On Nov. 3, the clown show will be put on hiatus for retooling

More than any devastating news reports, more than any lopsided polling, more than any Nate Silver election forecasts: this convinced me that President Trump is well and truly finished this November:

Over ten million Trump cultists, masochists and rubberneckers* watched Trump’s town hall event on NBC, but the ABC broadcast featuring boring old Joe Biden drew over twelve million viewers.

In 2016, everyone watched Donald Trump’s rallies, speeches and events just to see what crazy stuff he’d do. In 2020, the novelty has worn off. Americans have well and thoroughly had enough of the Trump era and just want the madness to end.

This should also silence critics who self-righteously slammed NBC for scheduling the Trump event at the same time as the Biden event. (Sadly, the technology to watch one show and record the other for later viewing apparently doesn’t exist yet.) Not only was Trump thoroughly cornered and flustered by Savannah Guthrie, now we have definitive proof that he can’t even draw big TV ratings anymore. Trump might be indifferent to millions of Americans contracting COVID-19, but that has to hit him where it really hurts.

By the way, that nice Florida lady who complimented Trump on his smile? She’s backing Biden.

The mask has been torn off

We all knew he’d float something like this eventually, but it’s still shocking to see a sitting President of the United States come out and say it:

U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter Thursday morning and called for the 2020 presidential election to be delayed due to mail-in voting.

Trump has been attacking mail-in voting for months as health and government officials are trying to make it easier and safer to vote during the coronavirus pandemic.

Health officials have said voting by mail can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but Trump has made clear he believes widespread mail-in voting would benefit Democrats in November’s election.

“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” he tweeted.

Can he do this? Legally, he cannot:

The U.S. president does not have the power to change the date of the election. The day of the federal election is set by U.S. Congress and the Constitution makes no provisions for a delay to the presidential inauguration, which takes place on Jan. 20, 2021.

The 20th Amendment says that “the terms of the President and the Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January.”

According to NBC News, a change in the election date means a change in the federal law and it would need to go through Democrats-controlled House of Representatives and the Republican-controlled Senate.

The key word is “legally.” I have no doubt any attempt to delay the election, at the national or the state level, would eventually be overturned by the courts. Even Trump’s own Supreme Court appointees have proven they won’t blindly do whatever he wants.

But Trump has spent the past four years insisting the 2016 election, which he won, was somehow marred by fraud because Hillary Clinton got more of the popular vote. (An election you can win without a plurality of the votes? What kind of banana republic is that?) He is gearing up to declare an increasingly likely 2020 defeat illegitimate, and everyone knows it.

Unlike in Canada, where a federal agency governs federal elections, American Presidential elections are administered at the state level. I can easily imagine a nightmare situation where Republican-controlled governments in crucial swing states (coughFloridacough) try to delay the election and throw the outcome into chaos. Even if the courts slap them down, that still gives them enough time to sow doubts about whether a Biden victory is legitimate. And Team Trump will run with that for years to come.

Before 2020, we could say the Trump years have been awful in many ways, but the most pessimistic predictions have not come true. In this blighted year, the worst-case scenarios about this man testing a 224-year-old democracy look increasingly plausible. Whatever concerns I might have about Trump’s opponents – not so much Biden himself, but the increasingly vocal far-left fringe of the Democratic Party – are mere annoyances by comparison.

If it’s close in Texas…

The FiveThirtyEight polling average for the Lone Star State has Joe Biden ahead of Donald Trump by the slightest of margins – literally, one-tenth of a percentage point – and one new survey gives Biden an even bigger lead:

Former Vice President Joe Biden has built a five-point lead over President Donald Trump in Texas as unease over Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic mounts, a new Dallas Morning News/University of Texas at Tyler poll has found.

Biden had 46% support to Trump’s 41%. If the general election were held today, the outcome could depend on the 14% of voters who were undecided or named someone else.

Biden’s lead, which comes after he and Trump were tied 43%-43% in The News and UT-Tyler’s April survey, is significant, if barely: The poll, conducted June 29 through July 7, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.24 percentage points.

The story behind Biden’s slight bulge is the softening of the Republican incumbent’s support among independents and “weak partisans,” said Kenneth Bryant Jr., a UT-Tyler political scientist who helped design the poll.

“While President Trump has and still enjoys near universal approval from Republicans, and overwhelming disfavor from Democrats, he has lost considerable ground among the folks in the middle, who may ultimately decide who wins Texas in November,” Bryant said.

For years, Democrats have been counting on demographic change to flip this deeply red state, so these results must be absolutely mouth-watering. But is Joe Biden really going to beat Donald Trump in Texas this fall?

Meh, probably not. Every year seems to be the year Texas votes Democratic, but it never happens. (Remember Beto O’Rourke? No? He was a big deal once, I swear.)

The thing is, Biden doesn’t need Texas to win the election. He just needs it to be close. Donald Trump, by contrast, cannot win re-election without holding Texas.

Trump’s fluke win – and for all the talk about what it means about the American character, I still say it was very much a fluke – came about because he pulled out razor-thin victories in Rust Belt states Hillary Clinton thought she had in the bag, like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Trump needs to win them again, and the polling is looking extremely bad for him in 2020.

The point is, Trump needs to throw everything he has at these states. But if he has divert desperately resources to Texas – not to mention other traditionally red states like Georgia and Arizona, where Biden is competitive – that hurts him in the swing states. It’s the political equivalent of Hitler sending troops to bail out Mussolini in he Balkans while he was planning his invasion of the USSR, and we know how that turned out.

(To be fair, Biden could make the same miscalculation and divert his scarce resources to states he’s unlikely to win, but my hope is that he learned from Clinton’s mistakes in 2016.)

