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Will 2020 Be Another ‘Change’ Election? Polls Say Yes

The final results of the 1980 presidential election between the Democratic President Jimmy Carter and his Republican challenger, former California Gov. Ronald Reagan are rightly recorded as a landslide Republican victory. Carter carried just six states: his native Georgia; his running mate’s home state of Minnesota; Rhode Island; Maryland; West Virginia; and Hawaii. The Democrat — by winning only 49 electoral votes to Reagan’s 489 — suffered the most stunning defeat of any incumbent president since 1932, when Republican Herbert Hoover was trounced by Franklin Roosevelt.

But the truth is that the Carter-Reagan contest had been close, with Carter leading between 4 percent and 8 percent in Gallup polls all the way to the final week of October, when the two men met in the campaign’s only televised debate. After that Oct. 28 showdown, Gallup found Reagan moving to a 3 percent lead on his way to a solid 10 percent victory margin on Nov. 4.

Every presidential election — including those of 1980 and 2020— is a choice between continuity and change. In 1980, voters beset with a painful “misery index” — high interest rates, high inflation rate and a rising unemployment rate — were clearly open to change. But candidate Reagan’s unforced errors — falsely claiming that California had eliminated its smog, that trees caused more pollution than automobiles and that Alaska had more oil than Saudi Arabia — enabled the Carter campaign to make Reagan’s change look too risky. In the one debate, Reagan presented himself as reasonable, nonthreatening and likable. In so doing, he gave voters both permission and confidence to do what they wanted to do: to vote for him and for change.

Obviously, President Donald Trump’s economic numbers — unemployment, interest rates, inflation — are all dramatically superior to Carter’s. But Trump carries into 2020 equally threatening baggage that suggests voters in November 2020 will be much more interested in choosing change over continuity.

To appreciate Trump’s political peril, let us turn to the Wall Street Journal-NBC News Poll, which, guided by respected pollster Peter Hart, has asked voters over the years to assess presidents — not just separately on the job the president is doing or on the president’s personal likability but on both qualities straightforwardly in one question:

Which of the following statements comes closest to your opinion of (the president)?

A) I like (the president) personally, and I approve of most of his policies.

B) I like him personally, but I disapprove of many of his policies.

C) I don’t like him personally, but I approve of most of his policies.

D) I don’t like him personally, and I disapprove of many of his policies.

The most recent president to win reelection, Democrat Barack Obama, was consistently liked personally by about 7 out of 10 voters (the great majority of whom also approved of most of his policies). Barely 3 out of 10 both disliked Obama personally and disapproved of his policies. For another reelected Democrat, Bill Clinton, 55 percent liked him personally (36 percent both liked him and approved most of his policies), while fewer than 3 out of 10 both disliked Clinton and disapproved of his policies.

Both men, proving the maxim that “before they vote for you, they first have to like you,” handily won second terms.

But not so for President Trump. Fewer than 3 out of 10 voters personally like Trump and just over 1 out of 4 both like him personally and approve of his policies. Contrast that with the average of 47 percent of voters who both personally dislike Trump and also disapprove of his policies. This tells us that 2020 should be about change rather than continuity.

The best hope for the embattled Trump campaign is for the Democrats to nominate a candidate who —-because of his or her personality or character defects or frightening ideas — will somehow make change more disturbing than continuity.

Trump And GOP Are Blatantly Encouraging Foreign Dictators To Hack The 2020 Election

It looks like Donald Trump and the leadership of the GOP are encouraging other countries to hack our upcoming 2020 election.

Donald Trump is sucking up to dictators, strongman oligarchs, and autocrats around the world, while Mitch McConnell is using political brute force to prevent individual states from hardening their election systems. Why?

Looking at the entire picture in context, consider Karl Marx’s favorite question: “Who benefits?”

Who benefits when the leaders of countries with sophisticated internet hacking capabilities (North Korea, Saudi Arabia) and no democratic oversight are told by Trump that as long as he’s in office he has their backs?

Might Trump and McConnell hope they’ll intervene in our election to keep in power a political party that now disdains democracy and a free press, and embraces dictatorial behavior like calling for the imprisonment of Trump’s political rivals, and of individuals in the intelligence agencies who have investigated him and the GOP?

Who benefits when countries with world-class internet hacking capabilities and less-than-democratic (Russia) or highly corrupted and oligarch-dependent (Netanyahu, Duterte, Modi) leaders become “good friends” of Trump and/or help Trump build or brand properties in their countries?

Might they intervene in our election directly or indirectly to keep in power an administration that both openly disdains the concept of “liberal democracy” and disrespects leaders of the largely European countries that practice it?

Why would Trump joke with Putin in front of the world about the possibility of Russians hacking American voting systems in the 2020 election? Is he expecting it, or just hoping for it?

