Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Rasmussen Poll: Trump Opponents Don’t Care Who Runs Against Him

Rasmussen tends to be one of the more Trump-friendly pollsters so when they deliver a warning shot the Administration, Republicans should pay attention. That is the case with a new poll released today that helped to explain why Trump’s attacks on Joe Biden are not taking gaining ground.
The new Rasmussen poll found that 44 percent of voters are likely to vote for President Trump while 51 percent say that they plan to vote against him. Remember that, at seven points down, this is one of the better polls for Trump. The Real Clear Politics average currently gives Biden an 8.7-point advantage with many polls showing the Democratic challenger with a double-digit lead. Trump has not led in a poll since February and there has not been a tie since April.
When the Biden votes are considered more closely, 63 percent said that there vote was more against Trump than for another candidate. Only 32 percent said that their vote was intended to be for the challenger. This is good news for Democrats and presents a challenge for Republicans.
While Joe Biden was the overwhelming choice of Democratic primary voters, polling shows that many voters have reservations about him. Last week, another Rasmussen poll found that 38 percent of voters think Biden has dementia. That includes 20 percent of Democrats.
Yet, the astounding truth is that a candidate who is widely believed to be suffering from dementia is holding an average nine-point lead over the incumbent president. The two polls can be explained by the intense dislike for President Trump from a majority of voters. Even Rasmussen’s Trump approval index shows the president 10 points underwater (which is better than the 14.8-point deficit in the Real Clear Politics average).
Team Biden seems to have made the right choice (or perhaps the pandemic made it for them) in keeping the Biden campaign as a low-key affair. If Joe Biden stays out of sight, he can’t make any (or at least as many) embarrassing gaffes.
Meanwhile, the Democrats just have to bide their time until November as Donald Trump destroys himself and the Republican Party on a daily basis. The Trump Administration faces three simultaneous crises in the pandemic, its associated economic problems, and the racial divide. The president is not handling any of these crises well.
Pew polling gives an edge to Biden on every issue except the economy. Even there, Trump has lost ground and now clings to a bare, two-point majority in the Real Clear Politics average.
The verdict is in: Voters don’t like Trump. Of course, that isn’t really news since he lost the popular vote in 2016 even as he won the election. The news flash is that the more voters see of Donald Trump, the less they seem to like him.
The best-case scenario would be if the Trump campaign could adopt the Democratic tactic of being neither seen nor heard. Unfortunately for the GOP, that is much more difficult to accomplish for a sitting president in a time of crisis than it is for his challenger. In any case, Donald Trump is a man who is as unable to stay out of the limelight as he is to change his behavior.
I wrote back in March, “The good news for Republicans is that the focus has been on Donald Trump. The bad news is that the focus has been on Donald Trump.” That has proven to be true. With the multiple crises keeping President Trump at the forefront of the news, voters are not liking what they see and are voting with their feet as they move to support Biden.
The problem is simple. The solution is not. What are Republicans to do with the most unpopular incumbent of the last half-century, a man who not only threatens to cost the party the White House but control of the Senate as well?
I could point out that the Republican convention has not formally anointed Trump as the party’s standard-bearer yet, but it wouldn’t do any good. Republicans had their chance to dump Trump back in January and didn’t take it. By November, they will probably wish they had.
Originally published on The Resurgent

Today Was A Good Day For Religious Liberty At The Supreme Court

In a long-awaited decision, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor in a case that dates back to the Obama Administration’s controversial contraception mandate. The Court found that the Administrative Procedures Act did not conflict the with the Court’s previous ruling that established two interim rules for answering religious exemption questions.
The first rule held that church exemptions were expanded to include an employer who “objects . . . based on its sincerely held religious beliefs,” “to its establishing, maintaining, providing, offering, or arranging [for] overage or payments for some or all contraceptive services.” The second rule established a “similar ‘moral exemption’ for employers with sincerely held moral objections to providing some or all forms of contraceptive coverage.”