As long as Biden keeps the pressure on in Texas, it throws the Trump campaign into further turmoil. And it could be a moot point anyway, with Trump also needing the state hardest hit by COVID-19 to win.

Meanwhile, he’s retweeting game show hosts who insist that the virus is a big hoax. That ought to play well in the Sunshine State. (“The virus that killed your grandparents is a scam. I’m Donald Trump and I approved this message.”)

#NeverTrump means Never Trump

Joe Walsh (not the “Ordinary Average Guy” guy, but the former Illinois Congressman) says he will not be voting for Trump under any circumstances. Yes, even if the Democrats nominate socialist Bernie Sanders:

No, never-Trump isn’t an official designation. It’s not (yet) a political party. It’s not a club with bylaws. But it is an idea. It means that President Trump — his impeachable conduct, his nonstop racist jabs, his tariffs, his nepotism, his knee-jerk foreign policy and his insistence on turning the presidency into a cult of personality — is the real bridge too far, not Sen. Sanders.

Never-Trump means that you still believe in the Constitution. It means you knew what Benjamin Franklin meant when he warned that we Americans have been blessed with a republic, “if you can keep it.” It means you recognize that Trump is enough of a threat to our founding principles that you won’t vote for him under any circumstances. And, at least to me, it also means you’ll suck it up and support his Democratic opponent, no matter who that is.  …

[…]

In 2016, sadly, I supported Trump. [Did he ever – DP] I freely admit that I’m a second-wave never-Trumper. But once I got here, it was always my plan to stay. Because, for me, the ways in which Trump threatens this country go beyond left-right ideology. He lies constantly. He grants pardons to toadies. He conflates America’s financial interests with his own. He uses his bully pulpit to air a never-ending, year-round list of Festivus grievances.

He surrounds himself with lackeys and purges staff who won’t do his bidding. He’s an authoritarian who once said, with a straight face, “I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want.” That’s a bigger threat to America than free college, a $15-per-hour minimum wage and Glass-Steagall part deux. Yes, I’m a fiscal conservative who still worries about the national debt. But not as much as I worry about Trump wrecking my country.

I really, really, really don’t want Sanders as the alternative to Trump. But even he won’t be…this.

It won’t necessarily be Sanders, though.

It’s 1972 again

Last July, The Bulwark‘s Charlie Sykes warned Democrats that 2020 could easily turn into a repeat of 1972 – when their party gambled on a far-left candidate to take on an unpopular, divisive President. The result:

Read it all, and tell me if you think the party has learned a friggin’ thing from 1972. Or 2016. Or 2018, when “The Squad” got all the attention after winning in overwhelmingly Democratic districts, but moderate Democrats actually flipped the House.

So, let’s talk about the 1972 election.

In the year leading up to it, the Democrats were giddy with anticipation. The country was still mired in a bloody war, the economy was a mess, and President Richard Nixon, while lacking Trump’s theatricality and instability, was regarded with fear and loathing by much of the country. In the 1970 midterms, Democrats won the popular vote in House races by 8.7 percent, while adding a dozen seats. In 1971, Nixon’s approval ratings dipped below 50 percent, and stayed there. Surely, they told themselves, they could beat this guy.

Nixon’s vulnerability attracted a host of potential challengers, with Senator Edmund Muskie, a previous vice-presidential candidate, as the front-runner. He had gravitas; The Times opined that “No national leader since Franklin Roosevelt has been better than Mr. Muskie in delivering a conventional ‘fireside chat.’”

But they noted that despite Muskie’s appeal, many Democrats “believe the times call for radical change.” For some Democrats, Muskie “appears a little too cautious. He evokes respect, but not enthusiasm.”

This “mild dissatisfaction” gave an opening to a far more liberal candidate, one who spoke to the activated left of the party, George McGovern. For Democrats who shared McGovern’s anti-war passions, his record “establishes his moral superiority,” the Times wrote. But it also noted that others feared that “his views have too sharp a cutting edge and would energize as many elements as he won over.”

That turned out to drastically underestimate McGovern’s weakness. As unpopular as he was, Nixon would go on to win 49 of 50 states, 520 electoral votes, and nearly 61 percent of the popular vote, beating McGovern by nearly 18 million votes.

It’s possible that Nixon would have beaten any Democrat, but what happened in 1972 was not inevitable. It was, however, a choice. Democrats chose to move sharply left – to indulge their ideological id. Nixon ran against the party of “Acid, Amnesty, and Abortion.” The result was a massive landslide for a vulnerable incumbent.

The relatively moderate and well-regarded Edmund Muskie was actually taken down by the Nixon campaign’s dirty tricks. Again, history repeats itself.

Bernie is the front-runner. For now.

The socialist won the New Hampshire Democratic primary last night – but not by as much as you may have expected:

A win is a win, and this win certainly gives Bernie some momentum. But 26% of the vote is a long way off from the 60% he won last time around. Yeah, that was a two-way fight against Hillary Clinton – but when presented with more alternatives on his home turf, over half of Bernie’s supporters jumped ship.

If Sanders does pick up most of Elizabeth Warren’s supporters when she drops out, that may put him over the top. But considering their recent history, I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

It’s the surging Amy Klobuchar whom I can see benefiting the most from an Elizabeth Warren withdrawal. A large piece of the Democratic electorate, not unreasonably, wants to see a female President in their lifetime – especially after Hillary Clinton was so cruelly denied victory by the intricacies of the electoral college in 2016. And all of a sudden, Klobuchar is the woman with the best chance of winning this thing.

If she does pull this off, I think this might be seen as a turning point:

The Democratic Party is devoutly pro-choice (the days of anti-abortion Democrats and pro-choice Republicans are long gone) but only Klobuchar appears to realize that if you want to win the White House, you have to at least make an attempt to peel off support from the other side.