Sunday, August 16, 2020

Last Call For Biden, His Time

The selection of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden's running mate has very quickly solidified the Democratic party base behind him heading into this week's Democratic National Convention.

Helped by a party that seems unified behind him, Joe Biden leads in our current estimate of the Electoral College — the only count that will matter — as his nominating convention begins. The CBS News Battleground Tracker model has Biden up in states worth 279 electoral votes, slightly more than the 270 needed to win in November. To be clear, that doesn't mean Biden will win. This is now.

The electoral map has expanded this summer. Multiple Southern states previously in the Republican column now look to be in play, like Arizona, Georgia, and even Texas. Biden currently leads in the three upper-Midwest states that President Trump narrowly flipped in 2016: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

All that opens up multiple paths for Biden to reach 270, as we have seen widespread movement toward him, rather than shifts in just a few states. We estimate that states worth 96 electoral votes are toss-ups, including others that Mr, Trump won, like Iowa and Ohio. However, states currently leaning toward Biden could go back to toss-up status or even lean Republican if the race changes down the road.

Biden is helped by strong commitment from key parts of the Democratic base, plus gains among groups such as women, especially White women with college degrees. Our statistical model takes into account voting preferences of all kinds of voters throughout each state and nationally, as well as how many of them there are in each state, and produces estimates for all 50 states.

Biden leads Mr. Trump by 10 points in the preference of likely voters nationwide, as he did in July. Here's a closer look at the landscape and key groups across the country.
Among women, voters under 30, and White voters with college degrees, Biden continues to hold a substantial lead. While Mr. Trump maintains a lead among White voters without college degrees, it's narrower than his margin among the group four years ago. On the other hand, White evangelicals continue to overwhelmingly support him.

Biden now leads Mr. Trump among Black voters 90% to 6%. This is higher than the 72% of Black voters who backed Hillary Clinton heading into her nominating convention in 2016.

Biden also holds a sizable lead among Hispanic voters today, helping keep states like Arizona and Texas competitive, and he's nearly doubled his lead among suburban voters since July — extending a seven-point lead to 13 points today.

The biggest news is that at least in the CBS polling, Biden has closed the enthusiasm gap.


Biden is in a very strong position with 80 days to go.  We'll see if he and Kamala can hold on to or God willing, increase this lead.

An Orange Man With Mail Pattern Badness, Con't

Realizing that House Democrats can't do anything about saving the US Postal Service from home (and also how hideously bad it looks for Dems to be complaining while taking an entire month off) Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer are considering bringing the House back to session early for hearings and oversight.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democratic leaders are considering cutting short the August recess and bringing the chamber back into session to deal with the unfolding crisis at the U.S. Postal Service, according to Democratic sources.

The House could return to vote with the next two weeks, the Democratic sources suggested. The chamber is currently in recess, with no votes scheduled until the week of Sept. 14.

Pelosi and other top Democrats, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), discussed the possibility of returning early during an emergency leadership call Saturday afternoon.

Democrats are looking to address organizational issues at the Postal Service in the coming weeks, not to provide additional funding at this time, according to sources familiar with the discussion.

One option would be to vote on a modified version of a bill introduced by House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) earlier this week that would prohibit USPS from implementing a planned organizational overhaul that critics maintain would handicap mail-in voting.
Other top Democrats also floated addressing other issues, including expired federal unemployment benefits and voting rights. But Democratic sources said the immediate focus — at least for now — is preserving the Postal Service ahead of the election.

On Friday, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a scathing statement accusing President Donald Trump and Republicans of waging an “all-out assault on the Postal Service and its role in ensuring the integrity of the 2020 election.” Their statement came after Trump said he opposes a federal infusion of funds to save the flailing postal service because he doesn’t support mail-in voting.

“The President made plain that he will manipulate the operations of the Post Office to deny eligible voters the ballot in pursuit of his own re-election,” Pelosi and Schumer said. “The President’s own words confirm: he needs to cheat to win.”

Legislation that would never be taken up by the Senate is one thing, but prime time hearings where Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has to defend wrecking the Postal Service live on TV while America watches is what has to happen. And it looks like the House is in fact swinging into action as early as next week.

The House Oversight Committee will hold an emergency hearing on mail delays and concerns about potential White House interference in the U.S. Postal Service, inviting Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Postal Service board of governors Chairman Robert M. Duncan to testify Aug. 24, top Democrats announced on Sunday.

Democrats have alleged that DeJoy, a former Republican National Committee chairman, is taking steps that are causing dysfunction in the mail system and could wreak havoc in the presidential election. The House had earlier not planned a hearing until September.

“The postmaster general and top Postal Service leadership must answer to the Congress and the American people as to why they are pushing these dangerous new policies that threaten to silence the voices of millions, just months before the election,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Oversight Chair Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) said in a statement announcing the hearing.

