Too Late For The GOP
A Special Sunday Newsletter
Welcome to the Countdown Journal. There are 16 days to go until Election Day , and then 78 days until the Inauguration.
Graham, McSally and McConnell stood by and now are paying the price. (Getty Images)
There’s a lot of buzz about the newfound eagerness of some GOP senators to distance themselves from Trump as he slouches toward defeat. But, actually, with the exception of Ben Sasse, there is precious little evidence that they are really breaking with the Orange God King in any meaningful way.
Because they can’t. It’s too late for them to take an off-ramp now.
My latest in the New York Daily News:
For better or worse, they are stuck with the die they cast long ago, to let themselves become Trumpian lickspittles. The bill for their Faustian bargain has come due.
Over the last four years, they ignored one chance after another to take an off-ramp from Trump. And while they might now boast about driving on his highway at 55 rather than 65, they’re driving on it nonetheless….
Frightened by the prospect of a presidential tweet, they ignored his crude xenophobia, his exploitation of racial divisions, his personal corruption, and his fascination with authoritarian thugs.
They could have said “stop” at any point. They could have raised their voices and used their votes to rebuff him. But they didn’t.
They told themselves that judges or tax cuts made it all worthwhile. They told themselves that this is what the GOP base wanted.
So they didn’t push back as a torrent of falsehoods flowed from the White House, or even when he targeted their own Senate colleagues with insults.
They watched impotently as Trump attacked and betrayed our allies and threatened to withdraw from NATO. They could have bailed when he downplayed the Russian attack on our elections, or when he sided with Vladimir Putin rather than our own intelligence agencies in Helsinki.
GOP senators had a chance to take an off-ramp when Trump fired the FBI director, or referred to immigrants from “shithole countries,” or when he praised the racist protesters in Charlottesville as including “very fine people.”
On October 2017, Jeff Flake tried to prick their consciences. Speaking on the floor of the Senate, the Arizonan made a plea for a return to decency.
“We must never regard as normal the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals,” he said. “We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country. The personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms and institution, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency.”
Rather than join in an awakening, not a single one of his colleagues joined Flake. Instead, they watched his Putinesque political defenestration and cowered in fear that they would share his fate.
Last fall, Trump critic Sasse, who many conservatives considered a bright light of the Senate, made his peace with Trump in exchange for the president’s support for his re-election.
“For Sasse,” wrote The Washington Post’s James Hohmann, “the past several months have represented something akin to surrender in the war for the soul of modern conservatism.”
If only Sasse’s surrender were an outlier. For Republicans, that has been the story of the last four years.
They continued to support Trump even when they saw families being separated at the border and kids in cages. They remained loyal when he helped the Saudis cover up the murder of a Washington Post journalist, and when it was revealed that he had called American soldiers “suckers and losers.”
They could have spoken out when he spread baseless conspiracy theories, or when he obstructed justice by dangling or giving pardons….
Heads up for later this afternoon:
If you’d like to chat, the call in number for listeners is 646-435-7280.
On Friday, Wisconsin set a new record for new coronavirus cases. On Saturday, Trump held a rally here.
JANESVILLE - President Donald Trump packed thousands together for a re-election rally Saturday, arguing that his own recovery proved the response to COVID-19 was working and claiming the pandemic was "rounding the corner" in a state setting records daily for new cases.
The president didn't mention that Wisconsin is grappling with one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the country, with nearly 4,000 new cases reported just on Friday and a surge of infections that has pushed state officials to open a field hospital to give relief to hospitals in the northeastern part of the state.
As of Friday, more than 8.1 million Americans have been infected and more than 219,000 have died from the coronavirus.
Despite the worsening situation in Wisconsin, attendees of Trump's rally were neither required to wear masks nor stay distant from each other.
They were given temperature checks and provided masks if they didn't have them. Signs at the gate asked people to wear masks. Some followed that suggestion, some didn’t, and some left their masks dangling at their chins, leaving their mouths and noses exposed.
“This entire pandemic is a hoax," Brandon Rice of Eau Claire said as he waited in line "I think it was done to make him look bad. It’s fake news."
“I refuse to wear a mask," Rice said. When asked why, he said, "Because I'm not a sheep and I’m not scared. It's their way to get control over us.”
With a little more than two weeks to go, the FiveThirtyEight model gives Biden an 87% chance to win. The same model gives the Democrats a 73% chance to win control of the U.S. Senate. The RealClearPolitics average has Biden up by 8.9 points. The Economist election model gives Biden a 91 percent chance of winning the electoral college.
Over the weekend, you may have seen some polls that looked relatively good for Trump, but the folks at the NYT’s Upshot put them in perspective.
