• Trump's Staff Can't Save the Candidate from Himself
• College-Educated White Women Are This Year's Swing Voters
• Asian Americans Could Be a Problem for the Republicans
• Trump Chases Sanders' Supporters
• SNL Hits Trump Hard
• Marginalized Haters Are Now Emerging from the Shadows
• Untrustworthy Voting Machines Are Still Widely Used
• Today's Presidential Polls
Donald Trump was already having a very bad week this week. There was the debate, and Machadogate (accompanied by the 3:00 a.m. Twitter storm), and revelations that his company violated the United States' embargo with Cuba, and a host of other lesser embarrassments. And then, on Saturday evening, it turned from a very bad week into what some are calling "the worst week in presidential campaign history." The New York Times published key details from his 1995 tax return, most notably that Trump took a $916 million loss that year. Experts who examined the return said that Trump may very well have been able to manage the loss in such a way as to avoid paying any taxes for the next 15 years (i.e., until 2010)."
It was entirely foreseeable that somehow, some way, this was going to happen. Hackers? An enterprising reporter who managed to look in the right place? A careless accounting firm that didn't keep its files secure? The possibilities were numerous. As it turns out, the Times received the documents anonymously, in an envelope mailed from—wait for it—Trump Tower in New York City. So, it could be a disgruntled employee or it could be an outsider who just wanted to create additional intrigue. Or, if we recall the conspiracy theories suggesting that Trump is really just running to throw the election to Hillary Clinton, it could even be self-sabotage. We may never know.
The envelope received by the Times contained only a few pages total, from three different returns. So, a full assessment of Trump's 1995 finances is not possible. The $916 million figure comes from the first page of the candidate's New York State return. It is all but certain that the copies are authentic, according to Jack Mitnick, the accountant who prepared the originals. Now semi-retired, he no longer has access to the returns, but he said they certainly look correct. In particular, he noted a critical detail—the accounting software in use in 1995 could not handle nine-figure numbers, so the loss printed out as "5,729,293," with "-91" added in front of that by a manual typewriter (with a slightly different font). That is something that a forger would be very unlikely to get correct.
Accountants who were asked about the write-off said that losses can be carried backward 3 years and forward 15 years, so Trump could have legally written off about $60 million in each of the next 15 years. That could have been enough to offset all his other income, leaving him with no taxable income. The interesting question though is how he lost nearly a billion dollars in 1995. What did he do that was so disastrous financially and what does that say about his business ability? Did he make a horrendous deal in which he lost almost a billion dollars? What was it? Expect reporters to begin digging into this shortly.
Asked to respond to the revelation, the Trump campaign issued a non-committal statement:
Mr. Trump is a highly-skilled businessman who has a fiduciary responsibility to his business, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required. That being said, Mr. Trump has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in property taxes, sales and excise taxes, real estate taxes, city taxes, state taxes, employee taxes and federal taxes. Mr. Trump knows the tax code far better than anyone who has ever run for President and he is the only one that knows how to fix it.
Needless to say, a non-denial like this is effectively a confirmation. And just in case, the candidate himself confirmed the story in his own characteristic way: He went on the attack, as he does whenever he feels cornered. Appearing at a rally in Pennsylvania, Trump wondered whether Hillary Clinton is "crazy" and if she is "loyal" to her husband. He also mocked Clinton's stumble at the 9/11 memorial, a choice that will primarily serve to remind voters of Trump's past lampooning of disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski. Later, The Donald returned to an old refrain, encouraging followers to monitor polls "in certain areas." This seems to suggest that he wants Democratic voters to be intimidated, and at very least, it is yet another attempt to de-legitimize a potential Clinton victory.
