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VIDEOS

These Trump voters explain why they finally turned on him — and will now vote for Biden

With the presidential election only two weeks away, the media will be paying close attention to what swing voters have to say. Daniel Marans, a HuffPost reporter, spoke to two swing voters in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania who favored President Donald Trump in 2016 but are voting for former Vice President Joe Biden this year — and Marans asked them why they are rejecting the president now.

Michael Scott, a chef, and food service worker Lee Kuczynski went from voting for President Barack Obama to supporting Trump four years ago. When Marans asked them why they "switched" to Biden, Kuczynski replied that Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic "turned me off." Kuczynski, pointing to the protective face mask she was wearing, noted that wearing a mask is one of the most important things Americans can do during the pandemic — and Trump, she lamented, "is not for it."

Another factor, Kuczynski told Marans, was "the way [Trump] talks about our military." And Scott agreed with her reasons for supporting Biden.

When Marans asked Kuczynski what she thought of Biden "as a person," she responded, "Compassionate. Very compassionate. I think he's a people person. I think he's here for us."

Marans also asked Kuczynski what she "saw in Trump the first time," and the Pennsylvania voter explained, "I felt that he was something new. He was a businessman. And if a businessman can run a business, why can't he run our government?"

But now, Kuczynski believes that voting for Trump in 2016 "was a big mistake."

Kuczynski also cited Biden's support for universal health care and protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions as one of her reasons for supporting Biden. The voter told Marans, "I'm a diabetic. I have high blood pressure. And now, I'm dealing with the coronavirus. And I pay for my health care through where I work, and it's not cheap. It's very expensive."

Watch the clip below:

news & politics

This polling expert saw warning signs for Clinton in 2016 — now he sees few hints of hope for Trump

Dave Wasserman, a polling expert with the Cook Political Report, closely watches polling at the district level in the United States. And in 2016, he saw signs in the data that Donald Trump was performing better than many expected in areas like New York's 22nd District — where Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were tied in 2012. Those warnings turned out to be prescient when Trump eked out a narrow win in three key swing states while losing in the popular vote.

Now, though, Wasserman has said he sees little sign of hope for Trump's re-election, even as Democrats continue to fear that former Vice President Joe Biden's polling lead will evaporate in the coming days:

An important point about his claims is that Wasserman, a nonpartisan analyst, is privy to a lot of information that isn't publicly available. While there's a lot of public national and state-level polling, district-level polls are harder to come by. Many pollsters keep this info private, though they will share it with people like Wasserman. This data can give a closer glimpse into trends and demographic changes in the electorate that other polls may be missing.

But according to Wasserman, this data should give Trump no solace. It's consistent with Biden's estimated 10-point lead in the FiveThirtyEight national polling average. He explained his findings in an interview with Greg Sargent of the Washington Post.

"In 2016, district-level polling in late October showed flashing red warning signs for Clinton in districts dominated by White non-college voters," he said. "It wasn't being detected so much in state-level polling, because the state polling chronically under-sampled those voters."

But in 2020, Wasserman is seeing a consistent pattern, and it's not good for Trump.

"Trump is underperforming his 2016 margins by eight to 10 points in most competitive districts. If Trump won a district by three last time, he's probably losing it by six this time. It's a pretty consistent pattern," he explained.

There are some exceptions and variations, but overall, it's a brutal picture for the president. He won by the skin of his teeth in 2016 — and he is dramatically underperforming that race.

Trump is doing worst in "upscale suburbs," Wasserman explained, while he has improved somewhat in his support in some Latino communities. Biden is doing better than Clinton did in districts that are predominately populated by "blue-collar Whites," though not as well as the Obama-Biden ticket did in 2012.

But Biden is improving most in areas dominated by college-educated white people, and that demographic may well be decisive on Nov. 3. It also means Trump has a difficult path forward to claw back from the hole he's in.

"Trump needs to boost turnout of non-college Whites by five points nationally, just to offset their declining share of the population since 2016. But he also needs to increase the share of those voters he's winning," said Wasserman. "Trump's gains among non-Whites can only get him so far, because there's really not much of a Hispanic vote in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. So he's got to solve this riddle with both persuasion and turnout. He needs to persuade more White voters — both college and non-college — to stick with him. And he really needs to boost non-college White turnout."

It's not impossible that Trump could pull it off, but it's hard to see it happening.

election '20

National Democratic super PAC says it will double its spending to $12 million in battle for the Texas House

"National Democratic super PAC says it will double its spending to $12 million in battle for the Texas House" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

The national Democratic super PAC Forward Majority is doubling its spending to flip the Texas House, bringing its commitment to over $12 million.

The political action committee said in early September that it would drop $6.2 million to help Democrats capture the majority. But in an announcement first shared with The Texas Tribune, Forward Majority said it is now surging its spending to keep up with Republicans in the homestretch of the fight to control the lower chamber ahead of the 2021 redistricting process.

The Republican State Leadership Committee, the chief national GOP group focused on state legislative races, had vowed to top Forward Majority's initial $6.2 million investment, and it raised $5.3 million into a Texas-based account between July 1 and late September. Of that haul, $4.5 million came via GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam.

"The RSLC and Karl Rove aren't going to call the shots in Texas in this election," Forward Majority spokesperson Ben Wexler-Waite said in a statement, alluding to both the national GOP outfit and a state-level PAC with which Rove, the famous party strategist, is working. "Republicans are hemorrhaging millions on Texas state house races because they know their majority is in grave jeopardy and that this is the most important state in the country for redistricting."

Democrats are nine seats away from the majority, and they also have to defend the 12 seats they picked up in 2018. Forward Majority has been exclusively on offense, targeting its original $6.2 million effort at 18 Republican-held seats.

Forward Majority said its spending surge was prompted by millions of dollars in TV ad buys by Republicans in some of the most competitive districts, such as those of Republican Reps. Jeff Leach of Plano, Angie Chen Button of Richardson, Morgan Meyer of Dallas and Sarah Davis of Houston. In two of those districts — Meyer's and Davis' — Forward Majority is teaming up with Everytown for Gun Safety, the national anti-gun violence group, to try to counter increased GOP ad spending.

The ramped-up spending plan by Forward Majority reflects just how fiercely competitive the fight for the majority has become. While Democrats had plenty to boast about on the latest campaign finance reports, Republicans in general had more money to spend heading into late September, and they are getting seven-figure aid in the final weeks from not just the RSLC but also Gov. Greg Abbott's campaign.

"We've long seen several paths to flipping the Texas House and we will continue to do everything we can to ensure Democratic legislative candidates aren't drowned out by millions in special interest money," Wexler-Waite said.

Disclosure: Everytown for Gun Safety has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2020/10/20/texas-house-super-pac/.

The Texas Tribune is proud to celebrate 10 years of exceptional journalism for an exceptional state. Explore the next 10 years with us.

economy

Economist Paul Krugman: Biden needs to ‘go big on stimulus right away’ if he wins

With the 2020 presidential election only two weeks away, Paul Krugman is among the many blistering critics of President Donald Trump who is hoping that former Vice President Joe Biden will be victorious on Tuesday, November 3. And the liberal economist/New York Times columnist, in an October 20 Twitter thread, stresses that if Biden wins, he needs to "go big on stimulus right away."

Krugman opens his thread by linking to a New York Times article by author Neil Irwin, who also covers economic issues for the Times. Irwin, in his October 19 piece, warns that whoever is inaugurated on January 20 — whether Biden wins or Trump is reelected — will face an "economic mess." And Irwin encourages an aggressive economic stimulus program.

Krugman, similarly, has been stressing that because the coronavirus pandemic has taken a brutal toll on the U.S. economy, more stimulus is needed — not less. And Krugman recalls that back in 2009, during the Great Recession, he urged President Barack Obama to ignore Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other Republicans in Congress who were discouraging stimulus.

Krugman recalls that back in 2009, he wrote, "I see the following scenario: a weak stimulus plan, perhaps even weaker than what we're talking about now, is crafted to win those extra GOP votes…. And then, Mitch McConnell says, 'See, government spending doesn't work.' Let's hope I've got this wrong."

Eleven years later, Krugman tweets, "Back in 2009, I was tearing my hair out, warning about exactly the scenario that in fact played out."

Krugman concludes his thread by stressing that Obama shouldn't have listened to Republicans in Congress who, in 2009, discouraged a strong economic stimulus plan — and that if Biden wins in November, he needs to make stimulus a top priority regardless of what Republicans say.

"I think the Biden team has learned that lesson," Krugman writes. "But I do worry that some of his advisers will urge caution, when that's exactly the wrong approach to take."

culture

How toxic masculinity became a threat to public health

As if the first two waves of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States weren't enough to inspire serious political changes to stop the coronavirus, health experts have sounded the alarm that a third wave is underway. Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are rising across the nation, specifically in the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Montana, as the seasons change and the election nears.

It's certainly taken a lot of resilience and strength to persevere through this pandemic — particularly given the backdrop of political chaos, uncertainty and immense change in our daily lives. Yet perhaps it is this attitude of "staying strong," and acting stoically — which is rooted in a culture that favors and thrives off toxic masculinity — that has hurt and continues to hurt us the most.

Toxic masculinity, which has become a household phrase over the last few years, is when the archetypal image of masculinity, like displaying strength, becomes harmful to oneself. In 2005, in a study of men in prison, psychiatrist Terry Kupers defined toxic masculinity as "the constellation of socially regressive male traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia, and wanton violence." The phrase is used to describe the issues men face or sometimes, wrongfully, justify them. Certainly, in a patriarchal society, toxic masculinity not only defines people but politics — as its mores trickle into our entertainment, discourse and politics.

