Trump warns of “a very painful two week period” but…

Donald Trump’s ‘beautiful Easter Sunday’ aspiration seems a long time ago (it was last week).

Yesterday White House predicts 100,000 to 240,000 will die in US from coronavirus

President Donald Trump prepared Americans for a coming surge in coronavirus cases, calling COVID-19 a plague and saying the U.S. is facing a “very, very painful two weeks.”

“This could be a hell of a bad two weeks. This is going to be a very bad two, and maybe three weeks. This is going to be three weeks like we’ve never seen before,” Trump said at a White House press conference Tuesday. White House officials are projecting between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths in the U.S. with coronavirus fatalities peaking over the next two weeks. “When you look at night, the kind of death that has been caused by this invisible enemy, it’s incredible.”

He has been more on message with his health experts, but he is still saying some strange things.

President Trump Warns Of Coronavirus Apex: “This Is Going To Be A Very Painful Two Week Period”

“As a nation, we face a difficult two weeks as we approach that really important day when we’re going to see things get better, all of a sudden,” he said. “And it is going to be like a burst of light, I think, or I hope.”

It seems unlikely things will suddenly get better in two weeks. Italy and Spain are still struggling with high daily death rates and deaths are surging round Europe.

The US has  a huge problem looming in some states, in particular New York, but the virus has spread around the country at different rates, so it is likely to peak at different times.

It’s more likely to be a very painful month or two in the US at least.

Total cases in the US are now over 200,000, jumping by 24,742 yesterday (GMT) – that’s a third of the recorded world wide rise (73,770).

Deaths jumped to 912 for a total of 4,053 yesterday afternoon (now 4,528). That’s an alarming rise rate.

Source of stats https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries

 

 

USA: ‘Best case scenario’ projects 100,000-200,000 deaths

A lot of big numbers have been thrown around regarding Covid-19 casualties, but projections continue to paint grim picture even if things go as well as hoped.

Currently there are about 37,000 recorded Covid deaths around the world, with the US total at 2,864. But the huge jump in cases to over 170,000 suggests things are getting significantly worse, and predictions look bad.

NBC: Dr. Birx predicts up to 200,000 U.S. coronavirus deaths ‘if we do things almost perfectly’

The White House coronavirus response coordinator said Monday that she is “very worried about every city in the United States” and projects 100,000 to 200,000 American deaths as a best case scenario.

In an interview on “TODAY,” Dr. Deborah Birx painted a grim message about the expected fatalities, echoing that they could hit more than 2 million without any measures, as coronavirus cases continue to climb throughout the country.

“I think in some of the metro areas we were late in getting people to follow the 15-day guidelines,” she added.

Birx said the projections by Dr. Anthony Fauci that U.S. deaths could range from 1.6 million to 2.2 million is a worst case scenario if the country did “nothing” to contain the outbreak, but said even “if we do things almost perfectly,” she still predicts up to 200,000 U.S. deaths.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, reiterated Monday on CNN that “I don’t want to see it, I’d like to avoid it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw 100,000 deaths.”

Birx and Fauci seem to have convinced President trump of the possible seriousness of the situation in the US.

Fox News: Trump says coronavirus to peak ‘around Easter…’

President Trump, in an extensive interview Monday with “Fox & Friends,” predicted coronavirus cases in the U.S. will likely peak “around Easter” as he defended his administration’s decision to extend strict social distancing guidelines through the end of April – suggesting millions of lives could be saved by the measures.

“We’re doing a lot of things and we don’t want to [ease restrictions] too soon,” Trump said. “Around Easter, that’s going to be the highest point, we think.”

Trump added: “We think April 30 is a day where we can see some real progress. And we expect to see that, short of June 1, we think the death, it’s a terrible thing to say, will be brought to a very low number.”

“If we didn’t do anything, 2.2 million people could have died”

“The worst thing we can do is declare victory … and then not have victory. We’re at war, this is war.”

It’s hard to know what he means by the April 30 and June 1 dates but it suggests he accepts that the virus will be a major problem for some time.  There are no longer suggestions of “One day it’s like a miracle – it will disappear” or of “a beautiful time, a beautiful timeline” referring to Easter Sunday.

