Posted: November 8, 2022 Filed under: 2022 Elections, just because | Tags: DOJ Civil Rights Division, midterm elections 2022, polls, train wreck
Good Day, Sky Dancers!!
The big day has arrived. This election truly has historic significance. We won’t know the results for sure tonight, but in a day or so we’ll have a sense of whether U.S. democracy can survive. I’m no expert, but this guy is:
No one really know whether to believe the polls, but the media has already decided that a red wave is coming. It’s also likely that results in a number of states won’t be clear for some time, and of course we know that Republicans plan to contest any losses and generally cause mayhem wherever they can. Here’s a piece from a couple of days ago on the coming confusion.
Charlie Mahtesian at Politico: The looming election disaster.
It’s time to talk about it out loud: This year’s election is going to be a train wreck. Not just Election Day, but the weeks and perhaps even months to come.
For starters, it might not be clear who controls the House for days, or longer. In the Senate, it could be weeks. In fact, if the polling averages are correct, we might not know who controls the Senate until after a potential early December runoff in Georgia.
But that’s the least of the trouble ahead. All the elements of a perfect storm are present: a rise in threats against election administrators and poll workers; outdated and overstrained election infrastructure; a brain drain of officials experienced with the complexities of administering elections; external cyber threats; and an abundance of close races that could extend long past Election Day as mail-in and provisional ballots are counted, recounted and litigated.
Then, there are the hundreds of Republican candidates up and down the ballot with a record of denying or expressing doubts about the 2020 presidential results — a few were even present at the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. At least a dozen candidates running in competitive Senate and governor and secretary of state contests refused to commit or declined to respond when asked whether they’ll accept the results of their races.
Great train wreck of 1918
A blowout Republican victory might remove many of the most combustible elements. But short of a red wave Tuesday, we’re looking at an ugly finish.
If those prominent election-denying candidates lose, it will not be graciously — remember, these are candidates whose political brands are rooted in their refusal to accept the 2020 election results, and their own high-profile and extra-legal efforts to overturn them. For them, the traditional pain and disappointment of defeat will be amplified because of the high expectations of midterm GOP success. And there are no party graybeards who will be able to talk them down — in fact, the post-election recriminations will likely find backing from party leaders and elected officials who fear antagonizing a base that’s been primed to believe the 2020 election was rigged.
The wellspring of these false claims, former President Donald Trump, is already laying the predicate — last week, he sought to cast doubt on the integrity of Pennsylvania’s results by claiming the 2022 results there are rigged as well.
Click the link to read the rest.
Another article on the upcoming confusion by Kelly Weill at The Daily Beast: These Counties Already Want a Recount and the Votes Aren’t Even In Yet.
The morning before polls opened in Cochise County, Arizona, a judge still had not ruled on how local votes would be counted.
On one side of the case were state officials and voters who opposed an effort to audit Tuesday’s election by hand. Arguing in favor of an audit were some of Cochise County’s Republican officials, backed by lawyers previously involved in a chaotic 2021 election audit in Arizona’s Maricopa County. Only on Monday evening—hours before the election—did a judge rule against a hand recount of the entire Cochise vote.
Train wreck in Iowa with hazardous materials, May 2021
Cochise, a rural county on the southern border, is one of several to preemptively call for an audit of its 2022 midterm vote. Although counties routinely review their elections, this new wave of audit enthusiasts is cozy with conspiracy theorists, and promotes methods like hand-counting ballots, which elections security experts describe as one of the most surefire ways to accidentally introduce errors into a vote count.
Hand-counting ballots is a bad idea, elections experts say. They cost more, take longer, and open opportunities for meddling from partisan kooks (see: the Maricopa audit, during which conspiracy-driven volunteers searched ballots for bamboo fibers, under the mistaken belief that ballots had been imported from China). Even without involvement from election truthers, hand counts are more error-prone than electronic counts. A 2018 study found hand counts to be less accurate than machine-counts, and a 2012 study found hand counts to have 2 percent error rate—a worryingly high margin that could tip elections, particularly in neck-and-neck races like several in this year’s midterms….
But Republicans are demanding hand recounts anyway.
Some of the loudest calls for preemptive audits come from Republican strongholds in swing states like Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Nevada. Officials in Pennsylvania’s Lycoming and York counties have already committed to hand recounts, although York County officials said it would only examine ballots from three of its 161 precincts.
York County’s decision to hand-audit its election came after a meeting between York County President Commissioner Julie Wheeler and Audit the Vote PA, the York Dispatch reported. ATVPA, an election-denial group, previously made headlines for an error-riddled “canvass report” of Pennsylvania voters. While conducting that survey, ATVPA volunteers knocked on doors and asked questions about residents’ votes, leading to York County locals accusing the group of intimidation and voter suppression efforts. ATVPA has also attempted to remove electronic voting machines in York County.
Wheeler, who did not return a request for comment on Monday, told CBS21 that the hand recount “is not tied to any election issues in the past. This is not an indication that we believe that prior election results that we certified are inaccurate.”
No, it’s an indication that Republicans want to fuck things up.
The DOJ is planning to monitor the polls in 24 states.
From the Justice Department website:
The Justice Department announced today its plans to monitor compliance with federal voting rights laws in 64 jurisdictions in 24 states for the Nov. 8, 2022 general election. Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Civil Rights Division has regularly monitored elections in the field in jurisdictions around the country to protect the rights of voters. The Civil Rights Division will also take complaints from the public nationwide regarding possible violations of the federal voting rights laws through its call center. The Civil Rights Division enforces the federal voting rights laws that protect the rights of all citizens to access the ballot.
For the general election, the Civil Rights Division will monitor for compliance with the federal voting rights laws on Election Day and/or in early voting in 64 jurisdictions….
