Is Biden Winning? Is Trump? What?! The country is on fire!

Son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, was Trump’s “special guest” at his Coronavirus briefing Thursday. Also featured was Peter Navarro, who Trump hired because he wrote a nasty book about China, and is now apparently in charge of implementing the Defense Production Act

The next U.S. Presidential Election, as of today, is exactly 7 months away

And believe it or not, Wisconsin will push ahead with its Presidential primary next Tuesday, as scheduled. Although a federal judge ruled late yesterday to give voters there an extra week to get absentee ballots in.

We guess this is what CNN hired this guy for. But maybe let him use his “data driven journalism” skills on something else for a while

We are in a Presidential election year. And politicians up for election or re-election are keenly aware of that. But at this point, we’ve got more pressing things to worry about. And we think that’s true of most Americans. Be they medical, or economic, or both.

It’s kind of like somebody trying to handicap the Belmont Stakes horse race, at a time when the site of the track in New York is in the middle of the most devastating earthquake in modern times, and the grandstands and the even the surrounding land—as far as the eye can see—have already collapsed.

No one knows what the country is going to look like after this. No one really knows how they’re going to feel after this. (Although some people probably have some idea, but who knows for sure?) How they’re going to conduct their lives after this? How they’re going to try to reward whatever set of people they feel were the heroes in all of this? Will things change for people if Congress passes, and the President signs a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure stimulus bill that funds putting hundreds of thousands or even millions of them back to work? Will they be able to get back to the old normal, or will it be a new normal, if there is a normal at all after this? In fact, nobody really knows when after will be.

But who’s gonna win for President? Now?! How valid is any political poll right now? Isn’t there some better use polling organizations could make of their tremendous ability to reach out to people across all kinds of demographics in our communities? And their well-honed skills at crunching numbers and analyzing data?

Even the polls showing some confidence in Trump, at least at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re not bringing this up because we’re astonished by that initial response. Nor do we want to split hairs about how powerful or long-lasting (or not) that support may be.

Trump’s the President. People are scared now. Even we’re rooting for him right now. They’ll get angry later.

We know lots of people are dealing with this unbelievably huge crisis in a lot of different ways, so we’re trying not to be critical about basically anyone doing or saying most anything. (Which is why we haven’t written with as much frequency as we normally do). Maybe for pollsters, their way of getting by is taking polls and drilling into data. Fivethirtyeight’s Nate Silver is trying using his skills in data analysis to find patterns in various pandemic models and whatever raw data is available, which is producing interesting work. He’s not so focused on the Presidential election right now.

There is one poll we did find interesting: and that’s the latest from the Kaiser Family Foundation. With more than 70% of all Americans: Democrats, Republicans and Independents all saying their life has been disrupted by the Coronavirus outbreak, in close to the same proportion. Slightly more Democrats, but not that much. Which was not the case last month, when 70% of Republicans said it hadn’t. Does this indicate the political gap, or culture gap, or whatever you want to call it about whether Coronavirus is serious or not, is closing? Maybe, maybe not. Many more Democrats than Republicans still believe “the worst is yet to come”. Although it’s a large majority of people in both parties.

Perhaps the fact that nearly 10-million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the past 2 weeks has something to do with that. So still no visibility of when this might even start being over. The Congressional Budget Office took a shot at beginning to try to assess the economic impact on the country. But even its analysis, which forecasts unemployment soon rising to more than 10%, and the economy shrinking 28% on an annualized basis, is chock full of qualifiers like “very preliminary” and statements on the economy like:

Those declines could be much larger, however.”

And we don’t blame them. There’s no way not to be vague at this point.

And we can’t take our eye off politics completely. Because one thing that maybe doesn’t deserve front-line attention right now, but will, is how to protect the election process, considering as we noted at the top: Election Day as of today is exactly 7 months away.

That might include provisions for extended absentee voting. A large majority of states and Washington, D.C. already have no-excuse absentee ballots or mail-in voting. Why not extend it in the states that don’t? Systems of voting are up to individual states, even in national elections, but a strong central signal to ramp up this capacity, which would come most forcefully in the form of money from the federal government, could go a long way. The most recent stimulus bill Congress just passed and the President signed had a good chunk of cash going to states to help them with this year’s elections, but not enough to make the broad changes that are likely to be needed, according to the Brennan Center.

Now, one question we had was even in states that don’t have “no excuse” absentee ballots, couldn’t people just send in for them anyway with their excuse for not coming to the polls being trauma caused by COVID-19? We checked on a couple of states, and that might actually be difficult. Because most require you to be out of state or actually have an “illness or physical disability” to qualify. Concern about Coronavirusmight not count. Especially if state governors and elected officials were not inclined to let it.

Which is interesting to us because absentee and mail-in ballots seem to us to be a very convenient way for Trump and Republicans to allege voter fraud if they find themselves coming up short in the election. Especially in places where they are leading or close when votes cast on Election Day are counted, and then see that lead slip away as mailed in ballots are added in. (Trump already tried out this theory during the 2018 Midterms, especially in California). So they must feel the number of votes they’ll lose by permitting it will be of greater consequence.

Which is interesting in itself because absentee voting used to be used mainly by older people and military, who in most states skew Republican. But that completely changed in 2018, when the availability of mail-in ballots expanded a lot, and apparently it was Democrats who most enjoyed the added convenience.

The House version of the first stimulus bill did directly address this fall’s elections. Although that version of the bill didn’t pass, it included provisions to address COVID-19’s prospective impact on Election Day. Provisions Trump earlier this week called “crazy” during an appearance on Fox, without specifying what they were.

So here’s what they were:

  • Mandated no-excuse mail-in voting option. (Including a prepaid, self-sealing return envelope.)
  • If any state is in a declared “state of emergency” two weeks before Election Day, they’d be required to send absentee ballots in the mail to all registered voters.
  • And all states would be required to offer 15 consecutive days–minimum–of early voting for federal elections. (At least partly to avoid crowding at the polls on Election Day.)

Quipped the President (something that normally would’ve gotten a lot of attention but didn’t, because, you know…):

If you ever agreed to it you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”