 

“President Trump is a ratings hit” says President Trump

There were four tweets in all:

President Trump is a ratings hit. Since reviving the daily White House briefing Mr. Trump and his coronavirus updates have attracted an average audience of 8.5 million on cable news, roughly the viewership of the season finale of ‘The Bachelor.’ Numbers are continuing to ris.

On Monday, nearly 12.2 million people watched Mr. Trump’s briefing on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, according to Nielsen — ‘Monday Night Football’ numbers. Millions more are watching on ABC, CBS, NBC and online streaming sites, and the audience is expanding. On Monday, Fox News alone attracted 6.2 million viewers for the president’s briefing — an astounding number for a 6 p.m. cable broadcast, more akin to the viewership for a popular prime-time sitcom.

The CBS News poll said 13 percent of Republicans trusted the news media for information about the virus.” Michael M. Grynbaum @NYTimes

This would be unbelievable if any other world leader was so openly obsessed with his own popularity. But this is not surprising from Trump, he has long bulldozed over the ability to shock.

911 had huge ratings but that wasn’t because of popularity, it was due to horror. The Global Financial Crisis had huge ratings but that wasn’t due to popularity either.

 

Trump’s speech on significant US action on Covid-19

President Donald Trump gave an address on fairly drastic action to try to stop the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, but after clarifications it isn’t as drastic as it first sounded.

Travel from non-American citizens and residents from Europe (excluding the UK) to USA is banned for 30 days.

To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight. These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground.There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval. Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing. These restrictions will also not apply to the United Kingdom.

Contrary to impressions from the speech freight from Europe is not banned.

Major sports reactions to with the all US NBA basketball games suspended until further notice.


President Donald Trump’s speech to the nation on the coronavirus:

My fellow Americans: Tonight, I want to speak with you about our nation’s unprecedented response to the coronavirus outbreak that started in China and is now spreading throughout the world.

Today, the World Health Organization officially announced that this is a global pandemic.

We have been in frequent contact with our allies, and we are marshalling the full power of the federal government and the private sector to protect the American people.

This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history. I am confident that by counting and continuing to take these tough measures, we will significantly reduce the threat to our citizens, and we will ultimately and expeditiously defeat this virus.

From the beginning of time, nations and people have faced unforeseen challenges, including large-scale and very dangerous health threats. This is the way it always was and always will be. It only matters how you respond, and we are responding with great speed and professionalism.

Our team is the best anywhere in the world. At the very start of the outbreak, we instituted sweeping travel restrictions on China and put in place the first federally mandated quarantine in over 50 years. We declared a public health emergency and issued the highest level of travel warning on other countries as the virus spread its horrible infection.

And taking early intense action, we have seen dramatically fewer cases of the virus in the United States than are now present in Europe.

The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hotspots. As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe.

After consulting with our top government health professionals, I have decided to take several strong but necessary actions to protect the health and wellbeing of all Americans.

To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight. These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground.

There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval. Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing. These restrictions will also not apply to the United Kingdom.

At the same time, we are monitoring the situation in China and in South Korea. And, as their situation improves, we will reevaluate the restrictions and warnings that are currently in place for a possible early opening.

Earlier this week, I met with the leaders of health insurance industry who have agreed to waive all copayments for coronavirus treatments, extend insurance coverage to these treatments, and to prevent surprise medical billing.

We are cutting massive amounts of red tape to make antiviral therapies available in record time. These treatments will significantly reduce the impact and reach of the virus.

Additionally, last week, I signed into law an $8.3 billion funding bill to help CDC and other government agencies fight the virus and support vaccines, treatments, and distribution of medical supplies. Testing and testing capabilities are expanding rapidly, day by day. We are moving very quickly.

The vast majority of Americans: The risk is very, very low. Young and healthy people can expect to recover fully and quickly if they should get the virus. The highest risk is for elderly population with underlying health conditions. The elderly population must be very, very careful.

In particular, we are strongly advising that nursing homes for the elderly suspend all medically unnecessary visits. In general, older Americans should also avoid nonessential travel in crowded areas.

My administration is coordinating directly with communities with the largest outbreaks, and we have issued guidance on school closures, social distancing, and reducing large gatherings.

Smart action today will prevent the spread of the virus tomorrow.

Every community faces different risks and it is critical for you to follow the guidelines of your local officials who are working closely with our federal health experts — and they are the best.

