Electoral Math -- No Sympathy Polling Bump For Trump

[ Posted Monday, October 12th, 2020 – 17:58 UTC ]

It's Monday, so it is time once again to take a look at the state-level polling for the presidential race. I have to point out as a reminder, right up front, that no matter what the national-level polling shows, it simply does not matter to how we actually elect our presidents, as both Al Gore and Hillary Clinton can easily attest to. This is why I never even mention these numbers in this column series.

Instead, I pay very close attention to the charts provided by the wonderful site, which allows me to chart over time exactly how the race is shaping up -- in the Electoral College. In fact, it continues to astonish me how many other poll-watchers don't even bother to look closely at the only real way to view the state of the race we have, but that's a subject for another day.

Last week's polling was the first to reflect an event which happened over a week ago now -- President Donald Trump announcing he had tested positive for COVID-19 and then quickly entering the hospital. He didn't stay long, because he wanted to show strength, but all his attempts to do so might have just shown the voters another quality -- recklessness and indifference to the health of those around him.

This has actually caused Trump's numbers to sink in the polls, especially among seniors. Trump is desperately trying to win them back -- he shot a video addressed to seniors right after he returned to the White House, and he is pressing hard for his administration to start sending out $200 prescription drug cards to all of them before the election (which may not actually be possible, for various reasons).

Joe Biden, meanwhile, looks steady and calm. Wearing masks and actually paying attention to the doctors and experts looks very smart and prudent now, despite all the attempts Team Trump has made to paint Biden as "hiding in his basement" for the past few months.

Trump will return to the campaign trail this week, but he has already torpedoed the second debate, so Joe Biden will be holding a townhall on his own on ABC Thursday night instead. This was a monumental error by Trump, who didn't want to debate in any format that he might have his microphone cut off. But there were only two debates remaining, and they are the best way to address the biggest audience of voters in the hopes of turning things around. Now Trump will only have one chance to do so instead of two, and by the time that chance rolls around, tens of millions of people will already have voted. Trump is also counting on the Supreme Court confirmation hearings this week in the Senate to boost enthusiasm among his base, but his base isn't really the problem -- and most Americans think rushing a new Supreme Court justice onto the court so close to the election isn't the way to go. So this will likely not change the polls much at all.

One thing to watch for in the upcoming week is if Trump rebounds a bit from his polling falloff after he got sick. This may have been a temporary effect that reverses itself, in other words, but we'll have to wait another week to really see. Trump could very easily have gained some benefit after returning from the hospital, by being a bit more humble and sympathetic to the eight million other Americans who have suffered through the disease, but (being Trump) he chose not to do so. This killed any hope of a "sympathy vote" in the polls, and instead sent them in the opposite direction. But such bumps (either way) can be fleeting and quickly turn back around.

Having said all of that, let's take a look at where the two candidates stand. The first chart is of the overall totals of Electoral Votes (EV) for both candidates. The blue area starts at the bottom and represents Joe Biden's total. The red area is for Trump, starting from the top of the chart. The white areas in between are for states that are perfectly tied. Whichever candidate's area crosses the 50 percent mark will be the winner, if all the polling turns out to be correct.

Electoral Math By Percent

[Click on any of theses graphs to see larger-scale versions.]

Last week, Joe Biden had just fallen back a bit from a two-day spike. Since then, Biden has been pretty stable, although he did improve very slightly from 350 Electoral Votes to 356 EV, with the addition of Iowa, which moved from Tied to Biden. Donald Trump also stayed pretty consistent, although he did see a one-day spike downwards as Texas showed a perfect tie. It moved right back to Trump's column, though, leaving him at exactly the total he started with -- 164 EV.

The percentages didn't change much either. Trump's percent of the Electoral College was exactly where it was last week -- down at only 30 percent. Biden improved marginally, moving up from 65 percent to 66 percent. In other words, Biden is still leading Trump by a factor of better than 2-to-1. That's a pretty good place to be in, three weeks out.

The trendlines stayed pretty stable when you break them down, as well. Let's first take a look at where Biden stands, when you chart his relative strength in all the states. As always, "Strong" means at least a 10-point lead in the polls, "Weak" means between 5 and 10 percent, and "Barely" means a lead of less than 5 points.