The 7-2 decision was authored by Clarence Thomas and joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh. Justice Kagan authored a concurring opinion which, was joined by Justice Breyer. Justice Ginsburg’s dissent was joined by Sotomayor.
The ruling is a good one and was not unexpected. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act requires the government to use the least intrusive means when religious freedom must be limited for the public good. It is difficult to argue that the needs of the nation require that Catholic nuns, who take a vow of chastity, must buy health insurance with birth control, which is against their longstanding religious beliefs.
It turned out to be a really good day for religious liberty at the Supreme Court because the Little Sisters ruling was followed by another favorable decision in Our Lady of Guadalupe School. This case asked whether religious schools could terminate employees using the “ministerial exception” even if they did not hold a ministerial job title.
The Court ruled that religious school teachers are ministers even if they do not hold a job title that includes the word “minister.” The ruling, written by Justice Alito, noted that teachers at religious schools “performed vital religious duties, such as educating their students in the Catholic faith and guiding their students to live their lives in accordance with that faith” and that the “schools expressly saw them as playing a vital role in carrying out the church’s mission.”
Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas, Breyer, Kagan, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh joined Alito in another 7-2 decision. Justices Thomas filed concurrences, which was joined by Justice Gorsuch. Justice Sotomayor was joined in her dissent by Justice Ginsburg.
The Guadalupe ruling was also a good one. It is axiomatic that religious institutions should be able to exercise control over who they employ in positions of leadership and instruction.
Other rulings are still to come. These include the eagerly-awaited decisions on President Trump’s tax returns.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Brian Kemp Strikes Back

After a string of violence in Atlanta over Independence Day weekend in which an eight-year-old girl was murdered, Gov. Brian Kemp has called out the National Guard to assist in restoring order. Kemp issued an emergency order on Monday that authorized the deployment of 1,000 soldiers to protect state buildings.
Over the holiday weekend, four people were killed and rioters attacked the Department of Public Safety building which houses the headquarters for the Georgia State Patrol with rocks, spray paint, fireworks, and a “homemade grenade.” Among the dead in the city was eight-year-old Secoriea Turner, who was shot and killed when a “group of armed individuals” attacked her mother’s car near the burned-out Wendy’s where Rayshard Brooks was killed by police last month.
“Peaceful protests were hijacked by criminals with a dangerous, destructive agenda. Now, innocent Georgians are being targeted, shot, and left for dead,” Kemp told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “This lawlessness must be stopped and order restored in our capital city.”
The National Guard will be deployed to three locations around Atlanta: The State Capitol, the Governor’s mansion, and the Department of Public Safety building. The capitol and its grounds are home to many relics and statues of Georgia’s Confederate era, which have attracted the attention of vandals and protesters.
Kemp issued another Executive Order in late May at the height of the riots that allowed 1,500 Guardsmen to help Atlanta police patrol the city. The governor’s office said that the deployment was at the request of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Bottoms, who recently tested positive for Coronavirus, denied that such a request was ever made.
“The irony of that is I asked Governor Kemp to allow us to mandate masks in Atlanta and he said no,” Bottoms said Tuesday. “But he has called in the National Guard without asking if we need the National Guard.”
Other Democrats criticized Kemp for not going far enough in deploying the troops to protect a limited number of state buildings. State Sen. Nikema Williams, head of the state Democratic Party, said, “His choice to deploy National Guard troops for today’s selfish purpose is outrageous and will endanger lives.”
The AJC reports that at least 93 people have been shot in Atlanta between May 31 and June 27, a time period that roughly spans the first month of the George Floyd protests. That number is approximately double the same time period from 2019.
Even Mayor Bottoms admits that the situation is out of control, saying earlier this week, “This random wild, Wild West shoot-‘em-up because you can, has gotta stop. It has to stop.”
The most basic duty of a city government is to protect its citizens from criminals and violent predators. Mayor Bottoms and the City of Atlanta have failed to do that. The mayor received high marks for her speech on May 31 condemning the rioting, but, more than a month later, violent crime is still high and police morale is very low due to both the anti-police movement and the pandemic.
