Saturday, September 19, 2020

Last Call For Actual, Literal Trump Cards

A White House deal with the pharmaceutical industry to lower drug prescription prices for Americans was apparently destroyed last month when the Trump regime shook down Big Pharma for hundreds of millions in direct payments to seniors during the election with Trump-branded gift cards.

After months of heated accusations and painstaking negotiations, the White House and the pharmaceutical industry neared agreement late last month on a plan to make good on President Trump’s longstanding promise to lower drug prices.

The drug companies would spend $150 billion to address out-of-pocket consumer costs and would even pick up the bulk of the co-payments that older Americans shoulder in Medicare’s prescription drug program.

Then the agreement collapsed. The breaking point, according to four people familiar with the discussions: Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, insisted the drug makers pay for $100 cash cards that would be mailed to seniors before November — “Trump Cards,” some in the industry called them.

Some of the drugmakers bridled at being party to what they feared would be seen as an 11th-hour political boost for Mr. Trump, the people familiar with the matter said.

White House officials insist they didn’t plan to emblazon the president’s name on the cards, which they envisioned sending to tens of millions of Americans to use for prescriptions. Mr. Trump, of course, has a long history of branding everything from skyscrapers to stimulus checks.

Regardless, one drug company executive said they worried about the optics of having the chief executives of the country’s leading pharmaceutical makers stand with the president in the Rose Garden as he hoisted an oversized card and gloated about helping a crucial bloc of voters.

“We could not agree to the administration’s plan to issue one-time savings cards right before a presidential election,” said Priscilla VanderVeer, the vice president of public affairs at PhRMA, the industry’s largest trade group. “One-time savings cards will neither provide lasting help, nor advance the fundamental reforms necessary to help seniors better afford their medicines.”


Big pharma got on Trump's bad side by not paying his hundreds of millions in shakedown fees, so now it's time for the consequences.


Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, would not comment specifically on the savings cards.

But he noted that Mr. Trump had held back on an executive order the industry fiercely opposed, which would tie some drug prices to the prices paid by other countries — called “most-favored nation” drug pricing. Now the president is poised to link the prices that Medicare pays for drugs administered in doctors’ offices to those paid even by social democracies in Europe.
President Trump is working to ensure American patients are no longer forced to pay outrageously higher drug prices than those in other countries,” Mr. Deere said. “President Trump signed four executive orders earlier this summer. However, he did not release the final executive order on ‘most-favored nation’ drug pricing, giving drug companies a month to come up with a counterproposal. Negotiations did not produce an acceptable alternative, so the president is moving forward.”

It appears, then, the industry will have to confront the executive order it hoped to avoid.

Last Sunday, Mr. Trump released the order, which calls for the establishment of pilot programs tying some Medicare drugs to prices abroad. They are unlikely to be established before the election, and the industry is almost sure to file suit in response.


Trump supporters will no doubt cheer this story, ecstatic that their God-Emperor is taking the hated drug companies to task for refusing to pay fealty to Dear Leader, and frankly it's the fact that drug companies have been taking in hundreds of billions in profits for decades that makes American health care the priciest on Earth.

There are no good guys in this particular fight, only tens of millions of Americans suffering.

But a Trump free to shake down any and every industry for hundreds of millions in in-kind payments to his campaign is a dictator and a mob boss, and we deserve better.

Sussing Out The Senate

Time to take a look at the race for control of the US Senate, and the good news is with just over six weeks to go, Democrats are favored to take back control of the upper chamber.

Democrats are slight favorites to regain control of the Senate, according to the FiveThirtyEight Senate forecast, which launched today. But the map is wide open, with at least a dozen competitive races — none of which are certain pickups for Democrats — including some states where Democrats are playing defense.

In fact, while it’s possible that Democrats will wind up controlling 54 seats or perhaps even more, the most likely outcome is a much more closely divided chamber, including the possibility of a 50/50 split in which control of the Senate would be determined by whether the vice president is Kamala Harris or Mike Pence. (Joe Biden and Harris currently have a 76 percent chance of winning the presidential race, according to our forecast.1)

Our Congressional model (our forecast for House races will be released soon) is largely the same as the version we built in 2018, which was quite accurate in predicting the number of Senate and House seats that each party would win. We’ve made a handful of changes since 2018, most of which were designed to create more consistency with our presidential forecast, including assuming that uncertainty is slightly higher this year because of an increase in mail voting under COVID-19. But these adjustments don’t greatly change the outlook. For a complete list of changes, see our methodology guide.