Biden Electoral Math

Last week, Biden's topline had spiked briefly upwards and then after two days fell back a bit. From this point, his topline stayed the same except for the addition of Iowa's 6 EV in the middle of the week.

As usual, there was some movement between Barely Biden and Weak Biden. This began with Arizona firming up to Weak for Biden, but then after a few days it fell back to Barely once again. Florida, meanwhile, wobbled in the other direction, as the polling moved from Weak Biden to Barely Biden and then right back to Weak Biden again. This is still pretty remarkable, since two weeks ago it was in the Tied category.

Florida moving back and forth made for a steep spike in the line between Barely Biden and Weak Biden on the chart, but by week's end, Biden had improved in the Barely category from 42 EV up to 48 EV (with the addition of Iowa).

In just the Weak Biden category alone, Biden improved by 4 EV, but this wasn't exactly good news, since these EV came from the Strong category. Overall, Biden started with 104 EV in Weak and finished with 108 EV.

The Strong category saw the least movement this week, losing those 4 EV to Weak as New Hampshire softened up a bit. This should reverse itself with further polling, one assumes. For the week, Biden started with a whopping 204 EV in Strong, and finished with a still-impressive 200 EV.

As always, though, I consider the "Strong Plus Weak" line on that graph to be the most important. These are the states the candidate can really count on winning, after all, since polls (even state polls) are rarely off by five or more points (although it does indeed happen -- there are no guarantees).

There was good news here, as Biden very briefly charted the highest number in Strong Plus Weak he's seen for the entire election, as both Arizona and Florida both briefly landed in the Weak Biden category. This left Biden with an overall total of 319 EV -- beating his previous best of 313 EV, which he saw for extended periods of time twice during the early days. But, alas, this fell back when Arizona softened again. For the week, Biden ended exactly where he began, at 308 EV. This has turned around the mild slump he experienced here in September.

So how is Biden doing historically, when his Strong Plus Weak numbers are compared to the last three Democratic presidential candidates? Pretty darn good, it turns out:

Democrats Strong/Weak

As you can see, Biden is still beating the field pretty handily. His record high of 319, in fact, is the second-highest number on this entire chart. Even Barack Obama in 2008 only ever hit 317 EV, about two weeks out from the election. Only Hillary Clinton topped this, by charting 320 EV in mid-August. That's how well Biden is doing in the record books.

One-day spikes aside, though, Biden is still doing fantastically well. His 308 EV is roughly as well as he's done at any point during his campaign, and it is comfortably above all the other Democratic candidates, three weeks out. This week in 2012, Barack Obama sank down to only 201 EV -- more than 100 points down from where Biden finds himself. There is one strange coincidence with Obama's 2012 chart line, as both he and Biden charted a spike on the same day -- and then both of them saw it fall off the next day.

One heavy note of caution, however -- the main reason Biden is doing so much better on this chart is that Florida is in the Weak Biden category. That could change quickly, and it would seriously affect the chart since Florida has 29 EV. Without Florida, Biden would only be at 279 EV (which is roughly where Obama's 2008 line is on the chart). Now, this is still enough to win the election on its own -- just Biden's Strong Plus Weak states, minus Florida. So even without worrying about just how strongly Biden is doing in the Sunshine State, he's still doing phenomenally well for this point in the race. Only Obama in 2012 was also comfortably above the red 270 EV line at this point, you'll note.

Which brings us to Donald Trump's numbers, which are (shall we say) not nearly as impressive as Biden's. By a longshot.

Trump Electoral Math

Other than one spectacular one-day dip, Trump's chart is almost the same as it was last week.

The big dip was Texas, which for one day moved from Barely Trump to Tied, but then moved right back again. It's a clear graphic representation of how important the second-most-populous state is in the Electoral College, as winning or losing its 38 EV would certainly change the race considerably for either candidate.

Other than the big dip, however, only two very small states moved at all for Trump this week. One was good news, and one was bad. First, a poll came out of Alaska which moved the state from Weak Trump to only Barely Trump. The next day, a poll out of Montana showed it moved from Weak Trump to Strong Trump. Both states, however, only have 3 EV, which is why you have to look hard to even see this movement. Trump got a little confirmation in one other state, as the first-ever poll from West Virginia showed him with a very strong lead there, as expected.