Notably, the pandemic response is being led by the most psychologically compromised, toxic men in America. As I wrote last weekend, President Donald Trump's insistence on depicting himself as so strong as to be able to "work through" his COVID-19 illness is deeply harmful, and apt to put Americans' lives at risk who mimic his behavior — either by working while sick or hiding symptoms.

Meanwhile, Trump's re-election campaign has tried to frame Trump as a "warrior" — masculine, strong and void of emotion. The administration's individualistic, pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps rhetoric personifies toxic masculinity, and trickles down to Trump's underlings, too. In June, Vice President Mike Pence wrote an op-ed essay in The Wall Street Journal claiming there was no second wave of COVID-19, despite all the evidence to the contrary. "We are winning the fight against the invisible enemy," Pence wrote then, adding "our greatest strength is the resilience of the American people."

Yet as psychologists will warn, there is a dark side to resilience.

"There is no doubt that resilience is a useful and highly adaptive trait, especially in the face of traumatic events," psychologists Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Derek Lusk wrote in Harvard Business Review. "However, when taken too far, it may focus individuals on impossible goals and make them unnecessarily tolerant of unpleasant or counterproductive circumstances." In other words, self-sufficiency is not always a show of strength; humans, as social creatures, rely on others for society to function and to remain healthy. Denying that means hurting ourselves, either by delaying care or eschewing guidance that may help us or save others.

I've often wondered how much my so-called "resilience" in all of this is just making me numb and tolerant, in an unhealthy way. When looking at which countries have the pandemic somewhat under control, we look and judge their leaders. It's interesting to do this through a gendered lens. For example, New Zealand has some of the lowest coronavirus numbers in the world under Prime Minister Jacinda Adern's leadership. That's partly because she never advertised grandiose ideas about being above or stronger than the coronavirus. As I've previously written, the strengths—such as empathy and compassion— Ardern has brought throughout her tenure are the very same traits that have been used against women seeking leadership positions in the workplace and in the public sector. When male leaders display traditionally feminine qualities, they can also be maligned as weak — former House Speaker John Boehner, for example, used to shed tears in public; Politico's response was to ask, "Why Does John Boehner Cry So Much?"

It's obvious the Trump administration is terrified of appearing "weak" during the pandemic. But where has that gotten us? Prioritizing the economy over our health. Over 8 million infections, and 218,000 Americans dead. And the politicizing of wearing masks, as though wearing them were a sign of weakness — something Trump mocked his opponent Joe Biden for at their first and so far only debate.

As much as toxic masculinity's social repercussion are harmful to our physical health, it is also taking a toll on our mental health. A study published in JAMA Network Open in September showed that three times as many Americans met criteria for a depression diagnosis during the pandemic compared to before it. According to an analysis of Google Trends, symptoms of anxiety increased too.

Why? In part, it could be a result of having to power through these extraordinarily abnormal times without seeking help — that "bootstraps" mentality innate to toxic masculinity. One's attempts to hold it together can devolve into emotional suppression, which in return can cause more emotional distress. In July 2018, Penn State researchers found that women tried to suppress their fears about the Zika virus reported higher levels of fear later. "It turns out that not only is suppression ineffective at handling fear, but it's counter-productive," one researcher said. "It creates a cycle of fear — and it's a vicious cycle."

As a society, many of us — particularly men — haven't been authorized to express sadness publicly, and these studies reflect that. With over 200,000 Americans dead of coronavirus, their loved ones are grieving. Seven months later, we've yet to have a moment of national reflection to mourn.

As it is with the death of a loved one, grief isn't lessened by ignoring one's uncomfortable emotions. Instead, it requires collective vulnerability, compassion and patience. As author David Kessler told HBR:

Emotions need motion. It's important we acknowledge what we go through. [...] We tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn't feel that; other people have it worse. We can — we should — stop at the first feeling. I feel sad. Let me go for five minutes to feel sad. Your work is to feel your sadness and fear and anger whether or not someone else is feeling something. Fighting it doesn't help because your body is producing the feeling. If we allow the feelings to happen, they'll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. Then we're not victims.

As we try to stay strong through this pandemic, the strength we seek to feel will come from falling apart and allowing ourselves to feel the loss and the chaos—physically and emotionally. By persevering through that, still standing in so much unknown, we can experience real strength. In other words, the non-toxic kind.

science

A physics Nobelist has an odd theory about black holes and the universe. Here's the evidence for it

University of Oxford mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose won a Nobel Prize earlier this month for a lifetime of work studying black holes, singularities from which not even light can escape. Yet he is also behind a provocative and controversial theory about the formation of the universe — namely, that the Big Bang did not mark the beginning of the universe as we know it, but merely started the next iteration of our universe. In his theory, known as conformal cyclic cosmology, our current conception of the universe is merely one of a series of infinite universes that came before it and which will come after, too.

Cosmology, of course, is full of theories of assorted degrees of harebrainedness, and many of the most famous ones — such as string theory — lack any observational evidence. But Penrose's prediction is different, as there is some evidence in observations of the cosmic background radiation — meaning the average background temperature of the entire night sky, in which one can see remnant heat from the Big Bang and differentiate bright patches in the sky. As pictured in the featured photo on this story, some of those "bright spots" could be, as Penrose believes, radiation emanations from ancient black holes that predate this universe.

"The idea of Roger's 'conformal cyclic cosmology' [CCC], is based on three facts," Pawel Nurowski, a scientist at the Center for Theoretical Physics at the Polish Academy of Sciences, explained to Salon by email.

"The idea of Roger's 'conformal cyclic cosmology' [CCC], is based on three facts," Pawel Nurowski, a scientist at the Center for Theoretical Physics at the Polish Academy of Sciences, explained to Salon by email. Specifically, Nurowski says, in order for Penrose's theory to make sense, one would have to observe a universe that has a positive cosmological constant (meaning the mysterious, constant repulsive force that pushes everything in the universe which is not gravitationally bound away from everything else), as well as a universe that would look similar at its end as it did in its beginning. Observations of our universe suggest that it will end in a disordered, empty state, with all matter converted to stray photons that never interact with each other.

Nurowski concluded, "We believe that every possible universe will have all these three features," that "we have an infinite sequence of universes (eons)" and that "Penrose considers this sequence of conformally glued eons as the full physical Universe."

"In this picture, our standard cosmology Universe is only one of the eons," Nurowski added. "So the main difference between 'conformal cyclic cosmology' and the standard cosmology is that our Universe is only a part of Penrose's universe," whereas adherents to the traditional idea of a Big Bang believe that that specific event began our current universe.

This brings us to the recent discovery that may support Penrose's CCC hypothesis. According to a paper co-authored by Penrose, Nurowski and two other scientists, unexpected hot spots that have been discovered in the cosmic microwave background of the universe suggest that there are "anomalous regions," perhaps enormous black holes left over from previous universes that have yet to decay. These regions are known as "Hawking Points," after Stephen Hawking, who first came up with the theory that black holes would very slowly decay over unimaginably long timescales, emitting what is called Hawking radiation in his honor. The discovery of these Hawking points suggests that Penrose's cosmological model is accurate.

"The existence of such anomalous regions, resulting from point-like sources at the conformally stretched-out big bang, is a predicted consequence of conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC)," the paper explains, adding that these so-called Hawking points would be caused by radiation emanating from "supermassive black holes in a cosmic aeon prior to our own."

It must be emphasized that Penrose's Nobel Prize was not awarded because of his theory of a conformal cyclical cosmology. Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb clarified in an email to Salon: "In 1939, Albert Einstein wrote a paper in Annals of Mathematics doubting that black holes exist in nature. Roger Penrose demonstrated that black holes are a robust prediction of Einstein's general theory of relativity and in doing so invented a new mathematical tool to depict spacetimes, called Penrose diagrams."

Loeb added, "He also showed that it is possible to extract energy from a spinning black hole as if it was a flywheel, through the so-called Penrose Process."

Loeb says that Penrose's belief that the hot spots prove that the black holes in question came from previous universes is controversial.

"The particular theory advocated by Penrose, Conformal Cyclic Cosmology, asserts that the Big Bang expansion repeats in succession of cycles of expansion, implying that one can see through our current Big Bang into past Big Bangs, giving rise to patterns in cosmic microwave background," Loeb explained. "Penrose made the controversial claim that such patterns are seen in data, but it was shown by others that the patterns he identified are not statistically significant.... and so his claim is controversial."

There are skeptics in the astrophysics community. Ethan Siegel, an astrophysicist who pens a science blog that is published in Forbes magazine, was very critical of Penrose's theory. Last week, he penned an article titled "No, Roger Penrose, We See No Evidence Of A 'Universe Before The Big Bang.'"

"The predictions that [Penrose] has made are refuted by the data, and his claims to see these effects are only reproducible if one analyzes the data in a scientifically unsound and illegitimate fashion," Dr. Siegel wrote. "Hundreds of scientists have pointed this out to Penrose — repeatedly and consistently over a period of more than 10 years — who continues to ignore the field and plow ahead with his contentions."

Nurowski and Loeb both pushed back against Siegel's claims.

"The person that wrote this article seems to never read our recent Monthly Notices paper," Nurowski wrote to Salon, linking to he and Penrose's article showing evidence for Hawking points. "[Siegel] also seems not to read our three other papers. He gives a quote of a picture from an old paper with Penrose and Gurzadyan. He has not a single argument against our newest MNRAS [Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society] paper.... I stress that the statistical analysis in our paper is at the highest astronomical standards."

