The Morning Jolt


Late Campaign Stops Don’t Seem to Do Much

Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about new proposals to protect jobs during a campaign stop in Warren, Mich., September 9, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Growing up in New Jersey, we called nights like tonight – where there were expectations for hooliganism — vandalism, breaking windows, and perhaps even arson, “Mischief Night.” In Detroit, they called it “Devil’s Night.” In 2020, Americans just call it “Friday.”

On the menu today: wondering how much we should read into the Biden campaign’s decision to send the candidate to Minnesota and Wisconsin today; the president declares that a steady decline in weekly jobless claims “is boring but it’s really good”; marveling that Texas could possibly be close considering Biden’s stances; and wondering why some people seem so hell-bent on having different deadlines for in-person voting and absentee ballots.

Do Biden’s Late Campaign Stops in Minnesota and Wisconsin Mean Much?

You can read too much into a presidential candidate’s choices for their last few stops on the campaign trail. In 2000, George W. Bush held a rally on the campus of Drew University — apparently my parents were photogenic-enough seasoned citizens to be placed behind Bush in his remarks — raising hopes that the Bush campaign saw New Jersey as competitive. Al Gore won, 56 percent to 40 percent.

In 2004, Vice President Dick Cheney made the extra-long trip to Hawaii, and boldly predicted, “On Tuesday, I have a feeling we’re going to surprise a lot of people back on the Mainland. ‘We’re going to carry Hawaii.’” John Kerry won the state, 54 percent to 46 percent; Bush improved upon the usual GOP finish in that state in recent cycles, but he still wasn’t all that close.

After campaigning once every two days for most of the autumn, today, Joe Biden will attend drive-in events in Des Moines, Iowa, then St. Paul, Minn., and then Milwaukee, Wis. — by far his heaviest day of campaigning and a somewhat curious selection of states.

The conventional wisdom among the polls and race-watchers is that Iowa is competitive, but Minnesota is moving out of reach for Trump and Wisconsin isn’t far behind. Biden leads the RCP average by in Minnesota by 4.7 percentage points; for what it’s worth, Trafalgar has Biden ahead by three points. Biden leads the RCP average in Wisconsin by 6.4 percent. Trafalgar has Biden ahead by one.

Is the Biden campaign seeing something that makes them nervous about Minnesota and Wisconsin? Or are they just being cautious after 2016, learning the lessons of Hillary Clinton, and fortifying their “blue wall” in the upper Midwest instead of spending time and money in places such as Texas or Georgia?

A few days ago, Josh Kraushaar wrote of 2016, “Clinton was spending an awful lot of time and resources in traditionally blue battleground states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, which pundits had already assumed were reliably Democratic territory. There were clear signs that an upset was brewing.” At first, I thought Kraushaar was misremembering 2016, but after looking over Hillary Clinton’s schedule for the final weeks of the campaign, she did hold several campaign events in those two key states in the final days, after giving those them cursory attention for most of the autumn.

In Michigan, on November 4, 2016, Clinton did an event in Detroit, Mich., and on November 7 she did an event in Grand Rapids. (Keep in mind, Election Day was November 8 that year.) Those were her first campaign in events in Michigan since she attended one in Detroit on October 10, and her most recent event in Michigan before that was held on August 11.

In Pennsylvania, on November 4, Clinton did an event in Pittsburgh. On November 5, 6, and 7, she did events in Philadelphia; and on November 7, she went back to Pittsburgh. But those were her first events since October 22, and her events on that day were the first since October 4.

According to his archived schedule, Tim Kaine did no events in Michigan or Pennsylvania in November. But Kaine did attend five events in Wisconsin in the month of November, which mitigates the “Hillary didn’t visit Wisconsin” argument a little bit. Kaine’s last events in Michigan were in Taylor and Warren on October 30, and his last events in Pennsylvania were in Allentown and Newtown on October 26.

(For those who don’t remember, Tim Kaine is a Democratic senator from Virginia who was Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016. I mention this because it seems he has been somehow erased from everyone’s memories.)