Who benefits when mostly “red” states keep their voting systems’ defenses down and continue to use 17-year-old technology running on Windows XP operating systems?

Who benefits when McConnell, Pence and Trump work together to make sure that, as CBS News reported this year, “Tens of thousands of voting machines in the United States [will continue to be] vulnerable to hacking” by refusing to fund upgrades?

Who benefits when repeated Democratic Party efforts to harden voting systems are blocked by Republican governors?

There’s no ideological argument to be made for America having easily hacked voting systems; it’s not something that conservatives like George Will or liberals like Robert Reich would reasonably disagree about.

So what could possibly be motivating Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate, other than the hope that hackers will produce another “red shift” miracle for them?

We already know that the GOP and their partisans on the Supreme Court have done and are doing everything they can to make it hard for Americans—particularly those with darker pigmented skin—to vote or otherwise participate in the political arena.

But that’s probably not enough to guarantee the reelection of a man as reviled and unpopular as Trump, and thus keep the parade of corporatist-friendly right-wing judges moving through the Senate into lifetime appointments on the federal bench. They need more—a little help from their friends.

Republicans have been caught manipulating voter rolls; engaging in now-legalized “political” gerrymandering that magically corresponds to race; running ads in social media filled with deception and outright lies; encouraging right-wing violence; and threatening treason charges against American law enforcement officials who’ve investigated foreign manipulation of our elections.

But it’s not working so far. Democrats—particularly progressive Democrats—were the big winners in the 2018 midterms. The GOP needs more help from their friends if they’re to reelect Trump and hold the Senate.

Reagan turned the GOP into the Party of the Billionaires, complete with a phony “supply-side” and “trickle-down” story about fantasy economics to sell their merger of state and corporation. But by the end of the Clinton administration, most Americans had figured out Reagan’s and the GOP’s scam and, since 2002, there’s been a curious “red shift” disconnect between exit poll results and the reported totals from hackable voting machines.

There aren’t enough really rich Americans to win elections, so Lee Atwater and his business partners Roger Stone and Paul Manafort helped Reagan and Bush bring in the white racist vote. But even with all the American racists, Trump and McConnell must think they need foreign help again.

Jerry Falwell Jr. (and his pool boy?), Franklin Graham, and other multimillionaire “Christian” hustlers brought in the people televangelists have exploited for a generation. But are there enough religiously gullible voters to tip the election to Trump and McConnell? They seem to think not.

Add the homophobes, the xenophobes, the religious bigots, and sexually insecure white men (from incels to gun fanatics), and the GOP may have almost enough votes to win a national election—but they’re still haunted by Trump losing the last election’s popular vote by 3 million; plus, they no longer have Scott Walker and Rick Snyder to throw Wisconsinites and Michiganders off the voting rolls just before the election.

Trump and the GOP will still need a little help from their overseas friends, just as Trump Jr. reached out to or tried to take help from the Russians, Saudis and Emiratis in 2016. They (and Trump’s American billionaire backers) benefited more from what President Carter correctly called Trump’s “illegitimate” presidency than anybody else in the world.

Which is why Trump and McConnell are working as hard as they can to make sure those foreign oligarchs and autocrats know how much they’ll appreciate that help, should it be forthcoming.

All they need is a little help from their friends, and they’re making sure their friends know in advance who will benefit.


Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment and more than 25 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute.

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

Republican Debate Dilemma: Echo Sunny Reagan? Or Go Negative?

By Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

When the Republican hopefuls gather Wednesday at the Reagan Library for their second debate, the presidential candidates will have a chance to discuss their differences over taxes, immigration, same-sex marriage and a whole host of issues dividing the large field.

But beyond disagreements over walling off Mexico or how the tax code should treat hedge-fund millionaires, there lies a deeper divide — a split that goes to the core of each contestant, how they view the world and the attitude they would bring to the White House.

Fundamentally, it is a clash between optimism and pessimism, between those channeling the anger of unhappy voters and those aiming, in the style of the sunny Ronald Reagan, for inspiration and uplift.

Jeb Bush speaks often of a country “on the verge of the greatest time to be alive in this world.” Donald Trump sees America “in serious trouble,” lamenting, “We can’t do anything right.”

The former Florida governor and the New York real estate magnate — one embodying the party establishment, the other a classic political outsider — stand furthest apart on the GOP’s spectrum of lightness and dark. But tonally, the contrast is not just between those two.

“This idea that we’re not great or that we have to make American great again — that’s not the issue,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said, slapping at Trump’s campaign slogan. “We are great.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich suggested it was fine for Democrats and Republicans to disagree. But “I don’t want to be a voice of negativity in America,” he said. “I want to be a voice of positivity.”