Monitors will include personnel from the Civil Rights Division and from U.S. Attorneys’ Offices. In addition, the division also deploys monitors from the Office of Personnel Management, where authorized by federal court order. Division personnel will also maintain contact with state and local election officials.
The Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section enforces the civil provisions of federal statutes that protect the right to vote, including the Voting Rights Act, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, the National Voter Registration Act, the Help America Vote Act and the Civil Rights Acts. The division’s Disability Rights Section enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ensure that persons with disabilities have a full and equal opportunity to vote. The division’s Criminal Section enforces federal criminal statutes that prohibit voter intimidation and voter suppression based on race, color, national origin or religion.
On Election Day, Civil Rights Division personnel will be available all day to receive complaints from the public related to possible violations of the federal voting rights laws by a complaint form on the department’s website https://civilrights.justice.gov/ or by telephone toll-free at 800-253-3931.
Individuals with questions or complaints related to the ADA may call the department’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 or 833-610-1264 (TTY) or submit a complaint through a link on the department’s ADA website, at https://www.ada.gov/.
Complaints related to disruption at a polling place should always be reported immediately to local election officials (including officials in the polling place). Complaints related to violence, threats of violence or intimidation at a polling place should be reported immediately to local police authorities by calling 911. These complaints should also be reported to the department after local authorities have been contacted.
See the list of cities and counties that will be monitored at the link above.
What polling experts are writing about this morning:
When we launched our midterms forecast on June 30, Republicans had a 53 percent chance of taking over the Senate from Democrats, and an 87 percent chance of taking over the House.
We could almost have turned our servers off and let that forecast stand. Today, in our final forecast of the cycle, Republicans have a 59 percent chance of winning the Senate and an 84 percent chance of winning the House….
First, let’s talk a bit more about that final GOP Senate number, 59 percent. It’s in an annoying zone as far as I’m concerned. If I met you on the street, I wouldn’t know how to describe the race. It’s on the brink between a toss-up and one that we say leans toward Republicans. And to make matters more confusing, that 59 percent figure comes from our Deluxe forecast, which includes the input of human expert forecasters like the Cook Political Report. The Lite forecast (essentially a “polls only” version) and the Classic forecast (polls plus other objective indicators) have Republicans as just 50 and 51 percent “favorites,” respectively.
I don’t want to blow off that 59 percent number. Deluxe is supposed to be the most accurate version of our model. To be blunt, 59 percent is enough of an edge that if you offered to let me bet on Republicans at even money, I’d take it. (If I bet on politics, that is. Which I don’t.) Still, Democrats holding the Senate, or the race coming down to a runoff in Georgia, would not be surprising in the least.
In the House, meanwhile, you shouldn’t round the Republicans’ 84 percent chance up to 100 or the Democrats’ 16 percent chance down to zero. Two years ago, Republicans had just a 3 percent chance of winning the House in our final forecast and yet came within five seats of doing so. The balance of the evidence suggests a national political environment that favors Republicans by only 2 to 3 percentage points. And the polling itself, if anything, has been a little tighter than that. (Democrats have a 25 percent chance to keep the House in the polls-only Lite version of our forecast. After the redistricting process, Republicans have less of an advantage from gerrymandering and district boundaries than they did previously, so a roughly tied national environment would lead to a highly competitive race for the House — see yesterday’s post for much more detail on this.)
At the same time, the upside case for Republicans has perhaps been understated. Our model puts the 80th percentile range of outcomes in the House at between a one-seat and a 33-seat GOP gain; and remember, 20 percent of the time, the number will fall outside that range. Just as it isn’t that hard for the race in the House to become rather competitive, it also won’t take much to turn it into a Republican landslide.
Similarly, just because we’ll start the night with roughly 50-50 odds in the Senate does not necessarily mean we’ll finish the night with the balance of power determined by just one or two seats. Fairly often, all the competitive races break the same way in races for Congress. There’s almost a 25 percent chance that Republicans wind up with 53 or more seats, according to our Deluxe forecast (and a 7 percent chance that Democrats do so).
Cohn attempted to test whether there are really Trump voters who refuse to take polls and so are invisible. They compared the results of a poll that paid participants $25 to respond with a traditional poll. You can read aboaut it at the NYT. if you’re interested. The gist is that paying people worked to get more responses:
The data is still preliminary, and it will probably take at least six months, if not longer, before we can reach any final conclusions. But there is one immediate difference between the two groups, and that is in the polls’ response rates: Nearly 30 percent of households have responded to the survey so far — a figure dwarfing the 1.6 percent completion rate in the parallel Times/Siena poll.
But do Democrats also refuse to respond to poll callers? I know I rarely answer calls from numbers I don’t recognize, and rarely respond to polls when they do get through to me.
One more from Simon Rosenberg, who thinks things are looking good for Democrats. Check out his election morning thread on Twitter:
Simon Rosenberg at NDN last night: On This 2022 Election Eve Would Rather Be Us Than Them.
So I just published an updated analysis of the 2022 election with a day to go. My bottom line – it’s a close, competitive election. Dems have checked all the recent intensity boxes – strong performance in 5 House specials/Kansas, spiked voter registration post-Dobbs, far superior candidate fundraising, big early vote performance. Rs haven’t checked any of these intensity boxes. Polls and early vote on balance have been far better for Dems in recent days than Rs. A red wave may be coming but it is not here yet.
Heading into Election Day I’d rather be us than them.
You can catch me talking about the 2022 elections in a new Politico Playbook Deep Dive interview with Ryan Lizza; a new Deep State Radio podcast with Cecile Richards; a MSNBC segment with Joy Reid; a Meidas Touch pod; a NoLie pod with Brian Tyler Cohen; and a memorable chat with the venerable Rick Wilson. You can find all of these via this link.