He added, "I am happy to answer any critics, provided that I hear a single argument against this what we have written, and not the repetition of this what the standard cosmology says. Either we are talking about facts or beliefs. Our paper is about facts. But to talk about them, one has to read the paper first."

Loeb seemed to echo this view, despite his own skepticism about CCC.

"My problem with Penrose's theory is that it is not fully worked out and that there is no statistically irrefutable evidence to support the patterns that he claims to have identified in the cosmic microwave background, but we should remain open minded to new ideas on what preceded the Big Bang," Loeb explained. "This is the story of where we came from, our cosmic roots. The simple picture we have now is clearly incomplete and requires more scientific work. Not more bullying of any new idea."

belief

Attacking COVID, not religion: New York City, state have the right approach

The two Brooklyn federal judges who reviewed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new temporary COVID restrictions in stretches of that borough and Queens both rightly decided that the rules do not unfairly intrude on religion. The lawsuits seeking to set aside the 10-person cap on worship services, one brought by Orthodox Jews and the other by Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, were properly denied by Judges Kiyo Matsumoto and Eric Komitee.Matsumoto noted, in fact, that Cuomo gave extra latitude to faith, as nonessential gatherings of any size are banned entirely. However, still undefined is what com...

human rights

Trump expresses all his pent-up contempt for women in two words to NBC's Savannah Guthrie

The takeaway from Trump's self-immolation at his Town Hall on Thursday can be found exactly at the 1:57 mark in the video above, when he sarcastically expresses his contempt for moderator Savannah Guthrie, who has clearly gotten under his skin. He mutters it, underneath his breath, and you could be forgiven for missing it, but for a fleeting second we get a glimpse of all the animosity, all the malice, all the narcissism, all the misogyny and contempt this man feels towards women. You can just hear it in his voice:

"Ha Ha. So cute."

From The Independent:

The president and the Ms Guthrie exchanged barbs during a heated opening to the NBC event.
Mr Trump even sarcastically told the TV host "so cute" when she pressed him to denounce QAnon's wild conspiracy theories.

From the New York Times:

"Why aren't you asking Joe Biden questions about why doesn't he condemn antifa?" Mr. Trump asked her.
"Because you're here," she said, matter-of-factly.
"So cute," Mr. Trump responded, in a condescending tone that was unlikely to endear him to the suburban women voters he has been trying to win back.

x

I think the suburban women will love Trump telling Savannah Guthrie sarcastically that she is "so cute."
— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) October 16, 2020

And one other note; As of 9:55 EST, nearly a half hour after his own town hall ended, Joe Biden is still there, answering voters' questions.

more news

Cash-strapped Trump campaign in danger of having lawsuits thrown out over unpaid legal bills: report

According to a report from Politico, Donald Trump's cash-strapped campaign is frantically attempting to collect settlements in legal disputes because it needs the money to fund other lawsuits that are in danger of being dismissed.

Noting that the campaign of the embattled president is pressing Omarosa Manigault Newman to make a delinquent $52,000 payment for writing an unauthorized book about White House doings, the report explains the money is desperately needed.

According to the report, the campaign is currently engaged in a "flurry of legal actions" in the days before the election which is an indication that money is tight.

Pointing out that Trump's people had previously pushed to collect $1 million from Manigault Newman, Politico reports the campaign is under the gun to keep itself funded.

"At one point, Trump's attorneys suggested Newman pay for a nearly $1 million ad campaign "to counteract the long-term adverse effects" of her remarks," the report states. "Yet the campaign has thus far stiffed the arbitrator assigned to mediate the case, according to a letter sent to the parties in the case. If Trump's attorneys don't pay the outstanding bill by next week, the case could be tossed out."

The Omarosa lawsuit is just the tip of the iceberg of lawsuits that the campaign is involved in with Politico reporting, "The campaign is helping fight accusations Trump harassed and sexually assaulted women. It's helping keep documents about his business deals hidden. Other cases are proactive, such as attempts to enforce nondisclosure agreements and to punish media companies the campaign accuses of defamation. And it is responding to lawsuits from people who say they were assaulted at Trump events, including one from a Missouri man who claimed he was arrested after laughing at a MAGA rally."

Those lawsuits won't go away after the election with one Washington attorney saying the president is facing massive legal bills.

"Even if he loses the election, very little actually ends once Trump leaves the White House in January 2021," explained Bradley Moss, a Washington lawyer who defended one of Trump's targets. "Litigation Trump has personally brought under his own name or through the campaign, whether it be protecting his tax returns or suing Omarosa, will continue for however long there is money to pay the lawyers."

According to the report, lawyers may be wary of continuing their representation of the president once he is out of office because of his extensive history of stiffing people he owes money to.

"Private contractors, bartenders, painters, real estate brokers and others have all claimed that Trump didn't adequately compensate them for their work before he was sworn into office. More recently, Trump has been accused of failing to pay local officials who provide thousands of dollars' in security assistance to the president's campaign during rallies," the report states before highlight the president's money woes with, "The Trump campaign's financial outlook is also faltering in the election's final weeks. Trump has fallen behind Biden on fundraising. In August, Democrats for the first time outraised Republicans by a staggering $154 million, eroding the president's longstanding cash-on-hand advantage. The pattern repeated itself in September, when Biden raised $383 million to Trump's $247.8 million."

You can read more here.

Trump is collapsing into a ball of self-absorbed spite and destruction

In the last weeks of the campaign, Donald Trump is collapsing in on himself. That's the story his campaign and White House team itself seems to want to push in the scurry to avoid blame themselves. On Sunday, a New York Times piece reported on gloom, grievance, and "backbiting" among Trump's staff as his reelection prospects dim, but more of note is the blame getting directed at the big orange hateburper himself.

"Among some of Mr. Trump's lieutenants," reports the Times, there is "a sense that the best they can do for the final stretch is to keep the president occupied, happy and off Twitter as much as possible, rather than producing a major shift in strategy."

Yes, it is truly a shocking development. In the last weeks of the campaign, Donald Trump is ignoring all advice, doubling down on his most hateful behaviors, and choosing closing themes based solely on his own obsessions, grievances, and malevolence. Whoever could have seen that coming? (Aside from everyone.)

The results speak for themselves—no, are so toxic that they are noticeable even to a four-year-flaccid national press. Trump's propensity to target women, select political enemies for demonization, and his renewed vigor in seemingly attempting to goad supporters into violent acts against them are becoming topics with more public weight than any campaign message the shouting twit threatens to stumble into in these last preelection days. It turns out that Donald Trump, left to himself with campaign staff abandoning any further pretense at controlling him, is hateful, spiteful, anti-democratic, misogynistic, openly racist, paranoid, and self-absorbed to the point of self-destruction.

If there's anyone who has survived through four full years of Trump's attentions and they didn't predict that, among his inner circle, they would have to be burrowed so far up his *** that they can peek out his nostrils.

The problem here is that Trump is only going to get worse in the next few weeks—no matter what. If polls continue to look bleak, his narcissistic bitterness will overwhelm him and his demands of his supporters will get even more extreme. His attacks on Democratic leaders that take pandemic precautions—which he considers to be personal attacks on himself and therefore illegitimate, whether the moves save American lives or not—have been getting more vigorous, but his inner circle continues to support those attacks wholeheartedly. He is already obsessing over the notion of invisible election "fraud" as means of delegitimizing the results—as a malignant narcissist, he will adopt whatever delusion is necessary to protect himself from the notion that his own actions are responsible for his failures, as opposed to widespread conspiracy against him.

And if he wins? God help us. A Trump fully untethered from ever having to face voters again, supported by an attorney general who has been so eagerly crooked in tilting the scales of justice that he may already rank as the worst in history, backed by a party fully purged of any but the most obscene lawmakers hailing from the most hard-right of gerrymandered districts; there would be no institutions left. No government scientists, no statistics gatherers, no oversight, no public services, nothing but a hierarchy of sycophants from Washington down to every office. His "conservative" team is turning the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention into a Trump-tailored propaganda shop during a worldwide pandemic. There's literally nothing left they would not be craven enough to do.

The good news is it looks like he's losing. Possibly even for real this time. The transparent Russian propaganda, though propped up this time by Republican senators and the clownish Rudy Giuliani, isn't motivating his hard-right base into nearly the froth against his male opponent that near-identical hokum spurred when directed at a woman. The Trump question of what do you have to lose has been clarified to all. The notion of choosing a reality show host as world leader does not have the same appeal as it once might have across generic American suburbia.

Trump's campaign and White House staff seem to know it. Last week saw a Washington Post report of the angst of Trump's phalanx of worst enablers as they fretted over possible career repercussions of 1) endlessly lying to the American people and 2) support a corrupt, cretinous toad of a man in 3) reforming the government into a white nationalist-premised, incompetent kleptocracy while destroying longstanding democratic institutions and premises. Consequences! Can you imagine there being consequences for such things? Truly, conservative pundits are beginning to stammer, it would be the end of democracy as we know it.

Lord help us, we are almost there. Only to Election Day, mind you: After that, even under the best-case scenario of American voters delivering a thumping to Trump so severe that not even his scandal-mongers can discredit the results, we still face an embittered Trump and Republican Party willing to dynamite the country into oblivion rather than let it pass unscathed into non-Republican hands.

For now, let's take some comfort in Dear Orange Leader apparently beginning to realize that he is in deep, deep trouble. Hopefully it will unhinge him mostly in ways that harm only himself and his malevolent aides, allies, and hangers-on. If we're lucky he'll demand William Barr arrest himself, or will turn on Rudy Giuliani for failing to sell the Moist Laptop Of Secret Crimes story with enough vim.

