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Will Donald Trump or Joe Biden Win Wisconsin?

Wikler, though, remains nervous, even as polls show Biden with a sizable lead in the state. Between trying to do pandemic organizing, overseeing events that have made Wisconsin Democratic Party livestreams the hottest virtual ticket in Hollywood, and recovering from a string of losses at the Supreme Court in cases that tried to facilitate ballot counting, Wikler said he’s still not sure whether Wisconsin will decide the election again or whether the state will be one of several “cherries on top of a democracy sundae.”

What follows is a transcript of our conversation. It has been lightly edited for clarity.

Edward-Isaac Dovere: Joe Biden hasn’t been to Wisconsin much, though he’s coming Friday. Harris hasn’t either. Aren’t they making the same mistake that Hillary Clinton did by not spending enough time in the state?

Ben Wikler: Biden and Harris prioritized Wisconsin as their first long-distance trips once the general election started after the conventions. They have come here in person; they’ve come here virtually; they’ve poured resources into the state. Comparing 2020 to 2016 isn’t apples and oranges; it’s grapes to watermelons. At this point, any potential Biden-Harris voter in Wisconsin is getting text messages, phone calls, mailers in their mailbox, door hangers, literature, television ads, Facebook ads, Instagram ads, radio ads—a constant drumbeat of reminders, information, support, and every possible kind of encouragement to cast a ballot and cast it early.

Wisconsin is experiencing a horrific and tragic coronavirus explosion. We are setting grim records every day for deaths, hospitalizations, and new infections. Trump’s super-spreader rallies are profoundly irresponsible, and the Biden-Harris ticket and the whole campaign have been deeply careful about not creating conditions that could worsen the pandemic during the year during in-person visits.

Dovere: There’s a new poll out that shows Biden 17 points up in Wisconsin. Is he?

Wikler: I am organizing and operating as though it’s neck and neck. It would be an ahistorical stunner to have a margin in that territory. The truth is that no one really knows how to model an electorate in the midst of this pandemic, plus a deeply not-normal Trump operation and the intensity of people’s reaction to it.

Dovere: Are we even able to tell what a likely voter is at this point, for Biden or for Trump?

Wikler: We’re talking to people who are very likely by the supporters. We’re also reaching out to people who our data suggest might be Biden supporters, and very often they’re turning out to be enthusiastically ready to vote for Biden and Harris.

Dovere: The lesson that reporters were supposed to learn from 2016 was to get out and talk to people more. Now the lesson is “Don’t talk to people, or you might die.” That makes it hard for reporters to have a sense of what’s going on. Do you feel like you have a sense of where things stand?

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The People Who Love Trump’s Coronavirus Response

Many white men, in particular, feel “shoved back in line,” she writes. Unable to draw confidence from their wealth, which is in many cases nonexistent, or their jobs, which are steadily being moved offshore, they turn to their pride in being American. “Anyone who criticizes America—well, they’re criticizing you,” she writes.

Trump, meanwhile, has allowed his male supporters “to feel like a good moral American and to feel superior to those they considered ‘other’ or beneath them,” she writes. Trump might not always represent his supporters’ economic self-interest, but he feeds their emotional self-interest. Trump is, in essence, “the identity politics candidate for white men.”

For a new book, Hochschild is talking with people in eastern Kentucky, another heavily conservative area. One trend she’s noticed is local white men’s lost sense of pride, and how they turn to Trump to restore it. To them, Trump seems to say, “I’m taking the government back and having it serve you,” she told me. “I’m your rescuer.”

In Strangers, some of the Louisianans Hochschild interviewed were upset that women were competing for men’s jobs and that the federal government “wasn’t on the side of men being manly.” Some of her male Kentucky interviewees, many of whom have a family history in coal, feel even more strongly that men’s rightful place in the world is slipping away.

Men in this community, she told me, “are starved for a sense of heroism. They don’t feel good about themselves. They feel like they haven’t done as well as their fathers, that they’re on a downward slope.” Coal jobs have evaporated, and liberals, they feel, are making enemies of white men. “Their source of heroism, of status, is humming; it’s fragile,” Hochschild says. This analysis comports with some polls of Trump voters. An Atlantic/PRRI poll conducted in 2016 found that Trump supporters were more likely than Hillary Clinton supporters to feel that society “punishes men just for acting like men.”

As far as their leader’s pandemic response, Hochschild’s Kentuckians feel that Trump is doing the best he can, and as good of a job as possible under the circumstances. Though her subjects are worried about catching COVID-19, many see it as one of the unfortunate but acceptable risks of life. Confronting the coronavirus is a way to show stoicism and to feel heroic again. “I’ve heard it said that ‘This is hitting older people, and I’m an older person, but it’s really important to get back to work, and I’ll take the hit,’” Hochschild said. Her subjects think they can handle the virus just like Trump handles everything. “He’s a two-hamburger-a-meal guy,” she said. “He’s kind of a bad boy, and they relate to that.”