Some of Rosenberg’s analysis–go to the link to read the rest.
Dems Lead 50-39 In The Early Vote, Now With 4.4m Vote Lead
Using TargetEarly, the official data source for NBC News, we know the early vote is running between 8-10% higher than 2018, an election which had the highest turnout in almost 100 years. Dems are running way above both 2018 and 2020, something which is a very direct challenge to the red wave narrative. This is how the vote breaks down at this point in the last 3 elections:
2018 – 46%-45% (+1) – 600k vote lead
2020 – 48%-41% (+7) – n/a
2020 – 50%-39% (+11) – 4.4m vote lead
It should be noted this 11 point lead is with an electorate older and whiter than 2018 and 2020, and with two of the nation’s largest states, CA/FL seeing drop offs for Dems from 2020. All of this is very good news for Democrats.
Last night, citing the strong Dem performance in the early vote, famed journalist John Ralston called Nevada for Senator Cortez Masto. In what must be concerning to Republicans here is a list of states where Dems are currently doing better relative to 2020 than Dems are in Nevada right now: AZ, GA, MI, MN, IA, IN, NC, NE, NJ, NY, OH, PA, TX, VA, WA, WI. To be clear that means the early Dem vote “firewall” that led Ralston to call Nevada is actually bigger in all these states. This too is good news for Democrats.
The Washington Post has a new story today from Arizona today, “Some in the party worry their assaults on early voting could ultimately suppress GOP turnout,” where questions have begun to be raised about why Rs decided to try to turn their voters out on a single day rather than over 2-3 weeks, as Democrats are doing. It’s a good question, as having more time to turn out voters in an election with far more irregular voters is kind of a no-brainer. The weeks Dems have had to turn out our voters has built powerful early vote leads in these states that may just be too big for the Rs to match tomorrow, particularly if their enthusiasm for voting has waned, as this new NBC News poll finds….
In another worrisome bit of data for the Rs the variance from the final early vote results and the final election results in 2018 and 2020 was 2-4 points. Tomorrow Dems will enter Election Day with an 11 point lead, meaning Rs will have to have an Election Day turnout many magnitudes better than either party in the last two elections. Can it be done? We will find out.
We have a big day and night ahead, and probably difficult days and weeks will follow. Hang in there everyone, and please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread. Have a great day and, of course, vote if you haven’t already done so.
Posted: November 5, 2022 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, cat art, caturday, just because | Tags: conspiracy theories, disinformation, Elon Musk, misinformation, polls, Twitter, Twitter advertisers
Leonid Kiparisov, ‘On a Good Footing’
At least we can celebrate cats and cat art, even though things in the real world are so f’d up. The top story today should be the upcoming midterm elections, and it is; but not in the way it normally would be. Right now we are dealing with a very strange situation in which a social media meltdown is likely to turn the process we’ve become accustomed to completely upside down. There’s really no way to know how it will all shake out, but it’s not looking good. It’s as if Trump himself took over Twitter in order to stoke chaos in the upcoming elections. In addition to the Twitter madness, the polls, which have been less accurate over the past several years, are seemingly more problematic than ever.
Here’s the latest on the Twitter mess. It’s a deep dive on the layoffs and how they could affect the user experience as well as the ability of experts, journalists, and regular people to follow the election results. Ben Collins, Bandy Zadrozny, and David Ingram at NBC News: Days before the midterms, Twitter lays off employees who fight misinformation.
Mass layoffs at Twitter on Friday battered the teams primarily responsible for keeping the platform free of misinformation, potentially hobbling the company’s capabilities four days before the end of voting in Tuesday’s midterm elections, one current and six former Twitter employees familiar with the cuts told NBC News,five of whom had been recently laid off.
Two former Twitter employees and one current employee warned the layoffs could bring chaos around the elections, as they hit especially hard on teams responsible for the curation of trending topics and for the engineering side of “user health,” which works on content moderation and site integrity. The seven people asked to withhold their names out of worry over professional retribution and because they weren’t authorized to speak for the company.
CEO Elon Musk, who’s facing sizable future debt payments and declining revenue at Twitter, said the cuts were needed to ensure the health of the company’s long-term finances a week after he bought it for $44 billion.
The cuts appeared to affect many people whose jobs were to keep Twitter from becoming overwhelmed by prohibited content, such as hateful conduct and targeted harassment, the seven sources said….
Gita Johar, a Columbia University business professor who has studied misinformation on Twitter, said the job cuts risk turning the site into a “free-for-all with rumors, conspiracy theories and falsehoods taking hold on the platform and in people’s imagination.”
Twitter had not released public figures about which teams had been cut the most, but the layoffs were widespread. In an exchange at an investor conference Friday, Musk appeared to confirm that his team had laid off half the company’s workforce, according to CNBC.
“Elon will own a company without employees,” a source inside Twitter told CNBC.
Painting by Françoise Collandre
Musk and his hand-picked spokespeople claim there won’t be any problems; but if you use Twitter regularly, you know that isn’t true.
Twitter’s curation team, which had a variety of roles across the platform, including coordinating the detection and publishing of moments meant to debunk misinformation, appears to be gone, one source said. The team had recently published an explainer about how it tried to keep information accurate and impartial.
Andrew Haigh, a London-based curation lead, said on Twitter that the team “is no more.”
“Unfortunately, the platform’s history of transparency and supporting research may be just that: history,” said Kate Starbird, a professor of design and engineering at the University of Washington who studies misinformation.
Starbird said it remained to be seen how potential misinformation around the midterms might be affected.
