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The Center

A.B. Stoddard on the Current Moment in Politics—and What Is to Come

“Doing things like eliminating the filibuster is just going to put us on the path to more gridlock and anarchy at this point.”

On August 14th, Merion West’s Henri Mattila was joined by A.B. Stoddard for a conversation about the current moment in national politics and what she anticipates after the election in November. Ms. Stoddard is an associate editor and columnist at RealClearPolitics, and a writer at The Bulwark. She has covered the U.S. Congress since 1994, for States News Service, The Hill, and ABC News. Ms. Stoddard appears regularly as a guest on the FOX News Channel, CNN, and MSNBC.

During the conversation, Mr. Mattila and Ms. Stoddard discuss the choice of Sen. Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s running mate, what the country would look like if the Democratic Party were to win majority control in November and how the Republican Party should adapt, the accuracy of election polling, and President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

This conversation has been lightly edited for brevity.

A.B. Stoddard, thank you for joining me today.

Thanks for having me.

I wanted to get started with the the big topic that’s been on everybody’s mind recently. So, after much anticipation, Joe Biden picked Kamala Harris. And I’m curious, what are your first impressions of that choice from a strategic angle?

Well, it was always the do no harm choice. It was always going to do the least damage to his standing in the polls. And that by disappointing the progressives, he would be able to continue to persuade Obama-Trump voters, former Republicans, Independents. Joe Biden has made it clear from day one, he’s not interested in just mobilization. He wants to mobilize and persuade. And he’s not running a base election designed to excite young voters who don’t usually vote and non-white voters.

He wants to bring them in the fold. He wants to certainly message to them. But, he was always going to try to have the most durable and broad coalition made up largely of African American voters, the older ones whom adore Joe Biden and are pragmatic, culturally conservative, not looking to re-order society and are not woke like their kids and grandkids, and another mix in the fold of these college educated white suburban voters, largely women, many of whom have left the Republican Party who would create this center, a more and more centrist coalition, and allow him the upper hand against Donald Trump.

So, he was never going to pick Elizabeth Warren. It was way too risky in the Rust Belt. He was never going to take too many chances. I actually was convinced he might pick Susan Rice, which would have been very problematic, but for the following reasons, he wasn’t looking for the 2024 nominee. So, that’s the part of Kamala Harris as a selection that is risky.

Joe Biden wants to get to work on mitigating the virus and repairing the economy and really nothing else. He wants to restore our place in the world. That would be great, but he has two emergencies at home, which will require his focus. And he’s not interested in having someone who is going to be provoked by the progressive left from day one in a fight for the nomination to fend off a primary challenge a few years later, because it’s implicit that Joe Biden is likely to only serve one term.

So, that was the part that made me think he would not pick Kamala Harris because she’s clearly ambitious and she wants to be the party’s nomination in 2024. That’s what made me think he might go with Rice, someone he has a longstanding relationship with and who he could put on an airplane on day one to go around the world trying to do that business without running for president. She would have brought a bunch of baggage and a bunch of problems to the ticket and wouldn’t have excited African Americans and Indian Americans the way that Kamala Harris did.

The response to Kamala Harris has been much more excited than I anticipated. She has a great American story, of course. Her Jamaican father and her Indian mom, it’s very inspiring. It is a great American story. But, I’m just surprised at, given her standing in the primary, the response to her campaign how poorly she did, I just didn’t know that people would flip out as if they’d never heard of her before. The amount of money they’ve raised, the reaction, it’s been incredible and it really did no harm.

You can see that in the response from the Trump Campaign and their allies. They just don’t know how to define Kamala Harris. “She’s too much of a cop, she’s not enough of a cop. She’s progressive, she’s moderate. She’s nasty.” They really don’t know what to say. They know she’s going to be a very strong debater against Vice President Pence. Someone that like Karen Bass, the congresswoman from California, had she been picked probably would’ve struggled more in that challenge.