Kemp is justified in calling out the National Guard. The situation in Atlanta is clearly out of control. I would tend to agree with those who argue that the deployment does not go far enough. If the Atlanta Police Department is unable or unwilling to restore order and protect both state buildings and Georgia’s citizens then the governor has a duty to take action to protect the citizens of his state.
Peaceful protests should be protected but the government needs to crack down on those who are committing violence against innocent Georgians or their property.
Originally published on The Resurgent

Florida Mandates School Reopenings

There is a nationwide debate on whether students should return to school this fall in the midst of the pandemic. The question is all the more difficult to answer because the curve of virus cases had seemed to be flattened a few weeks ago, but now is surging higher once again. In Florida, however, the decision has already been made. Schools will reopen in August for all students.
Tallahassee’s WTXL reports that Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has issued an Executive Order that mandates that all of Florida’s public K-12 schools will reopen in August. The order requires that schools open for all students for five days per week and provide all required services.
“Upon reopening in August, all school boards and charter school governing boards must open brick and mortar schools at least five days per week for all students, subject to advice and orders of the Florida Department of Health, local departments of health, Executive Order 20-149 and subsequent executive orders,” Corcoran said in the order, which also mandates that schools provide “the full array of services that are required by law so that families who wish to educate their children in a brick and mortar school have the opportunity to do so.”
The full text of the order is available on the Florida DOE website here.
The Executive Order came almost simultaneously with a tweet from President Trump that succinctly exclaimed, “Schools must reopen in the fall!” The move also came on a day in which Florida reported 7,361 new cases and three deaths. The state not only has an increasing number of cases but an increasing rate of positive tests.
While many will applaud Florida’s move to mandate that kids get back to school, in a pandemic whose effects vary greatly by region, a one-size-fits-all solution from state governments makes as little sense as a one-size-fits-all solution from the federal government. COVID-19 has so far hit urban areas much harder than rural areas. Different approaches to localities that are subject to different levels of risk and different rates of infection would seem an appropriate solution.
For example, Miami has been hard-hit by the pandemic. Dade County was responsible for 28 percent of Florida’s new cases yesterday. The situation is deemed to be so serious there that Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued a new order this week closing dining rooms and bars beginning on Wednesday. The Sun-Sentinel reports that Broward and Palm Beach Counties may soon make similar moves.
On the other hand, rural Okeechobee County in central Florida reported only 12 new cases on July 6, 0.001 percent of the state total. The two counties obviously are having different experiences of the pandemic. It stands to reason that their responses could be different.
Dr. Fauci acknowledged this as well. Speaking to CNBC last week, Fauci said, “When you’re talking about getting back to a degree of normality and school openings and things like that, it’s always related to the level of activity of the virus.” 
Fauci noted that the question of whether schools should reopen had “a bit of a complicated answer, because the United States is a large country.”
One size does not fit all.
The seriousness of whether to reopen is underscored by the story of Carsyn Leigh Davis, a 17-year-old girl from Fort Myers, Florida who died after attending a church party with about 100 other youths. Masks were not worn at the party and social distancing was not enforced. To make matters worse, Carsyn, who was immunocompromised due to childhood cancer and other health issues, was not taken to the hospital for almost a week after showing symptoms of Coronavirus. Instead, her parents treated her at home with hydroxychloroquine. She died 13 days after the party.
There are loopholes in the Florida mandate. The Order contains an exception that makes it “subject to advice and orders of the Florida Department of Health [and] local departments of health” as well as gubernatorial orders. While local school boards cannot unilaterally decide to keep their schools closed or turn to online classes, they can do so if the local health department or government decides that in-person classes are dangerous.
The Order also does not prohibit online classes or mandate attendance. The Order stipulates that schools may provide “live synchronous or synchronous instruction with the same curriculum as in-person instruction and the ability to interact with a student’s teacher and peers as approved by the Commissioner of Education.” The Order does not address how schools should handle immunocompromised students (or teachers) or parents who are concerned about the health risks of sending their children back to school in the midst of a pandemic.