“We were already expecting a surge in rumors and disinformation around the election, even before Musk taking the reins,” she said.
“But the mass layoffs mean that we’ll get to see what an unmoderated major platform truly looks like in 2022, in an era of algorithmic manipulation and networked toxicity, during a massive online convergence event with huge political stakes.”
Read the rest at NBC News if you’re interested in the effects of misinformation and disinformation.
The Verge: Elon Musk’s Twitter layoffs leave whole teams gutted
Elon Musk has now purged roughly half of Twitter’s 7,500 employee base, leaving whole teams totally or near completely gutted, including those tasked with defending against election misinformation ahead of the US midterms next week, The Verge has learned.
The areas of Twitter impacted the most by Musk’s cuts include its product trust and safety, policy, communications, tweet curation, ethical AI, data science, research, machine learning, social good, accessibility, and even certain core engineering teams, according to tweets by laid-off employees and people familiar with the matter. More company leaders, including Arnaud Weber, VP of consumer product engineering, and Tony Haile, a senior director of product overseeing Twitter’s work with news publishers, have also been laid off following Musk’s firings of Twitter’s senior leadership last week.
Given the sweeping nature of Musk’s layoffs and his mandate to cut costs in areas like cloud hosting, employees who remain at Twitter told The Verge that they expect the company to have a hard time maintaining critical infrastructure in the short term. “Shit is gonna start breaking,” said one current employee who requested anonymity to speak without the company’s permission, while another called management’s layoff process “an absolute shit show.”
The rest of the article discusses Musk’s disgusting treatment of employees and upcoming lawsuits by those who have been purged.
The Washington Post: Twitter layoffs gutted election information teams days before midterms.
Devastating cuts to Twitter’s workforce on Friday, four days before the midterm elections, are fueling anxieties among political campaigns and election offices that have counted on the social network’s staff to help them combat violent threats and viral lies.
Slim woman with a cat, Geza Farago
The mass layoffs Friday gutted teams devoted to combating election misinformation, adding context to misleading tweets and communicating with journalists, public officials and campaign staff.
The layoffs included a number of people who were scheduled to be on call this weekend and early next week to monitor for signs of foreign disinformation, spam and other problematic content around the election, one former employee told The Washington Post. As of Friday morning, employee access to internal tools used for content moderation continued to be restricted, limiting staff’s ability to respond to misinformation.
Twitter had become one of America’s most influential platforms for spreading accurate voting information, and the days before elections have often been critical moments where company and campaign officials kept up a near-constant dialogue about potential risks.
But a representative from one of the national party committees said they are seeing hours-long delays in responses from their contacts at Twitter, raising fears of the toll workplace chaos and sudden terminations is taking on the platform’s ability to quickly react to developments. The representative spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.
It’s “only” a social media company, but Twitter has become a vital source of information for people in every walk of life. This is going to be a disaster.
Some researchers tracking online threats said they also feared that the cuts would interrupt lines of communication between the company and police that have been used to identify people threatening voter intimidation or offline violence.
“Law enforcement may lose precious minutes in identifying that person who we think is posing an actual threat,” said Katherine Keneally, a senior research manager at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a think tank that studies political extremism and polarization.
Keneally said she’d already seen an uptick in threatening content related to the election. She pointed to one post where a user wrote of the need to “pour in bleach or gasoline” at ballot drop boxes, a target of right-wing conspiracy theories about systematic voter fraud.
President Biden on Friday criticized Twitter’s role in spreading false information.
“Elon Musk goes out and buys an outfit that spews lies all across the world,” he said while attending a political fundraiser in Chicago. “There’s no editors anymore in America.”
The loss of Twitter as we knew it also has consequences for individuals. Here’s an example from a Washington Post writer:
Read the replies on Twitter. The sentiment is widespread.
Here’s another example:
From Vice yesterday, an example of how the lack of moderation is negatively affecting Twitter: Twitter Recommends Ye as Top Follow on ‘The Jews’ as Company Does Mass Layoffs.
“The Jews” is trending on Twitter, and its algorithm has selected Ye as a “Top” person to follow while Elon Musk fires roughly half of the company’s staff, including many of its policy experts and content moderators.
Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, recently had his Twitter access limited after saying he would go “death con 3” on “JEWISH PEOPLE,” and has been dropped by the vast majority of his business partners after repeatedly making blatantly antisemitic comments over the last few weeks. The freeze on Ye’s account has since been lifted.
“#IStandWithKyrie” is also trending, a reference to Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, who recently recommended that people watch an antisemitic documentary and was suspended for five games after declining to apologize and evasively answering a question on whether he holds “anti-semitic beliefs.”
Twitter’s content moderation has always been something of a disaster, and harmful things end up trending all the time. Twitter’s content moderation has always relied more heavily on algorithms than competitors like Facebook do. In any case, Musk has promised to protect the values of “freedom of speech”—with the company now running with thousands fewer employees after mass layoffs. This may well be a window into what that looks like.
Girl with Kitten – Olesya Serzhantova Russian painter
Twitter is also losing advertisers, which obviously could impact the long-term health of the company. The New York Times: Twitter’s Advertisers Pull Back as Layoffs Sweep Through Company.
The pullback of advertisers from Twitter gathered steam on Friday amid growing fear that misinformation and hate speech would be allowed to proliferate on the platform under Elon Musk’s leadership.
The Volkswagen Group joined several other companies in recommending that its automotive brands, which include Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley and Porsche, pause their spending on Twitter out of concerns that their ads could appear alongside problematic content. The Danish brewing company Carlsberg Group also said it had advised its marketing teams to do the same. The outdoor equipment and apparel retailer REI said it would pause posts in addition to advertising spending “given the uncertain future of Twitter’s ability to moderate harmful content and guarantee brand safety for advertisers.” And a spokeswoman for United Airlines, Leslie Scott, confirmed that the carrier had suspended advertising on Twitter earlier this week.
