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Some signs of trouble among Portland’s violent Antifa groups

Yesterday the New Yorker published a lengthy piece about Antifa in Portland which feels like it was written by someone who set out to write something positive about the group but who, after spending some time with them, couldn’t quite manage it. The first quarter of the piece goes over the history of Antifa groups in the city from the formation of Rose City Antifa and, more recently, the creation of a group called Popular Mobilization or PopMob. The author doesn’t offer much in the way of criticism of the group or its goals. He’s just describing how they formed.

And then we come to August 29th:

It was dark when I arrived downtown. As I parked on a wide avenue in the shopping district, several people in black bloc sprinted by. Turning a corner, I came upon a small crowd facing a police cordon. Behind the officers, a dead body lay in a pool of light.

The victim was Aaron Danielson, a thirty-nine-year-old supporter of Patriot Prayer. He’d been shot by Michael Reinoehl, a forty-eight-year-old white man who—though unaffiliated with Rose City Antifa or PopMob—once wrote on Instagram, “I am 100% ANTIFA all the way!” Reinoehl later claimed that he had fired in self-defense, and a cannister of bear spray and a telescopic truncheon were found on Danielson. At the time, however, nobody in the crowd knew what had happened or who was involved.

Is it true that Reinoehl was “unaffiliated” with the city’s established antifa groups? How does author Luke Mogelson know that? There are videos of Reinoehl on the front lines of previous protests. He was certainly well known to other people on the front lines. It strikes me as odd that groups that welcome like-minded people can suddenly tell a reporter one particular person (who murdered someone) was definitely not part of their group.

After Danielson was shot, Antifa quickly spread the claim that someone had been murdered by a Proud Boy and when some in the crowd identified Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson on the street, a mob showed up and seemed to be escalating toward more violence:

People pressed around Gibson, shouting at him to leave. When he asked, “Why don’t you guys stop acting like Nazis?,” a man in a Young Turks sweatshirt spit in his face.

“Can we stop with the hate?” Gibson said, making no move to wipe off the saliva.

Protesters continued to arrive, and, as the volume and ferocity of their insults escalated, Gibson turned to a blond woman who’d been standing at his side and said, “Let’s go.” A mob of at least fifty young people pursued them. Gibson kept up a show of equanimity until his hat and glasses were snatched away. Soon, drinks were emptied on him, objects were hurled at him, eggs were smashed on him, and he was punched and pepper-sprayed. With the blond woman’s help, he stumbled forward while someone rang a cowbell in his ears and others strobed flashlights in his eyes.

“Kill the Nazi!” someone screamed.

The mob grew. As far as I could tell, all of Gibson’s assailants were white. At some point, several people pushed their way to Gibson and escorted him down the street, keeping at bay the most belligerent aggressors. A short Asian man in a bicycle helmet yelled, “Let him leave, goddammit! Everyone back the fuck off!”

After several blocks, Gibson and the woman ducked into a gas station, and an employee locked the door behind them. The man in the bicycle helmet blocked the entrance, but people smashed the windows and kicked open a side door. Another protester raised his gas mask and pleaded, “He’s a fucking Nazi, but are you going to lynch him?”

The police eventually showed up and the Antifa mob scattered. At this point Mogelson came across a BLM supporter named Rico De Vera who told him, “It pisses me off. People are going to use tonight to say that Black Lives Matter is a bunch of thugs.” Well, yeah, and maybe there’s a good reason for that. Mogelson and De Vera then walked to the Justice Center where a woman with a megaphone was addressing the crowd about the murder that had taken place that night.

Now a young woman with a megaphone told the people at the Justice Center that she had an announcement. “I just got word that the person who died was a Patriot Prayer person,” she said. “He was a fucking Nazi. Our community held its own and took out the trash. . . . I am not sad that a fucking fascist died tonight.”

Everyone cheered.

There’s no direct criticism of Antifa but the description of their behavior doesn’t make for good press. And that continued two nights later when another mob showed up at the home of Portland’s Mayor Ted Wheeler.

As a picnic table from a restaurant was dragged into the street and set on fire, I spotted Najee Gow, a twenty-three-year-old Black nurse, leading chants of “Fuck Ted Wheeler!” I’d met Gow the previous week, when several young women had staged a sit-in in Wheeler’s lobby. Gow, who wore a peacoat over a red-white-and-blue tank top, had been incensed that no African-Americans were included in the demonstration. “It’s what they’ve always done,” he’d said. “Hijack Black people’s movements. This is disgusting.”

As I spoke with Gow near the burning table, we were interrupted by shattering glass. A young white man in black bloc was swinging a baseball bat into the window of a dentist’s office on the ground floor of Wheeler’s building. “That makes me want to beat them up,” Gow said. Like Rico De Vera, he felt that such behavior benefitted only those who wanted to malign Black Lives Matter, and he also worried that it bred general animosity toward Black people: “They’re putting Black lives at risk. African-Americans are constantly out here telling them to stop, but they won’t. So, at the end of the day, it’s, like, ‘Are you racist?’ ”

A white man with a hammer joined the guy with the bat, and together they breached the office. People entered. A loud explosion echoed from inside, followed by smoke and flames. Gow went over to challenge them. While they argued, a blond woman in a hoodie ran up and spray-painted an arrow on the wall, pointing to the broken window. She then scrawled, “This is the language of the unheard.”

