All shook up
If a double-digit deficit versus Joe Biden isn't daunting enough for President Donald Trump, there are other numbers in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal this week that show why the odds against a comeback are looking long with the election 3½ months away.
According to the poll, 50% of voters don't just disapprove of Trump, but they strongly disapprove. Fifty percent say there is no chance at all they will vote for him. Fifty-two percent, in a separate question, say they’re “very uncomfortable” about Trump's candidacy. As for his opponent, the no-way-Joe figure is at 37%.
A CNN analysis of recent polling finds slices of Trump's base are peeling off over his handling of the coronavirus crisis. Gallup said its polling since January has shown a dramatic shift in voters identifying as Democrats: What was a 2-point Republican advantage is now an 11-point Democratic advantage.
For all of Trump's attacks on "fake polls," Wednesday's shake-up at Trump 2020, replacing campaign manager Brad Parscale with Bill Stepien, makes it as clear as it can be that the president knows he's in trouble. What doesn't change is that whoever has the manager title, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner is calling the shots, which isn't soothing Republicans' anxieties, The Associated Press reports.
Trump is still groping unsteadily for a strategy in a pandemic era that has taken away economic good times and the rallies that pump him up. He has yet to present a focused rationale and agenda for reelection, other than to try to scare voters into thinking that Biden will wreck the country.
Republican fears continue to grow that the president's penchant for self-sabotage will take him and the party down in November, The Washington Post reports. "He just doesn’t seem to fully understand what people are talking about or worrying about,” said Amy Koch, a Republican and former majority leader of the Minnesota Senate.
Another campaign-like speech from the Rose Garden — with a handpicked audience to applaud him — on Thursday devolved into some of Trump's moldier rally shtick, such as gripes about low-flow shower heads and faucets. But he promised that he'll be announcing "many exciting things" over the next eight weeks, "things that nobody has even contemplated, thought about, thought possible," with "levels of detail" and "levels of thought that a lot of people believed very strongly we didn't have in this country."
Lowering their sights — and sounds
With the Mets experimenting with fake crowd noise at Citi Field, will the GOP be tempted to try it out too? The Republican National Committee announced Thursday that it is sharply restricting attendance on three of the four nights of its convention in Jacksonville, Florida, next month.
Only the roughly 2,500 regular delegates to the convention would be permitted to attend the first three nights. Delegates, their guests and alternate delegates would be allowed for the final night, Aug. 27, when Trump is set to deliver his nomination acceptance speech.
That could build a crowd of 6,000 or 7,000 for the fourth night, The Washington Post writes — still less than half the capacity of the indoor arena that had been slated as the venue. Decisions are still pending on which events will be held indoors or outdoors, where options include an 11,000-seat minor league ballpark and a 65,000-seat football stadium.
Democrats' stay-at-home convention
Democratic officials are instructing House and Senate members and party delegates to skip attending their national convention in mid-August, a sign of the ever-diminishing aspirations for their big campaign event, The New York Times reported.
It means little will happen at the physical convention site in Milwaukee beyond speeches from Biden, his vice-presidential nominee and a handful of other top party leaders.
“We have been working closely with state and local public health officials, as well epidemiologists, and have come to the hard decision that members of Congress should not plan to travel to Milwaukee,” Chasseny Lewis, a senior adviser to the convention committee, wrote in an email to congressional aides. “No delegates will travel to Milwaukee and Caucus and Council meetings will take place virtually.”
Janison: Sour taste on ethics
This tempest over Goya beans may amount to one of Trump's sillier exhibitions, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. But it also underlines what the president does and does not take seriously as his term of office unspools.
To clap back at Latino activists' call for a boycott of the food company after its CEO hailed Trump at the White House, the president's daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump posted a photo of herself, in the manner of Vanna White, displaying a can of Goya black beans.
The U.S. Office of Government Ethics' conflict-of-interest guidelines say clearly that executive-branch employees may not endorse a product. But the Trump administration gets away with never taking that sort of thing seriously.