One of the keys to public health and safety in the midst of a pandemic is flexibility. Corcoran’s Executive Order clearly communicates a preference from the state government that schools reopen for in-person classes next month, but it does leave loopholes for local governments and concerned parents to opt out. Given Florida’s state of rising Coronavirus cases, those exemptions should be more explicit and local school boards should be given more autonomy to decide what is best for their students and faculty.
Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Why Is The Stock Market Increasing While The Economy Contracts?

Alot is going on the economy these days, but one thing that has been fairly consistent, at least since the end of March, is that the stock market has been clawing its way back toward the pre-pandemic highs. With much economic news that is decidedly mixed, why is the stock market doing so well?
Back in February, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was flirting with the $30,000 level. A few short weeks later, the Dow bottomed out 18,591 on March 23. Now, despite the pandemic, the ravaged economy, and racial unrest, the Dow has regained much of that lost ground. Trading has often been turbulent, but the Dow closed yesterday (today is a market holiday) at 25,827, which is only about 12 percent below its high for the year and up 92.39 for the week.
As with many things, there is no single answer for why the stock market is booming while the rest of the economy is hurting. One immediate factor is that this week’s jobs report was better than expected, which encouraged investors.
Job losses in March hit record highs but the return to work has also been historically swift. The June jobs report showed that 4.8 million jobs were created last month, which was much better than expected. The unemployment rate fell by 2.2 points to 11.1 percent. Despite the fact that the unemployment rate is 7.6 points higher than February, the June numbers are an improvement over the depths of March and April.
There are other factors at work as well. Not all companies are equally vulnerable to the pandemic and the associated economic decline. Travel companies, such as hotels and airlines, have suffered while other types of companies are better able to weather the storm. As with other areas of life, size also matters in pandemic economics.
“Large companies have fallen much less than smaller companies. It is likely that as a result of this crisis the strong will get stronger … and so the stock market is reflecting that in its relative valuation,” Peter Orszag, Financial Advisory CEO at Lazard and former OMB director under Obama, told CNBC in May.
Others point to the fact that the computers that do much of the trading are not as emotional as their human counterparts. News reports of rioting across the country can make individual investors tuck tail but not the algorithms at the big trading houses.
“The market always seems heartless, without any emotion, without caring, without empathy. But that’s the nature of the market,” Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial, said on CNBC. “The algorithms almost certainly have no shred of empathy. They’re not supposed to.”
Still, sometimes news does trigger a run on the markets. Often, however, this is economic news such as jobs reports or geopolitical events such as attacks on oil facilities in the Middle East.
An additional factor this year was the government’s economic impact payments. These “stimulus checks” started going out in April as part of the CARES Act. With few places open to spend the money, many consumers put the windfall into the stock market.
An analysis of bank transfers in March and April by software and data company Envestnet Yodlee found that stock trading ranked third behind increasing savings and cash withdrawals as a use for the government funds. The analysis, which was reported in CNBC, found that the government payments increased spending by 81 percent and that trading stocks, which include contributions to 401k and IRA plans, was among the most common uses for the funds at nearly every income level.
One effect of pouring so much money into the stock market would be increased demand. And, as any ECON 101 student can tell you, when demand increases, so do prices.
Even though the stock market has proven resilient so far, there are warning signs. Much economic data, such as the June jobs report, is backward-looking. Even though jobs were created in May and June as much of the country reopened, the report does not reflect the potential layoffs that may be occurring as I write this due to the resurgence of the virus in many areas around the country.
The pandemic is not over yet. Coronavirus will not cease to affect the economy until either the disease runs its course or a viable treatment and/or vaccine is developed. As a result of COVID flare-ups, there will be economic ups and downs for the foreseeable future, but, over the long term, the stock market has proven to be a good investment. That is most likely true in 2020 as well.
Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, July 3, 2020

How Badly Do Republicans Want To Keep Losing?

As Donald Trump lurches toward what appears to be a landslide loss this November, many Republicans are already looking towards 2024. Even if the president ekes out another Electoral College victory, he will term-limited in four years and the party will need another standard-bearer to carry on the Trump legacy. Many in the GOP are looking towards Fox News personality Tucker Carlson as that candidate.