Again, Mogelson doesn’t offer any personal commentary but his writing suggests some irony. He’s literally talking with a black woman about Antifa going too far when a white woman scrawls a justification for the destruction that is underway.

The piece continues like this and the author does a decent job pointing out how the commitment to “a diversity of tactics” effectively means that the most violent people present set the agenda each night and most of the rest of the crowd has been primed not to judge other people’s tactics. That came into play on September 5th:

Near the front of the march, I found Rico De Vera, the engineering student, live-streaming with his cell phone. As we greeted each other, a Molotov cocktail was hurled from the rear and exploded a few feet away, just shy of the officers. Flames splashed protesters, and a man’s leg caught on fire. While medics tended to him, two more Molotov cocktails exploded between us and the officers, who discharged tear gas, stun grenades, and impact munitions, scattering the march. A helicopter hovered overhead. People stumbled into side streets, coughing and retching.

Another protesters named Jay Knight told Mogelson, “Molotov cocktails make this side look worse than the cops. It makes people who were on the fence dismiss all of this as criminality.” Again, maybe there’s a reason for that.

Later Mogelson described a Patriot Prayer memorial for Aaron Danielson. There he met David Machado a veteran and a member of the Proud Boys whose parents were Mexican immigrants. Before long, there is another incident of serious violence:

While Machado and I spoke, the other Proud Boys left and headed to a nearby bar. Machado nervously scanned the park. “I don’t wanna be out here all by myself,” he told me. It was broad daylight. A couple pushed a stroller across the grass.

But Machado’s concern later proved reasonable. At the bar, a man began filming Machado and his friends with his cell phone. “He was trying to dox us,” Machado said. After a bouncer made him leave, the man ran over a Proud Boy in the parking lot, fracturing his skull and rupturing his eardrum. The man was eventually arrested and charged with a felony hit-and-run. Although he wasn’t a member of Rose City Antifa, he had shared a social-media post advocating violence against racists.

It’s impossible to read this piece and come away thinking Antifa and their allies are the good guys. There is also some criticism of the Portland Police, but you can’t have murder, vandalism, beatings, arson, vehicular attacks and Molotov cocktails being used on a regular basis as part of a diversity of tactics and still maintain Antifa are victims. The whole piece is worth reading if you have the time.

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Uh oh: GOP’s Senate contender in MN rushed into surgery for severe hernia; Update: “Good news”

Talk about bad timing. Jason Lewis, former talk-radio host and congressman, looked like he had built up momentum for a late charge at incumbent Senator Tina Smith. Despite getting swamped out in advertising over the past month, Lewis had closed a double-digit polling gap into a virtual tie last week, and threatened to be the first Republican to win a statewide office in Minnesota in fourteen years.

Instead of riding that momentum on the campaign trail, though, Lewis rode a gurney into surgery this morning. The diagnosis — a “severe internal hernia,” according to the campaign:

The former congressman was experiencing abdominal pain and was hurried into the emergency room Monday morning for tests. Doctors determined he had a hernia, which could be life-threatening if it’s not treated fast, the campaign said in a statement. …

Lewis was optimistic as he headed into surgery, the campaign said in an announcement released at 11 a.m.

“True to form, he was speculating about when he could resume campaigning, eager to continue fighting for his fellow Minnesotans,” the campaign stated, and said it will release more information as it becomes available.

Smith offered up a classy statement wishing Lewis well:

KSTP reported that the surgery was a success, but so far there is little word on Lewis’ prognosis. Lewis’ planned campaign event tomorrow with Donald Trump Jr will go on as planned, Tom Hauser reports, but without Lewis. In fact, it’s tough to see how anyone recovers from major abdominal surgery quickly enough to do in-person events in eight days or less. Given the Republican emphasis on this kind of politicking, it’s a considerable setback for Lewis.

Lewis’ momentum didn’t emerge only from the KSTP-Survey USA poll, although the ten-point advance in that series was certainly eye-popping. MinnPost, a Democrat-favorable publication, conducted a survey that only had Smith up by four points, just outside of its margin of error, with Joe Biden up only five points over Donald Trump. Interestingly, Biden’s net favorability is underwater in that poll (-4) and only five points better than Trump’s (-9). Lewis and Smith are tied at +1 on favorability.

Furthermore, both Republicans have more upside among undecideds in the MinnPost poll. Twenty-two percent would choose Trump, while literally zero undecideds chose Biden, although 44% were not leaning in either direction (and another 20% wouldn’t vote at all, with the rest split between independent candidates). Lewis leads Smith 16/8 among undecideds, but 65% of those are still on the fence, with only 8% choosing to skip that race. A life-threatening injury might be a problem in getting those undecideds to back him up, especially if Lewis is too ill to make any kind of appearances between now and Election Day.

