EDITOR’S BLOG
Malevolence and Incompetence

A tranche of emails sheds new light on the chaos surrounding President Trump’s voter fraud commission debacle, the most illuminating and comical parts are real government officials who deal real non-criminal things trying to distance themselves from the commissions work, others not being clear on what it even was or whether it was something intended to look at actual election security issues versus generating propaganda to make it harder for people to vote. Tierney Sneed has the story.

A Paean to Polls (or, We Are All in a Bubble)
Prime Membership Required

Polls get a bad rap. In some ways they deserve it. They are the predicate to simply chasing public opinion rather than making decisions on the merits and trying to persuade, trying to lead. Polls told us same sex marriage was politically radioactive — the third, fourth and fifth rail of American politics. And it was. And then it wasn’t. And that’s over less than 20 years. But let me say a word in their favor.

Dear Leader Watch

Pro-Trump media is an increasingly odd place. The personality cult aspect of it is nothing new. But this is the kind of “SMILE BE HAPPY OUR LEADER IS POWERFUL” loudspeaker talk is something worth just taking a few minutes to listen to. It’s wild. Note also that the script is played in real time in the graphics.

Today’s Agenda: O’Rourke Says Death Threat Proves His Point On Guns
Prime Membership Required

Happy Friday, September 13. Beto O’Rourke’s campaign has contacted law enforcement over what it’s calling a death threat that was made by a Texas state representative on Twitter. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following today.

90 More Minutes of This, Folks!

10:31 PM: Biden’s answer to the resilience question captured a lot of him, both some incoherence, jumping at several different ways of coming at the question, but coming back to something very core and genuine, compelling.

10:31 PM: Both Biden’s and Warren’s answers on resilience captured a lot about them, both approaches to the question and the substance.

9:45 PM: This is a really good answer from Warren on Afghanistan and more broadly about the militarization of American foreign policy.

9:41 PM: Booker’s the only one making a really good point: if you are going to get into a trade conflict with China, you need all your allies on side. It’s insane to be picking battles with our allies too at the same time.

9:33 PM: Striking to me how incoherent most of the candidates are on the China tariffs issue.

Pretty Good So Far

9:15 PM: It was interesting that Warren was sort of all over the place on guns in her answer. She only really got coherent, got traction when she pulled it into a discussion of corruption and money in politics.

9:12 PM: Biden is wearing a bespoke Obama coat, socks and and cufflinks.

9:08 PM: I’ll say it again: why isn’t Corey Booker polling better?

8:57 PM: Biden’s having a good night. Amazing? No. But solid and no stumbles. And he’s already ahead.

8:54 PM: I continue to be surprised at how little support Corey Booker has been able to generate. I’m not saying he’s the best candidate. But he’s really good and he just hasn’t connected. I don’t get it.

8:51 PM: I don’t know much about the substance of Klobuchar’s record on criminal justice. But the answer was good.

Okay Let’s Do This!

8:39 PM: This debate is being moderated very well. Here’s how you can see that. We’ve now had an almost 40 minute discussion of health care. It’s been pretty substantive. And it’s hard for me to think of much of anything the moderators have aid. Stephanopoulos started with a good framing question. And that was pretty much it.

8:32 PM: Fascinating to see Obama recede into history as a Reagan-like figure for Democrats with all the name-checking. Democrats haven’t had a figure like that in decades.

8:25 PM: Biden is getting the better part of this because Warren and Sanders are having a conversation that is very internal to the Democratic policy conversation about health care. I don’t think they’re making the best case they can for Medicare for All, maybe because they’re reacting to Biden. Biden’s having the better part of it because his points are clearer, simpler. (Again, I say this setting aside the relative merits of the different policies.)

8:22 PM: Purely in political terms, I think Biden has gotten the better part of this engagement on health care.

8:17 PM: Fine for Biden? Okay? Just okay. But fine. (Did better on the first question.)

8:15 PM: Warren’s just a really good politician. And I mean that in the positive sense. Just connects, has a story. She’s a natural.

8:12 PM: Harris’s opener strikes me as the first of the night that probably connected with some voters.

8:11 PM: Buttigieg’s opener seems completely out of sync with where most Democratic voters are right now.

8:10 PM: I find the Yang thing lame. Sort of patronizing and gimmicky. Though probably pretty awesome if you get the money!

Okay let’s do this!!!

Debate Night!

Join us at 8 p.m. for live coverage of tonight’s Democratic debate. Josh Marshall will be writing here in the ed blog, and TPM staff will be on hand with a liveblog for members and coverage of tonight’s notable moments.

Making Sense of the Long-Predicted Trump ‘Pivot’ Abroad

Remember far back in the before-times there was the “pivot,” way back into 2015 and 2016. It’s so far back and so confounded by everything that has come since that it is genuinely hard to remember. But we need to.

The idea was that Donald Trump was acting like a clown — and, what’s worse, a fairly racist and even fascistic clown. But he was also becoming a more credible presidential candidate. Because he had jumped to the head of the GOP primary pack and, contrary to the expectations of many, he wasn’t collapsing. Indeed, he was gaining strength. At the time it was considered obvious and essential that you can’t actually become president that way, not behaving like an erratic and dangerous buffoon. So at some point he had to “pivot” to acting normal. He even got in on explaining that the “pivot” was coming.

Of course, it never came. He won the primaries, which should have been entirely expected. He also won the election, which — well — many of us didn’t see coming. He continued being the same unstable, erratic and predatory person. The pivot never happened.

But something is different now.

Kushner’s Brother Signed That Letter Asking Congress For Background Checks
Prime Membership Required

There’s a familiar last name hidden at the bottom of the letter that 145 business leaders sent to Congress on Thursday urging senators to pass substantial background check and red flag legislation to curb gun violence in the U.S.

Kushner.

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