On Monday, Joe Biden, Jill Biden, Kamala Harris, and Harris’s husband Doug Emhoff will be all in Pennsylvania. I think we can figure out which state the Biden campaign thinks is the top priority.

‘Weekly Jobless Claims, This Is Boring, but It’s Really Good’

Charlie, Rich, and I are supposed to give our preserved-for-posterity-and-future-embarrassment 2020 election predictions on today’s taping of The Editors. (No matter how wrong I get things in the coming days, I will note that I was predicting Biden would win the nomination through most of 2019 and the early months, when most people thought his campaign was sputtering. Also, remember who was writing “probably the single most frightening aspect is the possibility that either the Chinese government is still guessing at how far the virus has spread, or that they’re not being honest about the risk,” back on January 30.)

Right now, I think the prospects for the Trump reelection campaign don’t look good. This is partially because of circumstances, and partially because the president himself doesn’t seem all that interested in making the case for a second term. Yesterday morning, the Trump campaign got just about the biggest gift imaginable — U.S. gross domestic product grew at an annualized rate of 33.1 percent in the third quarter, the highest rate ever, roughly double the next-biggest jump, in 1950. The U.S. economy is not completely back from the depths of the pandemic, but it remains Trump’s strongest issue.

But on the campaign trail in Tampa yesterday afternoon, Trump confessed that good economic news doesn’t excite him much. “Weekly jobless claims, this is boring but it’s really good, just hit a seven-month low.” The strongest argument for his reelection bores him. Apparently everyone he talks to is encouraging him to talk more about the economy, and Trump is convinced he knows better:

I get a call from all the experts, right? Guys that ran for president six, seven, eight times. Never got past the first round, but they’re calling me up, “Sir, you shouldn’t be speaking about Hunter. You shouldn’t be saying bad things about Biden because nobody cares.” I disagree. Maybe that’s why I’m here and they’re not. But they say, ” Talk about your economic success. Talk about 33.1%, the greatest in history.” Now, look, if I do, I mean, how many times can I say it? I’ll say it five or six times during the speech. 33.1.

He would rather talk about Hunter Biden, and make comments such as, “I saw a Schiff the other day, two days ago, watermelon, he looks like a watermelon head.”

Maybe you love the president of the United States calling one of his critics in Congress “a watermelon head.” If you do, I suspect you were going to vote for Trump anyway.

There are swaths of voters out there who like Trump’s policies but abhor his personality. Even with a second term at stake, Trump refused to alter his public persona one iota.

From all indications, the state of Texas will be close, in a race that pits an incumbent Republican president against a Democratic challenger who lost the state twice as vice president, who is pledging to “transition from the oil industry,” declares no one “needs” an AR-15, promises to enact federal buybacks of high-capacity magazines, promises a 100-day deportation moratorium, and promises to cease border-fencing construction and replacement. And the state is close to tied. That’s how bad Trump’s flaws are. By any traditional measure, Biden should be at least ten points down and maybe closer to 20 points.

You can argue that voters in Texas and the rest of the country should care more about the policies and less about Trump’s Twitter tirades, his insistence that the pandemic will disappear someday soon, his instinctive suspicion of the likes of Dr. Anthony Fauci, his juvenile name-calling, and general lack of decorum and respect for the office. But whether or not you think voters should care less about these things, they care. This is not something new. This phenomenon has been visible and obvious since the first day of the Trump presidency. Apparently, everyone around the president can see it. Apparently, almost everyone around him who is pulling for him to win is begging him to just try to be a little more professional, a little more presidential, a little more focused on what voters are worried about, and a little less focused on what interests him the most on cable news. And he just won’t do it — at all.

You can’t save a man who doesn’t want to save himself.

ADDENDUM: Quite a few readers liked this Corner post, and some people didn’t. To the critics, I would ask, what do you want the deadline for turning in a ballot to be? The first Tuesday in November? The first Thursday? Friday or Saturday?

Whatever day you determine to be a reasonable and fair deadline, let’s make that day Election Day. Because you guys seem hell-bent on having one deadline for in-person voting and a later deadline for absentee voting, and that is a system that invites shenanigans in close races.


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