Fri 5 pm update Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania update:
Remember when I was frantically emailing and posting about Pennsylvania voters who had ordered absentee ballots, but understood it was important to vote in person because they distrust Trump’s mail? And many people were saying you may have to use a provisional ballot?
Many of those voters were Democrats and especially people of color.
Well, update from MSNBC:

“Pennsylvania officials say a lot of the remaining votes are provisional ballots cast in urban precincts on Election Day, and they are the last votes we count.”

Biden already has a good lead with lots of Biden batches to count. Nate Silver says the red areas have a few more votes left than we have thought, but they’re small and not as red as the rest of those counties. The PA count has been slowed down by Trump lawsuits and 2 mechanical/logistical errors, but it’s still on track. Still no legal basis to stop the count or reverse the lead. PA Dems still say they project a win by 100,000, but it’s going more slowly than they hoped.

8 pm update: “The Pennsylvania SOS office is reporting 100K mail ballots left to be counted statewide. The top six counties are all Biden counties, with a combined 70K (inc 35K in Allegheny, 23K in Philly). Biden’s lead will just keep going up.”

And the Biden 80/20 pace continues in Allegheny County: link.

Friday 9 AM update: PA margin means it’s over. Don’t worry about Military/Overseas votes or Recounts

1. Pennsylvania is starting to get called officially for Biden by decision desks. That’s 273 electoral votes w/o GA or AZ. And still on track for Biden to win by well over 50,000, beyond any plausible recount or overseas/military ballot(which is relatively 50/50 see below)

And keep in mind that Obama and Clinton kept adding millions to national popular vote over the following weeks. Biden’s national margin will be around 7-8 million, bigger than Obama over Romney 2012.

2. Lots of people asking about 10,000 overseas and military. GA Military is more mixed vote this year. A. It’s not Iowa military. More Black servicemen (who are more Republican than Black men generally, but the military vote won’t be red enough to catch up. B. August polling of military showed major shift against Trump (see Military Times poll below). C. Overseas non-military is Democratic. D. There is even more blue Atlanta and Savannah coming in today. The margin will be big enough today. Overseas gets counted next week, too little too late.

3. AZ probably stays Biden. The trend towards Trump slowed down in the last batches. Too little too late.

4. Too many states have a margin too big for a recount to have any reasonable chance.

Likely 306 Electoral Votes.

From Military Times Aug 31: “In the latest results — based on 1,018 active-duty troops surveyed in late July and early August — nearly half of respondents (49.9 percent) had an unfavorable view of the president, compared to about 38 percent who had a favorable view. Questions in the poll had a margin of error of up to 2 percent. Among all survey participants, 42 percent said they “strongly” disapprove of Trump’s time in office.” 

Friday 4:20 AM: Biden Surges Ahead in Georgia, Hits 275 Solid Electoral Votes

Thursday 3 pm update: Biden netting votes even in Red PA counties

This Pennsylvania update shows why Biden will win:

1. Even PA’s reddest counties like Carbon are still netting more votes for Biden, because the absentee/mail is solidly Dem everywhere in PA.
H/t @SteveKornacki:

2. The Philadelphia absentee votes are coming in for Biden at 90%-10% or better, at an even bigger turnout than for Obama 2008/12. And that’s the lion’s share of remaining ballots.

3. PA Dem officials tracking the vote totals project a Biden win by 175,000 overall. See image below.

4. Nevada is going to called for Biden soon to get Biden to 259 electoral votes beyond any realistic recount or legal challenge, just like where Pennsylvania is headed: a politically clear and legally unimpeachable count for Biden.

Thurs AM update: Pennsylvania looking solid, the tipping point state to 273

All signs point to Biden winning the Philadelphia absentee ballots by a lot over the next 24 hours, and winning Pennsylvania by at least 100,000 votes. And that gets Biden to 273 electoral votes without any other undeclared states NV, AZ, GA or NC.

See below. Trump is up by 130,000, but there are about 600,000 absentee ballots left, mostly from urban areas, and Biden is winning them overall 80% to 20%:

By a cautious estimate, Biden will net over Trump at least 200,000 votes, and will win Pennsylvania by about 100,000 votes by Friday.

There is no legal basis to stop this count, and the margin will be too big for any recount to make a slight bit of difference, or to need to count pre-election postmarked/late arriving ballots under the legally vulnerable state Supreme Court extension.

