Swing State Pres

Sunday, August 30, 2020

BTRTN Report on the Republican National Convention: The Golden Goebbels Awards

Steve forced himself to watch the Republican National Convention, and he saw the other country inside of this country. It is a scary place, and we ignore its brazen deceit at our peril. The world has seen this act before.


Give them credit: the Republicans did a great job of relentlessly conveying clear, unambiguous themes in their convention. 

They communicated that Donald Trump did a masterful job handling the coronavirus pandemic. They conveyed that Trump has done a brilliant job of managing the economy, while Joe Biden and the Democrats are committed to turning the United States into a socialist state. They repeatedly reinforced their message that America under Joe Biden would be a terrifying, lawless state in which protesters who advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement would destroy the suburbs. Speakers echoed Eric Trump’s emphatic assertion that in his father’s administration, “America became the envy of the world.” 
   
Clear, consistent communication is one thing. Clear communication of preposterous falsehoods has another name: propaganda. 

Yes, in today’s column we shall hand out our first “Golden Goebbels Statues” for outstanding performance in the dark art of propaganda. Our awards take their name from Josef Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945, who is often viewed as the pioneer and leading practitioner of a form of communication that leverages the power and authority of mass media to distort, deny, or eradicate the truth in service of a political end.  Propaganda is lying on the steroids of mass media. 

Goebbels was a quotable fellow, and he was quite forthcoming about the abject moral bankruptcy that served as the North Star for his professional aspiration:

“That propaganda is good which leads to success, and that is bad which fails to achieve the desired result. It is not propaganda’s task to be intelligent, its task is to lead to success.”  

Then there was this assessment of humanity:

“You can’t change the masses. They will always be the same: dumb, gluttonous, and forgetful.”

And, of course, there is the propaganda theory of Hitler himself, who articulated the idea of the “Big Lie” in his autobiography, Mein Kampf.

“All this was inspired by the principle—which is quite true within itself—that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.”

The tactics of propaganda are well known. Go for the “Big Lie.” Never admit to failure, responsibility, or wrongdoing. Find a scapegoat to blame for all problems. Repeat, repeat, and repeat until the sharp lines between truth and fiction are pounded into gray liminal spaces in which guilt can be evaded and reality can be debated. 

Thusly revealed: the apparent briefing plan for the 2020 Republican Convention. Take every known reality about the Trump administration and offer an inverted version as undisputed fact, and assume the audience will somehow be dumb and forgetful enough to buy it. The Republican agenda for their convention was clearly to sell the five big lies noted above.

Welcome, then, to the 2020 Golden Goebbels Awards. Here are the categories and the winners.

The Category: “Donald Trump did an amazing job taming the global pandemic back when the pandemic used to be a problem.”

Our first statue, for “Outstanding Short Perversion of a Devastating Truth,” goes to the brief film on Monday night that attempted to portray Trump as the decisive, engaged leader whose hands-on management style and bold actions saved countless lives back during that period long ago when we used to be afflicted by the coronavirus. This is an actual quote from the film:

““From the very beginning, Democrats, the media and the World Health Organization got the coronavirus wrong. One leader took decisive action to save lives: President Donald Trump.”

We can agree that “one leader took decisive action” part, but it was actually Andrew Cuomo. Allegedly decisive Donald spend February through May spinning fairy tales that the coronavirus would “magically disappear,” dismissing the urgent warnings and advice of scientists, overtly abdicating all responsibility for managing the pandemic to the governors, not wearing a mask, huckstering phony treatments as panaceas, musing publicly about the efficacy of ingesting bleach, and pressuring states to prematurely re-open for business, which triggered the carnage that has now surpassed 180,000 deaths. The United States is now openly pitied as one of the nations that has handled the pandemic least ineffectively. We have a mere 4% of the world’s population but 22% of the COVID-19 deaths. 

Goebbels would be in awe of this Big Lie in this film. 

The judges, however, do want to give a dishonorable mention to the recurring efforts made at the Republican Convention to pretend the pandemic was over… vanquished; a thing of the past. Best example: invite 1,500 guests to the acceptance address to sit on chairs that have been set out with no thought to social distance, don’t test everyone for COVID-19, and don’t require masks. Why, you’d think that pesky pandemic was over! 

Just imagine just how many drunken parties are going to be hosted all across America next weekend, kissing off social distancing and masks! Hey, we’re just doing what they do at the White House!

The Category: “Donald Trump has created the greatest economy of all time.”

The Republicans were in lockstep on this one, frequently invoking the mantra that “in the first three years of his administration, Donald Trump had created the greatest economy in history.” Now we can quibble with that on face value, but the focus on the first three years tells all. Republicans want to casually dismiss the catastrophic damage to our economy caused by Trump’s incompetent management of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is sort of like a surgeon saying that the heart valve operation was going great up until the point when he accidentally sliced open the aorta. 

