Monday, October 23, 2023

Last Call For That Poll-Asked Look, Con't

Polling from this summer indicated that RFK Jr.'s spoiler third-party run was drawing more Trump voters than Biden voters, but this time a poll from Harvard/Harris finds RFK Jr. is throwing the race to Trump.
Former President Trump is leading President Biden and Democrat-turned-independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in a three-way race, a new poll found.

The Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey, shared with The Hill, showed Trump receiving 39 percent support, Biden receiving 33 percent support and Kennedy receiving 19 percent support in a three-way race. A separate 9 percent of voters said they did not know or were unsure.

When those who were unsure were asked who they would vote for if they had to choose, Trump received 42 percent support, Biden received 36 percent and Kennedy received 22 percent.

In a two-way race, Trump holds a 5 percentage point lead over Biden, with the former president receiving 46 percent and Biden receiving 41 percent. Fourteen percent of respondents said they were unsure or didn’t know.

The survey noted that Biden gained 1 percentage point since a similar survey was conducted in September, while Trump gained 2 percentage points.

Biden still leads Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley in separate head-to-head match-ups.

Between Biden and DeSantis, Biden received 44 percent support while DeSantis received 40 percent. Between Biden and Haley, the president sat at 42 percent while Haley received 38 percent support.

The survey also indicated that Trump received the highest percentage of support when GOP voters were asked who they would vote for if the 2024 Republican primary were held today. Trump received 60 percent while DeSantis received 11 percent; all others received less than 10 percent, according to the poll.

“Trump’s polling continues to defy gravity both in the primary and the general election. Kennedy right now doesn’t change the result — an election held today would elect Donald Trump,Mark Penn, the co-director of the Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll, said. “There is a lot of time and events to go, but Trump has a significant edge at the starting line.”
Again, a poll 12 months out from an election is about as predictive as a bucket of warm spit, but it continues to show that Trump facing 90+ counts in four separate criminal trials doesn't matter to half the country and that they'll vote for him anyway.  The polls have consistently shown him with a 40-50 point lead in the primaries despite the dozens of felony charges, to the point where I believe being indicted has actually helped him, not that Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley would have a chance in hell even without the criminal charges.
Trump continues to have a 46-point lead in the GOP primaries in the latest USA Today/Suffolk U poll, too.
Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley has surged nationally in a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll, challenging a faltering Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as the top alternative to Donald Trump for the GOP presidential nomination.

Haley's support has risen to 11% of registered voters who plan to vote in GOP primaries or caucuses, up from 4% in the USA TODAY/Suffolk poll taken in June and just one percentage point below DeSantis. His 12% standing was a steep fall from his 23% support four months ago.

Trump continues to dominate the field, backed by 58%, up 10 points.
However, the USA Today/Suffolk U poll shows again that RFK Jr. would turn a tie into a one-point Biden lead.

One in four voters, 26%, said they would seriously consider supporting a bipartisan ticket of a Republican and a Democrat that a centrist group called No Labels may field. Another 23% said they might consider it, depending on who the nominees were. Biden voters were more likely than Trump voters − 28% compared with 18% − to say they would take a serious look.

The poll of 1,000 registered voters, taken by landline and cell phone Tuesday through Friday, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Not since billionaire businessman H. Ross Perot drew 19% of the vote in 1992, enabling Bill Clinton to defeat President George H.W. Bush with just 43% of the popular vote, has the prospect of independent bids threatened to upend the standard two-party calculations of campaigns.

Without Kennedy in the mix, Trump would edge Biden by 41% to 39%, a lead within the survey's margin of error, with West at 7%. Without West in the mix, Biden would edge Trump by an even narrower margin, 38% to 37%, with Kennedy at 14%.

With neither Kennedy nor West on the ballot, Biden and Trump would tie at 41%-41%.
Polls aren't accurate this far out, but they are consistent, and there's more than enough polling data to show that the real problem is that Trump is anywhere close to winning, and that a good 40%+ of Americans are still willing to vote for the guy given the last seven years.
Trump's the symptom, sure. The root cause remains the people who still support him.

Oil's Well That Ends Badly, Con't

Yet another massive oil giant consolidation buyout as Chevron buys Hess for $53 billion as record oil industry profits fuel tens of billions in stock buybacks and ludicrous executive bonuses, all while Americans continue to get robbed at the pump.

Chevron announced Monday that it has agreed to buy rival Hess in yet another oil industry consolidation deal.

Cash-rich oil giants are taking advantage of high prices and surging profits to snap up assets and boost returns for shareholders even as pressure builds for them to invest more in renewable energy.

The deal, worth $53 billion plus debt, would give Chevron even greater access to US shale production in Texas’ Permian Basin, a part of the industry where Chevron (CVX) has been a leader for years. Hess (HES) also has large oil assets in Guyana, which Chevron said would help grow its production over the next decade.

