Politics Live with The Fix

Sep 03, 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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Hello chatters, 

If you had told us a month ago that the first real week of the 2020 general election would bring us headlines like: "What to make of Nancy Pelosi’s 'set up' defense for going to an indoor salon” and “Trump’s awful advice about voting twice," we’d have said... "Hmm, yeah that’s weird enough to be about right for this year.”

Before your questions, I have a favor to ask. We are updating our list of the best political reporters in each state, and we need you to tell us who is doing a great job covering officials and politics in where you are Read more about this project ubmit your recommendations here, or tweet me with them (@NatalieJennings). We'll compile and post them on The Fix.

Amber Phillips is out today but the rest of the Fix team is here for your questions. What's on your mind?  

Morse or Kennedy, after their losses in the Tuesday MA primaries?

I would put my money on Joe Kennedy, who is better known and well-liked, and likely would have still been in Congress next year had he not run for the Senate.

in local, state, or national elections? IIRC, the original Fix, Chris Cilliza, was very vocal about not voting, but I have read that other political writers do vote.

I respect people's decisions about not voting -- particularly those that will be a White House correspondent under the next president for whom they might or might not have voted.

For me personally, I think the idea that casting a ballot creates any bias that doesn't already exist is a little simplistic. I also think voting is too important. Being a journalist doesn't mean not having any biases -- everyone does -- it means being able to write in ways that are fair despite those biases.

The latest Real Clear Politics site lisys his Senate seat as a toss-up. The cook report has his seat as "lean Republican." How worried should he be?

Like many races, the South Carolina Senate race is going to be about turnout more than anything else. Liberals have been in the state for months attempting to mobilize voters to show up to vote Graham out. It appears that Jamie Harrison has had a better shot than most other Democratic candidates in recent years, which I imagine the Graham campaign is well aware of.

If Trump wins MN and PA, does he win the election?

If Trump loses Michigan and Wisconsin but holds Pennsylvania and picks up Minnesota while carrying all other states the he won in 2016, he would win the election.

Much of the election will hinge on turnout and swing voters. The Post published a helpful interactive graphic on this yesterday, and you can input different scenarios to project who will win.

It's also worth remembering that Biden still leads in Minnesota and is favored to win the state.

Hi Everyone -- thanks for taking questions today. I recently came across a public service announcement with Leader McConnell and some other Republican senators, including Sen. Ernst from Iowa, encouraging mask wearing. And yet at pretty much every Trump campaign event, including his acceptance speech last week, there’s nary a mask in sight, and Trump’s base are basically hostile to the whole idea (witness a recent event where when asked to wear them the crowd booed). What’s their game with the ad? Who is the audience? Are they just trying to get on the right side of the mask debate even though most reputable public health experts will tell you it’s many months too late? As I watched it I found myself thinking, if only they’d done this a long time ago, we might be in much better shape now.

There might be a little of the right-side-of-history to this. But I also think they recognize it's one of the most thoroughly simple things you can do to move past all this. GOP governors in some of these key states were dragged into embracing masks when their situations got particularly bad.

That said, it doesn't seem to have moved the needle for Trump. He made those couple statements about wearing a mask being patriotic, and hasn't really pressed the issue with his supporters since then.

Several new site have had stories in the past few days talking about how Trump is expected to be leading on the vote tally on Election Night, and how he is likely to declare victory after the polls close, undermining a possible Biden victory. Do you see this happening? What can be done to prevent further damage to our democratic process?

I think this is possible. But it will be the responsibility of news outlets to make it clear that not all ballots have been counted and the outcome is not likely to be known on Election Night.

Hi there - I know when I vote absentee in VA, I apply for the ballot, and I would then not be able to vote in person - my name wouldn't register as able to vote if I tried to vote at my polling place on election day. But what happens in states where everyone receives a ballot in the mail - do they have live polling stations? How do the poll workers know if Jane Doe had just also dropped her mail in vote in the mail? Or would the board of elections see Jane Doe voted at her polling station and then void the mail in ballot? (Was that clear at all?) Thanks.

I believe the process is generally: If you have been sent a mail ballot -- and particularly if you requested one -- you will be asked if you have returned it, and they can check to see if it has been received. They will have a record of your request, and can ask you whether you returned it, but it's up to you to be honest about it if they haven't yet received it. (And of course, these things can be checked against one another later even if the ballot hadn't been marked as received yet).