For all Americans, it is essential that everyone take extra precautions and practice good hygiene. Each of us has a role to play in defeating this virus. Wash your hands, clean often-used surfaces, cover your face and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and most of all, if you are sick or not feeling well, stay home.

To ensure that working Americans impacted by the virus can stay home without fear of financial hardship, I will soon be taking emergency action, which is unprecedented, to provide financial relief. This will be targeted for workers who are ill, quarantined, or caring for others due to coronavirus.

I will be asking Congress to take legislative action to extend this relief.

Because of the economic policies that we have put into place over the last three years, we have the greatest economy anywhere in the world, by far.

Our banks and financial institutions are fully capitalized and incredibly strong. Our unemployment is at a historic low. This vast economic prosperity gives us flexibility, reserves, and resources to handle any threat that comes our way.

This is not a financial crisis, this is just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation and as a world.

However, to provide extra support for American workers, families, and businesses, tonight I am announcing the following additional actions: I am instructing the Small Business Administration to exercise available authority to provide capital and liquidity to firms affected by the coronavirus.

Effective immediately, the SBA will begin providing economic loans in affected states and territories. These low-interest loans will help small businesses overcome temporary economic disruptions caused by the virus. To this end, I am asking Congress to increase funding for this program by an additional $50 billion.

Using emergency authority, I will be instructing the Treasury Department to defer tax payments, without interest or penalties, for certain individuals and businesses negatively impacted. This action will provide more than $200 billion of additional liquidity to the economy.

Finally, I am calling on Congress to provide Americans with immediate payroll tax relief. Hopefully they will consider this very strongly.

We are at a critical time in the fight against the virus. We made a life-saving move with early action on China. Now we must take the same action with Europe. We will not delay. I will never hesitate to take any necessary steps to protect the lives, health, and safety of the American people. I will always put the wellbeing of America first.

If we are vigilant — and we can reduce the chance of infection, which we will — we will significantly impede the transmission of the virus. The virus will not have a chance against us.

No nation is more prepared or more resilient than the United States. We have the best economy, the most advanced healthcare, and the most talented doctors, scientists, and researchers anywhere in the world.

We are all in this together. We must put politics aside, stop the partisanship, and unify together as one nation and one family.

As history has proven time and time again, Americans always rise to the challenge and overcome adversity.

Our future remains brighter than anyone can imagine. Acting with compassion and love, we will heal the sick, care for those in need, help our fellow citizens, and emerge from this challenge stronger and more unified than ever before.
God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you.

Claim that Taliban don’t intend honouring peace deal with US

NBC news report: “U.S. government has collected persuasive intelligence that the Taliban do not intend to honor the promises they have made in the recently signed deal with the United States

A week ago Afghanistan’s Taliban, US sign agreement aimed at ending war

US officials and Taliban representatives have signed an agreement after months of negotiations in Qatar’s capital that is aimed at ending the United States’s longest war, fought in Afghanistan since 2001.

Saturday’s agreement, signed in Doha in the presence of leaders from Pakistan, Qatar, Turkey, India, Indonesia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, will pave the way for the US to gradually withdraw its troops.

In a statement, the Taliban said it had reached an agreement “about the termination of occupation of Afghanistan”.

“The accord about the complete withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan and never intervening in its affairs in the future is undoubtedly a great achievement,” it added.

Earlier on Saturday, the Taliban ordered all its fighters to halt fighting and “refrain from attacks”.

For his part, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Taliban to honour its commitments.

“I know there will be a temptation to declare victory, but victory for Afghans will only be achieved when they can live in peace and prosper,” he said at the Doha ceremony.

Minutes before the agreement was signed, a joint statement released by the US and the Afghan government said the US and NATO troops would withdraw from Afghanistan within 14 months.

About 14,000 US troops and approximately 17,000 troops from 39 NATO allies and partner countries are stationed in Afghanistan in a non-combatant role.

“The United States will reduce the number of US military forces in Afghanistan to 8,600 and implement other commitments in the US-Taliban agreement within 135 days of the announcement of this joint declaration and the US-Taliban agreement,” the joint statement said.

Abut the following day Afghan Government Objects to Elements of US-Taliban Peace

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, speaking at a news conference less than 24 hours after the agreement was signed, questioned several elements of the deal, including the timeline for a controversial prisoner exchange and the conditions surrounding the start of talks between the Taliban and his government.