Hopefully, Lewis will fully recover quickly, for all sorts of reasons. If he’s up to it, Lewis will need to schedule some virtual events during his recovery to allay concerns over his status among those undecideds. If he can do that, it might even amplify the momentum Lewis was building — and might help boost Trump along the way, too.

Update: Team Lewis announced that the surgery was indeed a success:

That timeline likely precludes in-person appearances until Election Day. Lewis will have to make do with some virtual campaigning and surrogates, but that might be enough.

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Trump edging Biden in Texas — thanks to Hispanics

Oh, the irony. If Donald Trump manages to get rescued by Hispanics next week, it might be the most #2020 thing this year. The New York Times credits a surge of support from Latinos for keeping Trump narrowly ahead of Joe Biden in Texas in their latest survey with Siena. However, note when this survey was taken:

President Trump maintains a narrow lead in Texas, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll on Monday, as he faces a rebellion in the state’s once overwhelmingly Republican suburbs but survives with support from an unlikely ally, Hispanic voters.

Over all, Mr. Trump leads Joe Biden, 47 percent to 43 percent, among likely voters. The majority of interviews were conducted before the final presidential debate on Thursday. In the Senate race, the Republican incumbent, John Cornyn, holds a larger lead, 48-38, over the Democrat, M.J. Hegar.

The news isn’t all good for the GOP, at least at the time the poll was taken:

The findings suggest that Republicans face catastrophic risks down-ballot, even if Mr. Trump wins. Mr. Biden leads him by five percentage points, 48 percent to 43 percent, across the 12 predominantly suburban congressional districts that the Cook Political Report has rated as competitive. These districts voted for the president by eight points in 2016.

In these districts, Republicans face a combination of rapid demographic change and previously unthinkable Democratic gains among white college-educated voters. Mr. Trump leads Mr. Biden by just two points among white college graduates in these districts, even though they say they backed Mr. Trump by 24 points over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

If you’re inclined to see the overall result as an outlier, you’d be … mistaken. RealClearPolitics has an aggregate average for Trump at +3.2 over Biden, who scored a tie in Quinnipiac the week before, and a 3-point edge in the Dallas Morning News poll taken the same time. Trump has led at or outside the margin of error in five polls in the past month, but the biggest lead among them is +7 from Rasmussen. Texas looks close to all of the pollsters playing in the Lone Star State, at least for now.

And it does look like Biden is underperforming among Hispanics in Texas, just as he has in Florida. Jacob Rubashkin notes that the data on this varies widely between pollsters, however:

Fair enough, although it’s also clear that this is not the 2018 electorate either, at least overall. Republicans have done a much better job registering new voters, thanks to a ground game that just doesn’t exist among Democrats. That may play into Gallup’s party-ID polling too, showing just how much the electorate has shifted in two years. Two years ago, Gallup had Democrats +6 and got an 11-point advantage among unaffiliated voters; this year, Republicans are +1 and only trail by three among indie leaners.

Those are reasons to wonder about the models being used by pollsters in this election, especially with the huge disparity on GOTV investment by both campaigns and parties. That may well be why Hispanics are shifting to Trump more than expected — because they’re being asked.

Finally, note that all of these polls took place before Biden pledged to “transition from oil” as president. I’ll have more on that later, but it’s already developing into a major headache for Democrats and a focus for Team Trump in swing states, especially Texas and Pennsylvania. Texas Democrats are trying to distance themselves from that pledge, which indicates just how popular that will be among Texas voters. This state won’t turn blue in this cycle, and maybe not for a long time to come while Democrats keep trying to shut down energy production in Texas.

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Netflix hemorrhaging subscribers after “Cuties” fiasco

As of a couple of weeks ago, the top management at Netflix was standing by their decision to stream “Cuties,” the bordering-on-child-porn film about prepubescent girls dancing in a provocative fashion to mimic YouTube “influencers.” This was being done despite the large amount of pushback they were receiving on social media and in more conservative press outlets. So how has that choice been working out for them? Not well according to one recent report. Cancellations of Netflix accounts have reportedly been rising that what should be alarming levels and new subscriptions fell off dramatically from previous months. Will people voting with their wallets produce a change of heart at Netflix HQ? (NY Post)

“Cuties” turned out to be ugly for Netflix.

The streaming service has watched subscription cancellations skyrocket by 800% after the French coming-of-age film triggered a boycott in early September, analyses show. Within two days of the movie’s premiere, #CancelNetflix became the top trending topic on Twitter and a petition on garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures.

Netflix’s chief financial officer Spence Neumann didn’t mention “Cuties” in a third-quarter earnings call this week, instead focusing on the first half of the year, when coronavirus lockdowns nationwide drove subscriptions.

An 800% increase in cancellations is nothing to sneeze at, particularly when you’re trying to explain it to your investors. The number of new subscribers matched against account cancellations should provide another significant hint. The data analytics firms Antenna and YipitData produced a report quoted in the Post showing that in the first two quarters of the year, the streaming service signed on 16 million and ten million new subscribers respectively. But in the quarter ending on September 30th, after the Cuties news went viral, they had only 2.2 million new subscribers. (There is no data indicating how many of those were child porn aficionados.)