So, what impact will this have? Obviously, we won't know for certain for at least a week or two. However, there is no question that the revelation strikes at the heart of two big parts of Trump's case for the presidency: (1) That he's trying to make sure the little guy gets a fair shake, instead of the Wall Street fat cats, and (2) That he's a winner and a wildly successful businessman. At the same time, he looks like a hypocrite, since he has often taken to Twitter to tax-shame those who did not pay their fair share. There are also renewed suggestions that the GOP nominee may choose to skip the last two debates, since he will be unable to dodge questions about the $916 million. In any case, Trump should strongly consider spending Sunday in church, praying that nothing else bad happens this week. (Z)
After Barack Obama messed up badly in the first 2012 debate, his staff tried to explain it to him—first gently, then not so gently. They made him watch a recording of the whole debate. Then he understood what had gone wrong, and immediately began to work on the problem. Donald Trump's first debate in 2016 also went badly, but there is no evidence that he will listen to his campaign manager's pleas. In fact, the opposite appears to be happening. He has spent the week continuing the behavior that got him into trouble in the first place. His advisers can suggest that he read briefing books, participate in mock debates, and memorize lines and themes to use, but if the first debate is an example of what to expect, no amount of preparation will stick—he just wings it. Worse yet, Hillary Clinton clearly knows very well how to push his buttons, making him forget whatever he learned during debate prep, and just have him start bellowing.
According to an article in the Washington Post, Trump lives in a kind of alternate reality. When two Post reporters interviewed him after the first Republican primary debate this year, he pointed to online polls that showed that he won. The reporters tried to patiently explain that such polls can be easily gamed and mean nothing. He insisted that they were meaningful. This is also true of so many other areas: He genuinely believes what he believes, and no amount of proof that he is wrong has any effect on him. If he believes that he did a fine job during the first debate, there is nothing that his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, can tell him to get him to change. He is who he is. (V)
This year, there is little talk of NASCAR dads or soccer moms. The spotlight is on women with a college education. In the past, the majority voted Republican, but this year the Democrats are making a huge effort to convince them that Donald Trump is unfit for the presidency. In 2012, Romney carried this group 52% to 46%, but a recent WaPo/ABC poll shows Clinton is winning them 57% to 42%. She will need to keep or increase this lead to offset Trump's massive lead (in some surveys, nearly 60%) among white non-college men. Trump also leads among white non-college women, but there his lead is more like 12%, so winning the college women is her top priority.
Margie Omero, a Democratic pollster, says Trump's problem with college-educated women stems from several things. There is his toxic language about women in general, his lack of interest in policy, and his disdain for caregiving. Also, he has a very harsh tone, to which women generally respond badly. (V)
On paper, Asian Americans look like solid Republicans. Many of them own small businesses, family is very important to them, and some have fled Communist regimes, making the GOP's anti-Communism look pretty good. Back on Planet Earth, however, Asian Americans are registering as Democrats faster than any other racial group. Part of this no doubt lies with things Donald Trump has said, including announcing plans to ban Mexican and Muslims. Many Asian Americans are aware of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned Chinese workers until 1943, and also the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II. These are not happy memories for them.
While only 4% of the electorate consists of Asian Americans, many live in Nevada and Virginia, two swing states. Democrats have field offices in those states with staffers who speak all the major Asian languages, and whose job is to get Asian-American citizens registered. Republicans have nothing comparable. In 2012, Asian Americans went for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney 73% to 26%, and Romney never insulted immigrants of any kind. Trump is going to have his hands full wooing this group in the next month. (V)
Many of the supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are not sold on Hillary Clinton and are up for grabs. Some will definitely vote for Jill Stein, but some are still undecided. Donald Trump is now making a serious effort to get these people to vote for him. He is doing this by attacking big corporations and the media, saying there are two sets of rules in America: one for the powerful and one for everyone else. Yesterday in New Hampshire, he called out the special interests, the lobbyists, and the corrupt corporate media for rigging the system against ordinary people. Sanders couldn't have put it better.