Republicans take the position that of the carnage to our jobs and our economy is all a function of the pandemic, ignoring the fact that the economic impact of the pandemic has been far worse that it should have been if Trump had competently managed the crisis. The scope of the pandemic is far worse in the United States than all but a handful of developed nations. 

Lost in all this is the fact that it was a dicey proposition to claim that even the first three years of the Trump administration were all that successful from an economic standpoint, given the robust growth he inherited from the Obama administration, Trump’s own ballooning national debt, and yet another failure of “trickle down” tax cuts to trickle down.

The economy, of course, is a tricky discussion for Republicans, who want to trash Biden as a “socialist,” conveniently forgetting that it was the Obama Biden administration that rescued the economy from the meltdown that occurred at the end of the prior Republican administration of George W. Bush.  It is particularly ironic that several Republican speakers rather mysteriously warned that “Joe Biden will take away your cars,” in that Obama and Biden were responsible for saving the U.S. auto industry in the wake of the Bush economic meltdown.

All things considered, the idea that our current economy is something Republicans should be proud of is pure Goebbels. Award the statue! 

Category: “Black Lives Matter will destroy your suburban home and community.”

Patty and Mark McCloskey probably would have been content with the 15 minutes of fame they enjoyed after storming out of their expensive home in St. Louis with a pistol and an assault rifle to ward off BLM protestors, at one point aiming a gun directly at the peaceful parade passing the McCloskey mansion toward the home of St. Louis mayor Lyda Krewson. But the Republican Party ensured a far more enduring notoriety by inviting them to be the poster people for white suburban terror and rage. 

Here’s a sampler from Patty:

“They (Democrats) are not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities, they want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family home zoning. This forced re-zoning would bring crime, lawlessness, and low-quality apartments into thriving suburban neighborhoods. These are the policies that are coming to a neighborhood near you. So make no mistake: no matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America.”

Why on earth would the Republican Party chose to lionize these two trigger-happy white suburban vigilantes as the symbol of their political party? Well, that tells you all you need to know about Donald Trump’s re-election strategy: it is called basic instinct. Turn up the heat on all of the ugly, despicable fears that your base holds about minorities.  

What happens when Republicans endorse the conduct of two trigger-happy white suburban vigilantes by putting them on national television at their party convention? Do you think they might have given anyone ideas? Two nights later, after yet another disgraceful shooting of a Black man by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a trigger-happy teenage vigilante murdered two protestors and wounded a third. 

And, of course, the Kenosha police chief just had to blame the protestors for getting themselves killed. Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis actually said this: "Everybody involved was out after the curfew. I'm not gonna make a great deal of it but the point is -- the curfew's in place to protect. Had persons not been out involved in violation of that, perhaps the situation that unfolded would not have happened."

Yes, in Donald Trump’s America, Republicans venerate the vigilante gun-toters who view peaceful protestors as an angry, threatening mob, and tell the people who insist on protesting police murders that they are the real problem. 

Give Patty and Mark their statues, if only so that, however briefly, they will put down their guns. 

Category:  “Achievement in Set Design and Stunning Violations of the Hatch Act.”

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, said this of the Hatch Act: “Nobody outside of the Beltway really cares.” Mr. Meadows, the fact that you think no one outside of Washington cares about whether the Republican Party desecrates the property of the American people proves that you are the classic Washington establishment insider who has lost touch with how people outside the Beltway feel.

Seeing “Trump Pence” video screens in front of the White House, and fireworks that spelled out “Trump 2020” over the Washington Monument was grotesque; it is experienced by those who oppose Trump as someone spitting on some of the most revered symbols of our national pride. And yes, our tax dollars were used for Donald Trump’s political rally. 

For many, the politicizing of the White House and the Washington Monument was actually the worst moment of the week. The fact is that many Americans are now sadly accustomed to watching Trump, Pence and the rest of them spew ignorance, stupidity, and falsehoods on cable news. What we had not yet seen was the visual of Trump pretending that the White House and the Washington Monument were his toys. 

These are the types of non-verbal yet powerful visual messages that Goebbels applauded.

Republicans, take this statue to eternally commemorate the decomposition of your dignity.

Category: “Most Unhinged Performance in an Unsupported Diatribe.”

We knew that awarding a single “Golden Goebbels” in this category was going to be a challenge, given that the nominees included Matt Gaetz, Pam Bondi, Jim Jordan, Jeannette Nunez, Dana White, and a host of people named “Trump.”

Sure, there were some pretty whacky quotes throughout the four days, many laden with irony. Nunez thinks that it is the Democrats who want to “dismantle the Constitution,” and Joni Ernst noted that Democrats would “ban animal agriculture and eliminate your cars.” Huh? Mitch McConnell said that Democrats want to tell you “how many hamburgers you can eat,” which sounds nuts but at least explains the Senator’s own great rotunda.