Meanwhile, Netflix lost five times as many subscribers in the first two weeks of September as they did in the entire month of July. A subscription-based company like Netflix can only sustain those sorts of numbers for just so long before they begin to crater. It’s also worth remembering that there was a time when Netflix was the only game in town when it came to streaming movies and television shows. But now they have a ton of competition including the increasingly dominant Amazon Prime. Viewers have other options to explore if they find the Netflix offerings too offensive for their tastes.

The irony here is that we are currently living in a time where Netflix should be doing some of their best business ever. All across the world, people are still locked down, movie theaters are largely closed, and people are searching for other COVID-friendly entertainment options. Netflix managed to profit handsomely from this situation in the spring and summer, but now their numbers are seriously tanking while outfits like Amazon are still going full throttle. Can this really be written off as a coincidence?

I’m not a supporter of cancel culture or boycotts, so at no point have I tried to whip people up into a fervor or drive them to drop Netflix. But everyone has to make up their own mind as to how much they’re willing to put up with. It sounds to me like there are enough people out there who object to the sexualization of young children and Netflix’s condescending attitude toward those who complained that it’s showing up in their bottom line. If so, they have nobody to blame but themselves.

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Data from experimental polling questions points to another Trump upset next week

“Excellent” is overstating it, but I think Romney’s right that Trump’s prospects are better than everyone expects.

Read this new piece from USC Dornsife and you’ll find some familiar themes on social desirability bias. That’s the same problem that Trafalgar pollster Robert Cahaly has sought to address in his surveys of battleground states, which he claims is why his data is reliably rosier for Trump — much, much rosier in some cases — than the rest of the polling industry’s. Cahaly’s baseline assumption is that there are many more Trump supporters out there than the commentariat realizes but that they’re being overlooked in polling for complicated reasons. Some may be embarrassed about their support for Trump and don’t want to admit it to another person. Some may fear harassment by neighbors or other antagonistic forces (reasonably or not) if their support for Trump became known. Some may simply not pick up the phone when a pollster calls, or give an insincere answer just to mess with the person on the line. Cahaly’s methods aim to remove social desirability bias from the equation, to peer through the haze of some MAGA fans’ reluctance to admit their support and see the true picture of the electorate.

USC’s trying to do the same thing. How do you get an accurate sense of how people are planning to vote if some of them are unwilling to be honest about their intentions? You ask them about other people’s intentions. Not “Will you vote for Trump?” but “Do you think your friends and neighbors are voting for Trump?” According to USC, that type of “social-circle question” — similar to Trafalgar’s approach — shows Trump faring better than most polls indicate. And not just better, but well enough to pull another rabbit out of the hat in the electoral college next Tuesday.

From our previous research on social judgments, we learned that people seem to know their immediate social circles quite well. Their answers about the distribution of income, health status — even the relationship satisfaction of their friends, family and acquaintances — were often in the right ballpark. And when we averaged the data from their responses across a large national sample, it provided a surprisingly accurate picture of the overall population…

[I]n all five of the elections in which we tested this question, the social circle question predicted election outcomes better than traditional questions about voters’ own intentions. These five elections were the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, the 2017 French Presidential election, the 2017 Dutch Parliamentary election, the 2018 Swedish Parliamentary election, and the 2018 U.S. election for House of Representatives.

In both the U.S. elections, the social-circle question predicted national and state level results better than the “own intention” question in the same polls. In fact, data from the social-circle question in 2016 accurately predicted which candidate won each state, so it predicted Trump’s electoral college victory

When we calculate how many electoral votes each candidate could get based on state level averages of the own-intention and social-circle questions, it’s looking like an Electoral College loss for Biden. We should note that our poll was not designed for state-level predictions, and in some states we have very few participants. Even so, in 2016 it predicted that Trump would win the electoral vote.

USC is also asking people which candidate they think will win their home state and those results show an even steeper Biden electoral-college loss than the “social circle” results do. What’s especially noteworthy about this is that USC has been conducting its own daily “panel” poll on the presidential race and has had Sleepy Joe ahead the entire time — comfortably. Today they have him up 11 points nationally, indicating a Democratic bloodbath.

What they’re doing here with the “experimental” questions, in other words, is giving readers reason to believe that their own horse-race poll is wildly, embarrassingly wrong.

It’s possible that the traditional polls are right and the “social circle” data is wrong, of course. Both parties this year seem convinced that Trump will do better than his current numbers, righties because they’re sure that Trump fans are a “silent majority” despite the fact that he’s never had a job approval average north of 50 percent and lefties because they have hardcore electoral PTSD from 2016 that makes them fear Trump fans are perennially underestimated. But neither of those things is necessarily true. USC speculates that the pandemic might be throwing off people’s assessments of how their friends intend to vote for the simple reason that we’re all spending less time around each other now. Our information about the day-to-day happenings of our social circle is poorer, therefore our knowledge of their political inclinations is weaker. And our opportunities to influence each other on how to vote are fewer. Your MAGA buddy may have twisted your arm in 2016. Nowadays he’s busy trying not to get COVID and stay afloat financially, just like everyone else.