Others deliver a harsher message, mirroring the widespread grievance that turns up in repeated polls.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose angry tenor has risen as his campaign struggles, assails fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill, accusing them of cowardice and of failing to deliver the conservative revolution they promised. He vows to “wreak havoc” on Washington.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, his temperature set to slow boil, swipes at “the Washington cartel” and leaders of both political parties. He was apocalyptic in his attack on the nuclear deal with Iran: “People will die” as a result, he said, and supporters of the bargain will have blood on their hands.

That’s a long way from “Morning in America.”

President Reagan made that roseate tableaux the centerpiece of his 1984 re-election campaign, and it endures as a model of political buoyancy and radiance.

At the time, the country was emerging from the worst economic slump since the Great Depression, with a jobless rate approaching 11 percent — higher than it reached in the steep downturn under President Barack Obama.

A second Reagan term was hardly a given. But following a script drafted by his longtime strategist, Stuart Spencer, the president deftly managed to project hope and good cheer without seeming callous or willfully clueless to the pain many still suffered.

In a strategy memo that surfaced after Reagan’s landslide victory, Spencer wrote, “The tone of the campaign should be upbeat, but not so confidently optimistic that we are vulnerable to the charge we believe things are better than facts warrant.

“The future vision the president establishes should include challenges,” Spencer said, “but reaffirm our faith in the country’s ability to progress and meet those challenges.”

In a recent interview, Spencer said the strategy worked in good part because it reflected Reagan’s natural persona.

“He had that. He could be upbeat, could sound like a preacher because his style lent to it,” Spencer said. “It happened to be his true belief system. What you saw is what you got.”

Those who know their candidates say, they, too, are simply being who they are.

“Jeb Bush is an optimist,” said Mike Murphy, who is running a pro-Bush political action committee and has worked with the former governor for decades. “He’s running an authentic campaign as an optimist.”

No one, in turn, would doubt that Trump is anything but the born-and-bred, sock-in-the-nose New Yorker who burst into the Republican race, then elbowed his way to the top.

The country has changed vastly since Reagan left office. The Cold War has ended; technology has refashioned the biggest industries and the tiniest facets of everyday life. If anything, after an impeached president and unpopular war, people are even more cynical about politics and the political system.

“Americans want their president to be optimistic and bullish,” said Don Sipple, a veteran political strategist who helped shape campaign messages for George W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger. “But in addition, you’ve got to level with people. In our current culture, people know b.s. when they see it or hear it.”

As they honor Reagan at his namesake library in Simi Valley, Calif., the Republican candidates will bask in the warm memories that shroud the nation’s 40th president. What will shine through strongest, though, is their own personal disposition.

Reagan, an actor by training, knew some things couldn’t be faked.

Photo: Let’s guess how many times this man’s name is evoked during the debate.

Does America Really Think That Obama Is The Worst President Since World War II?

The Internet is abuzz over the latest Quinnipiac poll, which not only shows that Americans find President Barack Obama to be the worst commander-in-chief since World War II, but that a large number of voters (45 percent) think that America would be better off if Mitt Romney had been elected in 2012. At a first glance, those numbers look really rough for Obama. A closer look, however, tells a slightly different story.

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,446 voters from June 24-30; 26 percent identify as Republicans, 31 percent as Democrats, and 35 percent are Independents. Of those voters, 73 percent are white, 13 percent black, 7 percent Hispanic, and 8 percent identify as “other.” Only 18 percent are from the Northeast, 24 percent hail from the Midwest, 37 percent from the South, and 22 percent from the West.

So the largest representation of voters surveyed in this poll are from the South, which isn’t exactly representative of all Americans as a whole. In the 2012 election, the South was the only region where more voters voted for Romney than Obama (54 to 41 percent). Gallup shows that only 33 percent of voters in 2012 were from the South, while 23 percent were from the Northeast and Midwest, and 22 percent lived in the West. Consequently, this poll is slightly skewed towards Southern voters.

Though 33 percent of Americans think Obama is the worst president since World War II, compared to 28 percent who chose George W. Bush, Slate’s Dave Weigel shows why it’s important to take a second look at those numbers.

Since Republicans overwhelmingly (66 percent) think that Ronald Reagan was the best president, he’s easily at the top of the poll. But Democrats are conflicted about who they would choose for their top pick, with the vote split between Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, and Obama.

It’s the same situation with the pick for worst president—63 percent of Republicans chose Obama and only 14 percent chose Carter, while Democrats were split between Bush (54 percent) and Nixon (20 percent).

Weigel concludes that the “poll looks like most polls in 2014 — the president has lost Independents, and voters have stopped hating George W. Bush so much.”

No matter how the numbers are parsed, it doesn’t change the fact that President Obama has a lot of work to do to regain voter support if he wants to end his presidency with better favorability numbers.

Photo: AFP Photo via Mandel Ngan

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