Yesterday Afghans Wonder: Is the Peace Deal Just for Americans?

The Taliban, for their part, are now saying more clearly than ever that the peace deal signed Feb. 29 in Doha, Qatar, after 18 months of negotiations applies only to a truce with U.S. forces, not to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. “We signed an agreement with the Americans. But our jihad is not over,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Foreign Policy this week. “The stooges who supported the invaders during the last two decades are our enemies. This might change after additional talks but at the moment, we are still at war.”

So it looks like it isn’t a peace deal, but rather a way of getting the US out of Afghanistan.

Today U.S. has persuasive intel Taliban do not intend to abide by terms of peace deal, officials say

The U.S. government has collected persuasive intelligence that the Taliban do not intend to honor the promises they have made in the recently signed deal with the United States, three American officials tell NBC News, undercutting what has been days of hopeful talk by President Donald Trump and his top aides.

“They have no intention of abiding by their agreement,” said one official briefed on the intelligence, which two others described as explicit evidence shedding light on the Taliban’s intentions.

Trump himself acknowledged that reality in extraordinary comments Friday, saying the Taliban could “possibly” overrun the Afghan government after U.S. troops withdraw.

“Countries have to take care of themselves,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “You can only hold someone’s hand for so long.” Asked if the Taliban could eventually seize power, Trump said it’s “not supposed to happen that way, but it possibly will.”

After the publication of this article, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen tweeted, “We categorically reject allegations by U.S. intel officials to NBC News that the (Taliban) has no intention of abiding by the agreement. The…implementation process is going good so far and such comments by U.S. officials cannot be justified.

It was never going to be easy to end fighting in Afghanistan.

This cartoon is from twenty years ago when the US military went in to Afghanistan.

 

Now Biden versus Sanders

Joe Biden did unexpectedly well in Super Tuesday, in part due to competing moderate candidates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar pulling out last week and endorsing Biden.

So Super Tuesday was largely Biden versus Bernie Sanders, with Michael Bloomberg trying to get a foothold. But Bloomberg didn’t fire and has now pulled out, also endorsing Biden.

The Hill: Bloomberg drops out after terrible Super Tuesday, endorses Biden

Elizabeth Warren is still in, but lagging badly ‘assessing the path forward’.

So now it is down to a head to head between Biden and Sanders.

Image result for biden sanders

Biden (77), Sanders (78)

All I’ll say is I’m glad I don’t have to choose between the two, nor between either and Donald Trump, and not because they are all in their seventies.

US: Turnout of voters matters more than swing voters, candidates or policies?

Polls are trying to analyse the wrong things – that’s why they can be inaccurate.

This is from the US two party polarised political system and may not apply so much under MMP in New Zealand, but it’s an interesting theory – it’s not swing voters who decide elections, and it’s not so much candidates and policies. US elections can be decided by which voters are most motivated to get out to stop the other side winning.

This would mean that in 2016 right wing voters were motivated more against Hilary Clinton winning than for Donald Trump. And left wing voters were more ambivalent, with many seeing both Clinton and trump as undesirable.

The 2018 mid-term election favoured Democrat candidates because the motivation to react against trump had strengthened (and there was no ‘Clinton’).

Politico: An Unsettling New Theory: There Is No Swing Voter

Rachel Bitecofer’s radical new theory predicted the midterms spot-on. So who’s going to win 2020?

What if there aren’t really American swing voters—or not enough, anyway, to pick the next president? What if it doesn’t matter much who the Democratic nominee is? What if there is no such thing as “the center,” and the party in power can govern however it wants for two years, because the results of that first midterm are going to be bad regardless?

What if the Democrats’ big 41-seat midterm victory in 2018 didn’t happen because candidates focused on health care and kitchen-table issues, but simply because they were running against the party in the White House?

What if the outcome in 2020 is pretty much foreordained, too?

To the political scientist Rachel Bitecofer, all of that is almost certainly true, and that has made her one of the most intriguing new figures in political forecasting this year.

Keep in mind that they invented political forecasters to make economic forecasters and weather forecasters look good.