This part of Trump resonated with Kurtis, who told me he likes that the president “comes off as a man. He doesn’t come off as weak.” Trump’s strength is a benefit in the foreign-policy arena, Kurtis feels.

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Will Joe Biden Beat Donald Trump in Michigan?

Biden and his team have stayed engaged, as Trump’s campaign has continued to visit and otherwise actively campaign in the state. Biden has visited several times, and may be back. In the past week alone, the Biden campaign has sent Jill Biden; Kamala Harris’s husband, Doug Emhoff; Pete Buttigieg; and the pop star Lizzo all over the state, and Harris and Emhoff were back there today. (Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were also in Michigan this past week.) Democrats’ TV spending has remained high, and issue-specific, such as the campaign ad that started running earlier this month, just in the Traverse City market, highlighting the effect of climate change on fruit farmers. Clinton’s Michigan ads in 2016 mostly focused on calling Trump terrible, without a clear positive message about her or the Democratic Party.

Despite these efforts, Democrats know that much will likely hinge on the Black vote. So in late September, when Harris came to Michigan for her first in-person trip since joining the ticket, she started the day in Flint, another largely Black city that, like Detroit, saw lower turnout in 2016 than it had four years before. Sticking to the campaign’s strategy of speaking directly to local issues, she took a walking tour of Black-owned small businesses with Stabenow and the Flint native and former WNBA player Deanna Nolan, visiting a barbershop, then a bookstore, then a clothing store. At a market a few blocks away, she laughed with farmers as she bought honeycrisp apples, corn, and jalapeños, talking up Biden’s economic-recovery plan to each person she met.

In front of another barbershop that afternoon, in Detroit, Harris laid into the Trump administration for trying to end the Affordable Care Act and health-insurance protections for preexisting conditions. She talked about how “poverty is trauma-inducing,” and called the push for a $15 hourly minimum wage a “floor” that didn’t do anything to build Black equity. “We have an opportunity to declare and demonstrate the power to shape the future,” she said, urging listeners not to be cowed into giving up and not voting. “Let us not let them take our power.”

With less than two weeks to go until Election Day, more than 1.6 million Michiganders have voted, about a third of the expected vote total (which assumes a higher turnout than in 2016). Democrats like those numbers, but they also worry that they don’t actually represent additional supporters—they may just be eating into the votes that in past years came on Election Day.

Even if the Democrats’ Michigan strategy comes together, flipping just this one state won’t get Biden to 270 electoral votes. But the Biden campaign knows that Michigan is central to its chances. “I’m traveling around the country, but I keep coming back to Detroit,” Harris said today at a polling place there. “You know, in 2016, right, we remember what happened? When we got hit by this natural disaster who’s now in the White House, right? In 2016, they won by just on an average two votes per precinct … So let’s make sure that doesn’t happen again, shall we? And that means: Let’s make sure everybody votes.”

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Massachusetts: Images of the Bay State

Massachusetts is one of the smallest, but most densely-populated states, with a population of nearly 6.9 million. From the Berkshires through the Pioneer Valley to Boston, out to Cape Cod and the Islands, here are a few glimpses of the landscape of Massachusetts, and some of the wildlife and people calling it home.

This photo story is part of Fifty, a collection of images from each of the United States.

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Cory Booker on Biden, Amy Coney Barrett, and Trump

Dovere: President Trump keeps saying and tweeting that you’re going to be in charge of some program to move Black people into the suburbs. Are you?

Booker: I think it’s best to answer that as just “no.”

Dovere: Do you know what he is talking about?

Booker: I have, for years now, given up on the on the odyssey of trying to understand what motivates this president of the United States to say what he says. I think it’s a fool’s errand to try to understand the motivations for the chaos that comes out of his mouth. I do know that there are dark forces at sway, in the sense that he seems to consistently try to appeal to people’s fear, try to call to the lesser angels of our nature. That he is often demeaning and degrading and dehumanizing other Americans. And so I know that for me, I’d rather much rather focus on the people he hurts, the people that he is trying to manipulate, and be a force of protection—rather than get involved with what I think there’ll be arguments for in the annals of history about what motivates him to lead in such a dark way.

Dovere: Why do you think you’re on his mind so much?

Booker: This last month has been particularly strange, that in tweets and rallies somehow he’s been much more focused on me. Obviously, I’m taking up space in his head. And I hope that’s a sign that I’m being an effective advocate for things that are just right, as he is trying to so often push things that are wrong.

Dovere: Is it racist?

Booker: It could be more that he’s using me in a way to try to scare people, or thinking that somehow the only male African-American Democrat in the Senate is a great foil to try to scare suburbanites, which is rank racism. So I’m not sure what it is. I know he responded to the way I talked about him in the Supreme Court hearings, but I don’t know what it is—whether it is rank racism, or that he feels somehow injured by my advocacy.