“This combination positions Chevron to strengthen our long-term performance and further enhance our advantaged portfolio by adding world-class assets,” said Chevron Chairman and CEO Mike Wirth.

Wirth said Chevron and Hess will be able to merge seamlessly, sharing “similar values and cultures,” including a commitment to “lowering carbon,” although environmental advocates have been very critical of oil companies’ slow acceptance of renewable energy alternatives.

Chevron said buying Hess would increase the company’s free cash flow, giving the company more cash on hand in the long term to do more share repurchases. Chevron said that it would increase buybacks of its stock by $2.5 billion to $20 billion a year.

Critics have slammed oil companies for spending tens of billions of dollars on stock buybacks rather than easing the pain for consumers at the pump or investing more heavily in the energy transition. Already cash rich, oil companies have scored record profits after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pinched oil supplies and sent prices higher.

ExxonMobil (XOM) last year made a record $1,874 of profit for every second during the course of 2022.

Those profits have made oil companies deal-happy. Two weeks ago, Exxon announced it would buy shale company Pioneer for $60 billion, a deal that would more than double Exxon’s Permian Basin operations if it is completed.

It’s not clear whether ExxonMobil or Chevron will face antitrust hurdles to completing their deals. The Biden administration has been far more active in challenging corporate power on antitrust grounds than recent administrations.

Shares of Chevron slipped 3% in premarket trading following the deal announcement, while Hess’ shares were slightly higher. Since the start of 2022, just ahead of the big run-up in oil prices following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Hess shares are up 120%, while Chevron shares are up 42%.
Again, the industry is raking in record profits at our expense and any efforts to do anything about it get opposed by two-thirds of Congress and two-thirds of SCOTUS, all while the planet roasts. Something's got to give soon, whether it's the oil industry or the people at the pump.

Oil's been hovering around $80 all year, with gas prices around $3.50 a gallon. A brand-new Middle East war sparked by Israel and Hamas will only drive oil back up above $100 a barrel or higher, and the industry titans will only get more money as a result.

Our unsustainable energy situation is getting even more unsustainable. A crack-up is coming and when it does, all bets are off.

Trump Cards, Con't

As Marcy Wheeler explains, Trump's defense against Judge Tanya Chutkan's gag order in his January 6th case argues that Trump is not only entitled to unrestricted "free speech" by rallying his legion of MAGA chuds to rage against Chutkin herself, but that the rights of his followers to echo and spread that rage are being violated as well.

A substantial portion of the 33-page motion speaks for the First Amendment rights of his mob to hear, respond to, and amplify Trump’s speech. To defend this principle, Trump cites, among other things, the Missouri v. Biden that SCOTUS just agreed to review over the objections of Sam Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch.

Under the First Amendment, violating the rights of a speaker inflicts an equal and reciprocal constitutional injury on the listener. “Freedom of speech presupposes a willing speaker. But where a speaker exists, . . . the protection afforded is to the communication, to its source and to its recipients both.” Virginia State Bd. of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, Inc., 425 U.S. 748, 756 (1976) (emphasis added) (collecting many cases); see also, e.g., Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. F.C.C., 395 U.S. 367, 390 (1969) (“It is the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount.”); Packingham v. North Carolina, 582 U.S. 98, 104 (2017) (recognizing the right to “speak and listen, and then … speak and listen once more,” as a “fundamental principle of the First Amendment”); Missouri v. Biden, — F.4th –, No. 23- 30445, 2023 WL 6425697, at *11 (5th Cir. Oct. 3, 2023) (holding that the “right to listen is ‘reciprocal’ to the … right to speak” and “constitutes an independent basis” for relief). Thus, injuring President Trump’s ability to speak injures the First Amendment rights of over 100 million Americans who listen to him, respond to him, and amplify his message.

The claim to have 100 million listeners is a bit like calling his NY penthouse 33,000 square feet, insofar as it relies on overlapping numbers, including the 87 million followers he has but does not tweet to on Xitter.

Trump necessarily dedicates a very long footnote to explaining how he has standing to appeal this gag on behalf of his mob.