Bitecofer, a 42-year-old professor at Christopher Newport University in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, was little known in the extremely online, extremely male-dominated world of political forecasting until November 2018. That’s when she nailed almost to the number the nature and size of the Democrats’ win in the House, even as other forecasters went wobbly in the race’s final days

And today her model tells her the Democrats are a near lock for the presidency in 2020, and are likely to gain House seats and have a decent shot at retaking the Senate.

Bitecofer’s theory, when you boil it down, is that modern American elections are rarely shaped by voters changing their minds, but rather by shifts in who decides to vote in the first place.

If she’s right, it wouldn’t just blow up the conventional wisdom; it would mean that much of the lucrative cottage industry of political experts—the consultants and pollsters and (ahem) the reporters—is superfluous, an army of bit players with little influence over the outcome. Actually, worse than superfluous: That whole industry of experts is generally wrong.

The experts do seem to be more often wrong than right.

The classic view is that the pool of American voters is basically fixed: About 55 percent of eligible voters are likely to go to the polls, and the winner is determined by the 15 percent or so of “swing voters” who flit between the parties. So a general election campaign amounts to a long effort to pull those voters in to your side.

“The idea that there is this informed, engaged American population that is watching these political events and watching their elected leaders and assessing their behavior and making a judgment.”

“And it is just not true.”

In 2016, the election that truly embarrassed the experts, Bitecofer was teaching in her new job and didn’t put together a forecast. She doesn’t pretend she saw it coming:

She says she was as surprised Trump won as anyone else, but what struck her in examining the results, and what she saw as getting lost in the postelection commentary, was exactly how many people voted third party—for the Greens, the Libertarians or Evan McMullin, a former CIA operative who was running on behalf of the “Never Trump” wing of the Republican Party.

Hillary Clinton had run an entire campaign built around classic assumptions: She was trying to pick off Republicans and Republican-leaning independents appalled by Trump. So she chose a bland white man, Tim Kaine, as a running mate; it also explained her policy-lite messaging and her ads.

But in the end, almost all of those voters stuck with the GOP. The voters who voted third party should have been Democratic voters—they were disproportionately young, diverse and college educated—but they were turned off by the divisive Democratic primary, and the Clinton camp made no effort to activate them in the general election.

The anti-Clinton vote was stronger than the WTF anti-Trump vote.

When 2018 rolled around, she saw what was coming: “College educated white men, and especially college educated white women,” she said, “were going to be on fucking fire.”

It didn’t matter who was running; it mattered who was voting.

Negative partisanship

Bitecofer’s view of the electorate is driven, in part, by a new way to think about why Americans vote the way they do. She counts as an intellectual mentor Alan Abramowitz, a professor of political science at Emory University who popularized the concept of “negative partisanship,” the idea that voters are more motivated to defeat the other side than by any particular policy goals.

In a piece explaining his work in POLITICO Magazine, Abramowitz wrote: “Over the past few decades, American politics has become like a bitter sports rivalry, in which the parties hang together mainly out of sheer hatred of the other team, rather than a shared sense of purpose.

Republicans might not love the president, but they absolutely loathe his Democratic adversaries. And it’s also true of Democrats, who might be consumed by their internal feuds over foreign policy and the proper role of government were it not for Trump.”

Bitecofer took this insight and mapped it across the country.

“In the polarized era, the outcome isn’t really about the candidates. What matters is what percentage of the electorate is Republican and Republican leaners, and what percentage is Democratic and Democratic leaners, and how they get activated,” she said.

But it must be more complex than this.

“It’s the big discussion in election forecasting and political science right now,” said Kyle Kondik, communications director at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics and an editor at its forecasting site, Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “As I look at it, there are just a lot of different things going on in the electorate. There are a lot of folks who switched from Obama 2012 to Trump 2016. I think that’s pretty clear, but there also were turnout problems for Democrats in these places, and you had people switching or defecting to third parties. The more you learn about this stuff, the less you feel like you have a grasp on it.”

Sam Wang, a neuroscientist at Princeton University who since 2004 has doubled as an elections forecaster…agrees. The percentage of people who swing in and out of the electorate is closer to 10 percent, according to his data, which couldn’t explain the massive swings some counties saw from 2012 to 2016.

As for Bitecofer’s overall theory, Wang says, “It is the detailed version of something that is generally appreciated—that over the last 20 years the big phenomenon in American politics is that Americans have become much more predictable about who they vote for,” he said. “The broad insight is the deep truth of our time, but it is not that novel.”