As in 2018, there are three versions of the model, which build on one another and become increasingly complex:

he Lite version of the model relies as much as possible on polling. In races that don’t have much or any polling, it calculates the candidates’ standing from other races that have been polled.

The Classic version relies on polling but also incorporates “fundamentals” such as fundraising, incumbency and a state’s partisan lean relative to the rest of the country.

Finally, the Deluxe version takes all of the above and adds in expert ratings from The Cook Political Report, Inside Elections and Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

By default, we’re showing you the “Deluxe” version of the model this year. It’s supposed to be the most accurate one and — given everything going on — we’re inclined to cut to the chase. But you can toggle between the versions using the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of the page.

You might want to get in the habit of doing this, too, because there are some fairly large differences between the model versions this year. This reflects the fact that the polling in individual Senate races is generally quite good for Democrats, while other indicators and expert ratings are more equivocal. For instance, the poll-centric Lite version of the model currently gives Democrats a 68 percent chance of winning the Senate, as compared to a 64 percent chance in the Classic version and a 58 percent chance in the Deluxe version.2

So depending on the model, the Dems have a 58-68% chance of controlling the Senate, but the most likely outcome of all three models remains either 50 or 51 seats.  It's not a done deal by any stretch, Dems are going to have to get five seats to offset Doug Jones's near guaranteed loss in Alabama and get to 51, but they have a very good shot at Maine, Colorado, NC and Arizona and getting to 50. Their next best shot is Iowa and Theresa Greenfield upsetting Joni Ernst, followed by Steve Bullock knocking out Steve Daines in Montana, or Jon Ossaof getting lucky in Georgia. Jones is actually next on that list, but he's looking at 27% odds and it gets worse from there for the Dems, even with Jaime Harrison in SC.

We'll see what happens.  The Dems can get to 50, but after that, gets dicey for 51 and beyond.

But if even one of those upsets's all they need for 51.

Not Sugar Coats-ing The Election

Former Trump Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats takes to the NY Times in an op-ed, telling Congress straight out that foreign interference and delegitimization efforts against American elections will destroy the country unless stopped.

We hear often that the November election is the most consequential in our lifetime. But the importance of the election is not just which candidate or which party wins. Voters also face the question of whether the American democratic experiment, one of the boldest political innovations in human history, will survive.

Our democracy’s enemies, foreign and domestic, want us to concede in advance that our voting systems are faulty or fraudulent; that sinister conspiracies have distorted the political will of the people; that our public discourse has been perverted by the news media and social networks riddled with prejudice, lies and ill will; that judicial institutions, law enforcement and even national security have been twisted, misused and misdirected to create anxiety and conflict, not justice and social peace.

If those are the results of this tumultuous election year, we are lost, no matter which candidate wins. No American, and certainly no American leader, should want such an outcome. Total destruction and sowing salt in the earth of American democracy is a catastrophe well beyond simple defeat and a poison for generations. An electoral victory on these terms would be no victory at all. The judgment of history, reflecting on the death of enlightened democracy, would be harsh.

The most urgent task American leaders face is to ensure that the election’s results are accepted as legitimate. Electoral legitimacy is the essential linchpin of our entire political culture. We should see the challenge clearly in advance and take immediate action to respond.

The most important part of an effective response is to finally, at long last, forge a genuinely bipartisan effort to save our democracy, rejecting the vicious partisanship that has disabled and destabilized government for too long. If we cannot find common ground now, on this core issue at the very heart of our endangered system, we never will.

Our key goal should be reassurance. We must firmly, unambiguously reassure all Americans that their vote will be counted, that it will matter, that the people’s will expressed through their votes will not be questioned and will be respected and accepted. I propose that Congress creates a new mechanism to help accomplish this purpose. It should create a supremely high-level bipartisan and nonpartisan commission to oversee the election. This commission would not circumvent existing electoral reporting systems or those that tabulate, evaluate or certify the results. But it would monitor those mechanisms and confirm for the public that the laws and regulations governing them have been scrupulously and expeditiously followed — or that violations have been exposed and dealt with — without political prejudice and without regard to political interests of either party.

Also, this commission would be responsible for monitoring those forces that seek to harm our electoral system through interference, fraud, disinformation or other distortions. These would be exposed to the American people in a timely manner and referred to appropriate law enforcement agencies and national security entities.