So this is the winning map: PA gets Biden to 273 without AZ, NV or GA:

Biden in good shape: Where things stand, Wed 8 am

  1. Biden will win NV and AZ. (Update: Arizona has gotten messy with a tabulation error and confusion about the party registration balance of late-arriving mailed ballots).
  2. Then he needs just 2 of the following 4, and there is a rough consensus that he is likely to win all 4 by close margins:
    GA, MI, WI, and PA
    The numbers already look good, given what seems left to count. We should know more by the end of the day. For example, see this helpful projection of PA here:
  3. Trump has no legal basis to stop any of these counts of ballots that arrived on time according to pre-established state law. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court mail extension for ballots mailed on time but arriving late is the only exception, and that suit could become moot by the other states or by the count of PA’s more timely ballots. And the US Supreme Court already rejected that claim 4-4. If Amy Coney Barrett reverses that decision after the election, it will be a major problem for voters’ reliance on the first decision, and if somehow that gives Trump the election, it would be a disaster for the rule of law and the legitimacy of the courts in America.
  4. Senate: less likely. The Democrats need 2 more pick-ups, relying on absentee votes in Maine and then a Georgia run-off. North Carolina looks too far back.

Continue reading “Biden in good shape: Where things stand, Wed 8 am”

2020 Election Predictions

Biden 369-Trump 169:

By the way, this is no wildly optimistic fantasy. I’m assuming the polls are right, and underestimated minority Election Day turnout, which offsets the problems of mail delays and rejecting absentee ballots. But the mail and the absentee process are still problems.

Senate: Dems flip CO, AZ, ME, NC, IA, and 2 surprises: MT and GA (Ossoff wins 50%, no run-off). Lose AL. +6 = 53-46 Dem Senate. GA Special will be a run-off.

House: Dems gain for 243-192 majority: flip NJ2, NC2, NC6, AZ6, MN1, TX23, TX24, PA10, OH1, GA7, IN5.

Gov: One flip: Dems lose Montana.

I want to record for future historians…

…that the Democratic Party was on a path to totally acquiesce to Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, especially after Roberts steered to the middle (June Medical, DACA…). And in all likelihood, Barrett wasn’t enough to tip the Dems to act. Biden and Harris punted it like it was 4th and 40. But the last week of the election, Barrett made herself into a Trump campaign Il Duce balcony photo op (after a first one was a superspreader disaster), showed she would recuse from election cases, for which Trump bragged he has appointed her as (his own) 5th vote. And then Gorsuch and Kavanaugh and a bunch of lower court judges jumped the shark in utterly brazen, sloppy, and unstrategic decisions and botched the long-game and seem to have provoked many moderate, incrementalist cautious Democrats like me to embrace sweeping judicial reform.

Seven Senate Races: The key to 2020

Dear friends, The Senate means more than ever, for many reasons:
1. A Republican Senate will block all or most of a Democratic president’s judicial nominees, including a new Supreme Court nomination if one becomes open.

2. If you think adding seats to the Court is appropriate after Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation, you need both Houses to do so.

3. A new Congress could moot the pending Supreme Court challenge to the Affordable Care Act by reviving the individual mandate tax, even as $1. But the Democrats need both Houses to do so. 

4. A new Congress could pass crucial voting rights legislation, federal protections of reproductive rights, and a badly needed economic recovery package. McConnell’s GOP Senate would block all of these efforts. 

5. If recounts prevent the Electoral College and the House from electing a new president, the new Senate could elect Pence Vice President, and it is plausible that he would become president until the lengthy legal disputes over the presidential vote would be resolved.

So here are the SEVEN Senate races most worth our attention and donations over the next week. Remember: these campaigns need donations immediately to buy advertising and get-out-the-vote/get-the-mailed-votes-right efforts immediately. (I think the Colorado race is a relatively safe pick-up for Hickenlooper over Gardner).

1. Maine: Sara Gideon (D) vs. Susan Collins (R). Top of the list because even though Biden is far ahead of Trump, Gideon is only a few points ahead. Collins has remarkably strong support in Maine as a perceived moderate over 24 years, and she may be able to use her opposition to Amy Coney Barrett to win back independents. She deserves to lose most for her Kavanaugh vote.538 gives Gideon just a 62% chance of winning. And the 2d Cong. district in Maine could be necessary for Biden, so double-whammy spending. Gideon is also an excellent candidate, potentially a future star in the party.

2. ArizonaMark Kelly (D) (astronaut husband of Gabby Giffords) vs. Martha McSally (R – MAGA Nut). 538 gives Kelly a 79% of winning, but this is still top-of-the-list because Arizona is one of two states most likely to give Biden 270 electoral votes. The other is Pennsylvania, likely to have long delays counting about three million absentee ballots. Money spent in Arizona is a double-whammy.