Trump ended the week almost exactly where he began it. Trump's Barely number moved up from 44 EV to 47 EV (with the addition of Alaska), his Weak number dropped from 36 EV to 30 EV, but his Strong number improved from 84 EV to 87 EV (as Montana firmed up). Overall, Trump started with 164 EV, dropped down to only 126 EV with the loss of Texas, but then returned to finish the week with the same 164 EV he had at the start. That 126 EV should be concerning to Team Trump, since it matches the lowest number Trump's ever charted (back in early June).

Trump's Strong Plus Weak number changed for the first time in weeks, but the news wasn't good as it fell by 3 EV with the loss of Alaska (to only Barely Trump). Trump started with 120 EV in Strong Plus Weak, and finished with only 117 EV. Let's take a look how this stacks up with other Republican candidates, historically:

Republicans Strong/Weak

Finally, Donald Trump isn't doing the worst of anyone. He is doing marginally better than... Donald Trump, in 2016. Now, of course, Trump did go on to win that year, no matter how bad his chart numbers may look, so it's best to keep that in mind.

Even so, that's a pretty sad line for Trump. He has found it impossible to move states solidly into his column for the entire election, only breaking 150 EV in Strong Plus Weak once. And he's now below 120 EV, which is not a good place for a candidate to be. Right now, if Donald Trump won all these states, he'd still need a whopping 153 more EV to win the Electoral College. That's a pretty tall order.


My Picks

We are three weeks out from Election Day, so I'm going to get a little bolder in my picks this time around. Like everyone else, I've been extremely leery of overconfidence this year (once burned, twice shy), so up until now my own picks have hewn pretty closely with the polling and with many other pundits' picks. But this time I'm feeling a little better about the state of the race.

The biggest factor this week was undoubtedly the news that Donald Trump had tested positive for COVID-19 and had to enter the hospital. This caused a slump in his polling almost across the board, but this could be a temporary effect. With three whole weeks to go, he could indeed rebound a bit, so I'll be watching out for this in the coming days. However, Trump's decision to blow off the second debate because of the virtual rules could mean that he blew the best opportunity to turn things around. We'll all just have to wait and see.

As always, I've divided my picks into "Safe," "Probable," and "Lean" for each candidate. At the end there is a "Too Close To Call" category for the races which are completely tied right now. And at the very end of all of these articles is a full list of all the states in each category, together with their EV totals.


Likely States -- Biden

Safe Biden (22 states, 263 EV)
We moved a whopping five states up to the Safe Biden category this time around, three of which may surprise you.

New Hampshire saw a flurry of polling and all of it was good for Joe Biden. He's up by double digits, so this state has to be seen as Safe Biden at this point (proving that it probably was just one outlier poll that caused it to move down).

Virginia is still waiting for another poll, but we're going to go ahead and consider the last one an outlier and move it back up to Safe Biden again. I just can't see Trump winning here, even if the polling has been sparse.

But the big news is that I'm moving Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin up from Probable to Safe Biden this week. These three are all considered battleground states, but the war seems to be over and Biden seems to have won. The Trump campaign has even gone dark on the airwaves in Michigan, indicating that they too have given up all hope here. In all three, Biden has been holding a solid lead for quite some time, and that lead seems to be getting stronger. Biden is polling close to or above 50 percent in all three states, which is a good indication that no matter what the undecided voters ultimately decide, Biden will still win. Maybe I'm being too wildly optimistic, but at this point I'm considering Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin all solidly in the Biden column.

Probable Biden (2 states, 16 EV)
This category dramatically shrank this week, but the reason why is a good one, since five states moved up from Probable Biden to Safe Biden. With the loss of Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin, there are only two states which remain in the Probable Biden category.

Both Nevada and Minnesota could also be on the brink of moving into Safe Biden territory as well. Biden was looking very strong in Nevada, but the most recent two polls showed a slightly closer race (even though Biden was up by six points in both polls, Trump seemed to have slightly improved). Minnesota seems like about a seven-point Biden lead at this point, but he isn't polling up around 50 percent yet, so we're going to wait at least one more week before considering moving it up.


Likely States -- Trump

Safe Trump (16 states, 98 EV)
One state moved up to Safe Trump this week, as Montana should now be considered out of reach for Joe Biden. There is still a competitive Senate race there, but for now it seems that the presidential race is going to be a foregone conclusion.