So, if you look at just from Tuesday afternoon until now, wow! The, do no harm pick is what you do when you’re winning and you don’t want to take a risk to save your candidacy. You want to cement your standing. But, to think of the combination of doing no harm plus this added excitement, I’m really surprised, actually. And there is plenty of stuff that can go wrong, but the do no harm pick turned out to be more exciting than I thought it would be for the Biden Campaign.

So, it sounds like you view that Kamala Harris, because she’s so hard to pin down politically, that she would be maybe considered a moderate centrist like Biden.

She doesn’t scare the centrists.

Right. I follow the right wing media quite closely. And pundits like Ben Shapiro have already pointed out that, wow, Joe Biden made the biggest strategic blunder of all time because Kamala Harris is easy to paint as as a “crazy leftist.” I think it was Shapiro who said that she votes with Bernie Sanders 92% of the time.

And one organization that tracks political activity in the Senate said that she was actually, in the last year, the most liberal member of the Senate, even more liberal than Warren and Sanders. I think that some people in the middle who are open to Biden, and if they do read a lot of right wing news and pay attention to Ben Shapiro’s opinions closely, they might be swayed. What do you think?

Right. That’s interesting. Really, there was never a perfect pick for Joe Biden. There was never a perfect pick. It was just, are you going to go with the default, do no harm? She was going to be ready on day one because she sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee. She’s been the attorney general of our largest state. She’s obviously ready to govern, more than Donald Trump was on day one, right. So, that was really a threshold marker for Joe Biden.

Other than that, there was never a perfect pick. He didn’t want an ambitious politician who was running for president, as I said. The list goes on. She doesn’t have very good political sense. She proved that in the primary. She stumbled all over health care, the most important issue, not only to Democrats, but to many Trump voters, the driving issue of the 2018 mid-terms. It’ll be the driving issue of this election, no question. And so, she was never a perfect pick.

What Ben Shapiro is talking to is not a group of people that were ready to leave Trump and go with Joe Biden. If you look at the selection, I mean, the menu of women he could have chosen from, if she loses some votes on the center right, she certainly picks up some votes on the center left and left when she can be, when people can persuade those people on Facebook that she was for Medicare For All early in her campaign. So, you look at the on balance net effect of her costing Joe Biden votes, or picking up Joe Biden votes.

Ben Shapiro and others attacking her voting record in the Senate, they were all going to be called liberals, liberals and socialists. Just as no matter who Trump would have with him, the left would always call radically too far right. That’s the way you play the game. But, I just don’t think on balance if you look at the amount of votes she can excite versus the amount that she might lose.

She said in the primary, “I am not a protectionist Democrat.” Very few of them stood up and said that in the Democrat primary. Democrats are now afraid to be, to support free trade. And so, she actually is this weird, maybe super liberal, maybe super moderate, maybe hard to define person more than she is in one of the camps, I think.

I think you’re absolutely right. It’s pretty surprising that the The Wall Street Journal had an article this morning about how big banks, generally, they did some interviews with the executives and senior leaders, they’re actually quite happy with Kamala Harris as the choice. This was surprising. But I do understand that she will be quite friendly to the banks and she is not this tear-down-the financial system kind of candidate.

Another thing, Henri, which is interesting, I’m not a student of her record on tech, but it’s rare to be antagonistic with those companies if you’re from California. Nancy Pelosi has just recently stepped out, right, because she’s the leader of the whole party as speaker, right. She really was the leading figure until Joe Biden was the nominee of the Democratic Party. And so, she has been stepping out to criticize Facebook. This is only recently. It was surprising, just like you found, I was stunned to see what JP Morgan had written about her before she was the pick. She doesn’t scare Wall Street and I don’t think she scares Silicon Valley that much either.

So, let’s imagine a future where Joe Biden and Kamala Harris do win, and let’s assume the Democrats also win the Senate. There are two kinds of pictures I have in my mind that have been portrayed to me by the right-of-center media.

So, the first version of the future is that, under Kamala Harris and Joe Biden, it’s going to be a radical, you could say, cultural, social revolution not seen since the 1960s with the leaders of the organization Black Lives Matter, for example, spearheading the charge for reparations and trillions of dollars in new taxes , a return to the urban decline of the 1970s, and the downfall of the suburb. 

