Politics Live with The Fix

Jul 02, 2020

Got a burning politics question, or just something you’re curious about? Each week, starting Thursday at noon, The Fix team chats with readers about the big stories in politics.

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Hi chatters, 

We're through the first half of 2020. Are you having fun yet? Phew. Here's what's on our minds this week: 

Amber Phillips is on vacation. What's on your minds? 


How can we make sure voters aren't fooled again by polls? Remember, we didn't think it was possible!

I think it's important to accurately explain polls.

And it's also important to not overstate how the polls were wrong in 2016. Most polls said that Clinton would receive more votes than Trump -- and she did. What the media didn't do a great job of explaining to voters is the Electoral College. And I think that has since changed.

I think there's also been increased attention to swing states this go around and how they will likely decide the outcome.

I'm thrilled that Biden is polling way ahead of Trump. What I fear is that there will be massive voter suppression in states with Republican-dominated legislatures: not allowing mail-in voting, shutting down polling stations in minority areas "because of the virus", purging voter rolls.

This is a legitimate fear based on reports in states like Georgia and Kentucky during the Democratic Primary, which is why so many voting rights activists are trying to draw attention to this issue with the hope that some changes are made before November.

Just read Philip Bump on Trump's approval ratings. Looks like his handling of the pandemic has increased disapproval numbers and I'm wondering if that would outweigh approval if the economy has improved by November. How much difference would it make?

The economy is the one big thing Trump has occasionally had positive reviews on. It's why he's trying to focus things so intently on that.

But as I've long argued, the biggest obstacle to being able to focus things on the economy is if we're still in the midst of a bad outbreak. Harsh measures come with momentary economic pain; lengthy outbreaks might come with even more -- and at the most inopportune time for a president who wants this election to be about the economy.

GOP support for Trump is always shown as a percentage. Versus 2016, is the pie smaller?

It's impossible to know until we actually see turnout on Election Day! But some polls have actually shown people are more enthusiastic about voting this time than in 2016 -- when 6 in 10 voters dislike each option. So the pie could actually be bigger.

I recognize that there is still four months to go in the campaign, but are there any positive signs for the Trump campaign that it would be able to rebound and somehow win this thing? I believe that the coronavirus has so messed up the lives of Americans and that they did someone to blame and that would be the President. In 1918, with the Spanish flu raging, the Democrats lost both Houses of Congress and followed up by losing the Presidency in 1920.

The Trump campaign appears to be eyeing what polls say about enthusiasm more than anything to remain encouraged. Hope that those who support the president will remain faithful and turnout in November at rates higher than those who do not like Trump seems to be the main focus for a possible win. But as we saw with the Tulsa, Oklahoma rally, while enthusiasm for Trump might be higher than it is with Biden that does not mean that it's not declining.

Maybe Joe Biden wasn't a weak candidate, but maybe Twitter was a weak barometer for voter sentiment?

I'm not sure what specifically this refers to, but I'll own the fact that I was bearish on Biden becoming the nominee. What ultimately happened is people saw significant limitations in all the other candidates, and he was the guy who could win over such a massively important bloc in the Democratic Party: black voters. 

The point also stands that he has largely ignored the day-to-day social media battles, and he's probably better off for it.

To what extent will the last round of pandemic-based business re-closures negate the progress shown in today's jobs report? I wonder how many of those (re-)hires will be (or already have been) let go.

While the unemployment rate fell last month, it is still higher than at any point during the Great Recession and monthly unemployment claims also remain higher.

The Post also reported this week on employees who are being laid off a second time as coronavirus cases surge.

And former Obama administration economist Betsey Stevenson noted that today's jobs report came from a survey done before coronavirus cases started to surge.

Each of these points add more context and nuance to today's jobs report.

Do you think it is riskier to select a governor or mayor who is facing the uncertainties of handling Covid-19 and unrest directed at the police than a sitting Senator or Congresswoman? Seems like things could change more rapidly for a governor/mayor...

It's a great point. If we're still seeing flareups come next month, do you want to lock in a governor whose state could experience once between the convention and Election Day? 

