On the menu today: A new poll in Minnesota seems way out of whack from past polls and expectations; Trump offers his trademark clear and insightful perspective on wearing masks; an example of hyperbolic headline-writing; and in a few states, the election has already begun.
A ‘Say What?’ Poll Result in Minnesota
Count me among those who thought Minnesota represented President Trump’s best chance to win a state that was blue last time around. Trump lost the state by only two points in 2016, and culturally and economically, it’s not that different from other usually blue upper Midwestern states that Trump won last time around — Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and arguably Pennsylvania.
Back on August 20, I noted that the Trafalgar poll had Trump only down by about three points. It was easy to envision a scenario where Minnesota’s suburbanites, horrified and angry about the rioting they saw in Minneapolis, concluded that Democrats had proven feckless and hapless in the face of destructive violence, and figured Joe Biden would be more of the same. Back on August 10, a poll of Minnesota showed a tie.
This morning, there’s a new ABC News/Washington Post poll that shows Biden ahead in Minnesota by a gargantuan 57 percent to 41 percent among likely voters. This new poll is an outlier, but it’s not that much of an outlier; the previous four polls had Biden up by eight or nine points. But even the Post seems a little surprised by the result, and offers notes of caution in the article: “Biden’s big margin in the Minnesota poll warrants caution given his narrower lead in Wisconsin. Outcomes in these two states have been similar in recent presidential elections, differing by no more than four points in their vote margin since 2000.”
Whether or not Biden is winning Minnesota in a rout, the Land of 10,000 Lakes does not look like a safe bet for the Trump campaign, and that might be more meaningful that it seems at first glance.
Four years ago, Trump won with 306 electoral votes, which gives him a bit of a cushion. But right now, Arizona does not look great for the Trump campaign, with Trump trailing in the RealClearPolitics average by 4.7 percentage points; perhaps more significantly, Biden has led the past eight surveys in that state. Arizona going blue would move eleven electoral votes from his pile to Biden’s. Wisconsin doesn’t look all that great, either; he’s trailing by 6.7 points in the RCP average. That’s another ten electoral votes from the red pile to the blue pile.
That brings Trump down to 285 electoral votes. If he loses Michigan (where the polls don’t look all that different from Wisconsin) or North Carolina, the Electoral College is in a tie. If he loses Ohio, Florida, or Pennsylvania (where the polls don’t look all that different from Wisconsin or Michigan), he loses the presidency. Oh, and all of this assumes he wins Maine’s second congressional district. Trump looks safe-ish in Iowa, Georgia, and Texas.
Beyond that, there just aren’t that many competitive states. New Mexico, Colorado, and Virginia don’t look close at all. Maybe New Hampshire, if you squint. We discussed the worries about Democratic get-out-the-vote operations in Nevada. Trump can still get to 270 or beyond, but it’s a pretty narrow path.
Trump: ‘A Lot of People Think Masks Are Not Good.’
Last night, Donald Trump did a town hall with ABC News. I wasn’t watching, but when I checked my Twitter feed, I saw one person I follow insisting his answer on wearing masks was brilliant and I saw another person calling it incoherent gibberish. Here is the exchange, in its entirety:
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned masks. We have Julie Bard who’s from Gibsonia, Pennsylvania.
BARD: The wearing of masks has proven to lessen the spread of COVID. Why don’t you support a mandate for national mask wearing? And why don’t you wear a mask more often?
TRUMP: Well, I do wear them when I have to and when I’m in hospitals and other locations. But I will say this. They said at the Democrat convention they’re going to do a national mandate. They never did it, because they’ve checked out and they didn’t do it. And a good question is, you ask why Joe Biden — they said we’re going to do a national mandate on masks.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He’s called on all governors to have them. There’s a state responsibility . . .
TRUMP: Well no, but he didn’t do it. I mean, he never did it. Now there is by the way, a lot of people don’t want to wear masks. There are a lot of people think that masks are not good. And there are a lot of people that as an example you have . . .
STEPHANOPOULOS: Who are those people?
TRUMP: I’ll tell you who those people are — waiters. They come over and they serve you, and they have a mask. And I saw it the other day where they were serving me, and they’re playing with the mask . . . I’m not blaming them . . . I’m just saying what happens. They’re playing with the mask, so the mask is over, and they’re touching it, and then they’re touching the plate. That can’t be good. There are a lot of people. If you look at Dr. Fauci’s original statement . . . you look at a lot of people, CDC, you look at a lot of people’s original statement, they said very strongly, George, don’t wear masks. Then all of a sudden they went to wear masks. The concept of a mask is good, but it also does . . . you’re constantly touching it, you’re touching your face, you’re touching plates. There are people that don’t think masks are good.
So, to clarify, one the one hand, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, White House Coronavirus Response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, Harvard Medical School, Stanford Medical School, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania Medical School, UCLA Medical Center, Mount Sinai Hospital, Cedars-Sinai Hospital, NYU Langone Health Center, New York Presbyterian Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Cornell University, Massachusetts General Hospital, University of Michigan Hospitals, Rush University Medical Center, and Keck Medical Center at the University of Southern California, among other doctors, health researchers, and other medical authorities all recommend that people wear masks to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
But on the other hand, the president has seen waiters touch their faces while “playing” with the mask. So, it’s a wash.
This seems like a good time to recall that President Trump is convinced he doesn’t need to prepare for his upcoming debate with Biden, and that he does not intend to do any mock debates with a Biden stand-in or practice sessions. In 2016, Chris Christie played the role of Hillary Clinton in Trump’s practice debates.
Department of Hyperbolic Headlines
The opening sentence of an article about a race for Hamilton County, Ohio, prosecutor, from The Appeal: “Cincinnati’s top prosector [sic], Joe Deters, has been a driving force for the death penalty in a state that sentences more people to death than nearly any other in the nation.” The headline declares, “Cincinnati is an epicenter for the death penalty.”
In 2019, the state of Ohio sentenced six felons to the death penalty. As of the end of last year, Ohio has 140 inmates on death row, which ranks seventh in the country. The state has executed three people since 2015. Republican governor Mike DeWine issued a freeze on executions last year.
Does that seem like an “epicenter for the death penalty” to you?
ADDENDUM: According to University of Florida professor Michael McDonald’s tracking of state election-board data, in the state of North Carolina, 45,143 mail-in ballots have already been returned. About 25,000 are from registered Democrats, just under 7,000 from registered Republicans. Small numbers of early ballots are already being collected in Florida, Illinois, and South Carolina.
The election has begun.