But then there is the other one that says, that what Joe Biden has really campaigned on is a return to normalcy, or whatever that means, honestly, during these times. But, I think he means, return to the Obama-era incrementalism. Nothing extreme: let’s just return America’s standing to whatever it was, like multi-lateral organizations and America’s leadership in the world, and certainly join the Paris Climate Accords and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Do you have any take on which version of the future we would be more likely to see in terms of Democratic Party as the dominant party stating in 2020?

So, it’s interesting, I did a lot of work in the spring looking at what the policy agendas would be for a second term of Donald Trump or a Biden presidency. And I was really surprised to find that Republicans basically admitted that they knew that if they lost more seats, but Trump held on, they would have to do infrastructure, which they’ve opposed. Because of spending and deficits, that they would have to do a middle class tax cut and raise the corporate rate back a little bit and tax the wealthy because their tax cut was so unpopular they couldn’t run on it in 2018.

And that they would be doing some energy tax credits and planting trees and trying to talk about climate because they see it as a growing liability politically and they know they have to deal with it in the next few cycles, not this year. So, I’m sure the Biden Campaign has smoked out these areas on which people are not on the record, but maybe would come along to some cooperation.

I think you’re going to see a tax on the 1%. He’s been pretty open, just like you said, rejoin, renegotiate TPP, rejoin the Paris Climate Accords and some kind of ACA stabilization. So, immediately that would be a top goal would be to not do anything on… There is no Medicare For All. But, they want to stabilize the ACA, which is now going to be in court this fall. It could be completely dismantled and we’ll know the outcome of that later. But, that’s a top priority for Democrats. So, he is not looking for big changes.

The one area that I am so focused on is the filibuster, which is, we see President Obama at John Lewis’s funeral coming out, which I was really surprised that he did, opposing, saying it’s time to end the legislative filibuster. That is a huge move. I think it makes Joe Biden very uncomfortable. I’m sure he had the heads-up from Obama that he would say that. But, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will have to answer in the coming days and weeks whether or not they’re going to be willing to get rid of the filibuster.

I know that they both wouldn’t want to. I know that if they tried, they would get resistance from, let’s say, Governor Steve Bullock wins the Senate race and is the new senator from Montana. I don’t see him doing that. Joe Manchin from West Virginia, I don’t see him doing that, Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona. But, the pressure on a bill like the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to break the filibuster to pass that would be enormous. So, no Green New Deal, no Medicare For All, but the pressure on the Voting Rights Act would be enormous, more than police reform, more than… So, that will be the tell, is to watch what they’re willing to do with the filibuster.

Interesting. I’ve heard, especially in progressive circles and I know Ezra Klein talks about this a lot, that he views this as the most important legislative agenda item that progressives or the Democratic Party really has to get done. But, like you said, it’s politically complex. I can’t see Joe Manchin voting in favor of it.

Getting rid of the filibuster is a really bad idea, but I don’t put it past either party these days to do really stupid things.

Why do you think it’s a bad idea?

Because we’ve seen with the tax cut, which again, I want to remind your listeners that there was internal polling from the RNC in 2018 that leaked telling the members of Congress who were incumbent Republicans protecting their seats to not run on the tax cut because they had quote, “lost the messaging battle.” It was so unpopular. Look at Obamacare, how unpopular it was. The Democrats were on defense over it, and in 2010, a mid-term slaughter. 2012 Obama gets reelected, no congressional Democrat or senator running in that cycle in 2012 could mention Obamacare, 2014, a mid-term slaughter.

The tax cut and Obamacare are supremely toxic pieces of legislation that each party is so proud of coming together to pass. But, they were completely partisan bills that attracted no support from the other side. Nothing that isn’t bipartisan lasts. It all falls apart. And so, when you talk about incrementalism, that’s the only way that we can make progress, is not through radical sweeping regulations and bills that reorder sectors of the economy. Obamacare is now more popular than Donald Trump. The Democrats were on offense in 2018 on Obamacare. It is incredibly popular given it’s first, whatever, six years.