Donald Trump, Jr., gave a good run at this award, with his notable quote that “It’s almost like this election is shaping up to be church, work, and school versus rioting, looting and vandalism, or, in the words of Biden and the Democrats, ‘peaceful protesting.’” This had to have been the first time that “church, work, and school” were used in a sentence associated with Donald Trump, except perhaps in the recently released audio tapes of Trump’s sister, who touches on Trump’s barrenness in all three areas while revealing for the first time that Trump had someone else take his SATs so that he could get into Penn. 

But we cannot consider Donald Trump Junior’s nomination in this category until the drug tests are in.

It seemed that Kimberly Guilfoyle had this statue locked up on Monday night. Guilfoyle’s wild-eyed zeal, awkward gestures, and fanatical raving hinted at thespian training under Ursula the Sea Witch in The Little Mermaid. Unmindful of rhetorical excess, Guilfoyle said that Democrats “want to destroy this country, and everything that we have fought for and hold dear. They want to steal your liberty, your freedom. They want to control what you see and think, and believe, so they can control how you live.”  Guilfoyle’s hissy fit is a sure fit in the history of histrionics.

But you just cannot hold Rudy Giuliani down. Rudy, clearly eager to win this statue, went full conspiracy theory on us. He overtly asserted that the BLM protestors deliberately started rioting and looting in order to help Democrats defeat Donald Trump:

It seemed, for a few brief shining moments, Democrat and Republican leaders would come together with a unified proposal to reduce police misconduct. This possibility was very dangerous to the left. They had a president to beat and a country to destroy, and although an agreement on action against police brutality would be very valuable for the country, it would also make President Trump appear to be an effective leader. They could have none of that. So Black Lives Matter and Antifa sprang into action, and, in a flash, they hijacked the peaceful protests into vicious, brutal riots.”

What I really love about Rudy’s quote is that he is the one who says that all this might “make Trump appear to be an effective leader.” Don’t worry, Rudy… nothing can make that happen. 

So, sure, crazy Uncle Rudy, it was all a plan! An insidious plot! A vicious scheme to take down Donald Trump! Man, Rudy was scary with those eyeballs popping… he was soooooo method, channeling Humphrey Bogart’s Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny. “Ah, but the strawberries… that’s where I had them!”

May I have the envelope, please! The winner is the terminally unfiltered former mayor of New York City.

You know, all kidding aside… I lived in New York City on 9/11. It is a tragedy to see what a shriveled and craven shell of a human being Rudy Giuliani has become.

Category: A “Lifetime Achievement Grahammie” – named for South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham -- for “Hypocrisy and Sycophancy in a Supporting Role.”

How can you not give this one to Mike Pence?

Here is one of the most self-righteous, pious-in-the-sky people on the planet, and yet will not utter a word of objection about a man who violates most of the Ten Commandments before lunchtime. Mike Pence stands behind Trump, gazing with rapt devotion at a man who holds the Bible as cheap prop in a photo-op, is a serial adulterer, and who orders children to be separated from their parents and housed in cages. Mike, I’m certainly not as devout as you claim to be, but I’ve read enough to know that what Jesus thought was most important was to protect the weak, shelter the poor, and care for the most vulnerable among us. 

So, Mike: next time you fix your loving eyes on Dear Leader, you ought to check your Deuteronomy. The commandment immediately following “I am the Lord thy God” is the one that says “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

(Side note to anyone who is offended: If you think that people have no right to question another peson's faith, I tend to agree with you. But at this very same Republican Convention, Lou Holtz said that Joe Biden was a “Catholic in name only.” I have never been a big fan of “an eye for an eye,” but it applies. Exodus and Leviticus.)

Category: The Grand Golden Goebbels goes to… 

Let’s give Donald Trump his due. It is true that he created the “Space Force.” 

He did correctly characterize one accomplishment of his administration. 

But that’s just about it. 

Donald Trump was at his most dangerous on Thursday night. He had clearly been told that he could not veer one word from his teleprompter text. When he is in full prompter mode, he looks frustrated and even bored, but compared to his usual howitzer-mouth madness, a teleprompter forces him to sustain a posture of vaguely presidential comportment. That’s what makes it scary. Goebbels would approve.

But you really should visit https://www.npr.org/2020/08/27/901381398/fact-check-trumps-address-to-the-republican-convention-annotated to see the good job that NPR did in fact-checking Donald Trump’s convention address. It is a calm, restrained, and relentlessly dispassionate line-by-line analysis of a monumental achievement in propaganda. 

Let me only touch on some of the topics that are the most painfully egregious, starting with one of the biggest dilemmas for those who chose to play the game of propaganda. The very first rule of propaganda is constant repetition: repeat your big lie often enough and loud enough, and people start to believe it.