How Biden flubbed a key town hall foreign policy question

Toward the end of Joe Biden's October 15 town hall session, a Trump supporter asked Biden the only foreign policy question of the night. "So peace is breaking out all over the world," the questioner claimed. "Our troops are coming home. Serbia is talking to Kosovo. And the Arabs and Israelis are talking peace, which I believe is a modern-day miracle, what's going on. Does President Trump's foreign policy deserve some credit?"

This question encapsulated all the smoke and mirrors that Trump has used to confuse the public and obscure his broken promises to end America's wars, bring our troops home and build a more peaceful world. This was a fantastic opportunity for Biden to clarify the reality of Trump's abysmal record and explain what he would do instead. But he didn't. Instead he endorsed some of the most deceptive elements of Trump's propaganda, dropped some clangers of his own and, in a classic Freudian slip, laid bare his own enduring commitment to American imperialism.

In response to the questioner's designation of Israel's deal with the UAE and Bahrain as a "modern-day miracle," Biden simply rolled over and said, "I complement the president on the deal with Israel." What he should have said was something like this:

"The UAE and Bahrain are ruled by dictators with absolute, despotic power who represent neither their own people nor the Arab world, let alone the people of Palestine—who gained nothing from these deals. Since these countries were not at war with Israel to begin with, these accords have nothing to do with peace. They are more about flooding the Middle East with even more U.S. weapons and forming new military alliances against Iran. Yes, we need peace deals between Israel and its Arab neighbors, but they must be deals that truly bring peace, end Israel's illegal military occupations and advance the equal rights of Palestinians and Israelis."

Biden didn't respond to the mention of the White House meeting between Serbia and Kosovo, but he could have explained that it had to be postponed when President Hashim Thaci of Kosovo was indicted for war crimes by an international court at The Hague. Thaci is charged with organizing the killing of hundreds of Serbian prisoners of war to sell their internal organs on the international transplant market under cover of NATO bombing in 1999. When the indictment was unveiled in June 2020, Thaci was literally in his plane on the way to meet Serbian leaders at the White House, and had to make a U-turn over the Atlantic to return to Kosovo.

Twenty-one years after NATO dropped 23,000 bombs on Serbia and illegally annexed Kosovo, neither Serbia nor nearly half the countries in the world have recognized Kosovo's independence from Serbia. Biden could have pointed to this as a case study in why the U.S. must stop waging regime change wars, organizing coups in other countries, and installing CIA-backed gangsters and war criminals like Thaci to rule them.

As for the critically important statement by the town hall questioner that "Our troops are coming home," Biden claimed that there are more troops in Afghanistan now than when he and Obama left office. That appears to be incorrect, since there were 11,000 troops there in December 2016 and 8,600 U.S. troops as of September 22nd, despite the lack of confirmation from the Pentagon on further reductions that Trump had promised.

However, Biden could have simply compared the number of troops brought home by Obama and Trump, which would have been an impressive comparison. Obama reduced U.S. troop levels abroad from 483,670 in December 2008, just before he took office, to 275,850 by December 2016. If the latest figures from the Trump administration are correct, there are still over 238,000 U.S. military personnel overseas.

So Obama reduced the U.S.'s overseas military presence by 43%, while Trump has reduced it by no more than another 14%. With Trump claiming he is "bringing our troops home" in every stump speech, why on Earth is Biden not trumpeting the fact that he and Obama brought home five times more troops than Trump has? Why is Biden running from that record? Is he planning to reverse that trend if elected? Millions of American voters would like to know.

A disappointing aspect of Biden's response was his habitual readiness to take the low road, smearing China's President Xi Jinping, criticizing Trump for even trying to make peace with North Korea, and repeating an unsubstantiated story about Russia paying "bounties" to the Taliban for killing U.S. troops. A better response from Biden would have been to fault Trump for not following through on the peace initiative with North Korea and for stirring up new Cold Wars with Russia and China, when the American people want their leaders to focus on existing threats like the pandemic, our devastated economy and the climate crisis.But perhaps the most revealing moment of the evening was Biden's Freudian slip about the imperial character of America's relations with its allies and the rest of the world:

"You know, we've always ruled - (corrects himself) we've been most effective as a world leader, in my humble opinion - not just by the exercise of our power - we're the most powerful nation in the world - but the power of our example. That's what's led the rest of the world to follow us, on almost anything."

The U.S. did indeed rule an empire in the twentieth century, albeit a neocolonial empire in an anti-colonial and post-colonial world that had to be sustained by a whole web of myths and lies. But now we are standing at a crossroads in American and world history. America's history of war, militarism and international coercion has reached its final stage in the terminal decline of an increasingly corrupt and decadent American empire. Yet most of our leaders are still hell-bent on preserving America's imperial power at any cost: endless wars, climate catastrophe, mass extinctions, and the terrifying risk of a final, apocalyptic mass-casualty war—most likely a nuclear war.

But there is another path leading away from this crossroads, one that Joe Biden should embrace, which involves redirecting our country's resources and energies away from unsustainable imperial power through a peaceful transition to a sustainable, prosperous post-imperial future.

It would have been inspiring to hear Biden say that his goals would be to put an end to U.S. efforts at regime change; to significantly reduce the threat of nuclear war and join the UN Treaty on the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons; to free up hundreds of billions of dollars per year for domestic needs by right-sizing the Pentagon budget; and to put peaceful diplomacy front and center.

That would have been a paradigm-changing answer that would have motivated millions of Americans across the political spectrum—from leftists to anti-imperialist Republicans and libertarians—who long to live in a peaceful, just and sustainable world.

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace, is the author of the new book, Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Her previous books include: Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection; Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control; Don't Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart, and (with Jodie Evans) Stop the Next War Now (Inner Ocean Action Guide). Follow her on Twitter: @medeabenjamin

Nicolas J.S. Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. He also wrote the chapters on "Obama at War" in Grading the 44th President: a Report Card on Barack Obama's First Term as a Progressive Leader.

Trump's election plot is backfiring — but he still has one more shot to pull it off

Donald Trump's war on mail-in voting seems, like many of his schemes to steal the election, to be backfiring.

As much as he may publicly deny it, Trump knows he's unpopular and cannot win a free and fair election. So he has determined that the best way to hang onto power is to keep as many Americans from voting as possible. Since nearly the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has been waging war against mail-in ballots, which many millions of Americans are using this year in order to avoid crowded and unsafe polling places.

Trump has repeatedly and falsely declared, with the help of Attorney General Bill Barr and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, that such ballots are dangerous and fraudulent. He has threatened to use mail-in ballots as an excuse to reject the results of any election he loses. His postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, has been shamelessly taking measures to slow down delivery of the mail. And the Republicans, under Trump's leadership, have done everything in their power on the state level to keep as many ballots as possible from being cast and counted.

And yet, likely because of the very public nature of Trump's war on voting, the whole scheme seems to be backfiring. Since he isn't even hiding what he's doing, it's been easy for Democrats to communicate the importance of voting early, to protect votes from Trump's machinations, without facing a wall of skepticism from the usual suspects in the media.

The result is a wave of early voting unlike we've ever seen in the United States. As of Tuesday morning, over more than 31 million Americans have cast their ballots, which amounts to at least 20% of the expected vote total for this election. And that's with two weeks to go. Americans, or at least those Americans likely to vote for Democrats, clearly understand that Trump is trying to deny them their right to vote — and they're doing what they can to stop him.

Supporters of democracy secured another win late Monday, when the Supreme Court threw out a Republican challenge to Pennsylvania's decision to extend the deadline for ballots to be received up to three days after Election Day. That temporary measure was put in to deal with the pandemic and the expected surge of people voting by mail for the first time. Pennsylvania is a swing state that was crucial to Trump's Electoral College victory in 2016, so he's especially keen on suppressing Democratic votes in that state.

This is the second fight Republicans have lost in their efforts to prevent people from voting by mail in Pennsylvania. The Trump campaign also sued to keep the state from establishing drop boxes that allow voters to skip the Postal Service — and the slowed-down mail — by handing ballots directly over to election officials. That lawsuit was thrown out earlier this month and voters in the state have started casting ballots at the boxes.

Unfortunately, there's a fly in the ointment, the nature of which was neatly laid out by Ian Millhiser at Vox: Four of the five Republican justices on the Supreme Court, in the face of all law and precedent, were ready to entertain Trump's obviously illegitimate challenge to the Pennsylvania election deadline.

This is terrible, because, as Millhiser points out, election law is determined by the states and "in questions of state law, the state Supreme Court is supposed to be the final word on such disputes."

"Indeed, if state supreme courts cannot interpret their state's own election law, it's unclear how that law is supposed to function," he adds.

In other words, rejecting the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's ruling to uphold the law shouldn't even have been an option. That four Republican justices feel otherwise suggests, unfortunately but unsurprisingly, that there's no legal argument Trump could make that is so preposterous that these four justices would reject it, so long as it serves the end goal of securing Republican power, including a second term for Donald Trump.

Trump has made it clear that he's looking to the Supreme Court to save him from facing the judgment of voters. That four right-wing justices are willing to go along with this, no matter how much doing so violates the plain wording of the law, is terrifying. That's especially true in the face of the Republican rush to seat Amy Coney Barrett on the court before the election, since she's almost certain to be a fifth vote for the principle that Republicans deserve to hold power, law and democracy be damned.