As for sending them to everyone, I'd imagine this question would have to be asked of all people then.

As the NC Board of Elections reinforced today, there are safeguards in place preventing both an in-person and a yet-to-be-counted/received mail ballot from both being counted:

It said that "the State Board conducts audits after each election that check voter history against ballots cast and would detect if someone tries to vote more than once in an election. Because absentee ballots and early voting ballots are retrievable, if someone tries to get around the system, their ballot can be retrieved and not counted, so it will not affect the outcome of an election."

Hi everyone, I get that Trump & co. seem to be timing the announcement of a vaccine for maximum political effect. But do you think they overestimate the electoral impact this could have? Obviously, it won't bring back the 200K+ Americans who will have died from COVID-19 by then. And the simple existence of an approved vaccine is by no means the same thing as the universal availability of one. Trump has so poisoned the well over the past four years, that more than half the country won't believe this vaccine is safe until - and I'm only slightly exaggerating - Dr. Fauci and Pres. Obama vouch for it live on TV.

There are voters who are believed to be voting against Trump primarily because of how he has handled the coronavirus pandemic. Even if a vaccine is released before the election, that will not reverse the more than 170,000 lives lost since then or the economic devastation that so many Americans have experienced. But if communicated correctly, I imagine that the president could make the case that the vaccine is the result of hard work by his administration and medical professionals -- and that could be a winsome argument.

However, I am confident that there are millions of voters who would never vote for Trump no matter how quickly a vaccine hits the market and how developed the PR machine around it is.

Can absentee votes be tabulated before election day (obviously those figures can not be released before the polls close)? Doing so would help to assuage fears about a long, drawn out election night/week/month and its associated uncertainty. Is it too late to do anything about that?

Many states prohibit this, perhaps believing that it would allow for an early indication of who is winning. But some states begin counting them (while not releasing the results) days or weeks early.

The 538 site and others show a tightening of the Presidential race. What is your best guess for why: a post-convention bump or that the Trump campaign is persuading people to vote for him?

Polling released yesterday suggests Trump did not get much of a post-convention bump. This is not surprising, given how static this race has been for months, and it was generally expected that the race would tighten as some voters came home to Trump in the final weeks of the election.

But there is a shrinking pool of swing voters, so much of Trump's reelection hopes hinge on turnout and persuading non-college whites who did not vote in 2016 to support him this time. As some have also noted, this voting group is overrepresented in the battleground states that Trump needs to win.

Would you expect there to be a lot of AZ voters who would vote for Kelly for Senate but Trump for president?

As someone who previously covered politics in Arizona, I would guess that there are not a lot of voters who would fall n this category, but there are some.

Did I blink and miss Rep. Devin Nunes at the Republican National Convention, or was he not included (or in non-prime time)?

He was not a primetime speaker.

If I agitated people to commit a felony like Trump did by asking supporters to vote twice in a Presidential election, the FBI would be knocking at my door. At the same time if I said what Cuomo did about the President needing an army to visit NYC, the Secret Service would also be knocking at my door. You might want to just directly call these people what they really are, criminals, and stop beating around the bush with journalistic politeness.

I sympathize, but there are often ambiguities in what people say and valid questions about precisely whether it would be prohibited by law -- ambiguities that are supposed to be dealt with by experienced lawyers and judges. There is value in calling a spade a spade, but even in the case of Cuomo, whose comments are certainly bad, I think it would be difficult to ever prosecute it as a direct threat and convict him of a crime. But, again, I'm not a lawyer.

Can you see the DNC and RNC working together to commit to requiring their presidential candidates to release several years of tax returns, for everyone’s good? Thanks.

Last year, the California Supreme Court invalidated a state law requiring presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns to get on the ballot.

Given Democrats plan to continue to pursue Trump's tax returns even if he loses, it seems unlikely in the near-term that the two parties would come together on this issue.

I sure wouldn't go anywhere near it, would you? I'm 100% pro-vaccine, too.

I imagine that many Americans would be skeptical of anything that hits the market this quickly -- especially if it is touted strongly by the president. Concerns about the motivations and the health of a vaccine at this point are likely to be pretty widespread.

So is it basically down to Covid 19 vs Civil Unrest? With Trump basically ignoring Covid 19?

It doesn't seem like the president is ignoring the pandemic as much as he is promoting a narrative that is inconsistent with the reality of how he has handled it and how people have experienced it.