Dovere: You ran for president hoping for a number of different things than what Biden has proposed. How much should people who want more progressive policy, or a different approach to issues of race, think that any of that would now be part of a Biden administration, if there is one?

Booker: Joe Biden’s pathway to the presidency should give people a lot of confidence that he will grapple with these issues and be a president that makes significant strides in them. Clearly his campaign was deeply shaped by the largest mass protests in our country’s history. Unequivocally. It came soon after he clinched the nomination in a decisive manner with a significant outpouring of African American support. I think you could add to that the decisions he has made so far: He has promoted the first-ever African American female as a vice-presidential nominee of a major party; he has consistently spoken with increasing eloquence about the need for diversity, for inclusion, and the need to address systematic racism.

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The Catholics Who Hate Joe Biden—And Pope Francis

The same day, Catholic Vote—a right-wing PAC with no formal ties to the Church—announced a $9.7 million ad buy opposing Biden in swing states.

The wrangling over Biden’s religious bona fides is aimed at the thick strands of Catholic population that run through the most contested states on the electoral map. American Catholics have basically been split down the middle in terms of party loyalty since the 1970s, but Barack Obama edged out his Republican opponents in 2008 and 2012, winning 54 percent and then 51 percent of the Catholic vote. Hillary Clinton failed to match these results—most devastatingly, in heavily white swing-state counties—which explains the two parties’ fixation on reaching Catholics in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Of course, every presidential race since Roe v. Wade has featured tension between single-issue anti-abortion-rights Catholic voters and the more liberal, “social justice” Catholics who consider abortion just one issue of many. This time, though, the Catholic wars have greatly expanded. Trump’s amorality, and actions such as Attorney General Bill Barr’s resumption of the death penalty after a 20-year hiatus, have something to do with that: Liberal Catholics are now united in a kind of concentrated fury that conservatives have always directed at abortion. But another factor is the war within the Catholic Church in America—which has become more vicious and is fueled by the same forces that have wrought polarization and conspiracism in U.S. politics. While Joe Biden says he is fighting for the soul of the country, U.S. Catholics are fighting for the soul of their Church.

The president has aligned his reelection campaign with a proudly revanchist corner of the Church, one unfamiliar to many American Catholics, even those adamantly opposed to abortion. This faction’s positions on women, gay people, Muslims, immigration, socialism, and climate change are much closer to those of pro-Trump white evangelicals than to those of liberal Catholics, whom they consider not to be Catholics at all. Far from being bothered by Trump’s scuffles with the pope—Francis has called the president’s immigration policies “not Christian,” Trump has called him “disgraceful” for saying such a thing, and so on—these ultraconservatives applaud the attacks on the leader of their Church. To them, Francis is the embodiment of abhorrent modernist, globalist, even secularist values.

The effective leader of this part of the Church, which is both superglued to certainty and whirring with conspiracy, is Carlo Maria Viganò. “So honored by Archbishop Viganò’s incredible letter to me,” Trump tweeted in early June, to little general notice. “I hope everyone, religious or not, reads it!” Later, during one of the several White House interviews he has granted to EWTN, the conservative Catholic television network, the president lauded Viganò as a “great gentleman,” who’d written “a tremendous letter of support from the Catholic Church.”

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Texas: Images of the Lone Star State

Texas is an enormous place—the second-largest state in the U.S., and larger than the entire country of France. About 29 million people live there, mostly in metropolitan areas in the eastern half of the state, around Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. From the streets of El Paso to the hills of East Texas, here are a few glimpses of the landscape of Texas, and some of the wildlife and people calling it home.

This photo story is part of Fifty, a collection of images from each of the United States.

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What Barack Obama Is Doing to Support Joe Biden

“Everyone’s been wondering how you campaign in a pandemic, and we’re trying to show them how,” says Eric Schultz, a senior adviser to the former president.

Obama will spend much of the next few weeks texting, tweeting, and recording web videos. He’s agreed to a few interviews with podcast hosts he can count on to let him say what he wants: One with his former campaign manager David Plouffe, and another on Pod Save America, whose hosts met while working for him. “A very important question after the election, even if it goes well with Joe Biden, is whether you start seeing the Republican Party restore some sense of ‘Here are norms that we can’t breach,’ because [Trump’s] breached all of them, and they have not said to him, ‘This is too far,’” Obama told the Pod Save America hosts yesterday.

Barack Obama will soon start appearing at Biden campaign drive-in rallies. Credit: Jim Watson / AFP / Getty

Obama has raised more money for the Biden campaign via text and emails with his name on them than anyone other than Biden and Harris themselves; a text of his from late September is one of the top 10 of all time for money raised. Sitting at his table at home, he has appeared at several fundraisers for the Biden campaign, for House Democrats, and for All on the Line, the redistricting group that he helped found and that merged with his Organizing for Action group two years ago.