Politico interviewed 16 prominent Republicans who said that there was an “emerging consensus” that Carlson would “be formidable” if he decided to run. Carlson’s monologues are popular within the Republican Party, his show is currently the most-watched cable news program ever, and his friendship with Donald Trump, Jr. might be parlayed into valuable Trump endorsement.
“He’s a talented communicator with a massive platform. I think if he runs he’d be formidable,” Luke Thompson, a Republican strategist who worked for Jeb Bush’s super PAC in 2016, said of Carlson in the Politico piece.
“Let me put it this way: If Biden wins and Tucker decided to run, he’d be the nominee,” said Sam Nunberg, a 2016 campaign advisor to Donald Trump. However, Nunberg is skeptical that Carlson would leave his lucrative television career for politics.
Like Trump, Carlson has no political experience and has never run for office. Like Trump, many people believe that he is unlikely to give up his private-sector career for a political campaign. Not so fast, says Rich Lowry of National Review.
“No one can dismiss this and say it’s completely implausible.” Lowry told Politico. “There is at the very least a significant faction within the Republican Party that [Carlson] has a huge stake in and arguably leadership over,” adding, “If he has political ambitions, he has an opening. He has a following and a taste for controversy. He’s smart, quick on his feet and personable. Political experience matters less than it once did.”
Indeed, Carlson, who is a strong Trump supporter, would be a lot like Trump Part Deux. The question for Republicans is whether the country would be willing to take a chance on another amateur rabble-rouser after its failed experiment with Donald Trump. Like Trump, Carlson is a figure who is mostly popular within the Republican Party and Fox News watchers, rather than the moderates and independents who decide elections.
Through a fluke of the Electoral College, that base was enough to eke out a victory in 2016 against a historically bad Democratic candidate. It looks increasingly likely that the mix will not be enough to defeat a slightly less bad candidate in 2020 or in 2024 when Democrats might finally pick a competent and lucid politician.
Like Trump, Carlson is not a traditional Republican. I’ve criticized Carlson in these pages in the past for sounding like a Democrat himself, for praising Elizabeth Warren‘s anti-corporate rants, and for propagating conspiracy theories that the World Health Organization was planning to use the pandemic as an excuse to send armed squads to break up families (yes, seriously). In a healthy Republican Party, Carlson’s monologues would be seen as the rantings of a crazy person, not a potential frontrunner.
My prediction is that Donald Trump will lose big this November. If intelligent people still run the Republican Party and make up its voter base, they will change course and run far away from people like Tucker Carlson and the Trumps, who preach to a shrinking choir and write off ever-larger swaths of the electorate as unwinnable.
After Mitt Romney’s loss to Barack Obama in 2012, the Republican Party commissioned an after-action report to find out what went wrong and what the party could do better. Among the recommendations from that 2013 report were that the party should reach out to minorities and gays, embrace immigration reform, and eliminate the echo chamber in which Republicans largely talk to themselves. Then in 2016, the party went completely in the other direction when it threw in its lot with Donald Trump.
The bargain worked in the short-term with a victory over Hillary Clinton but the party paid the price in 2018. Another installment seems likely to be due this year.
The bottom line is that Republicans have to do better at winning minority votes. Trump won in 2016 despite winning only eight percent of blacks and 28 percent of Hispanics per Roper exit polling, but that victory, in which the Democrats won the popular vote, is going to become increasingly harder to replicate.
The simple reason is that the share of white voters is declining. In 2016, white voters made up 70 percent of the electorate compared with 81 percent in the 2000 election.
There are two ways to deal with that changing reality. One is to become a “big tent” party while the other is to double-down on rallying the base and trying to preserve the white majority through restrictive immigration policies. So far, the GOP has chosen the second option.
An alarming statistic is that Mitt Romney won a larger (47.2) percentage of the vote when he lost than Donald Trump did (46.1) when he won the 2016 election. The GOP was hemorrhaging voters even when Trump won by a fluke. That’s no way to build a political party in the long term.