For example: “We will build a wall, and Mexico will pay for it!”

That was the defining campaign promise for Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. It was the essential mantra. It was so profoundly identified with his campaign that when two years went by and it became clear to hyper-conservative Anne Coulter that the wall was not getting built, she penned the famous headline “Gutless President in Wall-less Country.”

In his acceptance speech on Thursday night, Trump declared “We have already built 300 miles of border wall, and we are adding 10 new miles every single week.  The wall will soon be complete.  And it is working beyond our wildest expectations.” 

CNN fact-checked this one and noted that “some 275 miles of barriers had been constructed on the US border with Mexico -- but just five of those miles were erected in places where no barriers had existed before… Of the remainder, 245 miles were erected in place of old barriers, while 25 miles of new “secondary wall” were erected to fortify primary barriers.”
 
So it is actually, uh, five miles of new wall that has been built. In three years.Yes, the math is tricky on this one: you can add ten miles of wall every week, but in the past four years you have actually built five miles of wall.

And – BTW -- Mexico did not even pay for that. No, Mexico’s willingness to underwrite the wall did not come up once this week, because Mexico has not paid a dime.  

Promises kept? Donald Trump has barely accomplished anything on the single biggest promise he made in the last election. 

Trump quickly doubled down on the core themes of his convention: that Joe Biden is a socialist under whose leadership crime and violence will flourish:

“At no time before have voters faced a clearer choice between the parties, two visions, two philosophies, or two agendas.  This election will decide whether we save the American dream or whether we allow a socialist agenda to demolish our cherished destiny. Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists and agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens. And this election will decide whether we will defend the American way of life of whether we will allow a radical movement to dismantle and destroy it.” 

We heard Trump’s ugly provocation of further racial division in our country by false accusations that the BLM movement is based on violence and destruction, when the vast majority of BLM marchers are from the ranks of the clear majority of Americans who believe that the BLM movement is justified. As if to sicken us even more, Trump has the audacity to say that he has done more for Black Americans than any president since Lincoln. It is a disgraceful contention for a racist to make, quite apart from the perverse deceit to pretend that Trump has done more for Black Americans than Lyndon Johnson or Barack Obama, just to name two of the most obvious examples. 

The hypocrisy is epic. Trump ridicules Biden on the economy and law and order, yet on other occasions, Trump has tried to skewer Biden for his support of the excessively harsh 1994 Crime Bill. And, of course, Biden – as Obama’s VP – helped rally the country out of the economic carnage left by the Bush administration.

We also have to give Trump credit for his stamina: it’s tough to bend, twist, obscure, and deny the truth in a non-stop soliloquy of an hour in length. Trump forced the largely unmasked, insufficiently socially-distanced, and largely untested crowd to patiently sit through his lengthy version of his achievements, implicitly demanding that they accept – at significant risk to their personal health – his need to believe that the threat of COVID-19 has passed. The medium is the message, and the sub-text was plain as day: the pandemic must no longer be a problem, because no one here at the White House wears a mask or maintains social distance. 

Of course, it was Trump’s own version of his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic that most shamed this convention. Trump loves to talk about his ban of travel from China, which was of a Swiss cheese design that allowed thousands of people into the United States. He does not have much to say about his actions in February through April, the months when his apathy, delay, willful ignorance, failure to engage, demeaning of the medical community, passing the buck, and overt denial of responsibility allowed the coronavirus to stampede through our population.  It was his abdication of leadership that allowed a serious health crisis to mushroom into the deadly plague that has killed 180,000 Americans.

Trump will never admit that he was asleep at the wheel, refusing to wear a mask while hawking phony cures, taunting Governors to pressure them to re-open their states for commerce on the hope that the economy would recover before election day. 

The Big Lies. They were all on display at the Republican Convention…

…That Donald Trump did a great job handling the coronavirus.

…That no one could have predicted the impact of the virus, and that nothing could have prevented the overwhelming impact of the coronavirus. (Clearly, no one at the White House read the "pandemic response plan" prepared by the Obama administration).

…That, therefore, Trump is not responsible for the cratered economy that resulted from his incompetence.

…That Black Lives Matter is a movement based on violence, lawlessness, looting, and will result in the invasion of and destruction of the suburbs.

…That Joe Biden is a socialist, and that the Democratic Party is bent on destroying America.

…That America is more admired in the international community than before. 