3 President Trump unquestionably has third-party standing to defend the rights of his audiences in this context. The Supreme Court is “quite forgiving” of third-party standing requirements “[w]ithin the context of the First Amendment.” Kowalski v. Tesmer, 543 U.S. 125, 130 (2004). The First Amendment’s overbreadth doctrine, for example, relieves the third-party plaintiff of the burden to show the usual “close relationship” and “hindrance” required by the third-party standing doctrine, id.; instead, Article III injury is all that is required. See id.; United States v. Sineneng-Smith, 140 S. Ct. 1575, 1586 (2020) (Thomas, J., concurring) (“Litigants raising overbreadth challenges rarely satisfy either requirement [‘close relationship’ and ‘hindrance’], but the Court nevertheless allows third-party standing.”) (citing Dombroski v. Pfister, 380 U.S. 479, 487 (1965)); N.J. Bankers Ass’n v. Att’y Gen., 49 F.4th 849, 860 (3d Cir. 2022) (noting that “the requirement that an impediment exist to the third party asserting his . . . own rights” does not apply when the challenged government action “substantially abridges the First Amendment rights of other parties not before the court”). Further, as the Supreme Court held in Bantam Books Inc. v. Sullivan, it is particularly important to allow third-party standing to vindicate First Amendment interests because “freedoms of expression … are vulnerable to gravely damaging yet barely visible encroachments” and must be protected by “the most rigorous procedural safeguards.” 372 U.S. 58, 66 (1963); see also id. at 64 n.6 (upholding the third-party standing of book publishers to assert the rights of distributors because “[t]he distributor … is not likely to sustain sufficient economic injury to induce him to seek judicial vindication of his rights,” whereas the seller has a “greater . . . stake” in vindicating those rights). In addition, the doctrine of third-party standing applies “when enforcement of the challenged restriction against the litigant would result indirectly in the violation of third parties’ rights.” Kowalski, 543 U.S. at 130. Here, the interference and restriction of President Trump’s First Amendment rights “would result indirectly in the violation of third parties’ rights,” id.—i.e., the rights of his audiences to receive, respond to, and amplify his speech.

I think this footnote is suspect, legally and practically. I mean, the notion that Stephen Miller’s NGO for fascism couldn’t vindicate these rights is nonsense. But it is nevertheless telling.

Trump makes that argument even while complaining that Judge Chutkan had to rely on the potential actions of others — that very same mob riled up by the amplified false victimization of Trump — to justify the gag itself.

Unable to justify the Gag Order based on President Trump’s actions, the prosecution pivots to third parties, alleging that unnamed others, outside of President Trump’s control, acted improperly before this case began. Such concerns cannot justify the Gag Order. The Supreme Court has repeatedly explained that citizens of this country cannot be censored based on a fear of what others might do. Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444, 447 (1969) (“[T]he constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy . . . except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”).


In entering the Gag Order, the Court relied heavily on the anticipated reactions of unidentified, independent third parties to President Trump’s speech. The Court found that “when Defendant has publicly attacked individuals, including on matters related to this case, those individuals are consequently threatened and harassed.” Id. at 2. But the Court cited no evidence that President Trump’s statements—as distinct from the statements of millions of others—caused such alleged threats or harassment, let alone that the statements were directed to inciting imminent lawless action.

Remember, Trump has repeatedly denied that the indictment accuses him of mobilizing the mob against Congress. Even after DOJ disabused Trump of that fantasy, he is playing coy about the fact that the crime he is alleged to have committed significantly involves riling up a mob to use as a weapon.

Indeed, Trump admits this is the plan to get elected: to rile up the mob again, this time by using this prosecution as a trigger.

The prosecution filed the indictment in this matter on August 1, 2023. Doc. 1. As this case is pending, President Trump continues to campaign for President, and one of his core messages is that the prosecutions against him are part of an unconstitutional strategy to attack and silence the Biden Administration’s chief political rival. To advance this message, President Trump has made many public statements criticizing individuals he believes are wrongly prosecuting him, including President Biden, Attorney General Garland, and Special Prosecutor Jack Smith and his team. This viewpoint—that the prosecution is politically motivated—is one shared by countless Americans.


President Trump’s speech in support of his re-election campaign—which is inextricably intertwined with this prosecution and his defense—lies “at the core of our electoral process of the First Amendment freedoms—an area . . . where protection of robust discussion is at its zenith.” Meyer v. Grant, 486 U.S. 414, 425 (1988) (citations and quotations omitted); see also Buckley v. Am. Const. Law Found., Inc., 525 U.S. 182, 186–87 (1999); McIntyre v. Ohio Elec. Comm’n, 514 U.S. 334, 347 (1995) (“[C]ore political speech” encompasses any “advocacy of a politically controversial viewpoint.” “No form of speech is entitled to greater constitutional protection than” core political speech.).

Some of this is just cynicism: by claiming all this is political speech, Trump does base his appeal on the most expansive First Amendment precedent. The legal arguments here, some of them, anyway, are not frivolous.

But he’s not wrong about his campaign strategy. The key to Trump’s political success since he was sworn in was to polarize the electorate based off false claims that any investigation of Trump’s crimes is an attack on him and his mob.

Wheeler is right, of course. The whole "You can't prosecute me because you're hurting the people who voted for me" nonsense is literally Trump claiming he's immune from legal repercussions because he has a giant mob at his beckon call and that the "injury" done to his supporters by even investigating Trump renders him invincible.

If that's somehow the accepted legal justification, then no politician in the country can be touched because it unfairly hurts their supporters, voters, and followers, and Trump's legal team goes on to say that this is the highest form of democracy.

It's mob rule over all other things, and whoever has the biggest mob wins. 
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