Josh Marshall

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TPM.
Not Even Close

My take on this debate is basically the same as my mid-debate take. I wouldn’t say Harris wowed. There weren’t a lot of zingers. But she hit every last point the campaign could have asked for. Just methodically. Killing the ACA, Charlottesville, the horrific failure of the COVID response. She didn’t really care about Mike Pence. She was there to make a case against Donald Trump. And she did.

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So Far

As a news guy I like boffo clips. There aren’t many boffo clips so far out of this debate. But Harris is hitting basically every mark she needs to make. Every single one. Pence is mostly going through the motions. He’s doing fine. But he needs to do a lot more than fine.

COVID Thunderdome Debating

Okay, let’s do this.

Of Self-Sucker Punches and Bust Outs Prime Badge

As I mentioned last night, I think there’s a decent chance Mitch McConnell suckered President Trump into canceling stimulus bill negotiations. The GOP looks to be shifting into bust out mode. McConnell and other party leaders likely see that Trump is finished and that the Senate majority probably is too. The cynical play is straightforward: pocket the Court seat and leave an incoming Biden administration in as deep a hole as possible. It even cues Republicans up to switch seamlessly back into austerity/fiscal scold mode in 2021, without their fingerprints on any more stimulus spending. Little discussed here is Trump’s assertion that leaving stimulus negotiations until after the election will clear the calendar to focus on confirming Amy Coney Barrett. Of course it will. That seems to be the point.

Normally it would be reasonable to ask whether anyone really thinks that cynically about governance. With Mitch McConnell not only do we know he thinks that cynically he actually acted this cynically under Barack Obama. We have a track record.

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Rage Against the Dying of the Light Prime Badge

President Trump seems to be knocking off iconic (and not in a good way) moments in rapid succession now: the Lafayette Park church stunt in June, the slow speed base runabout in his armored SUV two days ago, and then last night’s Triumph of the Will manque set piece with Trump, bathed in light but also clearly struggling to breathe, triumphantly reentering the White House and confidently tossing off his mask. While the June incident long predated Trump’s personal health crisis, each moment shares a common theme: Trumpian efforts to demonstrate strength and dominance which fail because they claim too much, because Trump is in fact weak. And it shows.

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Prediction: Trump Wasn’t Getting Tested Prime Badge

Listening to all the little clues and nuggets of evidence and the adamant refusal to disclose the date of the President’s last negative COVID test, I think the piece of kryptonite at the center of this clown show is this: the President went into Tuesday night’s debate without getting tested. Perhaps he hadn’t been tested in some time. Many of the gaps and disconnects point toward a scenario in which the White House was relying mostly on testing those who came in contact with the President as a proxy for testing the President himself. Obviously tests and incubation periods are far too fallible for that to make any sense. But I’m pretty sure that at least to some extent that’s what they were doing. Just how much is pretty key right now.

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Biden’s Second Test

Yesterday the Biden campaign announced that Joe Biden had taken a second COVID test and gotten a negative result. (Technically this was apparently his third in response to the President’s diagnosis. But the first two were simultaneous – a double check as it were rather than a follow up.)

This is a big deal and very encouraging.

Biden’s first test in response to Trump’s diagnosis came only two days after his potential exposure at the Tuesday night debate. But 48 or 50 hours just isn’t long enough to tell you much. A negative test after 5 days puts the probabilities much more firmly only Biden’s side, though we’ll need a week more to really be certain that he wasn’t infected. Current science holds that on average people develop COVID symptoms just over five days post-infection and tests can find COVID in pre-symptomatic people 1 to 3 days prior to the onset of symptoms. So he and we are not out of the woods but probabilities are much more firmly on his side.

Was the President the Superspreader? Prime Badge

A variety of circumstantial evidence now raises the real possibility that the President was himself the super-spreader at the center of the White House COVID cluster. To know with any confidence we will need a thoroughgoing contact tracing investigation. It’s quite possible the vector is a little-known White House aide who mingled through the crowd last Saturday in the Rose Garden. For the moment we only have information about the high profile infectees.

But two bits of circumstantial evidence stand out. Read More

That’s the Question Prime Badge

I think TPM Reader DC has this right. The real question isn’t when Trump tested positive. It’s the last time he had a negative test result. That seems likely to be the issue with the muddled timeline …

The most important question for timeline is when the last negative test was, and exactly when and what testing platform were positive results obtained.

I am supposing he tested negative Wednesday AM using the daily Abbott rapid test. 50% false negative rate.

In retrospect reports that he was dragging Wednesday Night might explain why Conley indicated he had been sick for 72 hours.

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