Civil rights groups including GLAAD and the Anti-Defamation League held a conference call on Friday urging other companies to abandon Twitter, saying that mass layoffs there were gutting what they described as an already anemic content moderation staff.
Even Mr. Musk acknowledged the advertising slump, tweeting on Friday morning that Twitter “has had a massive drop in revenue,” which he blamed on activist groups pressuring advertisers.
The first chaotic week of Mr. Musk’s ownership of Twitter has given Madison Avenue whiplash, as advertisers struggle to reconcile the billionaire’s promises to make the platform safe for brands with concerns about a surge of extremism and false narratives, including one promoted by Mr. Musk himself.
In his tweet about Twitter’s faltering revenue, Mr. Musk said that “nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists” — a claim that civil rights groups denied.
A minute before he posted his comment, the ad-tracking platform MediaRadar released statistics showing that the number of advertisers on Twitter had dropped from May, soon after Mr. Musk’s bid for the platform was announced, through September, when he was still fighting to get out of the deal he struck to buy Twitter in April.
MediaRadar, which tracks ad campaigns for millions of companies, said data for October, when Mr. Musk took over Twitter, would not be available until later this month.
More details at the link.
And what about the polls? New York Times polling expert Nate Cohn discusses the situation: Polling Averages Can Be Useful, but What’s Underneath Has Changed. This year, a wave of polls from Republican-leaning firms is driving the averages.
The polls show Republicans gaining heading into the final stretch. They’ve pulled ahead on the generic ballot in the race for the House, and they’ve fought into a closely contested race for Senate control….
On average, Republicans lead by two points on the generic ballot — which asks voters whether they’ll vote for the Democrat or Republican for Congress — and have pulled into very tight Senate races in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Nevada, where Democrats were once thought to have the advantage.
This simple poll average is like many others you might have seen over the years. It weights the most recent polls more heavily. It gives more weight to pollsters that belong to a professional polling organization (they tend to be far less biased over the longer term). It doesn’t contain some of the fancier bells and whistles, like an adjustment for whether a poll tends to lean toward Republicans or Democrats.
But in one important respect, this average is very different from polling averages you’ve seen in prior years: The pollsters making up the average are very different.
Many stalwarts of political polling over the last decade — Monmouth University, Quinnipiac University, ABC/Washington Post, CNN/SSRS, Fox News, New York Times/Siena College, Marist College — have conducted far fewer surveys, especially in the battleground states, than they have in recent years. In some cases, these pollsters have conducted no recent polls at all.
And on the flip side, there has been a wave of polls by firms like the Trafalgar Group, Rasmussen Reports, Insider Advantage and others that have tended to produce much more Republican-friendly results than the traditional pollsters. None adhere to industry standards for transparency or data collection. In some states, nearly all of the recent polls were conducted by Republican-leaning firms.
This creates a big challenge for a simple polling average like this one. From state to state, Democrats or Republicans might seem to be doing much better or much worse, simply depending on which kind of pollster has conducted a survey most recently. The race may seem to swing back and forth, from week to week.
This is a subscriber only article, but I sent a gift link to Twitter and I’m posting it here for anyone who wants to read the rest and see charts.
I’m going to end there. As for how things are going in the many important races around the country, I have decided to kind of ignore the news about those. I can’t trust the polls, and I will only end up anxious and depressed if I read too much about what’s happening in the various states. I’m worried, but I figure all I can do is wait and see what happens and then deal with the results.
Please post your thoughts and share links on any topic in the comment thread, and I wish you a nice, peaceful weekend.
Posted: October 8, 2019 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Adam Schiff, Bill Barr, Donald Trump, Elizabeth Warren, Gordon Sondland, impeachment, ISIS, Kurds, Mike Pompeo, polls, Rudy Giuliani, Syria, Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey, Ukraine
Trump’s EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland was scheduled to testify to the House Intelligence Committee this morning, but Trump and Pompeo ordered him not to do it.
The New York Times: Witness in Trump-Ukraine Matter Ordered Not to Speak in Impeachment Inquiry.
The Trump administration directed a top American diplomat involved in its pressure campaign on Ukraine not to appear Tuesday morning for a scheduled interview in the House’s impeachment inquiry.
The decision to block Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, from speaking with investigators for three House committees is certain to provoke an immediate conflict with potentially profound consequences for the White House and President Trump. House Democrats have repeatedly warned that if the administration tries to interfere with their investigation, it will be construed as obstruction, a charge they see as potentially worthy of impeachment….
Robert Luskin, Mr. Sondland’s lawyer, said in a statement that as a State Department employee, his client had no choice but to comply with the administration’s direction. He said Mr. Sondland had been prepared and happy to testify, and would do so in the future if allowed.
Of course that is simply not true.
Background on Sondland from the Times article.
Mr. Sondland has become enmeshed in the burgeoning scandal into how the president sought to push the Ukrainians to investigate his political rivals. Although Ukraine is not in the union, Mr. Trump instructed Mr. Sondland — a wealthy hotelier and campaign contributor — to take a lead in relations between the Trump administration and the country. Democrats consider him a key witness to what transpired between the two countries.
Mr. Sondland interacted directly with Mr. Trump, speaking with the president several times around key moments that House Democrats are now investigating, including before and after Mr. Trump’s July call with the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. The president asked Mr. Zelensky on the call to do him “a favor” and investigate the business dealings of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son and a conspiracy theory about Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election.