This bit seems odd – election results are virtually decided before candidates are known.

“What I am saying is that almost all of this shit is set in stone for three years, that almost none of the shit that people are hanging onto, in terms of daily articles, or polls, or the economy or incumbency or ideology is really worth that much.”

Once you know the shape of the electorate, she argues, you can pretty much tell how that electorate is going to vote. And the shape of the electorate in 2018, and 2020, for that matter, was determined on the night of November 8, 2016. The new electorate, as she forecasts it, is made up mostly of people who want a president named anything but Donald Trump, competing with another group that fears ruin should anyone but Donald Trump be president.

But if Hillary Clinton suddenly entered this year’s presidential nomination race and was selected surely that would change things considerably. Maybe. Now left wing voters have experienced Trump in action as president voting against him may be stronger than voting against Clinton.

Although the ranks of independents are growing, up to 40 percent by some surveys, Bitecofer says campaigns have spent entirely too much time courting them, and the media has spent entirely too much caring about their preferences. The real “swing” doesn’t come from voters who choose between two parties, she argues, but from people who choose to vote, or not (or, if they do vote, vote for a third party).

The actual percentage of swing voters in any given national election according to her own analysis is closer to 6 or 7 percent than the 15 or 20 most analysts think are out there, and that larger group, Bitecofer says, are “closet partisans” who don’t identify with a party but still vote with one.

It should be easier to motivate people to vote who already lean your way than swinging someone from one side to the other.

This year’s election?

Bitecofer has already released her 2020 model, and is alone among election forecasters in giving the Democrats—who, of course, do not yet have a nominee—the 270 electoral votes required to claim the presidency without a single toss-up state flipping their way.

And in a view that goes against years of accepted political wisdom that says the choice of a running mate doesn’t much matter, the key she says, to a 2020 Democratic victory will lie less in who is at the top of the ticket than in who gets chosen as veep.

The reason Trump won in 2016 was not, she says, because of a bunch of disaffected blue-collar former Democrats in the Midwest; it is because a combination of Jill Stein, Gary Johnson and Evan McMullin pulled away more than 6 percent of voters in a state like Michigan. These were anti-Hillary voters, yes—but they were anti-Trump voters especially, and they are likely to come to the Democratic fold this time around if they’re given a reason.

Trump appears to understand Bitecofer’s theories as well as anyone in politics. He leans into the divisions and negative partisanship. In 2018, Trump turned the midterms into a referendum on him, warning that Democrats would bring crime and chaos into their neighborhoods if they won. There was a turnout surge among Trump voters in some places, but it wasn’t enough to offset the Democratic gains.

Bitecofer already sees the Trump playbook coming together for 2020: warning of a demographic takeover by nonwhites in order to boost turnout among noncollege white voters, and trying to sow chaos in the Democratic ranks so that supporters of a losing primary candidate either stay home or support a third-party candidate.

Bitecofer doesn’t see much of a downside to a candidate like Bernie Sanders. But she doesn’t see much of an upside either, since ideology isn’t as big a motivator as identity, and since Sanders did not in fact bring hordes of new voters to the polls in 2016.

There is some risk to nominating Joe Biden, who could be seen as a candidate of the status quo against a disrupter like Trump, but either way, the key will be to do their version of what Trump does to them every day: make the prospect of four more years of Republican rule seem like a threat to the Republic, one that could risk everything Democratic-leaning voters hold dear.

“If you want to win the election, you have to be able to frame your candidacy in a way that reminds voters that Trump is an abnormality that must be excised,” she said.

While the Trump campaign playbook is well known now, the Democrats are just getting into the serious part of nominating a candidate. How they will campaign is unknown. Surely they can still stuff things up as the Clinton campaign did.

But those who may be motivated to vote against Trump may already be largely determined. Perhaps.

 

Surprise results in first US primary

I haven’t been following the US Democrat presidential goings on much since they cranked up months ago, but they have got to a serious stage (still 9 months out from the election).

The first primary was held in Iowa earlier this week. The vote count was badly botched and the final results still aren’t known, but with 86% of caucus precincts counted the results are a bit surprising (all delegate numbers are estimates).