In the end, perhaps the biggest of  Donald Trump’s “Big Lies” is the one he told the day he was sworn into office: that he would “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

No, there was no mention in this Republican Convention of the recent Republican-led Senate Committee Report confirmed the Mueller Report findings of extensive contact between Trump’s campaign and Russian intelligence to interfere with the 2016 election. No mention of using the Department of Justice to blunt the impact of investigations into Trump, and no mention of the DOJ being directed to investigate Trump’s enemies. No mention of defying separation of powers, refusing to cooperate in Congressional oversight, no mention of using the power of his office to demand that Ukraine slander Trump’s political opposition as a condition for receiving military aid. No mention of the Hatch Act, the Emoluments clause, no mention of rampant nepotism, no mention of evading Congressional approval by making “temporary” appointments. No mention of being the only President ever impeached in his first term in office. No mention of the Constitutional right of the free press to seek truth, only a shameful refrain that opposing views are “fake news.” 

Some may object to the theme of this piece as offensive, believing it is unfair to draw parallels between the atrocious horrors of Nazi Germany and the Trump White House. Let me be clear. The intent here is not to make a broad equation of the two regimes. Rather, we focus on one specific and important area in which they operate in a remarkably similar way: the reliance on propaganda to eradicate, conceal, deny, and cover up ugly truths in order to retain power. 
  
And yes, read that statement for the warning it is. A state that employs propaganda at every possible step is a state that seeks authoritarian control over its people. Unwilling or unable to stand the scrutiny of truth and the light of day, authoritarians attempt to control content, imagery, and messaging with the goal of sapping the people of their ability, right, and power to control their government.

You’ll recall Josef Goebbels’ definition of “successful” propaganda: “That propaganda is good which leads to success, and that is bad which fails to achieve the desired result. It is not propaganda’s task to be intelligent, its task is to lead to success.”  It remains to be seen whether the Republicans fooled anybody but each other in their four day orgy of deceit. 

But it is certainly clear what their game plan is for now until election day: a five-inch fire hose of deception intended to drown out the reality of their failures. 

May I have the envelope, please?

The Golden Goebbels goes to Donald Trump and the Republican sycophants who worship the idols of falsehood.


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Monday, August 24, 2020

BTRTN 2020 Presidential State-by-State Snapshot: Biden Continues to Rule

Tom with a BTRTN update of the 2020 presidential race...not a prediction, just a “snapshot” of where the race stands right now, and how it might turn out if Election Day were held today.

THE LEAD

·        Since our last report in early July, the dynamics of the race are remarkably unchanged.

·        Joe Biden continues to lead Trump in most swing states, and is running neck-and-neck with him in the others; Trump does not have a statistically significant lead in any swing state, including those he won rather easily in 2016 such as Ohio and Texas.

·        Trump continues to stumble in his handling of COVID-19, continues to have trouble “defining” Biden as effectively as he demonized “Crooked Hillary,” and has sought to shift the spotlight to    the fraud potential of mail-in voting, a baseless charge.

·        According to our BTRTN model, if the elections were held today, Biden would have an 81% chance of winning the presidency, nearly identical to the 82% probability we saw in June.

·        Keep in mind that this assessment makes no attempt to adjust for the unpredictable conditions that surround the actual balloting, including the likely sharp increase in mail-in voting due to the coronavirus, Trump’s attempt to delegitimize and depress mail-in voting, and his potential challenges to a losing outcome.


WARNING:  No matter how good the numbers look at any given time, the Democrats will not win any election, and especially the presidential election, unless they work hard to earn it – registering voters, calling, texting, donating – throughout the summer and fall, up to and including Election Day.


THE LAST MONTH

Since our last look at the presidential race on July 1, the devastation of the coronavirus has continued unabated, and for all of Trump’s efforts at deflection, global attention remains first and foremost on the pandemic, and the Unites States’ unfathomably anemic response to it. 

Trump has run through his bag of tricks – his standard litany of COVID talking points.  That “the China Virus” is all China’s fault, along with the WHO.  That his response has been fantastic.  That the second surge of cases since late June has been driven solely by an increase in testing.  The U.S. deaths are “the lowest.”  That the economy is on the rise.  The only break in these mantras occurred in late July when Trump briefly adopted the sober tone of a realist, declaring that we “had a long way to go,” and finally donning a mask in public and encouraging the American public to do the same.  But that brief contact with reality lasted only a few days, and since then, he has been back to the mantra, as well as hyping hydroxychloroquine (groan) and a new miracle cure from Mr. Pillow.

It isn’t working.  Public attitudes towards Trump’s handling of the coronavirus remain overwhelmingly negative, and continue to fall, now running 58% disapproving to 39% approving, according to fivethirtyeight.com.  Trump’s overall approval rating remains stuck in a losing zone, in the low 40% range, where no president has ever won reelection.  And his low standing in national and swing state polls versus Joe Biden remains unchanged.  No one, apart from his base, is buying his story, and his insistence on sticking it to it is defying Einstein’s theory of insanity (“doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”).