I'm a moderate Republican. I feel like the best-case scenario for the country is probably for President Trump to lose and Republicans to hold on to the Senate. How realistic is this seeming? I keep thinking Republicans will "come home" over time to tighten these races, but that might just be my biases taking over.

It's a distinct possibility, but I'd wager the ultimate result would have to be significantly closer than it is now. McSally is clearly and underdog, but the rest of the big Democratic targets are still something amounting to toss-ups. 

Democrats would need a gain of 3 seats if they win the presidency. They probably lose Doug Jones in Alabama and win in Arizona. So they'd need to win 3 of CO, GA, IA, ME, MT and NC. I'd think they would probably win CO, but the other two aren't staring you in the face, even as things stand.

I think it's no big deal and should die down soon, what do you guys think? Thanks for being here every week. I look forward to the chat.

I can understand that thought  but the conservative media complex is built for moments like this -- to attempt to make the case that Democratic leaders live by a separate set of rules -- and as a result are likely to drag this out. And GOP politicians are surely going to attempt to fundraise off of this. The ultimate hope is that this will keep some fringe voters from backing Pelosi, Biden and other liberal politicians -- and it might work for some.  

Wouldn't it be great to have the upcoming debates held with no audience and recorded. The recording would air after the debate was finished and would include the comments, under the picture, of independent fact-checkers who could point out lies, distortions, and misstatements. Absent this, the debates will be frustrating, filled with grandstanding and hot air. Think you can make this happen???

While a new presidential debate format could be warranted, it may be fruitless to fact-check claims in real time given existing partisanship and media mistrust, as The Post's media columnist Margaret Sullivan noted last week.

There is also a theory that debates are just that, debates, and therefore it is not the job of the moderator to constantly interject, nor is it a practical use of limited time.

Is the Attorney General the only one at DoJ who doesn't know it's illegal to vote twice? (please say yes)

He knows. He was just being coy. Should be a pretty easy question for an attorney general -- even if he doesn't know precisely what the law say in a given state.

What happened? Posting Sunday night, so even I don't know!

Any chances for this to happen, absent the presence of a conservative territory or protectorate that could be added at the same time?

I think McConnell's comments at the GOP convention said it best: "With two more liberal senators, we cannot undo the damage they've done."

The fact that he's essentially admitting that resisting it is political (rather than a matter of DC being a federal city) speaks volumes. I'm also not sure what possible territory could be added at the same time to offset it. There was a time in which they were talking about adding a congressional seat in Utah and giving DC a vote in the House, but not even that was happening. This is a bridge quite a bit further.

Do Donald and Ivanka still have their clothes lines made in China?

The Post previously wrote about Ivanka's clothing line shutting down. Read about it here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2018/07/24/ivanka-trump-shuts-down-her-namesake-clothing-brand/

And while Trump ties are still sold on one of the president's website, it doesn't say whether or not they are made in China anymore. But it does say that they are woven in Paris.

Once used to be enough, but now Trump is suggesting that twice is better. What's your position?

Everyone should definitely vote (once)! And there are ways of checking the status of your absentee ballot online, without showing up in person on Election Day -- which is part of the reason that the Trump campaign's explanation of his comments didn't make sense.

So, could Trump have handed the Democrats a better commercial-op with his suggesting that people vote twice in North Carolina. This is illegal, so Trump has clearly violated the law. The hypocrisy is just blatant. Of course the laws don't apply to him do they?

I'm not sure it's necessarily going to be an ad. It works much better as a rebuttal to the idea that Trump is truly concerned about voter fraud.

We often hear musicians or someone associated with them complain when a politician uses their music at a rally, ask them to stop, and threaten to sue. Everybody's complained about Trump, the latest being Leonard Cohen's estate. I think RUSH complained about Rand Paul. Reagan didn't actually use Born In The USA, but mentioned Springsteen's name in New Jersey. What are the actual rules for this?

This very much depends on the situation/context. Often, a venue or a campaign will license a broad catalogue of music through an organization, meaning the music can be used without the artist's explicit permission. There are ways artists can opt out of these licenses/permissions, but it can get very complicated and nuanced. Here is a good rundown of all of this from 2018.