This is why it's not hyperbolic to see the Barrett as the last leg being kicked out from under our fragile democracy, which can only be restored by expanding the Supreme Court, if and when Democrats regain the power to do so. It's hard to imagine democracy surviving if a Supreme Court with six conservative justices gets the ultimate say over elections, and if their guiding principle is that any Democratic victory is illegitimate, regardless of the low-quality, bad-faith arguments presented. The goal of Republicans, under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is to make the U.S. a one-party state and shut out any voters who resist that. They are shockingly close to achieving that goal.

It's easy to give into despair, but let's be clear: All is not lost. For one thing, even this corrupt slate of current justices probably wouldn't go so far as to completely vacate the results of an election, simply because Trump wants them to. They'll want to be a bit more subtle about it, using measures like trying to stop vote-counting as early as possible. But if Joe Biden wins the November election in a blowout, as now seems possible, that strategy will become impossible. The fact that so many people are voting early is a good sign — it means vote-counting will be well underway before the Barrett court can rush in to stop it.

In addition, while Barrett's confirmation is looking likely, Democrats haven't given up completely on trying to slow it down or even stop it before the election. Late on Monday, Democrats tried to force a vote to adjourn Senate business until after the election, which would keep Barrett off the court. That move failed, but Senate Democrats have indicated they'll keep trying to use procedural moves to slow Barrett's confirmation down until after the election, which is only two weeks away.

There's no reason to be Pollyanna-ish here. Things are bad. Republicans are doing everything in their power to end democracy and render the right to vote meaningless, and using the courts as their main weapon on that front.

But so far they haven't succeeded, in no small part because the American people are still resisting, the courts haven't completely sold out to anti-democracy ideologues, and Trump himself is as bad at staging a coup as he was at running his business. Moreover, time is running out on the plot to keep people from voting and more votes are being banked every day. There's still a chance to pull our democracy back from the abyss, but it's going to require ordinary people doing everything they can to save it.

Trump Jr. says dad’s ‘next move’ is to ‘break up’ the FBI: ‘He has to get rid of these things’

Donald Trump Jr. on Sunday called on his father to "break up" the FBI if he wins a second term.

During an interview on Fox News, host Maria Bartiromo asked the president's son what his father would do if the FBI does not do his bidding by smearing the son of Democratic nominee Joe Biden and by preventing Democrats from increasing the use of mail-in ballots.

"We have to keep fighting," Trump replied. "We're fighting with one leg and two arms tied behind our back. You know, we don't have the mainstream media that's willing to at this point, not even just boost the other side, but literally run cover for what would arguably be the biggest corruption scheme in American political history. This is the stuff that makes Watergate look like kindergarten."

According to the younger Trump, the FBI tried to "knowingly peddle" information about his father's connections to Russia.

"They refuse to acknowledge their own corruption," he explained. "And the reality is, I think, when Donald Trump wins, he has to break up the highest level of the FBI. He has to get rid of these things. And more importantly, maybe break up the swamp in general."

"You know, why is the Department of the Interior headed out of Washington?" Trump asked. "Why don't we spread all of those things up throughout America?"

"That's Donald Trump's next move," he predicted, "if I'm him and if he wins, which I think he will. Because what's going on is disgusting. This is the stuff of communist China!"

Watch the video below from Fox News.


Donald Trump Jr.: Dad's 'next move' is to 'break up' FBI youtu.be

New poll reveals the disturbing extent of the delusional QAnon cult

As outlandish as QAnon's beliefs are, the conspiracy cult has been gaining ground in the Republican Party. A Yahoo News/YouGov poll finds that roughly 50% of President Donald Trump's supporters now embrace at least some of QAnon's claims.

QAnon believes that the United States' federal government has been infiltrated by an international cabal of pedophiles, Satanists and cannibals and that Trump was put in the White House to lead the fight against the cabal. According to the fictional belief set, an anonymous figure named Q is providing updates on Trump's battle. And one of QAnon's beliefs is that R&B superstar Beyoncé isn't really African-American but rather, is really an Italian woman named Ann Marie Latrassi who is passing herself off as Black as part of the conspiracy.

The Yahoo/YouGov poll, conducted October 16-18, asked participants, "Do you believe that top Democrats are involved in elite child sex trafficking rings?" — and 50% of Trump supporters said "yes" compared to only 5% of former Vice President Joe Biden's supporters.

The poll also asked, "Do you believe that President Trump is working to dismantle an elite child sex trafficking ring involving top Democrats?" — to which 52% of Trump supporters responded "yes," while only 4% of Biden supporters said "yes."

Yahoo News reporters Andrew Romano and Caitlin Dickson note that only 16% of Trump supporters who were familiar were QAnon were willing to dismiss the entire movement as conspiracy nonsense that has no basis in fact.

The inroads that QAnon has made in the GOP were evident when, in August, QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene won a Republican congressional primary in Georgia. Because her district is overwhelmingly Republican, Greene will likely win the general election on November 3 and be sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives in January 2021.

Well-known Republicans who have made donations to Green's campaign include Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. And after her primary win, Trump congratulated Greene on Twitter and exalted her as a "future Republican star."

Nina Jankowicz of the nonpartisan Wilson Center told Yahoo News that it's "really crazy" that "such a high number" of Trump supporters embrace QAnon's conspiracy theory.

Jankowicz explained, "It seems, increasingly, like we're dealing with two different sets of facts in this country, sometimes more. The fact is that QAnon is a movement, a conspiracy that has been cited by the FBI as potentially inciting terrorist and other violent extremist acts in this country. It shouldn't be something that we're this split (on) along partisan lines."

During a recent town hall event hosted by NBC News, moderator Savannah Guthrie grilled Trump about QAnon — and he maintained, "I know nothing about QAnon." But Trump added that from what he has heard, "They are very strongly against pedophilia, and I agree with that."

Jankowicz told Yahoo News, "The fact that we have so many political candidates who are public adherents of QAnon and a president who himself has refused to disavow the theory (amounts to) a tacit endorsement of a different set of facts. That's what's really worrisome about it."

Florida Gov. DeSantis is pushing a last desperate gambit to remove felons from the voter rolls

In Florida, the administration of far-right Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is drawing criticism from members of the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations for urging local election officials to remove convicted felons from the voter rolls if they have any unpaid fees or fines.

Anton Marino, deputy legal director of the Florida ACLU, told the Washington Post that the move "looks like an additional effort by the state to intimidate otherwise eligible voters."

Last week, Maria Matthews, director of the Florida Division of Elections, encouraged local election officials to remove anyone from the rolls if they had a felony conviction and still owed any fees or fines that they hadn't paid. And a separate memo from Florida Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee's general counsel urged election staff or law enforcement officers to guard all drop boxes for mail-in voting ballots. Lee, in an official statement, said her office has a duty to identify people who are ineligible to vote and stressed, "The law with respect to legal financial obligations is now clear."

Patricia Brigham, president of the Florida League of Women Voters, told the Post, "They're attempting to sow confusion…. The State of Florida doesn't have a spotless record when it comes to making sure voters have easy access to the polls."

In 2018, Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment that automatically restored the voting rights of convicted felons after their incarceration. But Republicans in the Florida state legislature later passed a law saying that voting rights for Floridians with felony convictions could not be restored until they had paid all fees or fines that they owed — a move that Florida Democrats have attacked as voter suppression and compared to a poll tax.

Florida, which has 29 electoral votes, is among the swing states that reporters will be paying especially close attention to between now and November 3. Polls released this month have been showing the presidential race to be very close in the Sunshine State, where former Vice President Joe Biden has had mostly narrow single-digit leads over President Donald Trump. According to recent polls, Trump is trailing Biden by only 1% (University of North Florida), 2% (St. Pete Polls and Reuters/Ipsos) or 3% (Emerson College).

Trump loves to fight — but his favorite targets are surprisingly revealing

Grievance has been a prime ingredient of President Donald Trump's recent MAGA rallies, which have found him bitterly railing against everyone from the mainstream media to Never Trump conservatives to Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. But who does Trump hate the most? Never Trumper Tim Miller, who served as communications director for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, breaks it down in an October 18 article for the conservative website The Bulwark.

Miller points out that Trump's defenders often say they love the fact that he is a "fighter." However, the Never Trump conservative stresses that Trump isn't fighting the major crises of 2020 — for example, the coronavirus pandemic — but rather, obsesses over his political enemies on both the left and the right. And Miller gets into specifics with a "Trump's Hall of Hate Pyramid."

At the top of the pyramid, one finds "critical TV show hosts" and "other journalists" — and for the second level of the pyramid, Miller lists "Hispanic immigrants" and "Never Trump Republicans" as well as "The Deep State," "The Squad" and "civil rights heroes." Miller also lists Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who Trump railed against during a recent rally in her state. Although Whitmer was recently the target of a terrorist plot — white nationalists and far-right militia members are facing criminal charges for allegedly plotting to kidnap and possibly murder her — that did not stop Trump supporters from chanting, "Lock her up, lock her up" at the rally.

For the third level of the "Trump's Hall of Hate Pyramid," Miller lists Trump targets ranging from "Black athletes who kneel" to Rep. Adam Schiff to comedian Kathy Griffin. And the pyramid's fourth level includes "big tech companies" and "Saturday Night Live" as well as "Sleepy Joe Biden."

The lowest level of the pyramid ranges from "white nationalists" to Syrian President Bashar al Assad — in other words, problems that aren't high priorities for Trump.

"Given that Trump isn't taking on these more complicated fights, you would think he'd at least be aggressive about fighting the Democrats," Miller writes. "But even on that score, the answer is mixed. Yes, he's willing to take shots at Chuck and Nancy, at Gretchen Whitmer, and at Ilhan Omar…. But when it comes to the Democrats he actually needs to defeat if he cares about winning a second term and having a governing majority — well, you don't see him using his patented fighting skills against them much."