The idea of getting rid of the filibuster and never attracting support from the other side, again, never selling your ideas, just passing stuff that only appeals to a weak 42% of the country, I’ve covered way too many power shifts in Congress to feel that either party has a durable enough coalition for governing. We know that they don’t. As soon as they accept that this doesn’t work, we can start to solve problems. But, until and unless they do, doing things like eliminating the filibuster is just going to put us on the path to more gridlock and anarchy at this point.

But, you already touched on this earlier, but looking at the Republican Party and speaking of creating a lasting or durable coalition, if Trump is to lose, and let’s say, he loses by a significant margin as RCP polling average is suggesting now,  how will the Republican Party try to redefine itself? Is it going to still maintain the aspects of a Trump-lite and Trumpist populism, or are we going to see a shift back to maybe the Mitt Romney Party or John McCain, heck, even George W. Bush, fiscal conservatism, social conservatism as well, or are we, or is the party going to have to redefine itself? Obviously, it has to grow, I think, at least its demographic base just to start with. But, I’m curious, what are your thoughts there?

So, it’s the burning question. And it’s really a point of eternal fascination for me because I’ve covered politics since 1994, since the Republican Revolution that Newt Gingrich led and I’ve seen each party change so much, not only in their tactics, but in their make up in their coalitions. And they’ve both been so weakened by their, the politics and the paths that they’ve chosen. And the Republican Party is literally a wreck. It is on life support. And I think what you’ll see is a splintering.

The most dominant, I think, is likely to be the louder voices of the populace like Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton who are trying to inherit the Trump voter and the Trump mantle, anti-elites, anti-science, continuing all of this stuff. “We don’t need to listen to the center. The Bush family is a bunch of pro-education reform, pro-immigration sellout wimps.” That will imperil George P.’s career in Texas. There will be a serious reckoning and it’ll be brutal the way that people engage in crossfire out in the open, Ted Cruz’s assessment, Mitch McConnell’s assessment.

It’s not going to be really done a lot behind closed doors. I think it’s going to be out in the open. It’s happening behind closed doors now, but the, let’s return to normalcy, part of the party is too small and Mitt Romney can’t lead the way. And Larry Hogan is the only aspirant we think, my governor, in the 2024 field who’s in that camp of, you actually have to appeal to the other party to govern, you can win Black voters. It’s about results. It’s not about grievance and cultural wars.

So, it’ll be so interesting. Now, they’re coming around and they’re worried about the deficit. Now, they’re coming around and they’re worried about China. Really? Well, what’s their path out on the deficit after spending in the last three years? What is their China policy? We don’t really know. We just hear a lot of screaming. So, I can’t really tell you where it’s going. I just know there is going to be these camps, and I think that the more Trumpist camp will be bigger and louder, at least for the time being.

And this demographic question, there is not one demographic trend in the country that favors the Republican Party. They’re in a deep, deep, demographic hole. And after the mid-terms, you saw a bunch of women try to come together and privately tell Kevin McCarthy and others in the House leadership, “Look, we really need to recruit women. We’re bleeding women in this party and this is terrible.” And they went, “Yeah, yeah,” and they didn’t really take care of the problem. That conversation about women will be really interesting to me.

But, in terms of the next presidential field, that gets going right away if Trump goes down. And I do believe that there is just going to be a strong push to continue his style of politics and a focus on immigration that is so interestingly not even shared widely among his voters anymore. I mean, the support for DACA has never been higher. It’s just really interesting when you look at polling and you see how many Trump voters actually vote with the middle of the country on these issues that Trump ran on. Is the wall really going to be firing them up after the pandemic? I don’t know.

I don’t see Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz saying, “We need to bring the middle in. We need to bring women in. We need to rethink this. We need to think about governing norms. We need to think about what an attack on the judiciary and undermining the checks and balances with a separate and co-equal branch of government has done.” I just don’t think that we’re going to be hearing them talk that way.