The only governors on my list, it bears noting, are Michigan's Gretchen Whitmer and New Mexico's Michelle Lujan Grisham. But I can also see this being a fact in whether Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is picked.

It is clear that Democrats and many Republicans---Tom Cotton and Lindsey Graham---want to make DC statehood an election issue. Is it just the upcoming election that prevents either side from seeing the obvious compromise staring them in the face that both parties should be able to live with? That is, reducing the boundaries of the federal district to Capitol Hill and the Mall and then returning the rest of the District to Maryland. DC residents would get represented in Congress, it would not require amending the constitution (which says nothing about the District's boundaries), the current DC govt. could govern the city of Washington minus the much smaller federal district, and it would not change the political make-up of the Senate. Why is this so hard?

Well one reason is because many DC residents have no interest in being a part of Maryland. When this idea was mentioned earlier this week, a co-worker noted that at best, it would make more sense for some neighborhoods to become a part of Virginia. But even beyond that -- and I say this as a DC native, many voters want to be their own state and don't see that compromise as significantly more beneficial than the current situation -- vote or not.

While Trump may be slipping in key demographics that elected him in 2016, how many are likely to switch their vote for another candidate or will they likely ’hold their nose’ and pull the GOP lever in Nov?

A Monmouth poll today showed that 50 percent of voters say they're not at all likely to vote for Trump. If that's ultimately the case, he'd better hope plenty of people pull the third-party lever, because that's a pretty low ceiling.

That said, I'm not sure the third-party candidates this time around are as viable as last time. And the reason they took so much last time is because 6 in 10 voters disliked each major candidate. As long as Biden can avoid being as unpopular as Clinton was -- a big if -- I have a difficult time seeing there be as many third-party votes.

Will they become the Sharron Angles or Christine O'Donnells of 2020?

I'm not sure winning those seats will be such a priority for Democrats, like it was in the case of these Senate candidates. They will keep raising them up as evidence of the GOP becoming more extreme, and they'll probably target the Boebert seat because it's possibly winnable.

Tammy Duckworth was born in Thailand. Her father was a US citizen, her mother Thai. Is she eligible to be Vice President?

This question has come up a bit since her name went public. And one of our opinion columnists wrote about it in a piece making the case for her candidacy. Despite being born in Thailand, because her father was an American citizen, David Byler made the case that she is constitutionally eligible to be president or vice president.


If McSally loses again, is her political career over?

I would imagine so. Not sure she was an ideal pick, both because of her relationship with the McCains and because she lost both that 2018 Senate race and her first primary for Congress. You've got to wonder if Republicans are having some buyer's remorse about who they appointed.

That said, I'm not sure who else Gov. Ducey could have picked. Most of the Republicans in the state's delegation are pretty far to the right.

I keep trying to find a definitive answer. I Should have remembered this from civics in high school. ). If the current president were to die, and the VP becomes president, does that VP have to run for office at the end of the current president's term? Thank you!


Regardless of what happens in 2020, is it fair to say the GOP field in 2024 will look something like this: VP Mike Pence, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Donald Trump Jr., Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Rick Scott, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Tom Cotton, Senator Josh Hawley, Governor Ron DeSantis, Governor Brian Kemp, and Representative Matt Gaetz?

Those are some pretty good guesses. One that I think needs to be included: Pompeo.

I hear a lot of blame directed at the Intelligence agencies for Trump's failure to know about the bounties on our soldiers. But from what I can see, the agencies did in fact put it into the daily briefings. Who in the White House is in charge of determining which items are worthy of the President's attention?

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is responsible for the President's Daily Briefing.

What do you think about the upcoming elections ? Do you think Donald Trump will be the President of America again and Make America Great Again or lose the elections ? What do you think about Joe Biden, can he become the President of America and win people's heart ?

I am not certain of what will happen in November, but I do believe that based on the way things are currently going, Donald Trump will lose the popular vote. But I am not yet clear if that means he will lose the election.

I am very worried that Russia will once again interfere in the upcoming election. What is being done to ensure that the presidential election will be completed in a fair legal manner? How can we protect our election from interference by outside influence?

There has been some reporting about Russia's efforts to interfere again in the 2020 election.