Trump’s other approach, beside the mantra, has been the classic “misdirection,” fixing one firestorm by creating another.  Getting COVID out of the headlines has been understandably difficult, but Trump did manage one major headline-grabber – though it may end up backfiring.   He has spent a good part of the month lying about mail-in ballots and their alleged susceptibility to fraud, a claim with utterly no basis in fact.  His attack on mail-in voting has nothing, of course, to do with fraud and everything to do with partisanship.  GOP voters are far more likely to vote in-person than Democratic voters (as they downplay the virus, following Trump’s lead); Democrats are far more likely to vote by mail.  Trump’s “data point” in the fraud claim is focused on a set of recent New York State primaries that were 100% mail-in and did indeed take a very long time to count, but there has never been any suggestion of fraud in those races, and the outcomes, albeit delayed, were not contested.

More troubling than even Trump’s lies have been the actions of the new Postmaster General, a lackey named Louis DeJoy.  DeJoy, a businessman and major Trump donor, has directed a series of cost-cutting measures that have dramatically reduced postal delivery times and threatened the ability of the system to return mail-in ballots in time for state deadlines to be counted.  The backlash has been so strong that DeJoy has already committed to halting the measures until after the election, and the spotlight that has been turned on returning ballots on time could actually help Democratic turnout.  Indeed, the net effect of the entire drama – and what GOP governors fear – is that Trump’s relentless focus on delegitimizing mail-in voting will be to dampen GOP turnout overall.  This is why Trump suddenly declared the mail-in balloting was “great” in Florida, because Florida is “different from the other states” in large part because it has “got a great Republican governor.”

Trump is also having trouble defining Joe Biden, although in this instance it is not for lack of different approaches.  The first effort was to paint his rival as “Corrupt Joe,” smearing him through his son, Hunter, and alleged (and unproven) charges of undue influence relating to Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company on whose board the younger Biden served.  This gave way to “Sleepy Joe,” portraying Biden as a doddering, senile septuagenarian, again despite all evidence to the contrary.  This effort fizzled when Trump himself began behaving like a doddering, senile septuagenarian, gingerly traversing stair steps, slurring his words, and bragging about his own cognitive testing in which he correctly identified an elephant and endlessly repeated the mystifying phrase that, in his view, proved his intellectual chops:  “Person - Man – Woman – Camera – TV.”

That has given way to the latest effort, to link Biden to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party – yes, the Democrats that actually dislike Biden and vastly prefer Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  This is tough sledding given’s Biden’s track record as a moderate.  The Biden campaign clearly recognizes this new effort and, if the Democratic Convention is any indication, is not falling for it.  Progressives were given little air-time during the four-night affair, and progressive idol Alexandria Ocacio-Cortez was given a mere 90 seconds the entire week.  (In another time, she might have been the keynote speaker as a clear “rising star” of the party.)

As for the Biden campaign, it continued with its winning strategy thus far, a low profile effort designed mainly to keep the channel tuned to Trump as he futilely defended his pandemic effort, extolled a fictional booming economy, and incessantly repeated “Person - Man – Woman – Camera – TV.”

The big news, of course, was Biden’s selection of former rival Kamala Harris to the ticket as Vice-President, which proved to be a hit.  Harris was the longtime favorite of the Veepstakes, given her status as the most experienced person of color in the field (apart from perhaps Susan Rice, who is a diplomat, not a politician by trade).  Biden wisely chose to wage a very lengthy and in-depth selection process, keeping his campaign in the news, but with the spotlight not on him, but rather on the absolutely stunning field of contenders.  The country was introduced to roughly a dozen women from different geographies, levels of government, and wings of the political spectrum, reinforcing the diversity of the Democratic Party and showcasing its next generation of leaders.  This was a brilliant stroke.

By the time the vetting was done, it remained for Biden to do the obvious – make the safest, least controversial choice, and picking the favorite so that the focus could go back on Trump.  Harris thus assumed the mantle of “the future of the party” and quickly proved her campaigning prowess and her readiness for battle, and the stage was thus set for the Democratic Convention.  It is a testament to the campaign and perhaps to our times that the historic selection of the first woman of color to a major party ticket was viewed as a "safe choice."

The convention – whose impact is not reflected as yet in any of the polls or data you will see summarized below – was a tour de force.  The Democrats seized the unfortunate circumstances that led to a virtual convention and turned it into a triumph.  The multi-night show was brilliant, featuring real people telling their stories, the breadth and dynamism of our diverse America, the new wave of rising stars, and sensational headline efforts by Michelle and Barack Obama.  It all culminated with Joe Biden smashing the myth of his frailty with a powerful speech contrasting the “light” of his candidacy with the darkness of Trump’s times – and reinforcing the decency, empathy and resilience he has demonstrated in a lifetime full of personal pain and public service.