After the Republican Party loses this November, there will be time for soul-searching and recriminations, just as there were after Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012. The lessons of the 2013 report are still waiting to be acted upon. Maybe Republicans will heed that advice in 2024. Or maybe they will nominate Tucker Carlson.
Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Fauci: US Could See 100,000 New COVID Cases Per Day

Afew weeks ago it seemed that the US had Coronavirus whipped. A lot has changed since then.
One of the changes is that Dr. Anthony Fauci of the Coronavirus Task Force has reemerged. Fauci testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Tuesday, telling lawmakers that the US was “going in the wrong direction” on the pandemic.
“We are now having 40-plus thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around and so I am very concerned,” Fauci said, reported by CNN.
Fauci blamed both the widespread protests and the fact that people were disregarding mitigation guidelines in areas that had reopened for the sharp increase in new cases.
“We’re going to continue to be in a lot of trouble, and there’s going to be a lot of hurt if that does not stop,” Fauci said.
When asked if the pandemic was under control, Fauci answered, “I am not satisfied with what’s going on because we are going in the wrong direction if you look at the curves of the new cases, so we’ve really got to do something about that and we need to do it quickly.”
“Clearly we are not in total control right now,” he added.
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, singled out young Americans, saying, “It is critical that we all take the personal responsibility to slow the transmission of Covid-19 and embrace the universal use of face coverings. Specifically, I’m addressing the younger members of our society, the Millennials and the Generation Zs — I ask those that are listening to spread the word.”
“We recommend masks for everyone on the outside, anyone who comes into contact in a crowded area,” Redfield said. “You should avoid crowds where possible and when you’re outside and not have the capability of maintaining distance, you should wear a mask at all times.”
The resurgent outbreak is a trend for much of the nation. CNN reports that 36 states (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming) have reported increases of at least 10 percent over the past week. Only two states, New Jersey and Rhode Island, have reported an average daily decline of more than 10 percent.
The increase is not merely due to increased testing. Many of the hot spots are reporting an increased positivity rate for testing as well as increased hospitalizations. In Texas, one of the factors in delaying reopening was the fact that the state was nearing maximum capacity for its ICU beds.
The serious nature of the situation is underscored by the reversal of reopening policies in several Republican states. Arizona, Florida, and Texas are among at least 18 states and cities where reopening has been paused. States with Democratic governors such as North Carolina and California are also experiencing surges in new cases that have led to the decision to suspend reopening plans.
On Monday, Georgia’s Brian Kemp became the latest governor to reverse his reopening plans and extend the Peach State’s state of emergency. The two executive orders extend the testing and health procurement rules, which were set to expire on June 30, through August 11 and extend social distancing guidelines through at least July 15.
In a split from President Trump, Vice President Pence appeared in a mask over the weekend and urged Americans to follow suit, saying, “Wearing a mask is just a good idea and we know, from experience, will slow the spread of the Coronavirus.” The president has yet to wear a mask in public or advocate that his supporters do so.
The pandemic’s effect on the economy is becoming an election issue. A new Gallup poll this week found that President Trump’s rating on the economy had fallen by 16 points since January. While the president is not responsible for the onset of the pandemic, he is responsible for the Administration’s reaction to it. President Trump has long been a major proponent of quickly reopening the country.
Even before the recent uptick in cases, the US had the highest acknowledged number of Coronavirus cases and deaths in the world. On a per capita basis, the US ranked ninth in terms of deaths and and 12th in cases per Worldmeters.
At this point, many or most Americans on both sides of the political spectrum seem to have discarded mitigation strategies of social distancing and masks. It makes no difference to the virus whether it is transmitted by leftist protesters, conservatives at church or in businesses, or millennial partiers. The science is the same.
It is no longer clear whether Americans have the will to continue the inconveniences of social distancing and wearing masks. Given the broad spread of the virus, it may be too late to contain the outbreak even if we redouble our efforts. The United States may be about to experience the worst of both worlds with an economic recession paired with an out-of-control plague.
Originally published on The Resurgent