What’s so interesting, and I want to give him credit, is Tim Carney from the Washington Examiner had a fascinating piece last November. I’ve actually quoted it a few times in my columns where he says that Trump has been so bad for the Republican Party. He’s destroyed it because he’s made Trump voters out of non-politically engaged non-voters who might have been Independent or Democrat or maybe reformer Democrats who used to vote, but he’s made Democrats out of a lot of Republican voters. And so, Republicans down ballot really suffer running with Trump.

And we’re going to see that when we look at the Senate majority on November 4th, or when the counting is done, right, because it’s not going to be November 4th. Because someone like Thom Tillis who was booed at a Trump rally is considered a RINO by many North Carolina voters who might go and vote only for Trump at the top of the ticket and leave the rest blank and not support Thom Tillis. So Thom Tillis, to survive, would have had to go into the middle of the coalition, into the purpleness of his state and reach out to Independents and Democrats and he’s not doing that, so he’s likely to lose.

And so, this conversation about what Trump did down the ballot will also be fascinating to me. I don’t think it’s something that Tom Cotton’s interested in having, a conversation he’s interested in having, but and Mike Pompeo and Mike Pence. I should’ve mentioned them. But, I do think that those are the needs that they need to address, demographic needs, the respect for governing norms and the illiberalism of Trump. And then also, just really electorally, what is a Trump voter? What did he do to the party? How do you grow the party to even, if you’re Tom Cotton or a Mike Pompeo, win in 2024? And so, those are the questions that I’ll be looking for the answers to.

Yeah, really interesting to hear you say that thing about the new Trump gave the Republican Party, the white working class, potentially union members in Appalachia or in the Midwest. But then also lost, you could say, a lot of the suburban votes, right, who were pretty consistent or Republican for a long time.

So, if Trump loses, is there a chance that the Hawleys and the future candidates of the populist right are going to be able to keep these blue collar white people on their side?

Right. Well, that’s what’s so interesting. They’ll have to assess whether or not those voters are focused on policy or culture wars, right. So, the Trump voter often has, maybe wasn’t engaged in policy, in politics before and goes to a rally. And when you interview them they say, “Space force, whatever he wants, I’m on board, the wall. It’s all exciting.” But, they’re not really appreciative of whether Trump repealed and replaced their healthcare and gave them something better and government subsidized and beautiful and perfect and special and everything he promised at the beginning. They don’t really want to go there. Or, they are a Trump voter who is disappointed the tax cut didn’t help their family, down that the factory never came back to their town, wants their healthcare to be stable and is leaving Trump.

It’s so interesting. What will be left? He’s bleeding veterans. He’s bleeding seniors. He’s bleeding white, non-college women. So, he’s bleeding people from his coalition because he didn’t fulfill his promises and they cared about policy. The ones who are left are likely to just be cultural, populist, grievance-based candidates who believe that the Democrats and the media are evil and just will destroy American. And that voting for anyone who will stop those people is the priority. That’s a very strong appeal on the populist right. That a lot of it is cultural. So, I just don’t know how much they will look at the losses and focus on the math and the addition versus trying to out Trump each other, right.

Let’s say, we, it’s after Thanksgiving and the votes have been counted and it’s over. You look at the scramble to be at the top of the field right away and I just think that they will be trying to grab whatever voters they can, whether they care about policy or culture wars, and they’ll be trying to outdo each other. It’ll be shocking to me if Mike Pompeo is going to try to accuse Ted Cruz of not being strong enough against Russia. I just don’t know what the policy debates are going to be. Are they going to talk about the deficit or healthcare, market-based health. It’s hard to know these days what they stand for. And I don’t say that lightly. That’s not the kind of sentence that would have come out of my mouth until now.

I’m moderating a panel next week during the convention. I’m speaking to former Republican members. And I sat down and I was like, “What…” It was just such a fascinating exercise to wonder what policy we’re going to talk about. Donald Trump has not articulated what he would do in another four years.

That’s right.