THE SWING STATES

We have identified 14 swing states (plus the District of Columbia and two districts, one in Maine and one in Nebraska) that will determine the outcome in November.  These 17 voting entities comprise 203 electoral votes “in play.”

Biden can already count on 210 electoral votes from 16 “blue wall” states (plus DC and another Maine district), while Trump is good to go (we think) in 20 states (and two Nebraska districts) that comprise 125 “red wall” electoral votes.  We say “we think” because some of those states are looking far closer than they did in 2016, and far closer than they should, and may come into play before these 70 days are done.

In the months of June and July there have been 97 polls in our 14 swing states.  Biden led in 74 of them -- just over three-quarters -- Trump led in 16 and there were 10 ties.

But for all of the drama in the news, the net effect of all of those polls on our ratings was minimal.  Biden continues to lead in eight of the 14 swing states by healthy margins, and those states alone comprise 97 electoral votes, more than enough to put him over the 270 mark required to win (210 “solid” plus these 97 gets him to 307).  

Biden leads by +6-7 points in each of the major “flipped” states in 2016, states that Barack Obama carried in 2012 but Hillary Clinton lost in 2016: Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.  And the other two states that Trump flipped, Iowa and Ohio, are toss-ups.

Of particular note – in all 14 swing states, when compared to 2016, current polling has swing well toward Biden.  On average the 14 states show an improvement of +7 percentage points versus the final 2016 margin.

TRUMP VERSUS BIDEN SWING STATE POLLING
State
Electoral Votes
2016 Margin
Current Polling as of 8/24
Current Polling vs. 2016
BTRTN Rating 8/24
Maine
2
Clinton + 3
Biden + 12
D + 9
D Likely
New Hampshire
4
Clinton + 0.3
Biden + 11
D + 11
D Likely
Minnesota
10
Clinton + 2
Biden + 5
D + 3
D Lean
Nevada
6
Clinton + 2
Biden + 4
D + 2
D Lean
Michigan
16
Trump + 0.2
Biden + 7
D + 7
D Lean
Pennsylvania
20
Trump + 1
Biden + 6
D + 7
D Lean
Wisconsin
10
Trump + 1
Biden + 6
D + 7
D Lean
Florida
29
Trump + 1
Biden + 6
D + 7
D Lean
Arizona
11
Trump + 4
Biden + 3
D + 7
D TU
North Carolina
15
Trump + 4
Biden + 1
D + 5
D TU
Georgia
16
Trump + 5
Tie
D + 5
R TU
Iowa
6
Trump + 9
Trump + 2
D + 7
R TU
Ohio
18
Trump + 9
Biden + 2
D + 11
R TU
Texas
38
Trump + 11
Trump + 2
D + 10
R TU

WARNING:  No matter how good the numbers look at any given time, the Democrats will not win any election, and especially the presidential election, unless they work hard to earn it – registering voters, calling, texting, donating – throughout the summer and fall, up to and including Election Day.

This chart summarizes the breakdown of our BTRTN snapshot as of now.  If the election were held today, we see Biden securing the nomination with 333 electoral votes.

BTRTN SNAPSHOT: 8/24/2020
Categories
Voting Entities
Electoral Votes
Total
56
538
DEM TOTAL
28
333
Biden Solid
18
210
Biden Likely
2
6
Biden Lean
6
91
Biden Toss Up
2
26
Trump Toss Up
6
80
Trump Lean
0
0
Trump Likely
0
0
Trump Solid
22
125
GOP TOTAL
28
205

One of the oddities thus far is that the Trump states are all either “toss ups” or “solids” right now – no “leans” or “likelies.”  But that could change, as there are cracks in some of Trump’s “solid” states.  While polling is light in them, some states, such as South Carolina (which he won by +14 points in 2016) and Nebraska (+26), have Trump ahead by only single digits.  It is highly unlikely Biden will make a play for any of these states – he will surely focus on forcing Trump to play defense in Ohio, Georgia, Iowa and to some degree in Texas instead – but those polls must be of great concern to the Trump campaign.  We will keep an eye on them.

There is a chart below that summarizes all 56 races in detail.

WARNING:  No matter how good the numbers look at any given time, the Democrats will not win any election, and especially the presidential election, unless they work hard to earn it – registering voters, calling, texting, donating – throughout the summer and fall, up to and including Election Day.


THE ODDS

If the election were held today, we peg the odds of Biden winning the presidency at 81%.  The swing state polling paints a clear picture, but is just one of many data points that are problematic for Trump, including:

·        Trump continues to have a relatively low approval rating, right now at 42%.  Only George W. Bush won re-election with an approval rating of less than 50%, and he was at 48%, which is meaningfully higher than 42%.

·        As mentioned, the low – and declining -- assessment of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, with only 39% approving and 58% disapproving, according to fivethirtyeight.com.  Both figures steadily moved in the wrong direction for Trump since March 25th, when Trump was a net positive on this measure at 50/46.  Thus the “net approval” has degraded from +4 to -21.

