As Trump runs his campaign into the ground, Biden’s been a vision of efficiency

So much for Donald Trump, the biz whiz. Just like Trump ran his businesses into the ground enough times to declare multiple bankruptcies, he managed to burn through $1 billion raised since he took office in 2017, limping into the final month of the campaign with a delightfully meager $63.1 million that surely won't even cover the costs for the rest of his campaign.

"Yikes," tweeted Rufus Gifford, a deputy campaign manager for Joe Biden and former Obama fundraising chief. "Remember when Trump said he would fund his own campaign if he needed to? Well.... He needs to," Gifford added.

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No wonder the Trump campaign announced a final ad buy this week in coordination with the Republican National Committee of just $55 million split between 11 states. Don't be surprised if they wind up yanking ads from some of those states at the last minute.

Also, it's about to get a lot hotter inside Trump's campaign as consultants and aides realize that check likely isn't in the mail and never will be. What was Trump's word for that? Oh yeah—suckers. At least, they can commiserate with all the high-dollar GOP donors who pushed tens of thousands or even millions to Trump's campaign and allied committees/PACs only to watch him pay his legal fees and subsidize the rise of Trump Jr.'s hot read Triggered to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list. 

Meanwhile, Joe Biden's campaign has been a vision of efficiency. Here's a side by side, according to Times reporter Shane Goldmacher:

  • Biden ended September with $177 million cash on hand 
  • Trump had $63 million in cash, minus $1.36 million in debts

  • Biden plus party committees had $432 million in total ending September
  • Trump plus committees had $251 million in total

  • Biden's joint ventures with the Democratic Party spent $82.4 million to raise $457 million in July, August, and September
  • Trump's joint committees with the RNC spent $190.8 million to raise $355.2 million in the same period

So Biden and the DNC spent less than half what Trump and the RNC did while raising fully $100 million more. Put another way, Biden spent about 18 cents for every $1 raised while Trump spent 54 cents for every $1 raised. More recently, fundraising seems to have gotten even harder, with the AP reporting that Trump’s grassroots fundraising operation is spending 77 cents for every dollar raised.

The Trump campaign's financial situation was so dire that Trump ditched the campaign trail Sunday to attend a hastily arranged fundraiser in California. Bet those donors feel pretty great about every penny spent. Who knows, maybe they all left with complimentary copies of Triggered

Trump used his campaign war chest like an ATM. Now it’s dead broke and GOP donors are furious

Suckers. That's clearly how major GOP donors feel after realizing that Trump's campaign is basically dead broke, he's dragging down the entire party, and he's even put Democrats in position to potentially take back the Senate

“The Senate majority is the most important objective right now,” said Dan Eberhart, who has given over $190,000 to Trump’s reelection effort, according to the AP. “It’s the bulwark against so much bad policy that the Democrats want to do if they sweep the elections.”

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Eberhart and others feel burned after the state of Trump's campaign war chest has come into clearer view in the final months of the race. Some Republicans donors even founded a separate pro-Trump super PAC, Preserve America, that was explicitly not run by Trump's people because he's clearly not sending his finest. Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson recently poured $75 million into that PAC instead of just handing it over to the Trump campaign. 

“You could literally have 10 monkeys with flamethrowers go after the money, and they wouldn’t have burned through it as stupidly,” veteran GOP strategist Mike Murphy told the AP of the Trump campaign's spending habits. 

On the one hand, the Biden campaign is spending more than twice as much in the closing days of race—$142 million to the Trump campaign's coordinated buy with the Republican National Committee (RNC) of $55 million. On the other, Trump and his campaign aides burned through $1 billion like they were on a drunken Beverly Hills lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous bender. 

There's the already reported $10 million Super Bowl ad bought by the campaign so Trump could feel powerful before Democrats had even settled on a nominee. There's also more than $310 million in spending that's concealed by a web of limited liability companies, notes the AP. And somehow, former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale managed to purchase a Ferrari, a Range Rover, a $400,000 yacht, and several million-dollar-plus condos after siphoning some $40 million from the Trump campaign alone. 

But really, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Here're some other choice purchases made by the Trump camp and RNC, according to the AP:

— Nearly $100,000 to prop up the release of Donald Trump Jr.’s book, “Triggered,” pushing it to the top of The New York Times’ bestsellers list.

— Over $7.4 million spent at Trump-branded properties since 2017

— At least $35.2 million spent on Trump merchandise

— $38.7 million in legal and “compliance” fees, including the legal costs of his impeachment proceedings

— At least $14.1 million spent on the Republican National Convention, which was relocated several times and ended up being a mostly virtual event

— A $250,000 ad run during Game 7 of the 2019 World Series after Trump was booed by spectators for attending Game 5

— $1.6 million on TV ads so Trump could see himself in the Washington, D.C., media market, where Biden is polling at about 87%

Perhaps the best strategic decision was back in May, when Parscale unleashed $176 million in spending to drag down Biden in public polling. That worked out well. 