Of course, Trump has to hope the Sanders' supporters forget that he has been hanging out with these people his whole life, and is about as much of an insider as you can be. He also has to hope they forget all about his bigotry, something most of them are appalled by. Finally, they have to ignore Sanders himself, who is now traveling around the country campaigning for Clinton and calling Trump every name in the book. But the pitch might get Trump some votes from the hard-core Hillary haters. (V)
As expected, Saturday Night Live's first sketch back from its summer hiatus was a send-up of the first presidential debate. It was, to be blunt, a killer for Donald Trump. Alec Baldwin's impersonation of the GOP nominee was absolutely dead on, and most of the Trump jokes were rooted in how silly or foolish he appears (for example, Baldwin-Trump ranted that Barack Obama was responsible for his broken microphone). Most of the Clinton jokes, by contrast, were based on the notion that she could not believe her good luck at Trump's awful performance (at one point she "gave" her two minutes to Trump so he could continue to hang himself, another time she asked if we could "just vote right now").
Later in the show came a politically-themed Family Feud parody, featuring Clinton supporters (including Larry David, back for another go as Bernie Sanders) versus Trump supporters (notably Kellyanne Conway, played by Kate McKinnon just minutes after her appearance as Hillary Clinton). During that sketch, and in a subsequent give-and-take on the show's "Weekend Update" segment, the ridicule was more evenly distributed. But it is the debate sketch that's going to be posted to social media accounts, and that's going to be discussed around water coolers on Monday morning. And it would not be out-of-line to guess that Hillary Clinton got more value out of that nine minutes than out of $10 million in commercials. (Z)
One of the things Donald Trump's campaign has done is to make it socially acceptable to be an out-and-out bigot and to peddle crazy conspiracy stories in public. How else can one explain the story in the Washington Post about Melanie Austin (her real name), who lives in Pennsylvania. She believes that President Obama is a gay Muslim, that Michelle Obama could be a man, and the Obama children might have been kidnapped from a family now searching for them. She drew the attention of the authorities in February when she made an online posting saying that Obama should be hanged and the White House fumigated and burned to the ground.
Before long, she was meeting more and more people online with similar ideas. Then, in June, Trump was holding a rally near her, so she went and met more like-minded people. She became a Trump activist. For once, she saw how to fight back after 20 years of living in a decaying town that none of the politicians seemed to care about.
The Post reporter asked her about her past and how she got to where she was now. She said that she was a big fan of televangelist John Hagee in the 1980s, who said that the Antichrist would appear as a blasphemer and a homosexual. She also noted that Jerry Falwell blamed the Sept. 11 attacks on pagans and abortionists and feminists and gays and lesbians. She thinks that Obama wants to classify people as alphas, betas, gammas, and deltas, just like in Aldous Huxley's famous novel Brave New World. She showed the reporter many YouTube videos calling Michelle Obama a transgender person. It goes on and on from there.
The amazing thing about this is that people are now willing to go on the record saying this kind of stuff, using their real names and allowing photos of themselves to appear in a major national newspaper. No more hiding in the shadows. Trump has made it respectable to say in public what used to be only carefully whispered or posted to the Internet anonymously. The article is definitely worth reading. (V)
Forget the possibility of Russia hacking the election. Even if Russia doesn't try, a giant snafu that could cause a constitutional crisis (and end up in the hands of an evenly divided Supreme Court) is a real possibility due to the ancient voting machines still in use. After the country learned all about hanging chads and pregnant chads in Florida in Nov. 2000, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, which provided $4 billion for states to buy computerized voting machines. These machines have an expected lifetime of 10 years, and we are already way past their use-by date. In Georgia, for example, the touch-screen machines report their results to a PC with Diebold software running on Windows 2000. Microsoft stopped supporting this OS six years ago, so new vulnerabilities that are discovered in it are not fixed. In California, a different problem has come up. The state decertified all the voting machines in 2007 due to their failing to pass security tests. San Diego County put all of its machines in storage. Nobody wants to buy them, and county rules prohibit them from being put in the trash bin. So it just keeps paying to store them.
Other states also have antiquated machines, for which they often pay the vendors exorbitant annual fees for service contracts. In some cases, there is no paper trail, so there is no way to audit a disputed election. In South Carolina, a software problem in 2010 caused 1,127 votes to be lost in the state capital. In Shelby County, TN, which includes Memphis, disaster struck in 2015 during a municipal election. Votes stopped coming in to the central tabulator 15 minutes after counting started. It first appeared that 20 precincts were missing, but later that number was reduced to 4, all in areas with large numbers of black voters. In the end, a white person beat a black person for a local office by a very small number of votes, but since there was no way to reconstruct the votes anywhere in the county, the results were certified. The county was sued, of course, but it says that it can't afford the $20 million needed to buy new machines.