Text messages provided to Congress last week showed that Mr. Sondland and another senior diplomat had worked on language for a statement they wanted the Ukrainian president to put out in August that would have committed him to the investigations sought by Mr. Trump. The diplomats consulted with Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, about the statement, believing they needed pacify him in order to allow the United States to normalize relations with the Ukrainians.
Adam Schiff responded to the Trump administration’s illegal action.
Yesterday Newsweek talked to a member of the National Security Council who heard the call between Trump and Turkey’s president Tayyip Erdogan after which Trump ordered U.S. troops out of northern Syria: Exclusive: Official Who Heard Call Says Trump Got ‘Rolled’ By Turkey And ‘Has No Spike.’
In a scheduled phone call on Sunday afternoon between President Trump and President Erdogan, Trump said he would withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria. The phone call was scheduled after Turkey announced it was planning to invade Syria, and hours after Erdogan reinforced his army units at the Syrian-Turkish border and issued his strongest threat to launch a military incursion, according to the National Security Council official to whom Newsweek spoke on condition of anonymity.
The U.S. withdrawal plays into the hands of the Islamic State group, Damascus and Moscow, and the announcement left Trump’s own Defense Department “completely stunned,” said Pentagon officials. Turkey, like the United States, wants regime change in Syria. Russia and Iran support the Assad regime.
“President Trump was definitely out-negotiated and only endorsed the troop withdraw to make it look like we are getting something—but we are not getting something,” the National Security Council source told Newsweek. “The U.S. national security has entered a state of increased danger for decades to come because the president has no spine and that’s the bottom line.” [….]
According to the NSC official, who had first-hand knowledge of the phone call, Trump did not endorse any Turkish military operation against Kurdish Forces, but also did not threaten economic sanctions during the phone call if Turkey decided to undertake offensive operations.
Trump has also invited Erdogan to visit the White House next month.
Here’s a reminder what happened on a previous visit by Erdogan.
Yesterday, Trump threatened Turkey in a tweet that would cause any other person’s family to request a psychiatric evaluation:
Some outlets are reporting that Trump has been walking back the original order. We’ll see….
Meanwhile Turkey isn’t backing down. The Washington Post: Turkey rejects Trump’s threats amid conflicting U.S. signals over Syria offensive.
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s vice president said Tuesday that his country would “not react to threats,” as it prepared to mount a military offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters in Syria, a day after President Trump warned that he would destroy Turkey’s economy if the offensive did not meet with his approval.
“When it comes to the security of Turkey, as always, our president emphasized Turkey will determine its own path,” the vice president, Fuat Oktay, said in a speech at a university in Ankara, the Turkish capital. He referred to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has vowed to create a “safe zone” in a lengthy swath of Syrian territory along Turkey’s border.
Erdogan and other Turkish officials have suggested for days that the military operation could begin at any moment. Turkish troop convoys have headed to the border, and local media outlets have published details of what they say is the battle plan. Turkey’s Defense Ministry wrote Tuesday on Twitter that all its preparations for the operation were complete.
But there was no sign yet that Turkish troops were moving forward, as the United Nations and aid agencies warned of potentially catastrophic humanitarian consequences, and as the Trump administration delivered confusing signals about how it views Turkey’s plans to attack a Syrian-Kurdish force that partnered with the U.S. military to fight the Islamic State militant group.
A new poll shows that 59 percent of Americans support the impeachment inquiry.
The Washington Post: Poll: Majority of Americans say they endorse opening of House impeachment inquiry of Trump.
A majority of Americans say they endorse the decision by House Democrats to begin an impeachment inquiry of President Trump, and nearly half of all adults also say the House should take the additional step and recommend that the president be removed from office, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll.
The findings indicate that public opinion has shifted quickly against the president and in favor of impeachment proceedings in recent weeks as information has been released about Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian government officials to undertake an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden, a potential 2020 campaign rival, and Biden’s son Hunter.
Previous Post-Schar School or Post-ABC News polls taken at different points throughout this year found majorities of Americans opposing the start of an impeachment proceeding, with 37 percent to 41 percent saying they favored such a step. The recent revelations appear to have prompted many Americans to rethink their position.
The poll finds that, by a margin of 58 percent to 38 percent, Americans say the House was correct to undertake the inquiry. Among all adults, 49 percent say the House should take the more significant step to impeach the president and call for his removal from office. Another 6 percent say they back the start of the inquiry but do not favor removing Trump from office, with the remainder undecided about the president’s ultimate fate. The results among registered voters are almost identical.
Read more at the WaPo.
Vanity Fair has a long piece on Bill Barr’s past history. Author Marie Brenner suggests that Barr’s relationship with his father could provide clues to Barr’s alignment with Trump: “I Had No Problem Being Poltically Different”: Young William Barr Among the Manhattan Liberals. A brief excerpt:
Who, then, is the real William Barr? I wanted to investigate that question through the prism of his growing up as a young conservative in the intellectually demanding and socially cosseted world of New York private schools—ironically, the same schools that educated Cohn. I wanted to understand how he might have been affected in the 1970s by the public scandal that consumed his father, Donald Barr, then the headmaster of the tony Dalton School and a respected voice in academics, on the right-wing opinion pages, and at the center of America’s calamitous culture wars.
Donny Montana: October 6, 2019
William Barr’s origin story is, in fact, a parable of how family, education, protest, and principle served to shape the era—and shape a young man who would become America’s chief law enforcement officer. At the same time, it is also a narrative about how a charismatic, domineering, and doctrinaire figure named Donald might have helped define the contours of his son’s formative years….