Trump’s inner circle ‘furious’ with FBI’s Wray for undercutting Biden smear: report

According to a report from Politico, high-ranking members of Donald Trump's administration are "furious" with FBI Director Christopher Wray for siding with the intelligence community and calling recent revelations about former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter part of a Russian disinformation campaign.

As the New York Post story about the Democratic presidential nominee's son continues to fall apart — with even Fox News reportedly passing on it before Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani took it to the Post — Wray, who has had a strained relationship with the president is allowing his department to investigate Russia instead of the Biden's.

That, in turn, has angered White House officials looking for a helping hand to help out the president's cratering re-election campaign.

According to Politico, "Trump's inner circle was already furious at Wray for echoing the intelligence community's finding that Russia is acting to damage Biden's candidacy, as well as his description of antifa as 'an ideology' rather than an organized entity. Now, they're ratcheting up calls for Trump to fire his handpicked director."

The report goes on to note that Republicans had been hoping that Wray would open up a full-scale investigation into the sketchy accusations based upon unverified information reportedly found on the younger Biden's laptop computer.

For his part, Wary is reportedly loath to enter the fray with an eye on the election just two weeks away, and his own future uncertain.

"Other congressional and law enforcement sources noted that Trump might lack the leverage to bend Wray — who, like past FBI directors, was appointed to serve a 10-year term, a setup designed to insulate the bureau from politics — to his will," the report states. "A public offensive against Biden by the FBI would doom Wray's chances of remaining atop the bureau in a potential Biden administration. Wray, they say, would have no incentive to burn the rulebook in order to score a point for Trump, particularly when he enjoys relatively bipartisan support in the Capitol."

According to those who know Wray, he is unlikely to take the president's side this time.

"Chris does not need my advice," explained Chuck Rosenberg, a former FBI chief of staff. "He is smart and thoughtful and principled and has the best interests of the FBI and the nation in mind."

You can read more here.

This single sentence from a federal court's ruling exposes the dark right-wing view of voting

Three judges on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday stayed an injunction by a lower district court that sought to protect the voting rights of Texans voting by mail.

The majority decision, written by Judge Jerry E. Smith, blocked the lower court's orders to Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs that would have required officials to notify Texans whose mail ballots were rejected because of an apparent signature mismatch and give them an opportunity to address the issue. Under current law, election officials can reject a mail ballot if they determine that the signature does not match the voter's signature on file; officials must notify the voter of the rejection within 10 days. But even then, the voter may not be given an opportunity to fix the problem.

As the result of an ongoing lawsuit, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas ordered Hughs to adopt procedures that would allow voters to address a signature mismatch, or to stop rejecting ballots based on signature issues altogether. Judge Orlando Garcia said the existing policy "plainly violates certain voters' constitutional rights." But the Fifth Circuit rejected this injunction, saying Hughs should follow the law as written — rejecting ballots without necessarily giving voters any due process.

In a remarkable sentence encapsulating the emerging right-wing view of voting rights, the decision explained:

Because Texas's strong interest in safeguarding the integrity of its elections from voter fraud far outweighs any burden the state's voting procedures place on the right to vote, we stay the injunction pending appeal.

While this may sound like dry legalese, it's a dramatically bold and unambiguously dangerous idea. The court's claim is that "any burden" on the right to vote can be justified if it is meant to restrict the opportunity for voter fraud.

This notion sounds like a farcical caricature of Republicans' views on voting, but it's an actual statement from right-wing judges defending a right-wing administration. It falls apart under even the mildest scrutiny though. While preventing voter fraud is surely a legitimate interest of the state, there must be some reasonable limits on how far the government can go in trying to prevent it. Is it reasonable to, say, create so many obstacles to voting that 10,000 fewer ballots will be cast in an election if doing so will also stop a handful of fraudulent ballots?

The answer should obviously be "no." The problem with voter fraud is that it distorts the will of the electorate, undermining the very point of a democracy. But if efforts to combat voter fraud distort the democratic process even more than fraud would, it's difficult to see how they can be justified. And all the best evidence indicates that voter fraud is incredibly rare.

But when Republicans discuss voter fraud, all they ever seem to care about is stopping the extremely rare cases of illegally cast ballots. They almost never consider balancing the risk of fraud with the risk of preventing legitimate votes from being cast. In this decision, the court made that view explicit. And it's even more absurd than it sounds, because the decision actually allows election officials to literally throw away votes that may have been legitimately cast without giving the voter any platform to challenge this decision. Isn't this at least as bad as voter fraud?

The Texas Tribune reports of this process:

The state election code does not establish any standards for signature review, which is conducted by local election officials who seldom have training in signature verification.

So at best, the disposal of ballots may be entirely capricious. At worst, it could disproportionately target groups of voters that the existing government would rather not have voting — minority groups, for instance, that may be likely to vote Democrat. It may be hard to say what the motivation is for the laws in this particular case, but the GOP's actions in the past decade have made clear that they see restricting the right to vote as a vital part of retaining electoral power. The court's reasoning lays bear this motivation: Based on the slimmest fears about "voter fraud," they can justify restricting voters' rights as much as possible. The path to illegitimately holding on to office is clear.

The Fifth Court's decision justified the stay in part by arguing against the idea that there's a due process protection for the right vote. But even if there is, the court argued, there isn't a right to vote by mail — that's simply an option that Texas provides without being obligated to.

This reasoning, though, is spurious. If Texas provides voters the option to vote by mail, it is not reasonable that it can then simply reject those ballots based on dubious and unreviewable claims of a signature mismatch that the voter may not even be alerted to until after Election Day has passed. Once it has provided the option of voting by mail, Texas is still obligated to ensure that the process provides reasonable protections for voters' rights.

In a concurring opinion, Judge Patrick Higginbotham rejected the majority's arguments for the stay. He agreed with issuing the stay, however, noting the difficulties of changing election rules while votes are already being cast. And he warned that the matter in question is grave:

In 2016 and 2018, "approximately 5,000 [Texas] ballots were rejected on the basis of perceived signature mismatches."8 Such "small" differences have the potential to decide both local and national elections. And with the large increase in votes cast by mail in our ongoing pandemic that error rate would toss out far greater numbers. There is much at stake here.

Is the Republican Party over?

The theme of the day was the palpable sense of rats leaving a sinking ship as Republicans, administration officials, and administration-adjacent people distanced themselves from the president.

There was a foreshadowing of that exodus on Wednesday, when Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) let loose about the president in a telephone call with constituents. Sasse was an early critic of Trump but toned down his opposition significantly in the early part of the administration. On Wednesday, he reverted to his earlier position, saying he had "never been on the Trump train." He complained about the way Trump "kisses dictators' butts," and went on: "The United States now regularly sells out our allies under his leadership, the way he treats women, spends like a drunken sailor…. [He] mocks evangelicals behind closed doors…has treated the presidency like a business opportunity" and has "flirted with white supremacists." He said: "What the heck were any of us thinking, that selling a TV-obsessed, narcissistic individual to the American people was a good idea?"The theme of abandoning the administration became apparent yesterday, when officials leaked the story that intelligence officials had warned Trump against listening to his lawyer Rudy Giuliani. This was a high-level leak, and suggests that more and more staffers are starting to look for a way off the S.S. Trump.

The audience numbers for last night's town halls was also revealing, as Biden attracted 700,000 more viewers on just one ABC outlet than Trump did on the three NBC outlets that carried his event. Biden's town hall was the most watched event since the Oscars in February. It appears that people are simply tired of watching the president and are eager for calm and reason.

Today, a group called "43 Alumni for Biden" released an ad called "Team 46." It says that they are all lifelong Republicans, but because they recognize the qualities of leadership—including empathy– everyone "on this team" is voting for Biden. "Let's put Joe Biden in the White House." The ad features a number of pictures of President George W. Bush, the forty-third president, and is narrated by someone whose voice sounds like his. Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance notes, "This looks awfully close to an endorsement of Biden from George W. Bush."


Also today, the former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Committee, Jennifer Horn, urged "my fellow Republicans" not to vote for Trump's reelection. In a piece in USA Today, Horn reminded Republicans of "the overwhelming sorrow and grief that this president" has inflicted on the country. Citing Covid-19 deaths, "cultural divides, racial unrest, economic disparity and constitutional abuses," all of which "are just tools to be used to feed his narcissism, advance his political ambitions and line his pockets," Horn indicted both Trump and the Republican Party that enables him.

"This election poses a unique challenge," she wrote. "It will test not Republican vs. Democrat or Trump vs. Biden, but rather, "We the People." It is our role in this constitutional republic, our leadership, and our dedication to the promise of America that is being tested. Trump or America," she wrote. "We cannot have both."

Under pressure, Trump changed course today and approved the emergency declaration for California that he denied yesterday. Such a reconsideration would normally have taken until after the election, but this one happened fast. Earlier this week, Trump tweeted: "People are fleeing California. Taxes too high, Crime too high, Brownouts too many, Lockdowns too severe. VOTE FOR TRUMP, WHAT THE HELL DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE!!!"

Today CNN began teasers for a special on Sunday that will explain how former senior Trump officials believe Trump is unfit for the presidency. According to former White House Chief of Staff, retired Marine General John Kelly, "The depths of his dishonesty is just astounding to me. The dishonesty, the transactional nature of every relationship, though it's more pathetic than anything else. He is the most flawed person I have ever met in my life."