Probable Trump (3 states, 22 EV)
Trump lost a state in this column, but it was good news for him as Montana moved up to Safe Trump. However, there is one state that might only be considered Lean Trump at this point, after a surprisingly weak poll for Trump in Alaska. But Alaska is notoriously hard to poll, so I'm going to guess that it's still at least a Probable Trump state.

The other two states here (Missouri and South Carolina) are likely going to wind up voting for Trump, but until I see further polling I'm still only going to consider them Probable Trump.


Tossup States

Lean Biden (3 states, 55 EV)
Last week, we moved Florida up from Too Close To Call to Lean Biden. This week, we considered moving Florida up again (to Probable Biden), but somehow we just couldn't bring ourselves to do so in the end. Biden's lead seems to be holding, the news of Trump getting sick didn't go over well with Florida's seniors, and Biden is polling consistently around 49-50 percent while Trump is down at 43-44 percent. Those would all argue strongly for the state to move up to Probable Biden, but again because the state is so important in the grand scheme of things (the Electoral College, in other words), we're going to wait at least one more week before moving it.

Arizona could also be poised to move up, as Biden's lead in the state seems to be growing. But the latest poll (putting Biden up 6) may be an outlier, so we're going to wait for at least one more poll before considering a move for Arizona.

The really big news here is that North Carolina now has to be considered at least a Lean Biden state. North Carolina has been in the Too Close To Call category all along, but this week Biden opened up a five-point lead here. This is shown in the latest three polls here, all taken this week. Now, previously, the polling was almost perfectly tied between the two candidates, so if these three polls are outliers, or if there is just a bump for Biden on the Trump coronavirus news that falls off, then the state could easily move right back down to Too Close To Call. But for this week at least, North Carolina has to be considered at least leaning towards Joe Biden.

Lean Trump (2 states, 44 EV)
There are only two states in the Lean Trump category once again. Now, my gut feeling tells me that Arkansas is almost certainly going to vote for Trump, but I'm hesitating to move it up to Probable for him.

The big question I had this week, however, was about Texas. I probably should move Texas back down to Too Close To Call, especially since in the latest poll Joe Biden was actually ahead by one point. But while the polling has been neck-and-neck all along, I've seen Democratic hopes of "turning Texas blue" fizzle out too many times in the past to get too overly optimistic about Biden's chances in the Lone Star State. So unless the polling shows any real change, even though it seems tied, I still think Republicans in general have an edge here.

Too Close To Call (3 states, 40 EV)
With the loss of both Florida last week and North Carolina this week, the Too Close To Call category has shrunk considerably. We now only have three states seemingly perfectly balanced this week: Georgia, Iowa, and Ohio.

In Georgia and Ohio, nothing much has changed -- the polling remains as close as polling can be. However, there's a case to be made to move Iowa into at least Lean Biden this time around, although in the end we decided to wait. In the four most recent polls, Biden led in the first three while the fourth was tied. This is notable because it has been the only substantial Biden lead in the state for the entire campaign. Not long ago, it was considered Safe Trump by many, but from the polling it has been Too Close To Call all along. We'll be watching the state closely in the next week, but there's a real possibility that Joe Biden has opened up a very slight edge here.


Final Tally

Instead of getting a "sympathy vote" bump in the polls, Donald Trump's polling got worse this week, as the voters registered their opinion of his handling of his own safety and the pandemic as a whole.

Joe Biden continues to outpace Trump, roughly by a factor of 2-to-1. This holds true for all the individual categories and the topline numbers. Biden has 200 EV in his Strong category, to Trump's 87 EV. In Weak, Biden has 108 EV to Trump's 30 EV. In Barely, the two are almost tied at 48 EV for Biden to Trump's 47 EV.

Overall, Biden has 356 EV to Trump's 164. Note that 356 EV is almost two-thirds of the total of 538 EV.

If Biden wins all his Strong and Weak states, he will win the election. He could even win all these states except Florida and still win the whole race. Biden does not need to win any of his Barely Biden states or the states which are Too Close To Call to put together 279 EV for the win.

Trump, on the other hand, has to win just about everything in sight to even have a chance of coming close to winning. Even if Trump wins Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas he will still fall short of the goal. If Biden wins any of those states, the race will effectively be over. And Biden is polling ahead of Trump in almost all of them.

