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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By David Lauter, Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — New polls have clarified the status of some of the nation’s most competitive races for governor, with Republican Gov. Scott Walker apparently gaining ground in Wisconsin and another prominent conservative Republican, Gov. Sam Brownback, receiving more bad news in Kansas.

The battle for control of the U.S. Senate has received the lion’s share of attention in this election year, but races for governor will also provide clues about the national political mood as well as pointers for the coming presidential election.

A loss by Brownback, for example, would be widely interpreted as an indication that he tried to move the state too far to the right, even for deeply Republican Kansas. A win by Walker, however, would indicate that his policies have gained support in a state that leans to the Democrats — at least in presidential years — and would bolster his hopes of running for the Republican presidential nomination.

The latest Wisconsin survey by Marquette Law School, the state’s leading poll, found Walker ahead of his Democratic opponent, Mary Burke, 50 to 45 percent among likely voters. Last month, the poll found Walker leading by 3 percentage points among likely voters, and Burke led during the summer.

The two candidates were virtually tied among all registered voters. The gap reflects the big challenge Democrats face in many states: persuading their voters to show up in a non-presidential election.

Walker leads in the survey even though voters disagree with him on several major issues, in some cases by large margins. The poll showed that a majority in the state supports raising the minimum wage, for example, and expanding the state’s Medicaid program as allowed under President Obama’s health care law. Walker opposes both moves.

But voters by nearly 2 to 1 see Walker as a decisive leader, the poll found, and, by 54 to 43 percent, say the state is on the right track.

The Marquette poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points in either direction.

In Kansas, a poll for USA Today by Suffolk University found Brownback trailing his Democratic opponent Paul Davis, 46 to 42 percent. That’s in line with several other recent polls that have shown Davis with a small lead.

Forty-four percent of those polled said they felt the state’s economy had gotten worse in two years, 35 percent said it had stayed about the same, and only 19 percent said it had improved. Democrats have alleged that cuts in taxes and state services pushed by Brownback went too far and have harmed the state.

The poll also showed longtime Sen. Pat Roberts trailing independent candidate Greg Orman in the state’s hotly contested Senate race. Orman drew 46 percent to Roberts’ 41 percent. Asked for the first word or phrase that came to mind when they heard Roberts’ name, the most frequent responses were “in office too long” or “needs to retire,” mentioned by 16 percent of those polled, and “old” or “elderly,” mentioned by 9 percent.

The Suffolk/USA Today poll also has a margin of error of 4 percentage points in either direction.

Several other contests for governor remain in the coin toss category, including races in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Florida and Maine, where the presence of an independent candidate, Eliot Cutler, has impeded Democrat Mike Michaud’s efforts to unseat Republican Paul LePage. Cutler’s fortunes have faded in recent polls, giving Michaud a slightly larger edge in a race that remains too close to call.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]