I mean, now, he’s promising grab bags of a capital gains tax and behind door number three, I’m going to give you a new refrigerator. It’s just a desperate scramble that he’s doing from the White House Briefing Room. He hasn’t thought it out and he doesn’t have a message for the next four years. It’ll be so interesting to see what the message is out of Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, all these people, Rick Scott, Ron DeSantis. I just don’t know that it’s going to be very policy-driven. And I don’t know that it’s going to be a way to appeal to young people, non-whites, women, suburban voters. I don’t know.

 I can speak from a perspective of young people that Trump doesn’t do himself that many favors, even among those who come from constitutional, conservative and Evangelical families. From people who are under 30, I can’t think of many who eagerly support Trump. 

Donald Trump is not remotely interested in the Constitution, and he’s pretty proud of the fact that he’s not remotely interested in the Constitution. He has authoritarian impulses. He’s not bound by rules, or books, or manuals, or dictates, or things that were written a long time ago. Those don’t get in his way. So, that discussion will be one of my favorites to watch.

I understand why Evangelical Christians support Donald Trump. They do it because they believe their whole life is disappearing and he is a vanguard, I mean, a bulwark against that. That’s completely understandable to me. That’s a transaction in politics that I can digest. It’s the other stuff, did he save manufacturing? No, we’re in a manufacturing recession. Did he give you your healthcare that he promised because Obamacare was so evil? No, it’s now more popular and he gave them nothing. I mean, these people need a safety net. He had a different coalition. They didn’t want to reform Social Security and Medicare. They weren’t interested in entitlement reforms. So, it’s just a complete jump ball, if you think about it, on policy, and it shouldn’t be.

Looking at the polls in particular, it looks like Donald Trump and Pence candidates are going to lose, potentially by a landslide. But, I’ve been speaking with people who are favorable to Trump and certainly will vote for him and even their response to that, it’s certainly not alarm. They tell me, “Hey, they said the same thing in 2016, Clinton was going to win. The pollsters, the elite pollsters, they don’t know anything. They live in their little coastal enclaves and only poll people.” What would you say to them?

Right, right. So, I’m glad you asked this question because when I give presentations, I always tell the audience even if… So, usually I get a question on polling and what happened in 2016. And then if I don’t, I make sure at the end that I try to finish with a quick message on polling, which is that, after Mitt Romney did really well in the debates and then suddenly surging nationally, it really didn’t matter if Republicans in Idaho suddenly woke up to be excited about him or some Republicans in New York, those states were decided. National polls are useless. So, these national polls that have Joe Biden up by 13, ignore them. They have nothing to do with nothing. These elections are decided in six, 10, four, seven, five states.

Donald Trump was elected president by 77,000 votes in three states. Two of which, Jill Stein’s margin was material to his win. In Michigan, 100,000 voters left the top blank. That’s how much they couldn’t stand Hillary and Donald Trump. That was an inside straight. His voters don’t want to accept that. They don’t want to believe that because some of the Midwest polling had Hillary holding.

Not every poll is perfect. You look at trends. You look at the battleground polls and you look at trends. So at RCP, go to our site and see that you’ll see an aggregate of North Carolina polls. We are not telling you the value of any one poll. We’re showing you trends and we’re showing averages. And that’s what you need to focus on.

Donald Trump’s weakness in all the battlegrounds he won in 2016 is a four alarm fire for him. It’s not one or two, it’s all of them. He has weakness in Georgia, in Arizona, in Texas, in Iowa. These are other alarm bells. And so, that’s a message to his voters that they shouldn’t be complacent. They should light themselves on fire, walk over coals to vote for him, round up their neighbors and friends, register unregistered voters, maybe the kids who’ve turned of age in their families, and take this seriously instead of reading his tweets where he lies and says, “I have the best polling going. It’s totally fine. 96% in the Republican Party,” and yesterday, “I’m doing great in all the swing states.” It’s ridiculous that he wants them to be complacent. He needs them to be energized.