Trump may still turn things around, though. He did four years ago, after all. But Joe Biden is not Hillary Clinton -- he just doesn't raise the same level of distaste among voters. So Trump will really need some sort of game-changing event for that to even be possible. Trump just walked away from this week's debate, so he'll miss out on one of the biggest chances he had for this to happen. He's now counting on the Supreme Court nomination hearings to help him out, but it remains to be seen how big an effect this is going to have.

It is now impossible to look at this race and conclude that Biden is nothing short of heavily favored to win it. Trump is not just an underdog, he's now a real longshot. Of course, with Trump, just about anything under the sun can happen in three weeks' time, but with more and more votes being cast by the day, any game-changing event had better happen quickly or it simply won't matter much at all.


[Full Data:]
(State electoral votes are in parenthesis following each state's name. Washington D.C. is counted as a state, for a total of 51.)

Joe Biden Likely Easy Wins -- 24 States -- 279 Electoral Votes:

Safe States -- 22 States -- 263 Electoral Votes
California (55), Colorado (9), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (20), Maine (4), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (11), Michigan (16), New Hampshire (4), New Jersey (14), New Mexico (5), New York (29), Oregon (7), Pennsylvania (20), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), Virginia (13), Washington D.C. (3), Washington (12), Wisconsin (10)

Probable States -- 2 States -- 16 Electoral Votes
Minnesota (10), Nevada (6)


Donald Trump Likely Easy Wins -- 19 States -- 120 Electoral Votes:

Safe States -- 16 States -- 98 Electoral Votes
Alabama (9), Idaho (4), Indiana (11), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (8), Mississippi (6), Montana (3), Nebraska (5), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Utah (6), West Virginia (5), Wyoming (3)

Probable States -- 3 States -- 22 Electoral Votes
Alaska (3), Missouri (10), South Carolina (9)


Tossup States -- 8 States -- 139 Electoral Votes:

Tossup States Leaning Biden -- 3 States -- 55 Electoral Votes
Arizona (11), Florida (29), North Carolina (15)

Tossup States Leaning Trump -- 2 States -- 44 Electoral Votes
Arkansas (6), Texas (38)

Too Close To Call -- 3 States -- 40 Electoral Votes
Georgia (16), Iowa (6), Ohio (18)


Polling data gaps:

Polled, but no recent polling data -- 7 States
(States which have not been polled since the beginning of September, with the dates of their last poll in parenthesis.)

Arkansas (6/10), Connecticut (5/24), Indiana (8/2), North Dakota (3/5), Massachusetts (8/27), Mississippi (2/28), Tennessee (5/22)

No polling data at all, yet -- 8 States
(States which have not been polled so far this year.)

Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Nebraska, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Washington D.C., Wyoming


-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


41 Comments on “Electoral Math -- No Sympathy Polling Bump For Trump”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    My favourite chart was the one where Biden was off the chart. :) Will there be another one like that?

  2. [2] 
    Kick wrote:

    Nice coverage, CW.

    Two Scaramuccis until the election:

    21 DAYS * 00 HOURS * 55 MINUTES

    Fixinta be 3 weeks. :)

  3. [3] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    If you thought that Mitch McConnell could not get more repulsive, you didn't watch tonight's debate with Amy McGrath. It's stomach-churning to hear him laughing at her about his inaction on stimulus relief.

    Ditch Mitch / Dump Trump

    Early voting starts Tuesday in KY.

  4. [4] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Watching Superpreaderman shake his morbidly obese ass to the Village People at his death cult rally in FL is almost as scary. Halloween can't be far off.

  5. [5] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Would "typhoid amy" be too on the nose?

  6. [6] 
    dsws wrote:

    I have to point out as a reminder, right up front, that no matter what the national-level polling shows, it simply does not matter to how we actually elect our presidents

    The national popular vote doesn't play any role in determining who becomes president. But we're not inaugurating a president. We're evaluating the state of the horse race.

    There are fewer state-level polls than national ones, so a single poll distorts the average more. There are fewer pollsters who do state-level polls than national ones, so it's harder to compensate for pollster bias. State polls are done less often, so they are less likely to reflect recent changes in the state of the campaign. State-level polls have smaller sample sizes, and correspondingly larger margins of sampling error.

    If you want to make the best available guess about the electoral vote, you look at national polls too, not just state ones.

  7. [7] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    "If you want to make the best available guess . ." based on historical fact, you flip the coin, or you roll the dice, and IGNORE the polls, right?