There’s an obvious question about “social desirability bias” too. If it’s true that it’s distorting the traditional polls and producing artificially encouraging numbers for Biden, whether because people are embarrassed to tell pollsters the truth or because they fear being punished somehow if their community knew their support for Trump, why are we seeing Biden faring better than Clinton in blood-red states? People who live in Montana, say, shouldn’t have reason to feel shy about telling some anonymous polling apparatchik that they’re MAGA and proud, yet Trump’s leading Biden there right now by single digits. He won the state by 20 four years ago.

If anything, the polls in Montana and other very red states should be *overstating* Trump’s support if social desirability bias is real and significant. There must be a few closet Biden voters in places like that who’d rather not let anyone, including pollsters, know that they’ve broken from the president’s pack.

Either way, I think Matthew Walther’s right about what Senate Republicans want out of this election. They want to lose.

Faced with the possibility of losing both the White House and possibly even the Senate in a year in which Democrats are also expected to consolidate control of the House as well, Republicans have resigned themselves to a half decade or so of opposition. Many of them are relieved at the thought of not even having to pretend to govern as members of a minority party — better yet, in the case of those who expect to lose their seats, at the not very remote possibility of a well-remunerated position with a lobbying or consulting firm.

This seems to me the only possible explanation for the GOP’s refusal to pass a second relief bill before the election. Some refreshingly honest liberal observers have called Nancy Pelosi a fool for even entertaining the possibility of such a deal. But she is a wily old fox. She understands that even at the best of times the GOP is reluctant to allow such uninviting prospects as winning elections to interfere with their libertarian economic principles. When things look hopeless and it appears that they have nothing to gain except the gratitude of millions of Americans, they will shrug, like that guy in the Ayn Rand book…

What does all of this mean for the party’s future? If Biden wins, the way forward is clear. The template was established during the Obama administration: moan about “socialism” in the hope that you can get the House back in two years (a remote but not totally unimaginable contingency), and, if all else fails, hope that the Supreme Court will bail you out.

Governing is difficult and thankless, and involves the sort of compromises that are destined to alienate the hardcore members of one’s political base. If all you really care about is holding onto your seat and positioning yourself for a future presidential run then your path is clear. First, hope that you’re relegated to minority status in the Senate and are no longer responsible for anything. Then you pander to your right flank to protect yourself in a primary, do a lot of Fox News hits whining about the Biden administration’s descent into communism, grandstand during hearings about the base’s hobbyhorse du jour (Section 230, for instance), and start staffing up for 2024. That’s the Ted Cruz plan. If he gets lucky on Tuesday night, Democrats will blow the roof off. Not a good outcome policy-wise for the rest of us, but at least we’ll have a party in charge that wants to govern instead of operating like it’s an arm of partisan media.

I’ll leave you with this funny bit from this weekend’s SNL, which captures the flip side of Senate Republicans wanting to lose. What about all the Trump obsessives who need Trump to win so that they have a reason to stay engaged with politics?

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Media ushered away as Biden trails off in answering question on court-packing

I’m skeptical that the “Biden has dementia” attack still has legs with undecideds after two debates and several townhalls.

But Sleepy Joe certainly is doing his part to supply Trump and the GOP with more material for it, isn’t he?

They should include an extra question in exit polling this year: “Are you concerned that the brain of the candidate you voted for might be turning into oatmeal?”

You can hear him answering at greater length as the media walks away, herded towards the bus, but I can’t make out the substance.

Although we already know the substance. He’s punting. He’s not going to deliver a straight answer on court-packing lest it piss off one part of his coalition or another.

John wrote earlier about the lengths to which the Washington Post’s fact-checker went this afternoon to try to cover for Biden when he said “George” instead of “Trump” during an interview. The AP did it too, even though it seems plain from the clip that he meant to say Trump and something else came out of his mouth instead.

“The character of the country in my view is literally on the ballot, what kind of country are we going to be,” he says. “Four more years of George uh…George, going to find ourselves in a position if Trump gets elected, we are going to be in a different world.”

Biden appears to stumble over his words before correcting himself. The clips online do not mention that Biden was being interviewed by [George] Lopez and instead contend that Biden was so confused that he mixed up President Trump with George W. Bush, who was president immediately before Barack Obama and Biden, his vice president, took office.

The most charitable read is that Biden clearly was thinking of Trump even though he landed on “George.” The point he was making about choosing the character of the country is the Democrats’ core argument against the president. The less charitable read is that, uh, that’s the same argument Democrats always make against Republicans, although it’s on steroids this time against the MAGA crowd. Maybe Biden’s train of thought steered him back momentarily to the days of the 2004 campaign.

If he starts talking about the urgent need to elect John Kerry and undo our mistake in Iraq while on the trail this week, we’ll know that the oatmeal has finished cooking.

