic inequality, climate change, and the dismantling of science.
by rifek on Mon Aug 24th, 2020 at 05:25:06 PM EST
First: nobody knows how Covid-19 will affect voter turnout.  This comment assumes it will be a wash with both sides equally affected.

In 2016 Trump got out 2,000,000 more votes then Romney did in 2012 and lucked into the Presidency by an archaic election system, the number of total white vote at 72% of total vote, and ~80,000 votes spread out across Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

The crucial demographic 2016: suburban white women.  They voted Trump and pushed him to victory.  The story of the 2018 mid-term elections was the Republican losing suburban white women.  Unless he gets them back he and the Republicans are toast.  

Also incumbent Presidents almost always lose votes in their second run.  

It has become a cliche that Trump drew to and got an inside straight in 2016.  Could it happen again?  Sure - there's no Law of the Universe saying nay.  Is there any evidence Trump is starting to close the gap?  No.  At the moment there's no evidence Trump is becoming competitive in his Must-Win states and plenty of polling evidence he and the rest of the Republicans are in deep trouble.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Tue Aug 25th, 2020 at 06:24:52 PM EST
Well, there's this RealClearPolitics piece quoted by Frank, purportedly showing Trump doing better than in 2016 in the "top battleground states", like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania; or Florida. Not sure what to make of that, or even whether Trump needs to carry all these states he did win in 2016, some by less than 20,000 votes, if I remember.

Yes, the Repubs lost a lot of votes in these states in the 2018 midterms, but the picture for this year is still murky.

by Bernard on Wed Aug 26th, 2020 at 05:26:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
RealClearPolitics is a Right Wing propaganda outfit.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Wed Aug 26th, 2020 at 07:33:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't read the articles there. The link is just an average of polls in battleground states comparing Trump vs. Biden to Trump vs. Hillary. It's as good or bad as the underlying polls.

Overall, RCP is showing Biden up 7%, compared to 7.5% when I wrote the story. Nothing statistically significant, and well beyond the margin of error even allowing for Trump's electoral college advantage. But Trump is still doing 1% better than he was against Hillary at this stage in the campaign.

Make of that what you will.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 26th, 2020 at 08:35:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]

All voters, right?.. The arithmetics is extreme, especially if the proportion of republicans is 45% or more.

The National Review 8 years ago:

Until the last ten days or so, I have not really understood how it would be possible for President Obama to win this election (barring some sort of national crisis that would spark momentary national unity). Things are going so badly in the country at this moment, and the president seems so bereft of new ideas on what to do about it, that this would appear to be a challenger's ideal year [...]

So if Obama gets his people to be as scared/disgusted by the idea of a Romney win as, say, Tea Partiers are by an Obama reelection, he might actually be able to pull this off.

Nevertheless, a pertinent reference to the Simpsons there, "We're just plain evil" vs

The following is  written while discussing bureaucracy, but can be interpreted more liberally, and from the side of demand concerns:

Consider the following possibility: that what we are oppressed by is not power, but impotence

-- Alisdair MacIntyre, "After Virtue" (1981), p.75

by das monde on Wed Aug 26th, 2020 at 08:35:35 AM EST

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