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, if you want to get elected and be in a position to make progress, then you must use the best evidence and make the best possible case with the most persuasive arguments.

    You must also be able to effectively counter what the other side puts forward.

    How have Republicans been able to put themselves in a position to achieve success in "packing" the Court and lower courts?

    What have Democrats done to counter the Republican message on the preeminence of the courts, above all else?

    I'm surprised that Biden and his campaign have found answering the "packing the court" question so damned difficult to answer. Don't they know how to win in a landslide?

  9. [9] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    the rightwing noise over court-packing is a rhetorical trap intended to weaken biden among left-wing voters. a few on the left have proposed it as a remedy to the GOP hypocritical power-grab, via stonewalling garland's nomination and fast-tracking barrett's. trump and the right think that convincing biden to speak against court-packing will weaken his liberal support. maybe rather than refusing to speak about it, the thing to do would be to speak directly to those on the left who support it, and those on the right who are afraid of it.


  10. [10] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    one other reason not to answer, is that biden doesn't yet want to limit the fear of it among the right-wingers who know just how cynical the barrett nomination is right now, in the hopes that maybe that fear will help them come to their senses and push the nomination until after the election. if he says he won't court-pack, the next question is whether he'd try to admit DC and PR to the union, and the question after that would be whether he'll do some other major executive action. it's a useless rabbit hole of hypotheticals.

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    That is great advice for Biden and his campaign because, right now, they couldn't possibly sound weaker if they tried.

    There was a time when Biden would have snatched an opportunity like this and run it for all it's worth.

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I don't agree 100 percent with [10], though.

    Biden needs to do what he has always done best - be honest about what is the best policy and why.

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Actually, Joshua, I reread your [10] and it makes perfect sense.

    I guess there is no easy answer. But, the response coming out the campaign right now on this question is just very hard to listen to.

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I mean, it's just such a lame response.

  15. [15] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    He's right to dodge that stuff. Candidates commit to way more than they should. The orange one is the extreme example. The president can't pack the court or admit a state. Congress can and he can agree or maybe encourage them. Right now, he doesn't even know if those things are possible.

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    It's not really a matter of Biden being right to dodge answering the questions.

    What important is how he handles them and, so far, his dodge makes him look weak, even in my adoring eyes, for God's sake! :)

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I mean, there are ways to answer without answering.

    I miss the 'old' Biden, before he began missing a few steps. That's life, we all do. But, still, even considering this, he is the absolute best man for this time and job, don't get me wrong.

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I would just like to see him make the persuasive arguments on this question to all voters.

  19. [19] 
    John M wrote:

    [16] Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    "What important is how he handles them and, so far, his dodge makes him look weak, even in my adoring eyes, for God's sake! :)"

    Elizabeth, any good professional campaign manager worth his salt is going to advise any candidate: "Don't answer hypothetical questions asked by your opponent or the press!" because A.) doing so only walks you into the trap that they have set for you, emphasizing your areas of weakness and B.) it is a total distraction from the more important points you yourself are trying to get across. It makes the voter you are trying to reach focus on the bright shiny object, ignoring the issues and messages that you are wanting to discuss that play to your strengths.

    Avoiding this is how Jaime Harrison has handled Lindsay Graham in South Carolina so brilliantly and who now has a real shot at winning and defeating Graham.

  20. [20] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    if we don't like the answers joe has given thus far, let's consider what answer we think really would be good if he gave it.

    i'll start:
    "the reason this is a hard question to answer is that it comes at a very painful time, and in response to a very real concern. liberal legal scholars are rightly upset that the legitimacy of our country's court system is imperiled by the efforts of mitch mcconnell and lindsey graham to pack the current court with conservatives. at this very moment they are nakedly using their power to deny every liberal or moderate appointment and fast-track every conservative one, and they give completely hypocritical excuses for doing so.

    as i've said many times in the past, i think adding additional justices to the supreme court is not a good option. it is not a good idea to respond to mitch and lindsey's court-packing with court-packing of my own. however, at the moment i'm not the one who's president and packing the courts with illegitimate appointments, donald trump is. if i do end up in the position of being president and having to remedy that situation, i'd rather not have made any commitments one way or another, because you don't take arrows out of your quiver before the shooting starts, even those arrows you have no immediate intention of using."