Here he is elsewhere today, sounding more coherent in answering other questions about the Court. He’s not in favor of ending lifetime appointments for justices, he says, although he might be okay with some scheme in which judges rotate onto and off of the Court. That’s an interesting proposal to dilute the influence of any single justice. And it might be constitutional so long as the people being rotated onto the court are already federal judges, confirmed by the Senate and entitled to hold their position for life to insulate them from partisan pressure. (If the Court can be expanded via simple statute, could its members also be made subject to a “rotation” scheme through simple statute?) The question is what sort of timetable a rotation “schedule” would be on — e.g., one member rotates out every year — and whether the Senate gets to advise and consent on judges rotating in. Does the upper chamber get veto power over the president’s choice of the new “rotation justice” or can he just fill that vacancy since that judge will have already been confirmed by the Senate at some point?

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Melania and Kellyanne campaign for Trump in PA Tuesday

A rare campaign appearance by First Lady Melania Trump is scheduled for Tuesday. She will campaign in Atglen, Pennsylvania, with Kellyanne Conway, former counselor to President Trump. The campaign event will be moderated by Kellyanne. This will mark Melania’s first solo campaign appearance this year.

Kellyanne, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager and the first woman campaign manager to lead a winning presidential campaign, credits Melania’s solo visit to Pennsylvania in the last days of the 2016 election as “pivotal” to winning the state. This year Pennsylvania is just as important for an electoral college win as it was in 2016. Without Pennsylvania, Trump likely cannot win the election.

“Melania Trump’s solo visit to Pennsylvania in the final days of the 2016 campaign was pivotal to winning the state—and winning the election,” Conway, Trump’s campaign manager in 2016, told Fox News. “Now she returns as first lady, to highlight how her platform has helped Pennsylvanians and to make the case for four more years of freedom, opportunity, prosperity and security.”

Pennsylvania was the first state Melania visited after the Republican National Convention in 2016. In 2018 she spoke at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital for the National Convening on Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, hosted by the Department of Health and Human Services. The Trump campaign is pleased that the first lady will be making the appearance. Melania’s work to combat the opioid crisis in America, championing school choice, and the Be Best campaign against online bullying can all be highlighted.

“We are excited to have first lady Melania Trump on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania to connect with voters in the Keystone State and share President Trump’s Make America Great Again agenda,” Mercedes Schlapp, Trump 2020 senior adviser for strategic communications, told Fox News.

“Mrs. Trump has fought to empower the hardworking men and women of Pennsylvania, and this event will be a perfect opportunity to discuss the future success in the state under four more years of President Trump,” Schlapp added.

The first lady has recovered from her bout with COVID-19, though her case was not as strong of a case as the president’s infection. She wasn’t hospitalized and her symptoms were headaches and a cough. She attended the last presidential debate in Nashville. Pennsylvania is a must-win state for the Trump campaign. As of today, Real Clear Politics shows the polling average gives a 5.3 point edge to Biden in Pennsylvania.

The polling averages were taken by RCP before the last debate. That is notable because Biden said during that debate that he will “transition” the oil and gas industry away from fossil fuel exploration and production. That was a big mistake that Trump forced him into making, to Trump’s advantage in energy-producing states like Pennsylvania and Texas where the presidential race is tight. It will be interesting to watch and see if that shakes out to be a fatal mistake for the Biden campaign or not.

President Trump is doing three campaign events in Pennsylvania today. He is going full-steam ahead in the last days of the campaign. During a rally in Altoona, Trump said of Biden’s campaign schedule, “He’s waved the white flag on life. He doesn’t leave his basement.” He’s not wrong, though Biden will go to Georgia tomorrow before returning back home. Trump referred to Biden as the worse presidential candidate ever. It’s hard to believe that there is a candidate worse than Hillary Clinton was in 2016 but Biden just might take that title. And, the press has certainly been incurious and treated Biden with kid gloves throughout the campaign.

Yesterday President Trump and Melania welcomed trick or treaters to the White House. At the 33 second mark, a young girl and boy dressed up as the president and first lady are asked by Trump to turn around so the cameras can capture them in front of the first couple. It’s a cute moment. The young visitors and the adults had to file past the president and Melania who waved at them this year because of the coronavirus. I assume the White House provided treats for the kiddos, they just weren’t given out by the Trumps, as they traditionally would have been given out.

That event was a little bit of almost normal activity coming at the end of a crazy campaign cycle during a pandemic. More of that is welcomed.

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Amy Coney Barrett confirmed 52-48

Here’s the moment the vote was announced by Sen. Grassley:

Here’s the report from the NY Times:

Inside a Capitol mostly emptied by the resurgent coronavirus pandemic and an election looming in just eight days, Republicans overcame unanimous opposition by Democrats to make Judge Barrett the 115th justice of the Supreme Court and the fifth woman ever to sit on its bench. In a 52-to-48 vote, all but one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, who herself is battling for re-election, supported Judge Barrett, a 48-year-old appeals court judge and protégée of former Justice Antonin Scalia.

It was the first time in 151 years that a justice was confirmed without a single vote from the minority party, a sign of how bitter Washington’s decades-old war over judicial nominations has become.