I fully expect the White House to block DeJoy and Duncan from showing up, saying that neither can be made available for the duration of the "busy election season" and a subpoena will take years to process thanks to the Supreme Court, so that means Pelosi needs to be ready to compel testimony through inherent contempt if necessary.

If DeJoy doesn't show, I expect the Dems will gladly be willing to share the stories of folks not getting their prescriptions, checks, and supplies on national TV for several hours as counter-programming to the Republican convention.

It should make for sobering theater.

Sunday Long Read: Inside The Blast Zone

Our Sunday Long Read is a sobering reminder that given the state of the country right now and the man in the Oval Office, the FBI should be expecting another October Surprise like we had in 2018 when mail bombs showed up at the addresses of Trump critics. Wired Magazine's Garrett Graff takes us through the hunt for the MAGA Bomber in October 2018.

WEIRD THINGS HAPPEN in and around New York City nearly every day, so the appearance of a suspicious package at George Soros' residence in Westchester County didn't initially raise many eyebrows at the FBI's hulking New York field office.

Late on the evening of Monday, October 22, 2018, the office received an alert known as a “nine-liner”—a brief update on an unfolding situation that, in the classic muddle of government communications, is actually 11 lines long. As a routine precautionary response, a team of bomb techs headed to Katonah, New York, to examine the yellow padded envelope. Given the rarity of mail bombs—the US Postal Service encounters about 16 a year, amid plenty of hoaxes—the technicians had good reason to expect it was a false alarm.

But they quickly sent an update when they arrived on the scene: “Boss, we found some energetic material,” an agent on the ground reported by phone to William Sweeney, the FBI assistant director in charge of the New York office. “We have a viable device.”

Sweeney, a 20-year veteran of the bureau, had spent the bulk of his career in the tri-state area and now oversaw the agency's largest, most powerful, and most politically fraught office, comprising more than 2,000 agents, analysts, surveillance specialists, and other personnel, who handled everything from Italian mobsters to Russian spies at the UN. His friendly neighborhood-dad persona belied his role as one of the FBI's most important feudal lords, and he was no stranger to terrorism cases. A year earlier, when a would-be suicide bomber had targeted the Port Authority bus terminal in 2017, the suspect's body was still smoking from his incompletely detonated pipe bomb when Sweeney arrived on the scene. Now, Sweeney knew that the follow-up call from the agents in Katonah would change the night's rhythm dramatically. An actual working bomb? “That starts the machine,” Sweeney says.

Multiple FBI teams were dispatched, including the office's terrorism unit. One investigator's initial theory was that this was an inside job: The package had appeared in a mailbox at the Soros residence that was surveilled by a faulty security camera, which meant there was no record of how it got there. How would anyone but Soros' house staff know that the camera guarding the mailbox was inoperative?

But the next day, the Secret Service discovered a similar package at the nearby residence of Hillary Clinton, addressed to the 2016 presidential candidate. And with that, the “174 case,” FBI code for a bombing investigation, morphed into a “266 case”: an investigation into domestic terrorism.

By Wednesday at 8 am, news of the bomb at the Soros residence made the morning show at CNN; commentator John Avlon ran a segment about how Soros had long been a target of conservative and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Then, as CNN anchors Jim Sciutto and Poppy Harlow were anchoring their 9 am show, the alert came that a suspicious device had appeared in CNN's own mail room. (It was intended for former CIA director and TV commentator John Brennan, who was actually a regular fixture on CNN's competitor, MSNBC.)

As the NYPD-FBI bomb squad rushed to the scene, authorities decided to lock down much of Columbus Circle, evacuating the 55-floor Time Warner Center and closing a subway station. Tens of thousands of workers poured out of their offices and shops. Sciutto and Harlow evacuated their studio but continued to report on the unfolding situation from the street, via Skype and cell phones, along with their colleagues. Bomb technicians loaded the device into one of the NYPD's three “total containment vessels”—a specially configured truck with a round, reinforced storage unit able to absorb a bomb's blast—and a six-vehicle convoy of police and fire vehicles hustled the bomb to an NYPD firing range in the Bronx. From the scene, Sweeney called one of his deputies: “Set up the JOC.” It was time to open the crisis command center, the Joint Operations Center, in Chelsea. The country had a serial bomber on its hands.

The hours ahead would see a Herculean mobilization of federal resources and a nationwide manhunt, equaled in the past decade perhaps only by the search for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects. What none of the investigators knew, though, was how much the Hunted Man himself seemed to be enjoying the coverage. As CNN broadcast the breaking news about the unfolding terror campaign, he wandered into a tire store and smiled broadly as he watched the chaos unfold on TV.

The convicted MAGA bomber, Cesar Sayoc, was created by Donald Trump.  Who knows how many more are out there?

I fear we'll find out in the next few months.
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