In the 1967 Horace Mann yearbook, Barr had already been tagged with his future persona: “a staunch conservative on political issues,” a master of “facial contortions,” and a brilliant mimic of his Catholic school priests. Often, he rode the subway home with another classmate, Barry Scheck, who would become an attorney and eventually cofound the Innocence Project, using DNA evidence to free wrongly convicted prisoners. “We would argue all the way down from school and all the way back,” Scheck said.
Barr and his three brothers revered their father, spending countless hours at the dinner table discussing philosophy, politics, and the issues of the day. Before attending Horace Mann, all four siblings had gone to Corpus Christi, a nearby parochial school where he was in class with many Irish, Hispanic, and black students. William Barr was the privileged son of an intellectual. In first grade, he made a speech in class supporting Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower for president. At age eight, Barr told his parents that he wanted to learn to play the bagpipes. His father not only encouraged him but located a former Scottish pipes major in the British army and for years personally escorted his son up to 168th Street for Tuesday-night classes. At one point, the young Barr even declared to his Horace Mann adviser that when he grew up, he wanted to become head of the CIA.
Horace Mann was another environment entirely: completely secular, with a large Jewish contingent. A few who knew the Barr boys came to call them “the bully Barrs”; the siblings, these former classmates claimed, could be intimidating. The fact that his father was born Jewish was not a factor in Bill Barr’s upbringing. While he knew he had Jewish relatives, he never discussed the specifics with his father. “He had become more Catholic than the Catholics,” he said to those who asked.
The school was an enclave of conservative privilege that had educated New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, historian Robert A. Caro, and Si Newhouse Jr., the late owner of Condé Nast (the parent company of Vanity Fair). The head of the history department, Alfred Briggs, lectured on the evils of communism and Red China, and lavished praise on Horace Mann’s most notorious graduate, Roy Cohn. “We need more Roy Cohns in the world,” Briggs frequently said. “Roy was my best student of all time.”
I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but I plan to do it as soon as this post goes up.
One more by Virginia Heffernan at The Los Angeles Times: Opinion: Do Barr, Pompeo and Giuliani share a death wish?
Atty. Gen. William Barr, who is deeply embroiled in the Trump-Ukraine affair, doesn’t care about his place in history. “I’m at the end of my career,” he told Jan Crawford of CBS in March. “Everyone dies.”
Rudolph Giuliani, the president’s fixer, who is even more deeply embroiled in the Trump-Ukraine affair, is likewise indifferent. “I don’t care about my legacy,” he told the New Yorker last month. “I’ll be dead.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, 55, who is especially embroiled in the Trump-Ukraine affair, also has his eye on an End Times cleansing. “It is a never-ending struggle,” he told a Kansas church group, describing his work for the president. “Until the Rapture.”
Poets have envisioned death in thousands of ways. Clouds, worms, reunions, virgins and more. But Barr, Giuliani and Pompeo — each in the midst of a distinct moral crisis — may have a new one. Death as sweet, sweet liberation from congressional oversight.
Let me propose an epitaph, suitable for any of these men when the time comes: “He’s gone where subpoenas can lacerate his heart no more.”
But if these men are counting on death to end their sea of troubles, the House doesn’t intend to give them that chance. With every letter or subpoena, Congress is demanding that these men stop daydreaming about oblivion or ecstatic union with Jesus and do what’s right in the here and now.
Read the rest at the link.
What else is happening? What stories have you been following?
Posted: December 12, 2017 Filed under: morning reads, Republican politics, U.S. Politics | Tags: Alabama special election, Donald Trump, Doug Jones, Kirstin Gillibrand, Mika Brzezinski, misogyny, polls, Robert Mueller, Roy Moore, Sexism, Trump Russia investigation
Trump began the day with another Twitter meltdown, attacking the Special Counsel’s investigation and then railing against Kirsten Gillibrand and Hillary Clinton.
Gillibrand “would do anything for” campaign contributions? Referring to Hillary as “Crooked,” and what’s the meaning of “USED?”
Senator Gillibrand responded:
About 90 minutes later, Trump tweeted his usual lying attack on Doug Jones and once again endorsed a man who sexually abused young women and wants to return the U.S. to the days of slavery.
This is how degraded the U.S. presidency is in 2017.
I first saw Trump’s tweets when I turned on MSNBC at about 8:30. It amazed to see Mika Brzezinski’s response about the sales marketing automation. She even told men on the panel to stop interrupting her, and interrupted Joe Scarborough. Watch her rants at MSNBC. (You have to sit through remarks from other people on the panel to get all of what Mika had to say).
Tonight we’ll find out whether Mitch McConnell is going to have to deal with Roy Moore representing Alabama in the U.S. Senate. Some Republicans must be hoping that somehow Democrat Doug Jones can win. No one really knows what is going to happen. The polls are all over the place. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight: What The Hell Is Happening With These Alabama Polls?
What we’re seeing in Alabama goes beyond the usual warnings about minding the margin of error, however. There’s a massive spread in results from poll to poll — with surveys on Monday morning showing everything from a 9-point lead for Moore to a 10-point advantage for Democrat Doug Jones — and they reflect two highly different approaches to polling.
Most polls of the state have been made using automated scripts (these are sometimes also called IVR or “robopolls”). These polls have generally shown Moore ahead and closing strongly toward the end of the campaign, such as the Emerson College poll on Monday that showed Moore leading by 9 points. Recent automated polls from Trafalgar Group, JMC Analytics and Polling, Gravis Marketing and Strategy Research have also shown Moore with the lead.
But when traditional, live-caller polls have weighed in — although these polls have been few and far between — they’ve shown a much different result. A Monmouth University survey released on Monday showed a tied race. Fox News’s final poll of the race, also released on Monday, showed Jones ahead by 10 percentage points. An earlier Fox News survey also had Jones comfortably ahead, while a Washington Post poll from late November had Jones up 3 points at a time when most other polls showed the race swinging back to Moore. And a poll conducted for the National Republican Senatorial Committee in mid-November — possibly released to the public in an effort to get Moore to withdraw from the race — also showed Jones well ahead.