Also today, Caroline Giuliani, the daughter of Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, urged people to end Trump's "reign of terror" by voting for "a compassionate and decent president," Joe Biden. "[C]orruption starts with 'yes-men' and women, the cronies who create an echo chamber of lies and subservience to maintain their proximity to power," she wrote in a piece for Vanity Fair. "We've seen this ad nauseam with Trump and his cadre of high-level sycophants (the ones who weren't convicted, anyway)." Giuliani cheered Biden's choice of Kamala Harris for his running mate, and wrote, "in Joe Biden, we'll have a leader who prioritizes common ground and civility over alienation, bullying, and scorched-earth tactics." "[T]ogether," she said, "we can vote this toxic administration out of office."

And yet another story from the day: a third career prosecutor from the Department of Justice resigned after publicly attacking Attorney General William Barr for abusing his power to get Trump reelected. "After 36 years, I'm fleeing what was the U.S. Department of Justice," Phillip Halpern wrote. "[T]he department's past leaders were dedicated to the rule of law and the guiding principle that justice is blind. That is a bygone era, but it should not be forgotten." Noting that "Barr has never actually investigated, charged or tried a case," Halpern expressed deep concern over Barr's "slavish obedience to Donald Trump's will." "This career bureaucrat seems determined to turn our democracy into an autocracy," he warned.

Georgetown Law Professor Paul Butler, who worked as a federal prosecutor under Barr when he was George H. W. Bush's Attorney General, told Katie Benner of the New York Times that such criticism is "unprecedented," and reflects Trump's pressure on the AG. "I have never seen sitting prosecutors go on the record with concerns about the attorney general," he said.

And yet, Barr's willingness to bend the Justice Department to Trump's personal will may, in the end, not be enough to keep Trump's favor. Angry that Barr did not produce a report attacking the Russia investigation before the election, Trump just yesterday said he wasn't happy with Barr's performance, and might not keep him on as AG if he wins a second term.

There are signs people in the administration are preparing for Trump to lose the election. His cabinet is rushing to change regulations to lock in Trump's goal of giving more scope to businessmen to act as they see fit. Normally, changes in regulations require setting aside time for public comment on the changes, but the administration is shortening or eliminating those periods over changes in, for example, rules allowing railroads to move highly flammable liquefied natural gas on freight trains, what constitutes "contract" work, how much pollution factories can emit, and who can immigrate to America.

Russell Vought, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said in a statement: "President Trump has worked quickly from the beginning of his term to grow the economy by removing the mountain of Obama-Biden job-killing regulations," and that the current push simply continues that effort. But no one is missing the quiet distancing going on in Washington as Republican lawmakers are shifting away from public support for the president.

Meanwhile, at his rally tonight in Georgia, Trump told the crowd "You should… lock up the Bidens, lock up Hillary." The crowd then began to chant "Lock them up." But one thing about a bully: when people finally start to turn on him, there is a stampede for the exits.

Tonight, at his Georgia rally, Trump outlined all the ways in which he was being unfairly treated, then mused: "Could you imagine if I lose?… I'm not going to feel so good. Maybe I'll have to leave the country, I don't know."

We are pleased to be presenting daily posts from Heather Cox Richardson's "Letters From an American" email newsletter. You can sign up to receive it in your inbox here.

How to take on Trump on the ground — and convince others to do the same

"Look, folks, the air quality is in the red zone today. The EPA says that means people with lung or heart issues should avoid prolonged activity outdoors."

That was J.R. de Vera, one of two directors of UNITE-HERE!'s independent expenditure campaign to elect Biden and Harris in Reno, Nevada. UNITE-HERE! is a union representing 300,000 workers in the hospitality industry -- that world of hotels and bars, restaurants and caterers. Ninety percent of its members are now laid off because of Trump's bungling of the Covid-19 pandemic and many are glad for the chance to help get him out of the White House.

"So some of you will want to stay in your hotel rooms and make phone calls today," JR continues. Fifty faces fall in the 50 little Zoom boxes on my laptop screen. Canvassers would much rather be talking to voters at their doors than calling them on a phone bank. Still, here in the burning, smoking West, the union is as committed to its own people's health and safety as it is to dragging Donald Trump out of office. So, for many of them, phone calls it will be.

My own job doesn't change much from day to day. Though I live in San Francisco, I've come to Reno to do back-room logistics work in the union campaign's cavernous warehouse of an office: ordering supplies, processing reimbursements, and occasionally helping the data team make maps of the areas our canvassers will walk.

Our field campaign is just one of several the union is running in key states. We're also in Arizona and Florida and, only last week, we began door-to-door canvassing in Philadelphia. Social media, TV ads, bulk mail, and phone calls are all crucial elements in any modern electoral campaign, but none of them is a substitute for face-to-face conversations with voters.

We've been in Reno since early August, building what was, until last week, the only field campaign in the state supporting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. (Just recently, our success in campaigning safely has encouraged the Democratic Party to start its own ground game here and elsewhere.) We know exactly how many doors we have to knock on, how many Biden voters we have to identify, how many of them we have to convince to make a concrete voting plan, and how many we have to get out to vote during Nevada's two-week early voting period to win here.

We're running a much larger campaign in Clark County, where close to three-quarters of Nevada's population lives (mostly in Las Vegas). Washoe County, home of the twin cities of Reno and Sparks, is the next largest population center with 16% of Nevadans. The remaining 14 counties, collectively known as "the Rurals," account for the rest. Washoe and Clark are barely blue; the Rurals decidedly red.

In 2018, UNITE-HERE!'s ground campaign helped ensure that Jacky Rosen would flip a previously Republican Senate seat, and we helped elect Democrat Steve Sisolak as governor. He's proved a valuable union ally, signing the Adolfo Fernandez Act, a first-in-the-nation law protecting workers and businesses in Nevada from the worst effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Defying a threatened Trump campaign lawsuit (later dismissed by a judge), Sisolak also signed an election reform bill that allows every active Nevada voter to receive a mail-in ballot. Largely as a result of the union's work in 2018, this state now boasts an all-female Democratic senatorial delegation, a Democratic governor, and a female and Democratic majority in the state legislature. Elections, as pundits of all stripes have been known to say, have consequences.

Door-to-Door on Planet A

"¿Se puede, o no se puede?"

"¡Sí, se puede!"

("Can we do it?" "Yes, we can!")

Each morning's online canvass dispatch meeting starts with that call-and-response followed by a rousing handclap. Then we talk about where people will be walking that day and often listen to one of the canvassers' personal stories, explaining why he or she is committed to this campaign. Next, we take a look at the day's forecast for heat and air quality as vast parts of the West Coast burn, while smoke and ash travel enormous distances. Temperatures here were in the low 100s in August (often hovering around 115 degrees in Las Vegas). And the air? Let's just say that there have been days when I've wished breathing were optional.

Climate-change activists rightly point out that "there's no Planet B" for the human race, but some days it seems as if our canvassers are already working on a fiery Planet A that is rapidly becoming unlivable. California's wildfires -- including its first-ever "gigafire" -- have consumed more than four million acres in the last two months, sending plumes of ash to record heights, and dumping a staggering amount of smoke into the Reno-Sparks basin. Things are a little better at the moment, but for weeks I couldn't see the desert mountains that surround the area. Some days I couldn't even make out the Grand Sierra Reno casino, a quarter mile from the highway on which I drive to work each morning.

For our canvassers -- almost every one a laid-off waiter, bartender, hotel housekeeper, or casino worker -- the climate emergency and the Covid-19 pandemic are literally in their faces as they don their N95 masks to walk the streets of Reno. It's the same for the voters they meet at their doors. Each evening, canvassers report (on Zoom, of course) what those voters are saying and, for the first time I can remember, they are now talking about the climate. They're angry at a president who pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord and they're scared about what a potentially searing future holds for their children and grandchildren. They may not have read Joe Biden's position on clean energy and environmental justice, but they know that Donald Trump has no such plan.

Braving Guns, Germs, and Smoke

In his classic book Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond suggested that the three variables in his title helped in large part to explain how European societies and the United States came to control much of the planet in the twentieth century. As it happens, our door-to-door canvassers confront a similar triad of obstacles right here in Reno, Nevada (if you replace that final "steel" with "smoke.")

Guns and Other Threats

Nevada is an open-carry state and gun ownership is common here. It's not unusual to see someone walking around a supermarket with a holstered pistol on his hip. A 2015 state law ended most gun registration requirements and another allows people visiting from elsewhere to buy rifles without a permit. So gun sightings are everyday events.

Still, it can be startling, if you're not used to it, to have a voter answer the door with a pistol all too visible, even if securely holstered. And occasionally, our canvassers have even watched those guns leave their holsters when the person at the door realizes why they're there (which is when the campaign gets the police involved). Canvassers are trained to observe very clear protocols, including immediately leaving an area if they experience any kind of verbal or physical threat.

African American and Latinx canvassers who've campaigned before in Reno say that, in 2020, Trump supporters seem even more emboldened than in the past to shout racist insults at them. More than once, neighbors have called the police on our folks, essentially accusing them of canvassing-while-black-or-brown. Two days before I wrote this piece, the police pulled over one young Latino door-knocker because neighbors had called to complain that he was walking up and down the street waving a gun. (The "gun" in question was undoubtedly the electronic tablet he was carrying to record the results of conversations with voters.) The officer apologized.

Which reminds me of another apology offered recently. A woman approached an African-American canvasser, demanding to know what in the world he was doing in her neighborhood. On learning his mission, she offered an apology as insulting as her original question. "We're not used to seeing people like you around here," she explained.