  21. [21] 
    John M wrote:

    [16] Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    "What important is how he handles them and, so far, his dodge makes him look weak, even in my adoring eyes, for God's sake! :)"

    Put another way Elizabeth:

    The bright shiny object is: Vice President Biden, if you are elected President, will you increase the number of justices beyond the current 9 on the Supreme Court?

    What Biden should discuss instead is:

    A) How the nomination of Justice Amy Coney Barrett is a threat to the continued existence of: Roe VS Wade, the Affordable Care Act, and Marriage Equality

    B) The hypocrisy of Republicans of taking a position that is the exact opposite now of one they just took 4 years ago, when they denied Obama's pick of Justice Garland 8 months before the election, and swore up and down then that they would treat an appointment in the last year of Trump's term no differently.

    c) Ramming through Justice Barrett just 3 weeks before the election, while ignoring health risks regarding the participation of Senator Mike Lee, who has an active Coronavirus infection from the White House super spreader event, because securing the nomination is more important to them than people's health and safety.

    D) Making the Supreme Court nomination a priority over dealing with the Coronavirus and the economy, and over passing a stimulus bill that would deal with both, and over relieving and easing the American people's suffering.

  22. [22] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    amy covid barrett?

  23. [23] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    John M,

    All of the points you mentioned would be a far cry better than the non-answers Biden and his team have been providing thus far. It's not like the make-up of SCOTUS isn't an issue worth discussing right now.

    Biden used to love handling curve balls like this ...

  24. [24] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Just saw that the DOJ is going after Melania’s former assistant for violating the NDA she signed by putting out her new book. This is actually good news, as it means Trump decided to use the DOJ to write up the NDA since it would make people far more hesitant to violate it. It also means that the next administration, and not Trump, determines whether to enforce the NDA’s once he is out of office. I always assumed Trump knew better than to use NDA’s that the government had drawn up for this very reason, but I was wrong!

  25. [25] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    no column today?

  26. [26] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I hope it's just some more car trouble ... worried in Kitchener.

  27. [27] 
    Kick wrote:

    Fun Texas Fact: Of the 850,000 eligible voters in Travis County, 97% of them are registered to vote in the upcoming November 3 election.

    Even Funner Texas Fact: ~80% of those Travis County voters will generally vote Democratic.

    It's getting busy in Texas! Record numbers of voters today.

  28. [28] 
    Kick wrote:

    ………………….*..* …………………………………VOTE!

  29. [29] 
    MyVoice wrote:

    Go Travis County!

    I walked my ballot down to the local drop box on Saturday. Since ballots are picked up every other day, according to the Registrar of Voters, I'm hopeful of seeing it has been received by the RoV tomorrow.

  30. [30] 
    Kick wrote:


    That's what I'm talking about! Awesome. :)


  31. [31] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    LizM (and many others) -

    I agree with just about everything everyone's said.

    LizM, you're right, Biden is blowing this. How hard is it to come up with a brushoff answer, for god's sake? "By January, the situation will be different than it is now, and I will react to it accordingly."

    Or: "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it."

    Or: "FDR tried to pack the court against the will of the Senate. If the Senate decides to pack the court, I will have to think long and hard about how I would react."

    There are just SO many ways this could be turned into a non-question, and Biden has not come up with one yet. I, too, am disappointed, I have to admit.

    Packing the court would require (at the least): Dems winning the Senate, Dems jettisoning the filibuster, and Dems deciding to make the case to the country that multiple SCOTUS nominations had been STOLEN from them. They could do so, but then again they may not. So why is it on Biden's shoulders to answer the hypothetical? I have no idea, personally, but he's just GOT to get a better brushoff answer, that much is for certain.



  32. [32] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    Certainly, this early voting we're seeing is good news for Biden, one must really hate a politician to commit to a 9 hour line up... Of the two men, Trump evokes the kind of loathing that keeps people in polling queues all day.

    I mentioned a few months ago, prior to RGB's untimely demise, that should Biden win, he should expand the court. It's long overdue and SCOTUS was originally designed to expand with population growth. However, for now he's better off keeping it to himself, why kick the Bear when they think McConnell has put a cherry on Trump's term with three Justices named. The timing couldn't be better for the religious right to become complacent and less concerned about Trump's immediate future, this latest pick is everything and more than the right could have hoped for, a card-carrying zealot who's predisposed to quashing individual reproductive rights, and a woman to boot... It's all their Christmasses come at once, why would they suffer another four years of Trump now he's delivered SCOTUS into their hands?