In a close presidential election, problems with dozens or hundreds of counties as a result of ancient technology could leave the results of the election very much up in the air, and the eight-member Supreme Court is not likely going to be able to deal with it. It could be a real mess. (V)
Donald Trump had been leading in Nevada, but now we have had two polls, from Suffolk and Bendixen, that suggest that it is close, possibly with Clinton slightly ahead. The big question in Nevada is the Latino turnout. If Latinos vote in large numbers, Clinton will win. If they don't, Trump will win. (V)
|Nevada||45%||44%||5%||Sep 27||Sep 29||Bendixen|
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct01 Evangelicals Are Scared, but Still Support Trump
Oct01 More Skeletons Found in Trump's Closet
Oct01 Clinton Is Now Focusing on Turning Out Her Base
Oct01 Ivanka Trump Stars in Trump Ad Aimed at Women
Oct01 Trump Has an Automated Army of Tweeters Working for Him
Oct01 Clinton Enjoying Post-Debate Polling Bump
Oct01 Weld: Clinton Most Qualified to be President
Oct01 San Diego Union-Tribune Breaks 148-Year Streak and Endorses the Democrat
Oct01 Trump May Not Accept Election Results After All
Oct01 There Actually Were Issues with Trump's Microphone During the Debate
Oct01 Saturday Night Live Returns
Sep30 Trump Wanted Fat Women Fired
Sep30 Trump Just Can't Cut His Losses
Sep30 Online Polls: Shady Behavior All Around
Sep30 Clinton's Newest Ad Focuses on Trump Flip-Flops
Sep30 New York Attorney General Widens Probe of Trump Foundation
Sep30 Appeals Court Strikes Down Law Prohibiting Photos of Ballots
Sep30 More Newspapers Dump Trump
Sep30 Christie May Be Put in Charge of Prepping Trump for Second Debate
Sep30 Trump Is Not Going to Like These Google Search Results
Sep30 Many Republican Leaders Are Hoping Trump Outsources the Presidency to Pence
Sep30 Stein Mocks Johnson's Ignorance and Shows Her Own
Sep29 Trump Fell into a Trap in the Debate
Sep29 Trump's Advisers Have a Plan for the Second Debate
Sep29 Trump Has a Cranky Wednesday
Sep29 The Online Polls Are Rigged
Sep29 President Trump Will Have a Busy First Day in Office
Sep29 Cybersecurity Expert Testifies that the Election Could Be Hacked
Sep29 Hacking of State Election Databases Worse than Originally Thought
Sep29 What if Trump Disputes the Election?
Sep29 Gary Johnson Has Another Aleppo Moment
Sep28 What Did We Learn from the First Debate?
Sep28 Democratic Debate Postmortem
Sep28 Presidential Debate Postmortem
Sep28 Insiders Say that Clinton Won the Debate
Sep28 Trump Didn't Bring Up the Bill and Monica Show--for a Good Reason
Sep28 Trump Goes on the Attack, Makes it Worse
Sep28 Arizona Republic Endorses Clinton
Sep28 Early Voting is Now Underway in the United States
Sep27 Clinton Doesn't Score a Knockout, But Wins Convincingly on Points
Sep27 Trump's Website Crashes During Debate
Sep27 Trump Can't Find a Mosque to Visit
Sep27 Beck Apologizes for Supporting Ted Cruz
Sep26 Trump Keeps Debate Prep Secret
Sep26 The Candidates and Moderator Will Be on Stage, but the Audience Also Matters
Sep26 Lester Holt Has the Toughest Job of All
Sep26 Priebus Predicts Trump Will Be Consistent and Measured
Sep26 Will the Debate Matter?
Sep26 Could This Be the Only Debate?