3. Iowa: Theresa Greenfield (D) vs. Joni Ernst (R) 538 currently has this race 50/50, and two high quality polls came out this week showing Greenfield pulling ahead by 2 points. Ernst is crazy MAGA. Greenfield is solid. And Iowa is increasingly competitve for Biden, too. Another dobule-whammy.

4. UPDATE: Michigan: Peters (D incumbent) over James (R). Surprisingly, the polls have gotten closer. It may be a couple of outlier polls, but I think James has raised a ton of money. And Peters needs to outraise James:

[UPDATE: Harrison raised a record $54M last quarter, more money than he can spent. It’s good news, but that’s why I’m downgrading South Carolina: Jaime Harrison (D) v. Lindsey Graham (R).I’m putting this high on the list because Harrison is so awesome (he is a dynamic Black man, and he is a good friend of some of my friends from Yale College), and Graham is such a coward. 538 puts Graham’s chances at 78%, but that’s a remarkably close race, and what a message it would send.

5. Montana: Steve Bullock (D) v. Steve Daines (R). A battle of the Steves is Even-Steven. Bullock ran for president. Montana has one Democratic Senator (Jon Tester). The NY Times “A+” poll showed a one-point race two weeks ago. 538 gives Bullock a 34% shot, but I think he’s got a much better shot than that, and money goes a long way in low-population state like Montana.

6. Georgia: Jon Ossoff (D) v. Perdue (R). Perdue has his own Covid-insider-trading scandal (similar to Sens. Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler) that should be getting more attention and advertising. 538 gives Ossoff a 26% chance of winning, but I think Georgia has an underrated chance of swinging blue now.

7. North Carolina: Cunningham (D) v. Tillis (R). This race had been steadily trending toward Cunningham. You may have heard about Cunningham’s stupid sexts. I’ve dropped him down the list here, even though North Carolina is a Biden/Senate double-whammy. I want to see more polling data to see if he is hurt by the texts. My guess is that the scandal has surely been drowned out by Trump and Tillis getting Covid, and other national insanity. But North Carolina also has a terrible absentee ballot system that is grossly discriminatory. Maybe that’s more reason to donate, but maybe other states are a better bet. UPDATE: Cunningham’s polling appears stable post-texting here, a significant 48%-42% lead by a very good pollster. Maybe such a solid lead that we should focus on other races anyway? 

More close races, and I think all are under-rated as pick-up chances:

Alaska (Al Gross, 17% chance)

Kansas (Barbara Bollier) (21% chance but recent polls are even!)

Alabama (Doug Jones)

Texas (MJ Hegar v. Cornyn, 13% chance) This would be a wonderful upset pick.

Why Did Trump Go Birther and Run for President? An IRS Audit in 2010?

A remarkable coincidence emerges when one lines up the timeline of the New York Times’s Trump tax refund bombshell and Trump’s entry into national politics as a Birther. It appears Trump came out as a racist anti-Obama birther and floated the idea of running for president after the Obama IRS audited his 2010 tax refund ($73 million), and at almost the exact same time that the Obama IRS challenged the refund behind the scenes in Congress  in the spring of 2011.

One question is whether Trump’s turn to birtherism in March 2011 was initially an outburst of anger at being audited. Or was it a strategically political move before the news of the audit was public, so that Trump could make it appear that the Obama IRS audit was partisan retribution against a birther enemy? And did his entry into politics and floating the idea of running for president help him to tie up the audit review in Congress so that he could keep the $73 million check?

Running for president would have been a good way to slow down Congress’s review process of large refunds. Aggressively attacking Obama would have been a strategic move to keep the Obama IRS quiet, lest a leak of their audit after March 2011 would make it appear (wrongly) that they were investigating Trump in retribution. If this was Trump’s gambit, it appeared to have worked. And then, perhaps, it unintentionally snowballed over the next six years into Trump becoming a hero to the racist far-right, winning the 2016 nomintion, and winning the White House.

First, here is a timeline/excerpt from the New York Times of Trump’s 2010 refund and IRS audit from the New York Times, and then a timeline of Trump’s emergence as a birther in March 2011:

“[C]onfidential records show that starting in 2010 he claimed, and received, an income tax refund totaling $72.9 million — all the federal income tax he had paid for 2005 through 2008, plus interest.

