Editors’ Blog

Where Things Stand: This Is Bigger Than Technicalities Prime Badge
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Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh needed, among other things, a copy editor while writing his concurring opinion on the Supreme Court ruling this week on mail-in ballot deadline extensions in Wisconsin.

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Among the Abusers and the Abused Prime Badge

This has been building for a while. But it’s really something and fully out loud now, an embattled President openly mocking and deriding a loyalist Senator struggling to defend her seat in state critical to the President’s own electoral fortunes. “You got one minute! One minute, Martha! They don’t want to hear this, Martha. Come on, Martha. Let’s go. Quick, quick.” Zoë Richards has the story.

I got asked yesterday what Trump’s deal is with McSally. I think he’s told us, ironically about another Arizona Senate. As he said, he likes heroes who don’t get captured. Yes, McSally has awkwardly tried to separate herself from some of the President’s most extreme antics. And Trump had various sources of bitterness with John McCain. But neither really captures this part of Trump.

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Where Things Stand: You Won’t Miss A Thing Prime Badge
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We’re less than a week out from Election Day and today we’re launching a daily liveblog to keep you updated on all the latest election-related news — everything from shifting polls, campaign rally flubs, early voting numbers, voter intimidation and everything in between.

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Probability and Dread Prime Badge

How we make sense of probabilities in math and science is one thing. But as humans we can never separate probabilities from stakes. If the consequences of one outcome are sufficiently dire that factors inevitably into our experience of the question, even bleeding into our perception of the chances of that dark outcome occurring. Here I’ve noticed a subtle shift in recent days in people’s discussions about the outcome of next week’s election. It seems to have shifted from ‘Who’s going to win?’ or ‘Who’s likely to win?’ to ‘Can Trump still win?’

The answer to that last questions is clearly “Yes”. But the question itself is an important shift driven by the fact that in likelihood terms the evidence is now pointing overwhelmingly against the President.

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Facts Are Facts

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine looked at the current COVID outbreak in Tennessee and broke the hospitalization numbers down by the counties patients were coming from and whether those counties had masking mandates. The results are stark. The growth in hospitalizations is greatest in counties without masking requirements. Indeed, the inverse relationship between masking and hospitalization lines up across the spectrum from areas with little masking to those where mandates are widespread. You can see the discussion of the study here.

But this chart tells the story pretty clearly.

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See the Corrupt Court for What It Is Prime Badge

If you needed to know anything more about Amy Coney Barrett – I didn’t, but if you did – she made her first act last night appearing at a splashy campaign event for President Trump. Once the Senate voted to confirm her on a party line vote, she had a lifetime appointment and literally no need for anything from President Trump. Indeed, she would quite likely have marginally improved the odds that the corrupt conservative Court majority would remain in place by declining such an appearance.

She did it anyway and that was a choice.

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Where Things Stand: All The Indication We Needed Prime Badge
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The news out of the Supreme Court and the Senate last night fans flames of uncertainty about what might happen if the outcome of the election is disputed in the days after November 3.

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Where Things Stand: All But Certain Prime Badge
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Vice President Mike Pence won’t be around for tonight’s confirmation vote in the Senate. Republicans are clearly unconcerned that they will need him to break any sort of tie.

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Facebook Generates Extremism for Society and Profits for Investors Prime Badge
KRAKOW, POLAND - 2018/09/06: Facebook  logo is seen on an android mobile phone in front of a computer screen  with facebook sign. (Photo by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

We’re all in the final stretch of the big contest. But I wanted to flag your attention to a column in the Post about some new peer-reviewed research about Facebook and its effect on political polarization. Unsurprisingly the more time someone spends on Facebook the more polarized their beliefs become. But it’s five times more polarizing for conservatives than for liberals. And that’s not the most telling data.

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Where Things Stand: Trump Reignites War On Civil Servants Prime Badge
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President Trump has had an issue with career professionals since he took office.

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Quick Take Prime Badge

This debate went like how I expected the first debate to go: Biden better on the merits but both guys playing to their preferred ways of speaking to the public, their core audiences. Trump wasn’t out of control like he was in the first debate. I thought he might be just as feral; but he wasn’t. I got that wrong.

But that’s a crazy standard. In the first debate Trump showed his absolutely worst self, someone who simply has no business being President. It pushed him from clearly losing to landslide defeat territory. Trump held it together for the first twenty minutes before sliding into conspiracy theories and nonsense. But he never got near the fusillade of petulance and predation we saw three weeks ago. He was better here. But so was Biden.