These differences are significant, according to Silver, because automated polls cannot call cell phones and may have less representative samples because so many people just hang up on them.
Last night a heartbroken Alabama father spoke outside Roy Moore’s final rally before the election. The Washington Post reports:
Perhaps it was the man’s strong but plain-spoken rebuke outside a Roy Moore rally on the campaign’s final night, condemning the Republican candidate’s past comments lambasting homosexuality.
Perhaps it was the admission of the man, a peanut farmer, that he too, had harbored some of the same anti-gay feelings.
Perhaps it was his sign, a photograph of his daughter, a lesbian who, he said, had killed herself when she was 23.
Whatever it was, the two-minute video of Nathan Mathis struck a nerve, traveling far and wide as a sort of emotional coda to a wrenching U.S. Senate race in Alabama that has captivated the country.
And here’s an energized Doug Jones voter speaking this morning:
Interesting tweets this morning from former Alabama U.S. Attorney Joyce Alene:
Here’s the link Alene responded to:
A couple of weird things happened during Moore’s closing argument.
New York Magazine: Roy Moore’s Wife: We’re Not Anti-Semitic, ‘One of Our Attorneys Is a Jew’
Roy Moore’s stance on Jewish people probably isn’t at the top of anyone’s list of reasons not to vote for the Alabama Senate candidate. Yet on the eve of Tuesday’s election, his wife, Kayla Moore, attempted to shoot down one of the lesser-known allegations against her husband.
“Fake news would tell you that we don’t care for Jews,” Kayla Moore said Monday night while introducing her husband at a rally in Midland City, Alabama.
“I tell you all this because I’ve seen it all, so I just want to set the record straight while they’re here,” she said, gesturing to members of the media.
“One of our attorneys is a Jew,” she continued, pausing for cheers and laughter from the crowd.
“We have very close friends that are Jewish, and rabbis, we also do fellowship with them.”
Um . . . okay . . .
Another speaker “joked” about how he and Roy Moore “accidentally” ended up in a brothel full of underage girls in Vietnam. Think Progress:
One of the introductory speakers was Bill Staehle, who said he served with Moore in Vietnam. Staehle told the story of a night he spent with Moore and a third man, who he did not name. According to Staehle, it was the third man’s last night in Vietnam and the man invited them to a “private club” in the city to celebrate with “a couple of beers.”
Moore and Staehle agreed. According to Staehle, they didn’t expect there was anything untoward going on at the “private club” because “there were legitimate private clubs” in Vietnam. The third man drove them to the club in his Jeep.
Staehle said that, when he and Moore arrived, they soon realized the man had taken them to a brothel. The third man, Staehle suggested, essentially tricked them. “I could tell you what I saw but I don’t want to,” Staehle said mischievously.
“There were certainly pretty girls. And they were girls. They were young. Some were very young,” Staehle acknowledged. But according to Staehle, Moore was shocked by what he saw. “We shouldn’t be here, I’m leaving,” Moore said, according to Staehle.
They asked the third man to leave with them but he didn’t want to. So Staehle and Moore took his Jeep and left him there all night with sex workers, who they agreed were underage. The man returned to base the next morning on the back of a motorcycle, Staehle said with a grin.
Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan must be so proud.
Meanwhile, back in Washington DC, the “president’s” men are plotting against Robert Mueller.
Mike Allen at Axios: Trump lawyers want second special counsel appointed now.
President Trump’s legal team believes Attorney General Jeff Session’s Justice Department and the FBI — more than special counsel Robert Mueller himself — are to blame for what they see as a witch hunt.
The result: They want an additional special counsel named to investigate the investigators.
More at the link.
At The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky asks: Will the Senate Still Protect Robert Mueller From Donald Trump’s Ax?
Remember the first round of gossip about whether President Trump would fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller, back during the summer? Republican senators were quick to say what a grave error this would be. Susan Collins said in June it would be “an extraordinarily unwise move” back. In July, Lindsey Graham said that “any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency unless Mueller did something wrong.”
Most of them chimed in along similar lines. Consequently we were all assured: Yes, maybe they’ve been in the tank for Trump up to now, but surely they would never tolerate that. That is the moment when they’d say enough.
Well. We may find out about that very soon.
People keep saying “we’re close to a crisis.” No we’re not. We’re in it. We have a president who already obstructed justice on national television…..
A former national security adviser copped a felony plea. Three former campaign officials are under indictment. This has never happened in the first year of a modern presidency. Probably any presidency. And that’s just the legal stuff. Then there are all the lies. Obama spied on Trump (this one still has legs among the creatures of the black-ops lagoons of the far right). Trump has no Russia ties. Hillary sold our plutonium to Putin.
And finally, there’s the madness, which is slightly different from lies. The current madness is that Russia is great and can do no wrong, while the FBI is suddenly a subversive and un-American organization. And Robert Mueller is a partisan, pro-Clinton, Never-Trump pawn of the liberal order….
We have never been here. Richard Nixon and his henchmen subverted the law. They did not attempt to subvert reality itself. Nixon did not go around saying that in fact it was George McGovern who belonged in prison. A news network did not exist to scream on a daily basis that McGovern should face indictment, peddling false “scandals” about him. In the summer and fall of 1973, before Nixon ordered the firing of Archibald Cox, influential congressional Republicans and prominent former congressional Republicans did not go around saying that there wasn’t one honest investigator on Cox’s staff or that Cox was corrupt.
Please read the rest at the link.
That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?