The swearing in will take place tonight at the White House:

Amy Coney Barrett is slated to be sworn in to the Supreme Court at a White House ceremony Monday evening, the White House announced shortly after her nomination was confirmed by the Senate.

Barrett will swear two oaths, a constitutional one expected Monday at the White House by Justice Clarence Thomas, according to a senior White House official, and the judicial oath on Tuesday by Chief Justice John Roberts.

I’ll update this post with video of the swearing in when it’s available. Meanwhile, here are some reactions from Twitter:

President Trump retweeted this:

And from the left:

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Biden’s “transition from oil” pledge a huge headache — and not just for him

My favorite part of this concession from the Washington Post about Joe Biden’s incoherence on energy policy? Framing it as a “Republicans Pounce!®” moment. From the beginning, Biden has tried to eat his cake and have it too on domestic energy production while American media outlets pretended not to notice. Even here, the Post calls Biden’s two-faced pronouncements — declaring an end to fossil fuel production in the US during the primaries while denying he ever said it in the federal election — “walk[ing] a careful line.”

Thanks to Biden finally telling the truth in the last debate after tiring out at the end, the Trump campaign has been vindicated on this point. And that matters not just for Biden, but for Democrats who tried to “walk” that same false line with him:

For months, the Democratic presidential nominee has walked a careful line with policies and rhetoric calibrated to satisfy both sides of the long-simmering divisions in the Democratic Party over climate change, fossil fuels and how to talk about them in the campaign while seeking to head off attacks from Republicans. But in the last days of the race, that balancing act has been thrust into jeopardy, creating new challenges for Democrats up and down the ballot.

“Trump, he’s obviously looking for something to try and hang his hat on at this point, said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), whose district abuts the border with Pennsylvania, a region where fracking is a major issue. “That’s what makes it difficult.”

The United States is already moving away from fossil fuels, and carbon emissions must go down by 7 percent each year by 2030 to avoid catastrophe, but President Trump and his allies seized on Biden’s comments throughout the weekend, portraying them as evidence that he is beholden to his party’s left wing and would eliminate many blue-collar jobs. Some moderate House Democrats in competitive districts where oil is an economic engine distanced themselves from the remarks. And liberals who championed a sweeping “Green New Deal” climate blueprint vowed to pressure Biden to go big on climate change if elected.

The effect has been a muddying of the Democratic Party’s stance, forcing Biden and other candidates into a defensive posture with just over a week until Election Day.

Biden hasn’t walked a careful line as much as he’s talked out of both sides of his face on energy production. As Matt Lewis writes today, it’s the result of attempting to “serve two masters” in the 2020 election cycle. Biden pandered to progressives in the primary to flank Bernie Sanders on the Left. Now, Biden’s trying old-school politics to come back to the center without losing either. Until Thursday night, Biden got away with it, thanks to his ability to parse his wording and media “fact checks” that ignored his explicit pledges to ban fracking and end fossil-fuel production.

Now that Trump led Biden by the nose down the primrose path, the media cover no longer holds. Now it’s every Democrat for himself, and Biden exposed on more than just climate change:

Almost immediately, vulnerable Democrats started distancing themselves from the comments. “I disagree with VP Biden’s statement tonight,” New Mexico Rep. Xochitl Torres Small tweeted. “Energy is part of the backbone of New Mexico’s economy…” Likewise, Oklahoma Rep. Kendra Horn said, “Here’s one of the places Biden and I disagree. We must stand up for our oil and gas industry.”

Politicians have parochial and pecuniary reasons for their public policy preferences, but here’s why I think this issue is even bigger: Biden calls climate change an “existential threat,” but America faces other existential threats—such as China and Russia (there’s a reason why Vladimir Putin hates fracking). As Daniel Yergin, author of The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations, tells me: “Overall, this new position resulting from fracking is a fundamental contribution to U.S. energy security.”

Energy policy is about jobs and money, yes, but it also has national security and geopolitical ramifications. “The shale revolution and America’s regaining energy independence have bolstered U.S. foreign policy and augmented America’s position in the world,” Yergin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, continues.

The national-security aspect is almost more important than the economic ramifications. If we don’t produce our own energy, we go back to dependency on output from unstable regions. That increases the need for US military intervention to secure our energy supplies, and with it the risk of more foreign wars. The rise in oil prices will benefit Russia and Iran most of all, two of our geopolitical foes who desperately need that economic and strategic boost. It’s sheer idiocy, made more so by the Trump administration’s debunking of the oft-posited Obama-Biden claim that we couldn’t drill our way to energy independence.

Over at RedState, our colleague Shipwreckedcrew points out the reasons why the media now has to cover Biden’s actual deceit on energy after making it plain in the debate. It impacts a lot more than Pennsylvania:

One thing I learned many years ago was the basic idea that lower energy prices were, in effect, a tax cut. Lower gas prices at the pump, lower utility bills for the house, lower costs for fuel-intensive industries like farming, lower production costs for consumer goods that are made from petroleum-based products — all leave more money in an individual’s pocket every month.