Over the summer, Obama advised LeBron James as the NBA star was figuring out how to get more involved in politics. Obama has stayed involved with James’s group, More Than a Vote—a surprise appearance in the virtual fan section for Game 1 of the NBA Finals, alongside past Lakers stars and poll workers, led to a tripling of the number of volunteers who signed up as poll workers. “He’s a figure of cultural significance now, not just political significance,” says Addisu Demissie, the group’s executive director, explaining why he thinks Obama was able to help in a way that other politicians couldn’t.

This is the first election cycle in 20 years that Obama hasn’t been out on the trail. As much as he enjoys not having to interrupt his schedule, he misses the crowds cheering for him. He misses whipping people up in person, especially against Trump, whom he despises so deeply. But he did draw 120,826 viewers to the grassroots fundraiser he appeared at in June for Biden, raising $11 million in small donations—way more people, and probably more money, than he could have raised at a single live event.

Obama has also continued to make endorsements, including many for down-ballot races—and after years of Democrats distancing themselves from him when he was in the White House, the number of swing-district candidates now chasing his public support has gratified him. He’s thrown his weight around a little, endorsing Reverend Raphael Warnock in one of this year’s Georgia Senate elections. That earned Obama a brushback from another Democratic candidate, Matt Lieberman, who tweeted at Warnock, “Congrats on endorsement from 44 who has endorsed every DC-approved Senate candidate.”

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Conservatives Who Love Amy Coney Barrett, But Not Trump

For the handful of conservative Republican lawmakers who have been at least somewhat willing to criticize Trump’s harms to democratic norms, Barrett’s nomination is a relief—a welcome return to rhetorical home turf, where they can talk about constitutional principles and the rule of law. Barrett “doesn’t think you slop applesauce on tablets and then call it law because it came from a judge,” Sasse said, cheekily citing Scalia’s famous dissent in the 2015 Supreme Court decision upholding Obamacare, in which he called the majority’s reasoning “pure applesauce.” But the rule of conservative politics in Washington has become clear: Those who want their lofty principles need to work through Trump’s patronage. In conversations with people working on the nomination, it was clear that they believe Democrats have turned judicial nominations into an all-out war, with their attempts to sink Brett Kavanaugh and question Barrett’s faith. Their message to Democrats sounded distinctly Trumpian, albeit with a biblical flair: Live by the sword; die by the sword.

Some conservatives worry that their movement will be hurt by the legacy of this era, especially when it comes to the battles over the courts. “We are in a race to the constitutional bottom,” Longwell said. If Republicans successfully confirm Barrett to the Supreme Court but lose badly in November, Democrats might attempt to pack the court with more justices who are favorable to their cause, which would invite further retaliation from conservatives in the future. Forget lofty principles—we will “find ourselves in an environment where it is raw political power all the way down. There are no more attempts at compromise. There are no more attempts at finding common ground,” Longwell said. Others believe Supreme Court victories for the anti-abortion-rights movement could be Pyrrhic, prompting a cultural backlash that will tilt public opinion in favor of expanded abortion rights. And because of the circumstances of Barrett’s nomination, her decisions might always be viewed through a partisan lens.

For now, conservatives are trying to relish the victory at hand. “I don’t spend a lot of my time on Donald Trump’s narcissistic tweeting,” Sasse said. “He is who he is, and everybody knows it.”

There’s a comic that’s become popular in the Trump era: A dog in a bowler cap sits at a table with a mug of coffee, assuring everyone, “This is fine,” while flames lick the walls of the room around him. For conservatives who are skeptical of Trump, Barrett’s nomination is a little like that: They see her as a last chance to shore up the constitutional principles they hold dear while the house of American democracy burns down around them.

Sasse didn’t know the meme—he’s semiretired from Twitter, where he used to maintain a prodigious presence. But he got the concept. Most of Sasse’s first Senate term has been dominated by the Trump era. He’s about to win his next six years in office, and he’d like to spend it governing—preparing America to compete with China, rebuilding public trust in institutions, and, of course, confirming more conservatives to the federal bench. But, he said, these efforts at governing keep getting derailed. “We’re constantly doing your dog-with-coffee-mug-burning-down-house stuff.”

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West Virginia: Images of the Mountain State

West Virginia is home to just under 1.8 million residents, ranking 39th in the nation. Charleston, the capital and most populous city, has a population of about 46,500. The state is situated entirely within the Appalachian Mountain range, and its terrain is dominated by rolling hills, mountains, and valleys. Here are a few glimpses of the landscape of West Virginia, and some of the wildlife and people calling it home.

This photo story is part of Fifty, a collection of images from each of the United States.