Congress has allocated some resources for election security, but there are calls from some lawmakers for more action and resources ahead of the 2020 election.

It seems Trump has painted himself into a corner with this latest Russian scandal. He claims he was unaware Russia was paying the Taliban to kill American soldiers. I believe this is true because the information reportedly was only in a written briefing and it’s obvious he doesn’t read things. However, his press secretary insists he reads the national security briefings. So he either has to admit he doesn’t read the briefings or admit he was aware. How does the WH resolve this? I’m guessing with a diatribe against the removal of statues of confederate leaders.

Their strategy is certainly curious! Pretty much every Republican is taking this seriously, given it involves the lives of our troops. Officials like McEnany and O'Brien have confirmed this has been taken seriously and is still being worked on. But Trump is calling it a "hoax," which doesn't at all fit with those messages.

Also consider what happens if we somehow do see some compelling, public evidence that it's real? At that point, Trump won't just be the guy who was slow to react; he'll be the guy who dismissed something so grave entirely.

I'm guessing he's not listening to his advisers on this one.

If Biden were to win the election, how likely is it for Trumpism to leave the Republican Party? Will Trump’s influence persist for many years to come?

I'm guessing a version of it will stick around -- much like the tea party did -- but it will need a standard-bearer to stay relevant. That could be Trump or it could be Don Jr. stepping forward, which seems likely.

That said, if Trump loses and possibly loses badly, I'd guess plenty of folks might think twice about whether that's the right path forward.

Was Jamaal Bowman recruited by Justice Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez or the young women who unsuccessfully ran a primary challenge against Henry Cuellar or did they just endorse him after he decided to run like Ayanna Pressley or Marie Newman...

Bowman, a veteran educator, was recruited by Justice Democrats after  education activists in the city argued that his personal narrative -- grew up in public housing before eventually becoming the founding principal of a Bronx school -- could be an attractive story to voters.

NY BLM leader Hawk Newsome re Val Demings: "Joe Biden would be an idiot to put her on his ticket. People are already on the fence about him." Is Demings out of contention?

She wasn't a prosecutor, but being a former police chief may not be ideal either. You can bet the Biden campaign is vetting her time as Orlando police chief intensely.

I've been a little more dubious that she'll be the pick than others, but obviously she's part of this process.

Her allegation has seemingly fallen off the radar. Absent new information/evidence, how big of an issue do you think this will be in the fall campaign?

Based on how little people are talking about Tara Reade as of now and how well Biden is doing in the polls, it does not appear that her accusations will be a huge barrier for him in November.

Care to venture a guess on the likelihood of the Senate having a Democratic majority (assuming a Dem VP) in January? Would Schumer be the Majority Leader or would someone else rise to the top slot?

1. If Biden wins the popular vote by 9-10 points like he is now or even just 5-6 points, I think the Senate flips. If it's a close race, Dems will have a more difficult time flipping the Collins and Daines seats. They likely need at least one of those --assuming Doug Jones loses -- to get to 50-50 and have the Dem VP break the tie.

I know this is highly unlikely, but what do you think would happen if Biden chose a white man as his running mate. And, what if that white man happened to be Andrew Cuomo?

I never say never, but I'm tempted to say never on this.

But for hypothetical's sake: I think he'd enrage so many people by doing that that it's hard to see anything Cuomo did mattering much, at least initially. Biden says he'll name a running mate in early August, which is three months until the election and not nearly enough time to undo the damage reneging on this would cause. 

I agree with Natalie that this would be playing with fire. What better way to totally alienate precisely the people you need to turn out and vote than to promise such a major step forward for women or women of color and then go back on it?

Do you think that Americans have changed their opinion on what the qualifications to be President of the United States are? Business people may not know how to deal with pandemics. Their goals are making money and which may not qualify them to run a country.

Trump's lack of experience in government has become more obvious to some people who were willing to give him a try because of their desire to see the system shaken up a bit. But I don't think that will persuade people from backing businessmen -- or women -- in the future. The president's widely view poor handling of the pandemic and other issues isn't usually attributed to his lack of government experience as much as it is his personality and overall worldview. It is possible, perhaps even likely, that another business leader would have handled these issues better.  