How would you rank the likelihood -- from most to least likely -- of each of the following outcomes? 1) Biden, Dem House, Dem Senate 2) Biden, Dem House, GOP Senate 3) Biden, GOP House, GOP Senate 4) Biden, GOP House, Dem Senate 5) Trump, Dem House, Dem Senate 6) Trump, Dem House, GOP Senate 7) Trump, GOP House, Dem Senate 8) Trump, GOP House, GOP Senate

Right now, I think the most likely scenarios are 1, then 2, then 6, and all are very possible, with the rest far more remote possibilities than any of those.

Regardless of one's political affiliation, I think it's a fair statement to say white nationalists have become more vocal and prominent fixture of everyday political life since the start of Trump's campaign and time in office than before. The internet has allowed for these people to interact and connect. What happens to these people and the GOP after Trump leaves the stage?

It's very fair to say that they are much more prominent and outward-facing. I'm not sure having a new president would necessarily change that, especially given the ongoing presence of racial-justice protests and what being the opposition sometimes does to movements (makes them more vocal), but it might provide incentive for the GOP to go further in disassociating itself from these elements, which Trump has been pained to denounce.

So my mom, who I think is basically just drinking the fox news koolaid, is telling me that Biden is the most corrupt of the Dem candidates "look it up". Which I always feel is code for "youtube is telling me so". So I wanted to ask y'all REAL journalists, what could this be referring to? Because even if the whole Ukraine/Biden's son thing was real, which it isn't, it doesn't seem to even come close to the level of self dealing we see Trump engage in on a daily basis. Any ideas what on earth she is referring to?

It's pretty impossible to guess what your mom is referring to exactly. Maybe she can point you to something more specific. But it is pretty common knowledge that whatever scandals are associated with Biden are significantly less in number than those connected to Trump.

Why does it seem like there's been so little polling recently of the top tier Senate races? Arizona, Montana, Georgia, Maine, Texas, and Iowa haven't been polled since late July/early August. Alaska hasn't been polled since early July.

A new Fox News poll released yesterday had Mark Kelly up 17 points on Sen. Martha McSally (R) in Arizona and had Cal Cunningham up six points on Sen. Thom Tillis (R) in North Carolina. I would also expect to see more polling in the coming weeks as we get closer to Election Day.

Has VP Pence made a public statement yet about President Trump's advocacy of North Carolina voters casting mail-in ballots and then attempting to vote in person?

He has not.

Polls as we all recognize are a Dark Art. I am asking our discussion to distinguish between the different polling styles, polling methods and very importantly WHO is the Pollster asking?

Pages could be written about this. But the Pew Research Center has done a good job of answering some of the most commonly held questions about polling.


So will the Federal govt shutdown or not?

The House and Senate are both out until next week, leaving only 15 days on the legislative calendar to prevent a government shutdown at the end of September.

Neither party wants to risk voters blaming them for a government shutdown one month from the election and the debt ceiling has been extended until July 2021.

It is possible that already stalled coronavirus relief talks could jeopardize a funding bill to keep the government open, but if Trump continues to trail Biden by 8-10 points at the end of the month and if the pandemic worsens, it seems unlikely that a deal will continue to elude Republicans and Democrats.

Elections results are officially certified and electors selected in December and the President-elect isn't sworn-in until the third week of January [again, not stating anything you don't already know], but a bit confused on why pundits are handwringing over not knowing who won the presidential election on the night of November 3rd?

I don't know that pundits are doing this handwringing so much as Bloomberg produced some data about it and Trump responded to it. I take every opportunity on the Fix to remind readers not to expect results until after Nov. 3 and set your expectations thusly. This year, a delayed result isn't a sign something is broken, but likely one that it's being done carefully. 

Would it be helpful for Biden to indicate that he would create a new cablnet post: Director of Race Relations. This is a long-term problem and I think he should state that he will create that new cabinet post

I'm not under the impression that there is any demand from those who support him -- or those who are still trying to figure this out -- for a cabinet position that will solely deal with race relations. If anything, the voters -- especially the people of color -- who are looking to him to address systemic racism in America want every Cabinet member to figure out how to solve the issue within their respective industries.

Do you think her seeming endorsement of a debunked coronavirus conspiracy theory about the death toll and medical professionals cooking the books when it comes to coronavirus numbers to get more money will hurt her in her race this fall?

If it's strategic, I'd wager it's intended to help raise money and ingratiate her with the base. Judging by recent polls, though, I'm not sure that's what she needs.

Are yard signs an effective way to garner votes or predict how a district leans, or are they primarily a fund raising opportunity?