And so, it’s fine that they live in a siloed media vortex where they’re getting disinformation and they’re not living in the real world. But, every poll doesn’t need to be perfect to tell you that polls are not votes and they weren’t in 2016. And I knew that Trump would win because I knew people hated Hillary, and they were for her in polling, but they would stay home that day. We don’t have that this year. The double haters pick Joe Biden by 40%. People are more energized than they were in 2016. That doesn’t mean Trump won’t win, but it means he has a lot of headway against him. And people need to be honest with themselves about what the trends in the polling say, and what the energy in the Democratic Party says, what the voter registration numbers are in those swing states.

Beto O’Rourke is running around Texas registering a lot of Latino and black voters. I mean, if the Republican Party loses 38 electoral votes in Texas, that’s the end. That’s the end. There is no way back in a national election. This is just something that I think the Trump Campaign, I know it’s really hard for them to convince their voters to run like they’re 10 points behind and get scared and get energized and engaged, but that’s what they should be doing no matter what the messenger is saying from the top. And Trump shoots himself in the face when he… He doesn’t live in reality. We know that. But, he’s not helping his own campaign, which has spent a billion dollars already to help him get re-elected by telling his voters, it’s all in the bag.

Now, I know he plans to tell them that it’s all rigged and he’s denigrating the post office and that any count that comes in after November 3rd, he will say is fraudulent. So, if he has a good Election Day vote because Republicans vote on Election Day, and then Biden’s city votes are coming in and swing states, important states like Florida and Arizona, those votes come later, Trump is going to say they’re illegitimate and he’s been robbed of the election. He’s told us that, that’s what he’s going to do in November. But, to tell his voters not to be energized and the polls are all wrong is wrong.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. She was ahead, technically, by three points nationally. National polls don’t matter. You’ve just got to look at what the operations are like on the ground in about five, six, seven states. And people have to spend money and resources there and they have to make sure their voters there are running scared. And if the Trump Campaign doesn’t take care of that, they’ve wasted a billion dollars.

That’s really fascinating. And on that point about denialism, that’s what I’m wondering when I speak to some Trump supporters. It doesn’t help you to lie to yourself. I don’t know if they genuinely believe that the polls are all fake and things are rosy, but I just think that from a position of self-interest, it’s actually good to be honest with the facts, just for the purposes of winning in November.

Regarding the pandemic: Donald Trump was behind Joe Biden and January, and he was behind Joe Biden in February. Sometimes in RCP, we average about the same stretch, six points nationally or whatever. If he had grabbed COVID-19 by the neck, he would be reelected by five points.

I mean, if he had said, “I am going to take care of you. I promised I’d always protect you. I’m going to mass produce tests and masks. I’m going to be so honest about this. This is scary stuff and we have to protect ourselves. The Chinese are evil, Wuhan,” whatever, but started on time and not been in the reality, in the denial that he still is in today, it would have been the biggest rescue, the biggest victory. Everyone would have come along. He did not have to destroy the economy. The path out was to hug Tony Fauci, hug reality and run scared and protect us. And that was going to reinvent Donald Trump, make him credible to people who never thought he was credible. Denying facts is, the truth will out. It always comes back to bite you.

I was thinking the same thing in February. Like, now here is Trump’s chance to prove to all the naysayers on the sidelines, and prove to them that, hey, he’s presidential. Everybody says, “Well, they like some of his policies and they don’t like the left, but they don’t think Trump is presidential.” If he just, I think, more or less kept his mouth shut, yielded to the experts and said, “Okay, now I’m going to let the experts run the show and I’m going to be a traditional American president during a time of crisis,” I think, I am just like you, I think he would’ve be in a really good standing right now, especially among those suburbanites and the educated voters particularly. But instead, he ran the other direction.

He still could’ve had those press conferences with the head of every company that he forced to mass produce stuff for us in the Rose Garden. I mean, he could’ve had a lot of shows.

A.B. Stoddard, it’s been wonderful having you here today with us. I personally learned a lot from your insights and this has been a great conversation. I hope to have you on again some time in the future.

Happy to join. Thank you so much.

 

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