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.”)

Trudeau’s Arabian Nightmare

I was even more right-wing in 2001 than I am now, and even then I knew wearing blackface was horribly racist. (I still remembered the very special “Gimme a Break!” episode about it from when I was a kid.) Our woke Prime Minister, on the other hand, had no idea.

To be fair, he was just a callow youth of (checks notes) 29 years old.

Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, wore brownface makeup to a party at the private school where he was teaching in the spring of 2001. TIME has obtained a photograph of the incident.

The photograph has not been previously reported. The picture was taken at an “Arabian Nights”-themed gala. It shows Trudeau, then the 29-year-old son of the late former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, wearing a turban and robes with his face, neck and hands completely darkened. The photograph appears in the 2000-2001 yearbook of West Point Grey Academy, a private day school where Trudeau was a teacher.

[…]

Speaking to reporters Wednesday night, following TIME’s publication of the photo, Trudeau apologized: “I shouldn’t have done that. I should have known better and I didn’t. I’m really sorry.” When asked if he thought the photograph was racist, he said, “Yes it was. I didn’t consider it racist at the time, but now we know better.”

Trudeau said he wore “makeup” in high school to sing “Day-O,” a Jamaican folk song famously performed by African-American singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte. “I deeply regret that I did that,” he said.

The temptation to hold Trudeau to his own side’s extremely woke standards, and demand that his political career come to an end over this, is overwhelming. And yet, I think the better course of action for Andrew Scheer (who hasn’t weighed in yet, as of this posting) would be to take the high road.

Scheer didn’t step aside after his own 2005 comments attacking same-sex marriage came to light, and he should say Trudeau doesn’t deserve to lose his job over this. His policies and performance in office, sure, but not something stupid he did 18 years ago.

Conservatives should hold to the principle that people shouldn’t be judged, cancelled and denied a chance at redemption because of one mistake, and let the voters think about whether Liberals would do the same. Frankly, seeing Trudeau’s supporters make excuses for this is far more devastating than anything Scheer could say about it.

If everyone with skeletons in their closet was forced out of politics, we’d have no politicians left.

But there would be bad things about that, too.

The walls are crumbling

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It’s in the Enquirer.  It must be true.

Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s sentencing got most of the attention yesterday, but this information released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York might be even more significant:

The Office also announced today that it has previously reached a non-prosecution agreement with AMI, in connection with AMI’s role in making the above-described $150,000 payment before the 2016 presidential election.  As a part of the agreement, AMI admitted that it made the $150,000 payment in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign, and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 presidential election.  AMI further admitted that its principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.

Assuming AMI’s continued compliance with the agreement, the Office has agreed not to prosecute AMI for its role in that payment.  The agreement also acknowledges, among other things, AMI’s acceptance of responsibility, its substantial and important assistance in this investigation, and its agreement to provide cooperation in the future and implement specific improvements to its internal compliance to prevent future violations of the federal campaign finance laws.  These improvements include distributing written standards regarding federal election laws to its employees and conducting annual training concerning these standards.

Emphasis added.  AMI, parent company of the National Enquirer, is free to support whichever candidate it wants.  But paying off someone to suppress a damaging story, with the express intent of helping that candidate, looks like a serious campaign-finance violation.

Trump-skeptical conservative Allahpundit explains how this could be big trouble for the President:

…It’s legal to pay people off to benefit political candidates; it’s not legal to do it without reporting it to the FEC and it’s not legal to exceed the federal cap on contributions. The key question in analyzing whether the payment qualified as a campaign contribution was whether it was made for the purpose of influencing an election, rather than, say, for the purpose of sparing an adulterer’s family from embarrassment. The latter is what got John Edwards off the hook from this same sort of problem a few years ago. In the end, the feds couldn’t prove that his mistress was being hushed up to protect his presidential candidacy rather than to protect Mrs. Edwards from some personal pain.

Which brings us to today’s news. “AMI has not paid people to kill damaging stories about Mr. Trump,” said the company to the WSJ in a statement for its original story about this in November 2016. Two years later, AMI’s now saying something different. And suddenly the president’s in real trouble.

[…]

AMI just shredded Trump’s “Edwards defense.” The payment wasn’t made to spare Melania Trump or the Trump children from the embarrassment of learning about the affair. It was made to influence the election — that is, it was a campaign contribution. And it wasn’t reported. And it exceeded the statutory cap. And it was made in concert with the campaign. The DOJ has crept right up to the point of accusing the president of conspiring with AMI to make an illegal contribution. This is why I thought it was silly on Monday for Republican senators to be shrugging off last Friday’s court filings about Cohen on grounds that he’s a sleazeball and a liar whom no one should take seriously. He is a sleazeball and a liar, to be sure, but the feds never would have gone as far as to implicate Trump unless they had evidence beyond Cohen’s say-so. Today it’s implied that they do have more: They have AMI, not just Cohen, confirming that the law was intentionally broken and that “the campaign” knew about it. What does AMI know about Trump’s personal involvement in this?

Trump’s defense now (and maybe it’s the only defense left) will be that he didn’t know….

Good luck with that, considering that Cohen made a recording of him discussing this very issue with Trump in 2016:

Presidential candidate Donald Trump is heard on tape discussing with his attorney Michael Cohen how they would buy the rights to a Playboy model’s story about an alleged affair Trump had with her years earlier, according to the audio recording of the conversation aired exclusively on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time.”

The recording offers the public a glimpse at the confidential discussions between Trump and Cohen, and it confirms the man who now occupies the Oval Office had contemporaneous knowledge of a proposal to buy the rights to the story of Karen McDougal, a woman who has alleged she had an extramarital affair with Trump about a decade ago.

Cohen told Trump about his plans to set up a company and finance the purchase of the rights from American Media, which publishes the National Enquirer. The recording captures what appears to be a routine business conversation of several matters on their agenda. The audio is muddled and the meaning of Trump’s use of the word “cash” is disputed by the two sides.

“I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David,” Cohen said in the recording, likely a reference to American Media head David Pecker.

When financing comes up again later in the conversation, Trump interrupts Cohen asking, “What financing?” according to the recording. When Cohen tells Trump, “We’ll have to pay,” Trump is heard saying “pay with cash” but the audio is muddled and it’s unclear whether he suggests paying with cash or not paying. Cohen says, “no, no” but it is not clear what is said next.

It’s been a long two years since Trump’s shocking election, but it really feels like something has changed in the past few weeks.  I’m calling it now: Trump will not be running for re-election in 2020.  Assuming he isn’t removed from office before his term runs out, I think he’ll deem himself the most successful President in history, declare victory and avoid a humiliating defeat by choosing not to run again.

(Because my predictions are always so accurate, you know.)