Counselor Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act numerous times by denouncing Democratic candidates while in her official capacity, according to Trump's own monitor. Conway reacted with disdain, and Trump backed her up.
Trump did his own pose with an assortment of Goya products, sporting the same grin from behind a taco bowl in his famous 2016 Cinco de Mayo photo, which also was prompted by his Latino animus. Trump that year baselessly accused the judge presiding over the Trump University fraud case of being biased strictly because he was of Mexican descent.
Biden catching up on cash
New fundraising figures from the end of June show the Biden campaign doubled its cash-on-hand since April while slashing Trump’s advantage to $53 million, just a third of what it was at the end of May, Forbes reports.
Biden campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon credited "the power of our grassroots donors," but Forbes counted at least 36 billionaires and their spouses who gave six-figure donations to committees supporting Biden and the Democratic National Committee.
Not surprisingly on the list were the longtime big Democratic financiers George Soros and Jim Simons and the assortment of tech CEOs who pitched in. But Biden and Democrats also scored big with a scion of the family that has thrown the weight of its media empire behind Trump. Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch's son James Murdoch and his wife, Kathryn Murdoch, have contributed more than $2 million to the Democrats.
James is the more liberal of Murdoch's sons, and he told The New Yorker last year that there are "periods" of time when he and his father do not talk. Rupert Murdoch's wife, Jerry Hall, sent a $500 check to Biden's campaign in May after previously donating $1,000 to Pete Buttigieg in the Democratic primary.
Pentagon trying not to trigger Trump
Defense Department officials who want to ban the display of Confederate flags at military facilities are looking for ways to do it without provoking Trump, who rejects the notion that it's an offensive symbol.
The idea, The Associated Press reports, is to ban the Confederate flag without saying its name. Instead, a new policy would list the types of flags that may be displayed at military installations and just leave out the Confederate flag.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper discussed the new plan with senior leaders this week, triggering some bewilderment over the lack of an appetite for a straightforward ban on divisive symbols, the report said.
An apparent sticking point is whether the military services will be allowed to develop their own more stringent policies on what they consider to be divisive symbols, and whether the policy will state that or leave it unsaid.
Game changer for Chuck Woolery
A Trump retweet earlier this week elevated a conspiracy rant by former game show host Chuck Woolery, who denounced "outrageous lies" about the pandemic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most doctors, the media and Democrats. Woolery saw a plot for "keeping the economy from coming back."
Woolery has since announced that his son has tested positive for COVID-19. “To further clarify and add perspective, Covid-19 is real and it is here. My son tested positive for the virus, and I feel for of those suffering and especially for those who have lost loved ones," Woolery tweeted. His account has since been deleted.
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's reporting staff, written by Bart Jones. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- Trump is planning in early August to do an in-person fundraiser in the Hamptons, according to a tweet from The New York Times' Maggie Haberman.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi likened Trump's handling of the coronavirus crisis to “a man who refuses to ask for directions” because he won't heed the advice of scientists. She elaborated: "The scientists have the answers. We know that testing, tracing, treating, distancing, masking, sanitation can stop the spread of this virus. And yet the president continues to go down the wrong path."
- Mary L. Trump told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow that she's heard her uncle Donald use the N-word and anti-Semitic slurs. "I don’t think that should surprise anybody, given how virulently racist he is today," she said of the president. She also said in a Washington Post interview that such language was "sort of normal" around her grandparents' family. Publisher Simon & Schuster said 950,000 copies of Mary's book were snapped up on its first day on sale.
- The Trump administration is moving to dramatically curtail "socially responsible" investments, an area of growing interest in recent years because of climate change, CBS News reports. The Department of Labor is proposing a rule change for employee retirement plans to require administrators to consider only the financial return an investment offers — not other factors, such as its environmental impact.
- The White House’s presidential personnel office is conducting one-on-one interviews with health officials and hundreds of other political appointees across federal agencies in what some of the subjects called “loyalty tests,” Politico reports.
- Kanye West filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to declare himself an official candidate for president. So have 1,144 other people, The New York Times notes.