Will we ever actually see Trump wearing a mask? Other prominent Republicans seem to think the tipping point has come when they can be seen with a mask on.

He said yesterday that he'd wear one if he was in a crowded situation. There are also pictures of him wearing one, though he's conspicuously avoided being photographed in one.

There is increasing pressure from Republicans on him to send a message, though. But as with the Russia bounties thing, that pressure may not ultimately matter to him.

If we can mandate "no shoes, no shirt ,no service" why not "no mask no service" I don't understand the problem

Well it appears that many businesses across the country have in fact mandated masks before agreeing to serve customers.

What is the scenario if something were to happen to either Joe Biden or Trump that would make them unable to be part of the process (i.e. illness or death) before election day or after election day and until the January Inauguration?

The Post's Monkey Cage blog recently tackled this issue. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

In short, if a candidate died or withdrew before the November election, the party would select the new nominee.

If such an event occurred after the November election but before the electoral votes were cast, it would likely end up in the courts as to whether electors were required to vote for the candidate who won their state's electoral votes, even if that candidate is incapacitated.

If such an event occurred after the electoral votes were cast but before Congress counted them in January, it would again be a legal question that could end up in court as to whether the vice president-elect "qualified" as president under the Constitution's 20th Amendment.

If such an event occurred after Congress counted the electoral votes but before the inauguration, the vice president-elect would become president under the Constitution's 20th Amendment.

Thanks to everyone for chatting on another busy day. Here in MN (hey Aaron!) we are seeing a Trump ad (and seeing it a lot, usually during the dinner hour) trying to portray Biden as feeble, out of it, etc...in one shot it looks like he’s sleeping, though if you look closely you can see it's in a church where, well, a lot of people close their eyes when they're praying. In the last couple of presidential elections there's been a "MN is a swing state" narrative that never quite comes true, but does Trump think he still has a chance here? Or are we just on the fringes of the western Wisconsin market (definitely a swing state) so are we getting what they're getting? Also, any polling on the Smith/Lewis Senate race? Seems pretty quiet so far.

My guess is it is mostly bleeding over from That Other Highly Inferior State to the west. But the Trump campaign has at least said it might target Minnesota. I still feel like it would be more of a cherry-on-top kind of win, though, than something they need to get a majority of EC votes. So we'll see how hard they push there.

As for Smith and Lewis, I haven't seen any polling. I'd imagine Trump would need to win for push Lewis over the top. He's hardly the GOP's ideal of a candidate.

"A noun, a verb, and 9/11" was a legit all-time burn. How many other zingers from the 2008 campaign were that memorable?

Here's a rundown from Politico of memorable lines and gaffes from the 2008 campaign.

What are the odds of any police reform bill passing in both houses?

Given how differently the party's bases are and as a result their desires for what policing looks like in this country, it would take a lot for the GOP-led Senate to pass a bill on police reform that Democrats in the House supported.

What is the endgame for Donald Trump? I know that it is early, but it is clear he isn't enjoying his job (I recently saw an article titled something like "Trump is running for a job he isn't doing"), especially with the future of rallies (which he thrives on) being viewed with skepticism after the Tulsa debacle. He isn't engaged with the issues of the day (coronavirus, race relations, the Russian bounties, etc), but rather seems to want to devote his time to conspiracy theories, cable news and undermining the messaging of his administration (e.g. face masks). Our Constitution isn't designed to deal with a President who isn't up to the job, seems to have given up up the job in the middle of a significant crisis, but who is politically protected (the 25th Amendment option has not legs with his Cabinet of "yes-men"). What can we expect with a floundering President who seems content to fiddle while the country is burning?

The president does not want to lose. That is for sure. And while it certainly appears to many people that he does not enjoy his current job, he does not want to get ... well ... fired. That would be a stain on his legacy that he likely will have a hard time getting past and wants to avoid having to face.

Did the White house ever disclose who the doctor or medical professional was that advised and monitored the President when he asserted he took chloroquine or a variant? Was the press able to verify that he actually took the drug? Thank you.