Such a commission must be composed of national leaders personally committed — by oath — to put partisan politics aside even in the midst of an electoral contest of such importance. They would accept as a personal moral responsibility to put the integrity and fairness of the election process above everything else, making public reassurance their goal.

Commission members undertaking this high, historic responsibility should come from both parties and could include congressional leaders, current and former governors, “elder statespersons,” former national security leaders, perhaps the former Supreme Court justices David Souter and Anthony Kennedy, and business leaders from social media companies.

In a normal time, this would be a good idea.  In 2020, there's precisely zero chance of this happening, because one party is solely dependent on these foreign efforts to retain power.  The permanent damage has already been done, and Coats knows this all too well.

The time for commissions was 2008 or so. The time for Coats to walk out of the White House with evidence that Trump is a traitor and demand his ouster among Republican Senators was three years ago.

Coats deserves his place in history's dustbin as a result.

Biden, His Time, Con't

Cook Political Report's Amy Walter now has Arizona in Biden's column, meaning he's looking at 290 electoral votes and a comfortable win before the Toss-Ups of Florida, NC, Georgia(!) and Maine's 2nd district are counted.

There are two key geographic battlegrounds for the Electoral College this year. One is the Midwest that until 2016, had been reliably Democratic. The other is the fast-growing Sun Belt section of the country that has traditionally voted Republican.

To help understand how voters in these regions are thinking about this election and the issues shaping it, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Cook Political Report have collaborated on two surveys. In November 2019, we released the Blue Wall Voices Project, a survey of 3,222 voters in the Upper Midwest (Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Michigan).

This week, we are releasing the most recent poll that featured 3,479 interviews with voters in Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina.

While Trump carried all three states in 2020, he is not leading in any of these states today. Trump and Biden are essentially tied in Florida (Trump 42%, Biden's 43%) and NC (Trump 43%, Biden 45%). However, in Arizona, Biden has opened up a more substantial lead (Biden 45%, Trump 40%). A Biden win in Arizona would mean that he could afford to lose Michigan or Wisconsin (two of "Blue Wall" consortium) and still eke out an Electoral College win (assuming that he wins all the states Hillary Clinton carried in 2016). Biden could even afford to lose Pennsylvania and still win the Electoral College with a combination of Arizona and Nebraska's 2nd CD.

Arizona is geographically large, but its population is concentrated in Maricopa County (Phoenix). About two-thirds of the vote comes from Maricopa. Voters there, as in other suburban areas in and around big metro areas, have soured on Pres. Trump. Biden leads Trump there by six points, 46 percent to 40 percent. In 2016, Trump carried Maricopa with almost 52 percent of the vote.

Another troubling sign for Trump in Arizona is that GOP voters are not as committed to supporting him as they are in the other Sun Belt states. Call it the revenge of former Arizona GOP Sens. Jeff Flake and the late John McCain, two of the president's most vocal critics. Only 73 percent of Arizona Republicans say they are definitely voting for Trump, with 9 percent saying they are probably or definitely voting for Joe Biden. In North Carolina and Florida the GOP defection rate to Biden is about half as much (5% in North Carolina and 4% in Florida). Meanwhile, 81 percent of Arizona Democrats say they are definitely voting for Biden with only 1% saying they were probable Trump voters.

Trump is also struggling with Latino support in Arizona, taking just 17 percent of the vote to Biden's 55 percent. In Florida, however, where Latinos also make up a similar percentage of the electorate, Trump is taking 36 percent of the vote to Biden's 53 percent.

This poll tracks with other recent surveys of Arizona which show Biden ahead. The FiveThirtyEight average puts Biden's lead in the state at five points (49-44 percent).

The new data in this poll, combined with other recent polling in the state, all find Arizona slipping away from Trump. We are moving it from Toss Up to Lean Democrat.

Trump losing Arizona is the same as Biden losing Pennsylvania: the death knell of the campaign.

Democrats are also ahead in the two senate races in NC and AZ, with Democrat Mark Kelly up by 8 over GOP Sen. Martha McSally, and Democrat Cal Cunningham up 4 over GOP Sen. Thom Tillis. NC Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is up by 10 points over current GOP Lt. Gov Dan Forest.

Good news for Team Blue, and if everything holds true for another 45 days, it's a Biden win and a Democratic Senate.

But as we all know too well, a lot can happen in 45 days.
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