“The legitimacy of that refund is at the center of the audit battle that he has long been waging, out of public view, with the I.R.S.

“The records that The Times reviewed square with the way Mr. Trump has repeatedly cited, without explanation, an ongoing audit as grounds for refusing to release his tax returns. He alluded to it as recently as July on Fox News, when he told Sean Hannity, “They treat me horribly, the I.R.S., horribly.”

“And while the records do not lay out all the details of the audit, they match his lawyers’ statement during the 2016 campaign that audits of his returns for 2009 and subsequent years remained open, and involved “transactions or activities that were also reported on returns for 2008 and earlier.”

“Mr. Trump harvested that refund bonanza by declaring huge business losses — a total of $1.4 billion from his core businesses for 2008 and 2009 — that tax laws had prevented him from using in prior years.

“…The records reviewed by The Times indicate that Mr. Trump filed for the first of several tranches of his refund several weeks later, in January 2010. That set off what tax professionals refer to as a “quickie refund,” a check processed in 90 days on a tentative basis, pending an audit by the I.R.S.  

“Records show that the results of an audit of Mr. Trump’s refund were sent to the joint committee in the spring of 2011. An agreement was reached in late 2014, the documents indicate, but the audit resumed and grew to include Mr. Trump’s returns for 2010 through 2013.” [END QUOTE]

Now let’s turn to the spring of 2011 in Trump’s political career. The first birther comments I can find are from March 17, 2011, just as he floats the idea of running for president. From Politico on Trump’s appearance on Good Morning America:

Trump seemed to throw his lot in with the discredited rumors that President Obama wasn’t born in America, saying he’s a “little” skeptical of Obama’s citizenship and that every so-called birther who shares the view shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed as an “idiot.” “Growing up no one knew him,” Trump told ABC’s “Good Morning America” during an interview aboard his private plane, Trump Force One. “The whole thing is very strange.” In the wide-ranging interview, Trump said he’s willing to spend up to $600 million on a presidential bid.

CNN then follows with a timeline of Trump’s birtherism escalating in March and April of 2011. On March 23, 2011, on “The View”: “Why doesn’t he show his birth certificate? There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.” March 28, 2011, on Fox News: “He’s spent millions of dollars trying to get away from this issue. Millions of dollars in legal fees trying to get away from this issue. And I’ll tell you what, I brought it up, just routinely, and all of a sudden a lot facts are emerging and I’m starting to wonder myself whether or not he was born in this country.”

March 30, 2011, on The Laura Ingraham Show: “He doesn’t have a birth certificate, or if he does, there’s something on that certificate that is very bad for him. Now, somebody told me — and I have no idea if this is bad for him or not, but perhaps it would be — that where it says ‘religion,’ it might have ‘Muslim.’ And if you’re a Muslim, you don’t change your religion, by the way.” April 7, 2011 on NBC’s “Today” show: “I have people that have been studying [Obama’s birth certificate] and they cannot believe what they’re finding … I would like to have him show his birth certificate, and can I be honest with you, I hope he can. Because if he can’t, if he can’t, if he wasn’t born in this country, which is a real possibility … then he has pulled one of the great cons in the history of politics.”

NBC reported that Trump had Michael Cohen working behind the scene with the National Enquirer in 2010 to plan the birther story. Perhaps Trump already knew, after submitting his request for the $73 million refund in January 2010, that an audit was automatic during the next three months (as the NY Times story explains) and he anticipated a political escalation. Or perhaps the Obama IRS had notified Trump that the audit was headed towards a more contested process in Congress.

According to the NY Times, Trump appeared to be financially desperate during the Great Recession of 2008-2009, after massive losses. He was appeared to be in dire need of the $73 million refund, and according to Michael Cohen, Trump knew that the refund was dubious. Cohen, testifying before Congress, “recalled Mr. Trump’s showing him a huge check from the U.S. Treasury some years earlier and musing ‘that he could not believe how stupid the government was for giving someone like him that much money back.’”

Perhaps all of this is just a coincidence.

However, going birther and flirting with a presidential run in 2011 would have been a politically and legally strategic move for a deeply indebted charlatan to hang on to the refund long enough, until another scheme emerged. And perhaps that scheme was a 2016 presidential run and the marketing, media, and foreign support it drew.

Or perhaps it is just as simple as a frightened and financially desperate racist initially having a temper tantrum over an audit by a Black man’s administration. 

Either way, it appears Trump’s fight with the IRS in 2010-2011 may have changed the course of history.