The White House physician has said he monitored President Trump when he took hydroxychloroquine.

Is there truth in the statement that not voting for Biden or Trump is essentially voting for Trump? I see this argument used a lot on social media.

This argument from the left seems to be most "true" in states that are likely to go red or are swing states. The idea is that staying away from the polls allows Trump to have a bigger win than he would if those voting against him showed up.

To be fair to Trump (though lord knows he doesn't deserve it ) when he calls the Russia Bounty Scandal a hoax I believe the "hoax" he's referring to is that he was aware of it. Or has he actually denied that it happened at all?

I have no doubt this would ultimately be the argument -- that he was disputing a specific aspect of the reporting. But his comments aren't all that ambiguous.

He has said that "intel" told him it wasn't credible. He also said yesterday on Fox Business: " And from what I hear -- and I hear it pretty good -- the intelligence people didn't even -- many of them didn't believe it happened at all. I think it's a hoax. I think it's a hoax by the newspapers and the Democrats."

That's ... not referring to whether he was aware of it. It's saying he thinks the bounties are a hoax.

I’ve seen several high profile B-list celebrity type Trump supporters pronounce that they will endorse Biden or answer polls in favor of Biden, but will vote for Trump and encourage others to do the same in an attempt to throw the polls, and to reduce racial backlash they’re receiving. Is it possible that this “movement” could throw the polls and that there is much more Trump support than polling shows?

Have not seen this and would be interested in seeing who these celebrities are. How could they avoid the backlash of backing a president who most Americans think is racist if they are going public with voting for him?

There's been interest in the Bradley effect since the 2016 election but there hasn't been significant proof that this approach to voting had a significant effect on the previous election. But due to his unpopularity, it is still likely that we are all surrounded by Trump supporters who remain closeted about their approval of him.

Does presdent Trump want another summit with North Korean leader Kim JingUn before November?

Not sure why he would. It would only reinforce how little that whole effort has progressed in recent months. 

Any updates on if Trump's tax records will be available to the House of Representatives or the public before the election?

There have been six different efforts to obtain Trump's tax and financial records at the federal and state level. I ran through the efforts a few months ago here.

One law has since been struck down by the California Supreme Court and three of the cases are now before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court could rule any day now on the three lawsuits from the Manhattan district attorney, the House Oversight Committee and the House Financial Services and Intelligence committees.

The House Ways and Means Committee lawsuit to obtain Trump's tax returns under a 1924 law are before the D.C. Circuit Court, but the judge has put a hold on the lawsuit until a separate lawsuit with former White House counsel Don McGahn is resolved.

Even if the Supreme Court permitted one or all of the entities requesting parts of Trump's taxes and financial records to see them, it is unclear how long that process might take and whether it would be completed before the 2020 election.

for doing the herculean task of keeping up with American politics these days. You must feel like you're skateboarding in a tsunami at times. We appreciate your efforts to keep us informed--that's why your loyal reader in Oregon digitally subscribes. Hope you can have a fine Fourth of July holiday without yet another eruption on the political front.

Thank you very much for subscribing! I am certainly not banking on a calm weekend on the politics news front, but appreciate the sentiment. Everyone enjoy your holiday and be safe. 

In This Chat
Amber Phillips
Amber Phillips writes about politics for The Fix. She was previously the one-woman D.C. bureau for the Las Vegas Sun and has reported from Boston and Taiwan.
Aaron Blake
Aaron Blake is senior political reporter for The Fix. A Minnesota native, he has also written about politics for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Hill newspaper.
Eugene Scott
Eugene Scott writes about identity politics for The Fix. He was recently a fellow at the Georgetown University Institute of Politics. And prior to joining the Post, he was a breaking news reporter at CNN Politics.
JM Rieger
JM Rieger is the video editor for The Fix, covering national politics. He joined The Washington Post in 2018. Previously, Rieger worked as a video producer covering national politics for HuffPost. He began his career as a video editor covering Congress for Roll Call.
Natalie Jennings
Natalie Jennings is editor of The Fix. She has been at The Washington Post since 2010 and was previously a senior producer for Post Video.
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