  • Pete Buttigieg – 11 delegates (26.5% of the votes)
  • Bernie Sanders – 11 delegates (25.6%)
  • Elizabeth Warren – 5 delegates (18.3%)
  • Joe Biden – 0 delegates (15.9%)
  • Amy Klobuchar – 0 delegates (12.1%)

This must severely dent Joe Biden’s chances. I thought he was too old and uninspiring to make a decent candidate anyway.

Sanders is up there for now but I don’t see him having wide appeal. He seems old enough to have red Das Kapital when it was first published.

I think that the Democrats would benefit if they manage to avoid a battle of geriatrics.

A big surprise to see Buttigieg heading the votes. I know very little about him, but he must have something going for him to get this sort of result.

Trump acquitted

Donald Trump has been acquitted in his impeachment trial as expected, by a vote of 52-47 of abuse of power and 53-47 of obstruction of Congress.

Also as expected Trump (via his White House press secretary) is claiming “full vindication and exoneration”:

“As we have said all along, he is not guilty. The Senate voted to reject the baseless articles of impeachment, and only the President’s political opponents – all Democrats, and one failed Republican presidential candidate – voted for the manufactured impeachment articles,” she said in a statement.

Of course that’s not accurate at all. ll Democrat senators and one Republican senator (Mitt Romney) found that Trump had abused power enough to be found guilty, and other Republican senators said that Trump had abused his power but not badly enough to justify dumping him from office this close to an election.

Romney is the first senator in US history to vote to convict a president from the same party. CNN:

Romney said Trump is “guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust.”

He said what Trump did “was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security, and our fundamental values.”

Romney added: “Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.”

He said he believed that his vote to convict Trump would be in the “minority” and Trump would not be found guilty.

“My vote will likely be in the minority in the Senate, but irrespective of these things, with my vote, I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability believing that my country expected it of me,” Romney said.

Also: McConnell refuses to say whether Trump’s conduct was inappropriate

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to say whether President Trump’s conduct was inappropriate when pressed multiple times by reporters at a news conference this afternoon after the Senate acquitted the President of both charges.

McConnell spoke about the political impact of impeachment saying it has been helpful for his members in difficult races. McConnell also said he was “surprised and disappointed” with GOP Sen. Mitt Romney’s vote to convict Trump on the first article of impeachment.

“I can tell you this, right now, this is a political loser for them,” McConnell said, referring to Democrats. “They initiated it, they thought this was a great idea and at least for the short term, it has been a colossal political mistake.”

Asked if he’s willing to concede if Trump did anything wrong, the Kentucky Republican dodged the question and said he wanted to talk about today and the “political impact of this.”

Some of McConnell’s GOP colleagues have said that it’s inappropriate for the President to investigate a foreign rival.

Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander said he believes Donald Trump acted improperly and crossed a line in the Ukraine scandal but said the President’s actions are “a long way from treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“I think he shouldn’t have done it. I think it was wrong. Inappropriate was the way I’d say — improper, crossing the line. And then the only question left is who decides what to do about that,” Alexander told NBC’s “Meet the Press” in a clip released Saturday.
“It struck me, really for the first time, early last week, that we’re not just being asked to remove the President from office. We’re saying, tell him he can’t run in the 2020 election which begins Monday in Iowa,” Alexander said.
“I think what he did is a long way from treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors. I don’t think it’s the kind of inappropriate action that the framers would expect the Senate to substitute its judgment for the people in picking a president,” he said.

So, Trump’s actions were crappy but not crappy enough to convince his Republican colleagues he should lose his job.

Now the US will move on from the impeachment circus to the presidential election circus.

Senate votes against hearing witnesses in impeachment trial

The US Senate has voted 51-49 against hearing witnesses in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump. Two Republicans voted for witnesses, not enough to change the expected outcome.

While Republican leaders had wanted to complete the process this week, before Tuesday’s State of the Nation speech by Trump, the prospects of length delays led to an agreement between both sides to allow senators to speak at a resumption on Monday to explain their decisions, and then an acquittal vote will be held next Wednesday.

The decision against hearing witnesses makes this bizarre sort of trial, but it is very political and a number of senators had made it clear what they would decide before it started the pre-ordained outcome isn’t surprising.

Acrimony and the partisan divide will no doubt continue unabated.