Hydraulic fracturing is currently used in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. I think this list is a bit outdated, and its probably in more widespread use. …

Social media has effectively throttled the emerging stories of Biden’s corruption involving the business dealings of his son Hunter in China and elsewhere, but the “oil” issue raised by Biden’s debate comment was such that all the major media outlets long in the tank for Biden are being forced to acknowledge the implications over the next 9 days until the election. And so have the Democrat Party.

Republicans aren’t pouncing here. Democrats are recoiling. And likely, so are a large number of voters.

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Washington Post fact checker bails out Biden after “four more years of George” gaffe

This morning Ed wrote about Joe Biden’s slip of the tongue yesterday. During a fundraiser appearance Biden seemed to become confused in the middle of a sentence and referred to “four more years of George…” George who exactly? As Ed noted this morning, it wasn’t clear but in context it seemed like he’d forgotten who was president. Now a few hours later the Washington Post fact-checker has rushed to the rescue and given the RNC rapid response director 4 Pinocchio’s over this. Here’s author Meg Kelly’s explanation including her own transcript of what Biden said:

The “I Will Vote” concert was hosted by comedian George Lopez and political commentator Ana Navarro. The segment begins with what looks like a fancy Zoom call. Navarro and Lopez are each in a separate frame, as are the Bidens and a sign language interpreter…

“First of all, the reason they should vote is there is a lot on, on the ballot this year. This is the most consequen — not because I’m running but because of who I am running against — this is the most consequential election in a long, long, long time and the character of the country, in my view, is literally on the ballot,” Biden responds. “What kind of country are we going to be?”

Then, he stutters, “Four more years of George, uh, George, uh, he, uh, are going to find ourselves in position where if uh Trump gets elected uh we are going to be uh, going to be in a different world.”

Or was it: “Four more years, uh, George, uh, George, uh, we, uh.” It’s hard to tell.

Actually, no it’s not hard to tell at all unless you’re a desperate partisan casting about for excuses just prior to an election. When you listen to Biden’s full statement, he’s clearly setting up a contrast between himself and President Trump. Here’s what he said minus the paragraphs used to break it up.

“This is the most consequen — not because I’m running but because of who I am running against — this is the most consequential election in a long, long, long time. And the character of the country, in my view, is literally on the ballot. What kind of country are we going to be? Four more years of George, uh, George, uh, he, uh, gonna find ourselves in a position where, if Trump gets elected, uh, we’re gonna be, uh, we’re gonna be in a different world.”

This is an accurate transcription of what Biden said including all of the stammering he did near the end. So the claim by Meg Kelly in that last line above is simply false. Biden didn’t say “four more years, uh, George” like an interruption. It was “four more of George, uh…” You can hear the difference between the “of” and the “uh” that followed clearly. Listen for yourself:

There’s no version of that sentence that makes any sense which doesn’t end with “Trump.” He’s the person who might be about to secure four more years. And it’s very clear from the rest of what Biden said that’s who he was talking about, i.e. the person he’s “running against.” All of the context before and after the fumble points to him meaning to say “four more years of Trump.”

In fact, if you just skip over all of the George confusion in the middle, it’s obvious that’s the case: “What kind of country are we going to be? Four more years of [blank]…gonna find ourselves in a position where, if Trump gets elected…we’re gonna be in a different world.” It’s all one thought about what will happen if [blank] is re-elected. The name “George” slipped out and created a moment of confusion that derailed the thought. It’s no accident that at that moment Biden began stammering, but he did eventually bring it back to Trump as intended all along.

In any case, whether you think “George” meant meant George Bush or George Lopez, it didn’t make sense. Lopez isn’t up for four more years of anything. But if it’s a choice between Lopez and Bush, I think he meant George Bush. Here’s why I’m pretty confident that’s the case.

Notice the one word I highlighted above. Here it is again: “Four more years of George, uh, George, uh, he, uh…” If Biden were referring to George Lopez he wouldn’t say “he” he would say, “you” because he’s talking directly to Lopez. Biden’s brain is clearly still thinking about that guy whose name he can’t remember so he says “he” meaning Trump. And then he finally does pull the sentence together and says what he meant to in first place, “if Trump gets elected…”, i.e. four more years of Trump.

But the Post’s fact-checker skips over all of that and just comes up with this lame excuse which makes no sense [emphasis added]:

Starting the clip when the moderators were no longer on the screen, he eliminated key context by removing the most obvious George that Biden could be referring to — George Lopez — and filled in the gap with an answer better suited to the Trump campaign’s unproven narrative of Biden’s faltering mental acuity.

Guest earns Four Pinocchios for his efforts.

That just happens to match up with what a spokesman for Biden told the Post: “He was addressing George Lopez, the interviewer, as is a common practice.”

This is the media at its worst. Presented with an uncomfortable moment for a Democrat, they rush to offer excuses that line up with the campaign’s own and try to brand Biden’s critics as liars. If Biden wins the election against George, uh, George, uh he, uh this is the kind of thing you can look forward to for the next four year, i.e. blatantly partisan coverage from supposedly neutral arbiters at major media outlets.