    Were I Biden, I would appoint Obama to head up the de-Trumpification department in January... He could preside over the Treason Trials and subsequent executions. He could be in charge of the repeal and replacement of all things odiously Trump, and the spaying and neutering of the deplorables. Who would be more deserving of such task?

    lol, all the trumpery will have to go. The last four years of Trumpism will need extirpating and all oleaginous occurrences of the name Trump, removed entirely from history.


  33. [33] 
    Tzx42 wrote:

    In the big picture, who was the controversy lightning rod, and widely hated and or despised candidate in 2016, and which candidate is it in election 2020?
    The shoe is on the other foot.

  34. [34] 
    TheStig wrote:

    CW-31, EM and many others

    Biden is picking his campaign battles carefully. Amy Coney Barrett is going to be on the Supreme Court. Why give Trump a talking point to engage/enrage his followers and increase their turnout? Don't write your opponent's talking points for him! What to do about Justice Amy can wait until Biden is in the Oval Office.

  35. [35] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Dodging questions, especially ones that are pertinent to current events, is never a good strategy.

    However, that doesn't mean you have to fall down a rabbit hole or give your opponent talking points. Not if you're good at what you do, anyways.

    Biden has never been a great fan of talking points. The good news is that he says what he means and he means what he says. The bad news is that he says what he means and he means what he says. Heh.

  36. [36] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Elizabeth, any good professional campaign manager worth his salt is going to advise any candidate: "Don't answer hypothetical questions asked by your opponent or the press!"

    But, Biden isn't just any candidate for president. He's forgotten more about all of this stuff than his campaign managers have ever known, combined!

    And, once again, Biden should know how to answer and pivot away from these questions in a way that makes him look like the strong candidate for president that he is and not look weak like his campaign manager made him look the other day on the court packing question.

  37. [37] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    That was pretty good!

    I would just add that he should emphasize how important down ballot elections are and how critically important it will be for Democrats to be in control of the Senate. Long gone are the days when voters should be thinking that divided government is a hedge or a good thing at all!

    It will be hard enough for a Biden administration to make progress on healthcare and the environment with a heavily leaning conservative SCOTUS, let alone a Republican-controlled senate.

  38. [38] 
    Kick wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller

    I would just like to see him make the persuasive arguments on this question to all voters.

    Are y'all nuts!? Just kidding.

    Biden and his campaign are doing the right thing. They've already answered that the people voting should decide who will serve on the Supreme Court for a lifetime appointment. When Biden says you'll know his opinion after the election, he's obviously saying that his position is dependent on whether or not the Senate confirms Barrett before the election or -- if he wins the election -- while Trump's busy doing whatever he does to cheat or busy "packing" during the lame duck -- pun definitely intended.

    Biden is right that it's the GOP (and that of the press) attempting to shift the focus off their own decades of court packing and the GOP's Supreme Court packing. Biden can't answer what he'll do, and he doesn't have to answer in order to take the focus of their shenanigans trying to shove another justice on the Supreme Court at the last minute while they denied Barack Obama a pick for months and months because it was an election year.

    If it's indeed the GOP's de facto position that only the Party who controls the Senate and the White House may decide the makeup of the Supreme Court, then I'm sure Biden will be happy to follow their lead if given the chance... BUT... he can't answer what he'll do until he sees what they do. This is one of those situations where decisions will be made in back rooms based on what hasn't occurred yet. There is no answer beyond "nothing is off the table." Honestly.

    Biden's position won't be known until he sees the outcome of the current Supreme Court shenanigans and whether or not he wins the election and the subsequent shenanigans Trump will try after the election if Biden is the obvious winner on election day. There are too many known unknowns for a private citizen of the United States to be making any declarations about what he'll do. Full stop.

  39. [39] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I think you missed my point. Full stop.

  40. [40] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Oh, my apologies, Kick ... I see you are only at comment #18. Heh.

  41. [41] 
    Kick wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller

    Oh, my apologies, Kick ... I see you are only at comment #18. Heh.

    Yes, I did keep reading and discovered that y'all were basically just looking for a better worded answer. :)

Comments for this article are closed.