What Matters: Time to vote, America

> 96 million people have already voted.

> 9.3 million people have been infected with Covid-19.

You can tell he’s nervous because he made the final moments of his reelection argument about excluding people’s votes from being counted.

We don’t know who will win this election, but we have already learned something very important about US politics in 2020, and that’s this: One party has been actively and openly trying to get people’s votes thrown out.

It is literally anti-democratic.

If this were being done quietly, it would be a scandal. Done out loud by the President, it has the veneer of policy. Or at least that’s the way it’s being treated. But it’s no less corrosive to people’s faith in the system.

Damn the torpedoes. I’ve been a little surprised not to feel more urgency from Democratic nominee Joe Biden or his campaign.

Former President Barack Obama was nailing three-pointers before a speech over the weekend. Biden was out with Lady Gaga in Pittsburgh. Those interludes felt like normal-year retail politics, regular get-out-the-young-vote moves at a time when the whole democratic system could be teetering. It’s clear that Biden is trying to project a steady hand when everyone’s shaking. Then again, this is the turnout portion of an election. It’s a few extra people in each neighborhood that make winners.

There’s a pit in my stomach tonight. I honestly wonder what comes next and I can’t shake the unease.

Will there be violence if Trump wins?

Will there be violence if Trump loses?

Cities, states and businesses have all been preparing for the possibility of civil unrest.
They’re erecting a “non-scalable fence” around the White House.

Coordinated attack. Trump’s warnings that any result that does not end with him in the White House must be “rigged” are working in tandem with Republican efforts to have hundreds of thousands of votes thrown out. Those efforts have faltered in key state and federal courts.

Too far. Not even the all-Republican Texas state Supreme Court or the Republican-appointed federal court judge were buying the argument of conservative activists and legislators that more than 100,000 votes cast at drive-in polling places should be invalidated. Details here.
Steve Vladeck, a CNN analyst and constitutional law professor at the University of Texas, ripped the lawsuits brought by Republicans in Texas and elsewhere. He argued in The Washington Post they were functionally about invalidating votes Republicans think will be damaging to them:

“Like so many 11th-hour voting-related suits filed by Republicans in recent weeks, this suit has almost nothing to do with voter fraud. Rather, it’s the latest in a consistent and cynical line of suits — in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, among others — that appear motivated by partisan gain, assuming that the exclusion of any set of ballots from Harris County, the third-largest in the country and one of Texas’s key Democratic strongholds, is good for Republicans.”

It’s the voters’ turn. Anything less than a blowout seems destined to be a legal battle. “I don’t think it’s fair that we have to wait for a long period of time after the election … We’re going in the night of — as soon as the election is over — we’re going in with our lawyers,” Trump promised.

Polling suggests Joe Biden is in the stronger spot. But polling deceived us four years ago. And if there are only two real options, either one could win. Make no mistake that come Wednesday (or later), we could be talking about Trump’s reelection.

Historical notes — Trump should be winning. Only three incumbent presidents in Trump’s lifetime have lost their bid for a second term. And Gerald Ford was never himself elected, so he gets a huge asterisk. That Trump is in a place of weakness, according to polls, is evidence, maybe, that division, discord and a failure to do even basic leadership like pushing mask mandates during a pandemic have turned voters off.

The other way to end an election — Today I watched the speech Ronald Reagan gave on Election Eve in 1980. It was, to my 2020 ears, incredibly hokey. But it was also hopeful. He sat in a chair and told Americans to believe in their ability to come together.

“Let us resolve they will say of our day and our generation that we did keep faith with our God, that we did act worthy of ourselves; that we did protect and pass on lovingly that shining city on a hill,” he said in closing.

Act worthy of yourself. Trump, for comparison, is tweeting his approval of a caravan of pickup trucks endangering a Biden campaign bus in Texas. And he’s trying to poison faith in elections to ward off the humility of a possible loss.
Read this from CNN’s Kevin Liptak, who spent the weekend on the campaign trail with Trump.
The Covid election and a changing US state — And read this from CNN’s Dan Merica, who spent time in Arizona’s key Maricopa County, trying to figure out how coronavirus and Trump’s leadership would affect his chances. He found a lot of people willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt despite the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have died.

What’s next? Both Trump and Biden wrapped up their arguments in Pennsylvania. It’s not a bad bet we’ll be talking about that state late into the night on Tuesday.

And if it’s not that close, that might be a good indicator of what’s to come.

But don’t expect a decision on election night. In Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, both key states, officials have said many ballots will not be fully counted. This thing, as we’ve said repeatedly, will take a while.

: What to watch in exit polls

I’m going to be watching exit polls and results on election night and try to identify themes about why either side won or lost and what it says about the country right now.

That said, I’m no polling expert. And exit polls are one of the most misunderstood tools in political journalism. They’re also among the first things we’ll hear about on election night.

So I’ll be leaning heavily on the people at CNN who are.

I asked Ryan Struyk, who does know quite a bit about polls and who normally works with Jake Tapper on the State of the Union staff, for his thoughts.

He sent over a lot more than I expected. I’ll put the entire guide below:

The exit polls will offer us some key clues about whether Trump or Biden are winning over the voters they need to clinch the White House. Here’s what I’m watching:

The key groups to watch for Trump:

  • White voters without a college degree: This group propelled Trump to the presidency four years ago, but now, Biden hopes to narrow the gap. Trump won White voters without a college degree by 31 points in Michigan, 32 points in Pennsylvania and 28 points in Wisconsin. Trump needs to try to hold those margins again.
  • White women: Pre-election polls suggest Trump is losing ground with this group, but he needs to stop the bleeding to have a fighting chance. A gaping gender gap could be fatal to Trump’s reelection bid. Trump won White women by 9 points in 2016.
  • Independent voters: Independent voters haven’t given either candidate a double-digit advantage in more than 30 years. Could Biden break the streak? Trump narrowly won independent voters by 4 points in 2016, and he’ll need to keep things close with this group to win again.

The key groups to watch for Biden:

  • Seniors: Trump won voters over 65 years old by 7 points in 2016, but amid a pandemic that is disproportionately killing older Americans, Biden may win them back in key states like Florida. Plus, Trump won White seniors by 19 points. Can Biden break even?
  • Trump-to-Biden voters and former third party voters: How many former Trump voters can Biden convince to cross party lines? In a tight race, even picking off 5-10% of them could make a difference. Plus, almost 6% of voters went third party in 2016. Where will they fall now?
  • White voters with a college degree: One of the big surprises of 2016 came when White voters with a college degree backed Trump by 3 points. Polls suggest they will likely go for Biden in 2020, but Biden needs to run up the score, especially among college-educated women.
  • Black and Latino voters, especially men: Trump has been pushing to make inroads with Black and Latino men, where even a small shift could help make up losses with other groups. Hillary Clinton won Black men by 69 points and Latino men by 31 points in 2016.

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