Biden was sharper in this debate than three weeks ago. I’m not sure whether that’s because he was barely allowed to speak and constantly interrupted last time. But he was better.

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The Last Clash Debate Blogging Prime Badge

9:31 PM: Still claiming he’s under audit.

9:25 PM: For the first fifteen minutes Trump did a pretty good job being relatively normal and non-feral. But then after about 15 minutes in the feral-o-meter started to tick up minute by minute.

9:24 PM: Trump on Fauci: “I think he’s a Democrat but that’s okay.”

8:58 PM: I realize that I look forward to this debate with a sense of dread. That’s not because I think it will go badly necessarily – badly in the sense of making a bad election result more likely. But I recognize that is one more big opportunity for this predatory degenerate to inflict more harm on the country.

Don’t Study Court Reform To Death Prime Badge

Kicking an issue to a fancy commission is a notorious method for taking it off the table and putting it out of play with little political cost. That can be handy! But if you want the issue in play, Joe Biden’s plan for a blue ribbon commission on reforming the federal courts is a bad sign of where he’s headed.

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Where Things Stand: Closing Arguments Prime Badge
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Tonight, the candidates will make their closing arguments. But it will likely be a far-cry from the professional demeanor of attorneys making their final cases in the court room.

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Face Off at the Last Chance Corral Prime Badge
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 29: President Donald Trump participates in the first presidential debate with former Vice President Joe Biden at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Ever since the debacle of the first presidential debate we’ve been hearing that President Trump has to be nicer in the next face off and let Joe Biden (or even just the moderator) talk. Numerous articles in recent days purport to quote top Trump advisors saying this, demanding this. I have no doubt they’re saying this and may even believe it. But it seems basically a certainty that in tonight’s final debate – likely the last chance to change the dynamic of the race – President Trump will be every bit as aggressive, feral and rage-soaked as he was three weeks ago.

Indeed, we should expect it to be worse.

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Not Over Till It’s Over

Two points on the latest polls. The first is that President Trump does appear to have regained a small measure of support in recent days – very small and it still leaves him in landslide loss territory but it seems to show up as some real movement. At the same time, I keep seeing polls in which the “likely voter” screen shows a slightly better result than the “registered voter” screen. Most of you know that that inverts the rule of thumb in which Republicans – who tend to be older, wealthier, more fixed in communities – do better on likely voter screens. This suggests a non-trivial turnout advantage.

Where Things Stand: They’re Really Sticking With The ‘Anarchist Cities’ Thing Prime Badge
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Yesterday, President Trump tweeted a disingenuous rallying cry to residents of states like New York, California and Illinois — messaging that won’t do much for him in the relatively blue states that are home to some of country’s largest deep blue cities.

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Trump Preps His COVID Stab-in-the-Back Storyline Prime Badge
CARSON CITY, NV - OCTOBER 18: President Donald Trump gestures during a campaign rally on October 18, 2020 in Carson City, Nevada. With 16 days to go before the November election, President Trump is back on the campaign trail with multiple daily events as he continues to campaign against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)

We are rightly focusing on President Trump last night telling rally goers he’d never be in their dump of a town if the election weren’t going so badly for him. But let’s not miss the more important and lasting part of this message. President Trump is already previewing one explanation and justification for his defeat: COVID. He was cruising toward reelection, he claims, when COVID struck. For him, there’s the added feature that it was the handiwork of his purported arch-enemy China.

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What’s It Mean?

Tierney Sneed on the Supreme Court’s alarming handling of a key Pennsylvania voting law case last night

Are You Better Off Than 4 Years Ago?

Two weeks out from the election, the CDC announced today that excess deaths in the U.S. during the pandemic are bumping up against 300,000:

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Where Things Stand: Kicking Up Dust Around The Debate Prime Badge
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We’re not convinced President Trump will pull himself out of the debate on Thursday. But we’re not convinced he won’t either.

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Taking Stock Prime Badge

I do not think that impeachment was a mistake, as TPM Reader JR does. But as a factual matter I think he is right that there is no question that seeing all but one Republican Senator exonerate him in the face of indisputable evidence of the most egregious crimes radically emboldened Trump and made him feel he could get away with anything.

It’s been a while since I have thanked you for all fo the great coverage and analysis. TPM has been indispensable these last four years, and I am more likely to share TPM stories on FB than stories from any other source.