A better day for President Trump? An even race in Florida? Up one in Michigan? Down just five in Pennsylvania? Those are poll results President Trump would be thrilled to have right now, as most polls show him at a significant disadvantage nationwide and in the critical battleground states. But for the most part, these aren’t a relatively favorable set of poll results for him — they’re simply results from a relatively favorable set of polling firms.
Trafalgar Group showed Mr. Trump up by one point in Michigan, but Trafalgar lands pretty consistently about six points to the right of the national average. It’s the clearest partisan tilt of any polling firm this cycle.
HarrisX doesn’t lean quite as far to the right as Trafalgar, but it has been about four points to the right of the national average since the first debate. Over that period, it has had two national polls showing Joe Biden up just five and seven points. In that context, its polls showing Mr. Biden up by 11 in Michigan, five in Pennsylvania and tied in Florida seem pretty standard — and that Michigan result would be great for Mr. Biden by any standard.
Even if they were accurate. Just pretend for a second that these better polls for the president were dead-on. Even then, Mr. Biden is ahead.
But, but, but…
Trump’s October surprise is a dud. “On Wednesday, The New York Post published a bombshell. ‘Smoking-gun’ emails, they called it.. From Hunter Biden! Supposedly implicating his father, Democratic nominee Joe Biden!” Writes Nicholas Grossman:
The story smelled from the start and unraveled quickly. It began with a false premise, presenting then-Vice President Biden’s effort to oust a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor as personal, when he actually acted on behalf of the Obama administration with support from Congressional Republicans and the European Union. The article’s source was Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who was not-coincidentally part of the scheme to extort the president of Ukraine into manufacturing an investigation of the Bidens, which got Trump impeached. The Post also gave Trump’s 2016 campaign chair Steve Bannon, who was recently indicted for fraud, a hat tip for alerting them to the emails’ existence.
Rudy’s story of how he got these emails is laughable, and he’s already changed it once. The Wall Street Journal’s Kevin Poulson pointed out that, according to metadata, the PDF files Rudy gave The Post were created over a year ago. It’s not clear if the emails were stolen or fabricated — maybe some of both — but even if they’re real, they show nothing more than a Ukrainian businessman thanking Hunter for introducing him to Joe. The New York Times and Washington Post both reported that U.S. intelligence warned the White House last year that Russian intelligence was trying to use Giuliani as a conduit for influence operations, and had met with him in December 2019 when Rudy traveled to Ukraine looking for information that could tie the Bidens to corruption.
The failed Hunter smear is just the latest Trumpian gambit to fail. “With COVID spreading and the economy weak, Trump can’t run on his record. The socialism attack fizzled after Democrats picked Biden over Bernie Sanders. The ‘law and order’ pitch, emphasized during and after the August convention, didn’t catch on. Attacks on Biden’s age and mental capacity backfired, setting expectations he easily clears.”
So, he was left with one last Hail Mary slime job.
Donald Trump knows, perhaps better than anyone, that good personal attacks take time. You have to lay the groundwork, hint at it, ask some insinuating questions, get media talking about it — even if just to cover the controversy — and repeat it a lot for supporters. He did that with Hunter, but the manufactured corruption accusation isn’t sticking, leaving Republicans with little more than salacious pictures of Hunter on drugs and emails of Joe expressing love and support.
Addiction-shaming Joe Biden’s son probably won’t be enough to distract from the election’s other considerations. And there isn’t enough time for anything else.
Not normal. This may take some time to read and absorb, but today’s Wapo compiles all of the norms that Trump has shattered during his presidency. There are thousands of entries. You may need a magnifying glass.
This is not normal. Part 2.
This is dangerous.
How is this working out for him in Michigan?
The empathy gap. Totally not surprising.
This is amazing.
Even a few months ago, you could never have imagined that this would be happening in the campaign in late October. Via the NYT:
President Trump is being vastly outspent by Joseph R. Biden Jr. in television advertising in the general election battleground states and elsewhere, with the former vice president focusing overwhelmingly on the coronavirus as millions of Americans across the country begin casting early votes.
Mr. Biden has maintained a nearly 2-to-1 advantage on the airwaves for months. His dominance is most pronounced in three critical swing states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — where he spent about $53 million to Mr. Trump’s $17 million over the past month largely on ads assailing the president’s handling of the virus as well as the economy and taxes, according to data from Advertising Analytics, an ad tracking firm.
Wait. It gets worse for the GOP. Via the Wapo:
Money isn’t everything in politics, but to the extent that it reflects momentum and enthusiasm, Democrats got another shot in the arm with a little more than two weeks left in the campaign.
The Democrats’ dominance in third-quarter fundraising is virtually unprecedented. It was led by South Carolina’s Jaime Harrison ($57 million), Maine’s Sara Gideon ($39.4 million) and Arizona’s Mark Kelly ($38.8 million), all of whom eclipsed O’Rourke’s record from just two years prior.
There are 16 days to go.