Germs

Until the pandemic, my partner and I had planned to work together with UNITE-HERE! in Reno during this election, as we did in 2018. But she's five years older than I am, and her history of pneumonia means that catching Covid-19 could be especially devastating for her. So she's stayed in San Francisco, helping out the union's national phone bank effort instead.

In fact, we didn't really expect that there would be a ground campaign this year, given the difficulties presented by the novel coronavirus. But the union was determined to eke out that small but genuine addition to the vote that a field campaign can produce. So they put in place stringent health protocols for all of us: masks and a minimum of six feet of distance between everyone at all times; no visits to bars, restaurants, or casinos, including during off hours; temperature checks for everyone entering the office; and the immediate reporting of any potential Covid-19 symptoms to our health and safety officer. Before the union rented blocks of rooms at two extended-stay hotels, our head of operations checked their mask protocols for employees and guests and examined their ventilation systems to make sure that the air conditioners vented directly outdoors and not into a common air system for the whole building.

To date, not one of our 57 canvassers has tested positive, a record we intend to maintain as we add another 17 full-timers to our team next week.

One other feature of our coronavirus protocol: we don't talk to any voter who won't put on a mask. I was skeptical that canvassers would be able to get voters to mask up, even with the individually wrapped surgical masks we're offering anyone who doesn't have one on or handy. However, it turns out that, in this bizarre election year, people are eager to talk, to vent their feelings and be heard. So many of the people we're canvassing have suffered so much this year that they're surprised and pleased when someone shows up at their door wondering how they're doing.

And the answer to that question for so many potential voters is not well -- with jobs lost, housing threatened, children struggling with online school, and hunger pangs an increasingly everyday part of life. So yes, a surprising number of people, either already masked or quite willing to put one on, want to talk to us about an election that they generally see as the most important of their lifetime.

Smoke

And did I mention that it's been smoky here? It can make your eyes water, your throat burn, and the urge to cough overwhelm you. In fact, the symptoms of smoke exposure are eerily similar to the ones for Covid-19. More than one smoke-affected canvasser has spent at least five days isolated in a hotel room, waiting for negative coronavirus test results.

The White House website proudly quotes the president on his administration's testing record: "We do tremendous testing. We have the best testing in the world." Washoe County health officials are doing what they can, but if this is the best in the world, then the world is in worse shape than we thought.

The Power of a Personal Story

So why, given the genuine risk and obstacles they face, do UNITE-HERE!'s canvassers knock on doors six days a week to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris? Their answers are a perfect embodiment of the feminist dictum "the personal is political." Every one of them has a story about why she or he is here. More than one grew up homeless and never want another child to live that way. One is a DACA recipient who knows that a reelected Donald Trump will continue his crusade to end that amnesty for undocumented people brought to the United States as children. Through their participation in union activism, many have come to understand that workers really can beat the boss when they organize -- and Trump, they say, is the biggest boss of all.

Through years of political campaigning, the union's leaders have learned that voters may think about issues, but they're moved to vote by what they feel about them. The goal of every conversation at those doors right now is to make a brief but profound personal connection with the voter, to get each of them to feel just how important it is to vote this year. Canvassers do this by asking how a voter is doing in these difficult times and listening -- genuinely listening -- and responding to whatever answer they get. And they do it by being vulnerable enough to share the personal stories that lie behind their presence at the voter's front door.

One canvasser lost his home at the age of seven, when his parents separated. He and his mother ended up staying in shelters and camping for months in a garden shed on a friend's property. One day recently he knocked on a door and found a Trump supporter on the other side of it. He noticed a shed near the house, pointed to it, and told the man about living in something similar as a child. That Trumpster started to cry. He began talking about how he'd had just the same experience and the way, as a teenager, he'd had to hold his family together when his heroin-addicted parents couldn't cope. He'd never talked to any of his present-day friends about how he grew up and, in the course of that conversation, came to agree with our canvasser that Donald Trump wasn't likely to improve life for people like them. He was, he said, changing his vote to Biden right then and there. (And that canvasser will be back to make sure he actually votes.)

Harvard University Professor Marshall Ganz pioneered the "public narrative," the practice of organizing by storytelling. It's found at the heart of many organizing efforts these days. The 2008 Obama campaign, for example, trained thousands of volunteers to tell their stories to potential voters. The It Gets Better Project has collected more than 50,000 personal messages from older queer people to LGBTQ youth who might be considering suicide or other kinds of self-harm -- assuring them that their own lives did, indeed, get better.

Being the sort of political junkie who devours the news daily, I was skeptical about the power of this approach, though I probably shouldn't have been. After all, how many times did I ask my mother or father to "tell me a story" when I was a kid? What are our lives but stories? Human beings are narrative animals and, however rational, however versed in the issues we may sometimes be, we still live through stories.

Data can give me information on issues I care about, but it can't tell me what issues I should care about. In the end, I'm concerned about racial and gender justice as well as the climate emergency because of the way each of them affects people and other creatures with whom I feel connected.

A Campaign Within a Campaign

Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of UNITE-HERE!'s electoral campaign is the union's commitment to developing every canvasser's leadership skills. The goal is more than winning what's undoubtedly the most important election of our lifetime. It's also to send back to every hotel, restaurant, casino, and airport catering service leaders who can continue to organize and advocate for their working-class sisters and brothers. This means implementing an individual development plan for each canvasser.

Team leaders work with all of them to hone their stories into tools that can be used in an honest and generous way to create a genuine connection with voters. They help those canvassers think about what else they want to learn to do, while developing opportunities for them to master technical tools like computer spreadsheets and databases.

There's a special emphasis on offering such opportunities to women and people of color who make up the vast majority of the union's membership. Precious hours of campaign time are also devoted to workshops on how to understand and confront systemic racism and combat sexual harassment, subjects President Trump is acquainted with in the most repulsively personal way. The union believes its success depends as much on fostering a culture of respect as on the hard-nosed negotiating it's also famous for.

After months of pandemic lockdown and almost four years of what has objectively been the worst, most corrupt, most incompetent, and possibly even most destructive presidency in the nation's history, it's a relief to be able to do something useful again. And sentimental as it may sound, it's an honor to be able to do it with this particular group of brave and committed people. Sí, se puede. Yes, we can.

Rebecca Gordon, a TomDispatch regular, teaches at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes and is now at work on a new Dispatch book on the history of torture in the United States.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer's new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky's novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt's A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy's In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower's The Violent American Century: War and Terror Snce World War II.

Copyright 2020 Rebecca Gordon

Trump's final ad buy betrays just how broke his campaign really is

On a call Monday, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien revealed the campaign's total ad buy for the last two weeks of the presidential race would be a whopping a paltry $55 million ... split between no fewer than 11 states.

Um, just wow. And that's not only the Trump campaign, it represents coordinated spending with the Republican National Committee (RNC) too. Far from being a muscular way to close out the race, it feels more like a cry for help. By comparison, Biden campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon said last week that she still anticipates raising another $234 million through the election.

The 11 states included on the target list for both entities are: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine-2, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.


According to an Axios article last week, Stepien views Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, and Maine's 2nd district as the foundation of their path to 270—in other words, must gets. In fact, the article quoted Stepien calling that line up the "easy part," but apparently not so easy that they're forgoing dropping money in all four supposed gimmes.

As New York Times journalist Shane Goldmacher, who was on the call, noted, "On the one hand, Stepien says he is 'certain' that they are winning Ohio and Iowa. On the other hand, he announces the campaign will be up with ads in those two states in final two weeks." Go figure.

One state the Trump campaign appears to have finally given up on altogether is Minnesota. Earlier on Monday, the Trump camp had announced cancelling ad buys in several Midwestern states even as they were preparing to reinvest in some of them through this coordinated ad buy with the RNC. But Minnesota, which has pretty much always been a pipe dream for Team Trump, was dropped altogether.

Even before this final Trump ad buy in the closing weeks, Biden's ad spending had outpaced Trump's by a 2-to-1 ratio for months, according to The New York Times. In a review of the two campaigns' spending in 10 battleground states, the only state where Trump outspent Biden was Georgia—which doesn't exactly jibe with that state's inclusion in Stepien's so-called "easy" list.

Biden's spending strategy has clearly centered on the Midwest. "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," writes the Times.

And while Trump initially enjoyed a digital ad advantage in the early part of the campaign, Biden has steadily closed that gap in recent months, achieving near parity in the last 30 days at $50 million for each ad campaign on Google and Facebook, according to the Times.

What is perhaps most interesting in these final weeks is just how small Trump is playing even as Team Biden has played very big—and not just in terms of overall spending. As this Politico piece explains, the Biden campaign has seen so many paths to 270 open up that in some cases they realized it would be more cost effective to make national buys rather than spending astronomical amounts in smaller battleground markets. It's a worth a read.

Under normal circumstances, most campaigns at this point would be making buys to leverage their position in 10 or even fewer states. But the Biden campaign realized that making some national buys through the networks would actually cost only slightly more, for instance, than purchasing air time in states with major Senate races like Arizona, North Carolina, and Georgia, where pricing had gone through the roof. The big upside of the national buys was that they had the advantage of not only reaching the desired markets in key battlegrounds but also establishing a Biden presence in states that were newly on the radar, like Texas.

"We are looking at a very wide map right now," Becca Siegel, the Biden campaign's chief analytics officer, said. "Normally at this stage of the campaign, we would be narrowing in. But at this stage of the campaign, we have a lot of pathways that have opened up."

So as Trump closes out with a whimper, Biden is heading out with a roar, and his sizable cash advantage has made all that possible.

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