There is political science on the bandwagon effect it creates -- 'My neighbors are all voting this way, so maybe that's what people like me do.' It also creates a sense of fodmidability, but it's probably a bigger influencer in primaries in which people may not be terribly familiar with the candidates.

Why is nothing being done about Trumps abuse of office concerning his use of the Whitehouse and Washington Monument for the convention? How much did it cost taxpayers? How did Melania destroy the Rose Garden?

Democratic lawmakers just sent a letter today to the Office of the Special Counsel (OSC), the federal agency that investigates potential violations of the Hatch Act, requesting an investigation into whether the Trump administration violated the federal law.

Here it is.

If Trump loses badly, what happens to Nikki Haley's career? Can she still come away unscathed by the stench? Unlike many other Trump supporters at the RNC convention, she's not currently an elected, so would she have to rely on the next elected Republican for an appointment? Or would she run again for governor? Congress?

Channeling Amber, who wrote about this very thing last week after her convention speech: It's clear Haley has bet that the post-Trump GOP, which she's poised to be a major player in whether that's in 2 months or 4 years, will include strong elements of Trumpism. She's not like former SC Gov, Mark Sanford, who needs Congress to rehab her influence. It's hard to see her going for anything but the big enchilada, and making safe bets to bide her time until then. 

How worried are the dems about Minnesota, both in the presidential race and the senate race?

The presidential race significantly more than the presidential race. Yes, the votes tend to overlap, but Minnesota isn't really a prime Senate opportunity (and the GOP candidate is hardly an A-lister), whereas it actually was slightly redder than the country as a whole in 2016, with Clinton winning the popular vote by 2 points and Minnesota going for her by 1.5).

I still think Minnesota is more of an icing-on-the-cake thing if Trump wins reelection, but it wasn't THAT far different from Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania in 2016. And there are plenty of conservative Democrats in the rural areas up north and out west.

JKIII failed in his attempt to unseat Ed Markey, who now gets to waltz toward another 6-year term. Charlie Baker is more popular than Ted Williams, Bobby Orr, and Larry Bird combined right now, so he may be safe for a third term in 2022. And Elizabeth Warren isn't up again until 2024, when she'll only be 75 (practically a baby in Senate years). So where do all these Democrats looking to move up -- soon-to-be ex Rep. JKIII, failed presidential candidate and Rep. Seth Moulton, progressive favorite and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, and AG Maura Healey -- go from here to break the logjam?

The answer to this could be more clear after the November election. I imagine that some of the individuals that you named would be interested in working in a Biden administration, should it come to be.

why would you suggest that people vote twice?

Perhaps to have proof that your claims of voter fraud are true.

If Warren is appointed to a cabinet position, the governor of Mass would appoint a replacement until a special election is held (Markey got Kerry's spot). Who, besides Kennedy, would likely run for Warren's seat?

I am not a Massachusetts politics aficionado (but I'm looking for a few!). Ayanna Pressley also comes to mind though. 

Why hasn’t government tried to do a WPA program ( like in Great Depression) to help with unemployment?

Congress has not even been able to agree on an additional coronavirus relief package, so it seems unlikely they'd be able to come together on something like a Works Progress Administration. It is also worth noting that the coronavirus relief that Congress has enacted has been the largest such relief in U.S. history.

Some congressional Republicans have also suggested that the U.S. has already passed enough economic relief and that the economy is recovering. Economists now project that unemployment will drop below 10 percent in tomorrow's jobs report. If this happens, Republicans may point to it as another sign that the economy is recovering, even if unemployment remains near its highest level since the Great Depression.

I was happy to see Markey win the primary; he'd been doing a good job and deserves to be reelected. Kennedy may be okay, but I was a bit of put off that he chose to challenge a well-liked, hard working senator. I can't help wonder why he thought he'd win. Was it Markey's age? Or a sense of entitlement?

With the caveat that I didn't follow the race terribly closely: I think there is a sense that the younger generation's time may be coming in a Democratic Party currently dominated by older office-holders. Another theory was that Kennedy wanted to get ahead of someone like Ayanna Pressley running for Senate when Markey or Warren retires. 

I'm not sure the result might hurt him in a future campaign for one of these seats, but it means it will be harder to stay on people's radars now that he won't be in the House. He also could have worked up the ladder toward speaker, but that doesn't seem to interest too many ambitious Democrats these days.

That's a wrap folks. Thanks for your questions. See you next week. 

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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