·        The shattering of Trump’s “trump card,” the healthy state of the economy, by the pandemic – and the potential for the “recovery” being halted by new surges and pullbacks on the re-openings.  Unemployment remains just over 10% and the second quarter GDP declined by just under 10%.

·        The generic ballot, which consistently shows the Democrats ahead of the GOP by 6-10 points, on average about +8 of late.

The factors all corroborate the swing state polling, and confirm that our odds assessment is not out of line with reality.

% Odds of Winning
Biden
81%

WARNING:  No matter how good the numbers look at any given time, the Democrats will not win any election, and especially the presidential election, unless they work hard to earn it – registering voters, calling, texting, donating – all through the summer and fall, up to and including Election Day.

Here is a chart that provides detail on each of the 56 voting entities, the 50 states, District of Columbia, three Nebraska districts and two Maine districts.  The “swing entities” are sandwiched between the two thick blank lines in the chart.

States
2020 Electoral Votes
Past Election Results (Margin D - R)
Swing State Poll Avg
BTRTN Rating
2000
2004
2008
2012
2016
DC
3
76
80
86
84
89

D Solid
HAW
4
18
9
45
43
32

D Solid
CAL
55
12
10
24
21
30

D Solid
VT
3
10
20
37
36
29

D Solid
MASS
11
27
25
26
23
27

D Solid
MD
10
16
13
25
25
25

D Solid
NY
29
25
18
27
27
21

D Solid
WASH
12
6
7
17
14
18

D Solid
ILL
20
12
10
25
16
16

D Solid
RI
4
29
21
28
27
16

D Solid
ME 1
1
8
12
23
22
15

D Solid
CT
7
18
10
22
18
13

D Solid
NJ
14
16
7
16
17
13

D Solid
DEL
3
13
8
25
19
12

D Solid
ORE
7
0.4
4
16
12
11

D Solid
NM
5
0.1
-1
15
10
8

D Solid
VA
13
-8
-8
6
3
5

D Solid
COL
9
-8
-5
9
5
5

D Solid









NH
4
-1
1
10
6
0.3
Biden +11
D Likely
MAINE
2
5
9
17
15
3
Biden +9
D Likely
NEV
6
-4
-3
13
7
2
Biden +4
D Lean
MINN
10
2
3
10
8
2
Biden +5
D Lean
MICH
16
5
3
16
10
-0.2
Biden +7
D Lean
PA
20
4
3
10
5
-0.7
Biden +6
D Lean
WIS
10
0.2
0.4
14
7
-0.8
Biden +6
D Lean
FLA
29
0.0
-5
3
1
-1.2
Biden +6
D TU
ARIZ
11
-6
-10
-9
-11
-4
Biden +3
D TU
NC
15
-13
-12
0.3
-2
-4
Biden +1
D TU
OHIO
18
-4
-2
5
2
-11
Biden +2
R TU
GA
16
-12
-17
-5
-8
-5
Tie
R TU
ME 2
1
1
6
12
9
-10
Tie
R TU
IOWA
6
0.3
-1
10
6
-9
Trump +2
R TU
TX
38
-21
-23
-12
-16
-9
Trump +2
R TU
NEB 2
1
-18
-22
1
-7
-2
n/a
R TU









SC
9
-16
-17
-9
-11
-14

R Solid
ALASK
3
-31
-26
-22
-13
-15

R Solid
MISSP
6
-17
-20
-13
-12
-19

R Solid
UTAH
6
-41
-46
-28
-48
-19

R Solid
IND
11
-16
-21
1
-11
-19

R Solid
MO
10
-3
-7
-0.1
-10
-19

R Solid
LA
8
-8
-15
-19
-17
-20

R Solid
MON
3
-25
-21
-2
-14
-21

R Solid
KAN
6
-21
-25
-15
-22
-21

R Solid
TENN
11
-4
-14
-15
-21
-26

R Solid
NEB 1
1
-23
-27
-10
-16
-22

R Solid
NEB 3
1
-46
-51
-39
-42
-55

R Solid
NEB
2
-29
-33
-15
-23
-26

R Solid
ARK
6
-5
-10
-20
-24
-27

R Solid
ALAB
9
-15
-26
-22
-22
-28

R Solid
KY
8
-15
-20
-16
-23
-30

R Solid
SD
3
-23
-22
-8
-18
-30

R Solid
IDAHO
4
-41
-38
-25
-32
-32

R Solid
ND
3
-28
-27
-10
-20
-36

R Solid
OKL
7
-22
-31
-31
-34
-36

R Solid
WV
5
-6
-13
-13
-27
-42

R Solid
WYO
3
-41
-40
-32
-41
-48

R Solid