Two thoughts on your editorial this morning:

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The Thing Is Upon Us
KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 07: A President Donald Trump and a former Vice President Joe Biden supporter converse before the Joe Biden Campaign Rally at the National World War I Museum and Memorial on March 7, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)

Here we are. Two weeks out from election day. All signs point to a Biden victory and a likely Democratic control of the Senate. But of course polls can be wrong and because of the electoral college two to four points of a Democratic popular vote margin is just what secures an electoral college win. Of course, the stakes are so high that no sinew of capacity or iota of effort can be spared even if a Trump defeat seems more likely than not. What is important to maintain clearly in mind is that everything has come down to this critical moment. The country has been at this four long years. We’ve seen protests, political organizing, investigations, mid-term elections, an endless series of efforts to come to grips with and battle the scourge of a lawless, damaging presidency. But this is the moment that counts, the moment for which all of these efforts and strivings must have been preparatory.

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Where Things Stand: Cornyn’s Taking Notes Prime Badge
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The self-preservation expectation-setting is spreading.

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The Great Moonwalking Begins Prime Badge

The Great Moonwalking, long foretold, is beginning in advance of President leaving office or even losing office. We are now hearing that even some of President Trump’s most committed lickspittles and toadies were in fact anti-Trump all along, just working secretly, operating from the inside. To borrow the Catholic hierarchy’s usage, they were in pectore members of the resistance.

Last week we had Ben Sasse detailing all the President’s many transgressions in a campaign call he was sure would rapidly make it into the papers. Yesterday John Cornyn, one of the President’s most loyal Senate soldiers, announced that contrary to all appearances he has not in fact loyally supported the President at every turn. In fact he has opposed almost all of his major policy initiatives – just secretly. Cornyn cast himself as an abused wife who has only latterly realized there’s no changing Trump. “Maybe like a lot of women who get married and think they’re going to change their spouse, and that doesn’t usually work out very well.”

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Expanding the Court Gains Critical Ground Prime Badge
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 3, 2020: Democratic Presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden meets California voters at the famous Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles in Los Angeles, California on Tuesday March 3, 2020. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Immediately after I started saying that Democrats should expand the number of Justices on the Court in response to Republican court packing, I heard from a couple people telling me that the coteries around Pelosi and Biden were saying, no way. Not happening. (Interestingly, I heard a pretty different message from within the Senate caucus leadership – which is and should be the real locus of decision-making.)

But things are changing. Last week Joe Biden shifted his public statements to explicitly connecting his decision on expanding the Court to the outcome of the Barrett confirmation process. Her confirmation is of course a foregone conclusion. But clarifying the cause and effect, the order of events is critical: Democrats are reacting to and trying to repair the damage caused by Republican court-packing and corruption. If Republicans are upset by the prospect of all their hard work and corrupt acts going up in smoke with a simple majority vote they can take the opportunity to rethink their next actions.

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The Complicit Start to Turn on the President Prime Badge

There is an unfolding development which you can miss in the muddy onrush of campaign events but is nevertheless important to take note of. As President Trump’s electoral prospects appear increasingly dire, national security officials, intelligence officials and his own top political appointees are talking more openly and critically to the press about the President. There are many examples of this. But yesterday’s Washington Post article about intelligence warnings about Rudy Giuliani are a good example. If you read the article closely the sourcing seems to come either directly or with the okay of the President’s National Security Advisor, Attorney General and other top appointees. It’s not new information. It goes back almost a year. It’s new willingness to talk. The NYPost “emails” story is the peg. But the willingness is new.

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Where Things Stand: Conveniently Sasse-y Prime Badge
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UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 15: Sens. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., left, and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., attend the Senate Judiciary Committee executive business meeting on Supreme Court justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett in Hart Senate Office Building on Thursday, October 15, 2020. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/POOL)

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) should’ve learned from Jeff Flake.

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Now We’re Talkin’ Prime Badge

Two articles were published this evening which suggest that the FBI is investigating Rudy Giuliani’s Delaware laptop caper as a potential Russian intelligence operation targeting Vice President Biden. At NBC Ken Dilanian reports that “Federal investigators are examining whether the emails allegedly describing activities by Joe Biden and his son Hunter and found on a laptop at a Delaware repair shop are linked to a foreign intelligence operation.”

The article suggests the probe long predates the New York Post’s publication of the purported emails on Tuesday.

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Where Things Stand: The Only Time The Deficit Matters Prime Badge
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For the GOP, clinging to austerity is a task employed only when it’s most convenient. Or most desperate.

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