If you smell desperation, it’s just the GOP

An Axios piece this week painting a rather dim picture of the final days of the Trump campaign also included this upbeat quote from a senior campaign official: "But the cool thing about the president is he's going to be everywhere in the last two weeks."

Bring it. Trump has very little time left to reverse the direction of this race, and everywhere he goes, he's a vision of repulsion. In Johnstown, PA, Trump begged suburban women to like him while barking, “I saved your damn neighborhood, okay?" In Greenville, NC, Trump bragged about the cold-blooded execution by U.S. Marshals of an antifa activist suspected of killing a right-wing Trump supporter. During his NBC town hall event Thursday, Trump explained to moderator Savannah Guthrie that he retweeted insane conspiracy theories to just "put it out there" and let the people decide. Guthrie responded by channeling what every relatively sane voter (including some Trump voters) have thought for four years. “I don’t get that," she said, dismayed. "You’re the president. You’re not like someone’s crazy uncle who can just retweet whatever.”

"Actually..." tweeted Trump's niece Mary, reminding us all that he is indeed exactly that—someone's crazy uncle.

At the risk of repetition, a couple days ago I took a look at Trump's numbers with key voting blocs in the gold-standard NBC/Wall Street Journal poll—he is underperforming his 2016 levels in every single one of them.

First, Biden's advantage over Trump among key groups in the survey compared to 2016 exit polls:

  • Black voters: Biden +87 (91% to 4%); Clinton +81
  • Women: Biden +26 (60% to 34%); Clinton +13
  • Whites with college degrees: Biden +19 (57% to 38%); Trump +3
  • Seniors: Biden +10 (54% to 44%); Trump +7
  • Independents: Biden +7 (46% to 39%); Trump +4  

Then Trump's advantage over Biden in certain blocs compared to 2016:

  • Men: Trump +5 (50% to 45%); Trump +11
  • White voters: Trump +4 (50% to 46%); Trump +20
  • Whites without college degrees: Trump +21 (59% to 38%); Trump +37

Overall, the NBC/WSJ poll had Joe Biden up by 11 points, and multiple aggregates have him at +10. The Economist has one of the most conservative polling composites with Biden up +8.6. But Biden's campaign went to great lengths this week to discourage Democratic voters from thinking he has a double-digit advantage. In a virtual grassroots summit, campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon called the national public polling "inflated" and added, "We are not ahead by double digits." What she didn't say was exactly how not double-digity the Biden lead is.  

Whatever Biden's advantage, the campaign's effort is clearly aimed at stamping out any complacency that Democratic strategists are certain became the death knell for Hillary Clinton in 2016. But I must tell you, I think they're reading the room wrong. As I wrote this week, a historic number of early Democratic voters are turning out at the polls and they are absolutely reveling in the chance to finally cast their vote against Trump. Although running up the score in early voting doesn't necessarily translate to a win on Election Day, it certainly does suggest high levels of enthusiasm among Democratic voters.

What we can also gather without knowing the exact internal data is that Republicans are acting like losers. GOP Leader Mitch McConnell is all but ignoring Trump on the stimulus deal. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, who didn't have the guts or integrity to even hear witness testimony during Trump's impeachment trial, suddenly wants to be on record making it crystal clear he thinks Trump is 100% unfit for office. Sounds like someone is burnishing his future presidential cred for a post-Trump GOP. Georgia Sen. David Perdue—who's in a dogfight to save his seat—made the utterly desperate decision to not only introduce Trump at his Friday night rally in Macon, Georgia, but also to butcher the name of Sen. Kamala Harris, with whom he has served fully three years in the U.S. Senate. 

🚨WATCH: Georgia GOP @sendavidperdue mocks the pronunciation of Sen @KamalaHarris’s name during the #TrumpRally today in Georgia Disgusting. #GASen #GApol

— American Bridge 21st Century (@American_Bridge) October 16, 2020

Make no mistake, that's a racist dogwhistle from the same candidate who ran an ad this summer lengthening the nose of his Jewish Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff. Perdue's communications director tried to pass off the slight as a simple mistake, but that's the work of a Republican senator clinging to his seat and concluding his best play is to make racist appeals to white voters.

And then there's Trump himself, who devoted the bulk of his travel schedule this week to places he should have locked up by now, including Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and Iowa. If you want a window into how desperate Trump is, during his Florida pitch to seniors in Fort Myers on Friday, Trump expressed actual empathy.

"My heart breaks for every grieving family that has lost a precious loved one. I feel their anguish and I mourn their loss. I feel their pain," Trump said. "There's nothing to describe it."

Naturally, that was on script. Trump read it, and it was very clearly modeled after Joe Biden's empathic appeal to seniors in southern Florida earlier this week—ya know the one, where Trump later tweeted out a picture of a bunch of seniors in wheelchairs with the tagline, "Biden for Resident."

In the Axios article, senior aides said Stepien's path to victory counts on using Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, and Maine's second district as Trump's foundation. Stepien tells them winning those states is the "easy part.” Really? Not a single one of those states is a gimme in public polling and, in fact, Trump is polling roughly 4 points behind Biden in Florida—the biggest catch of them all with 29 electoral votes.

Just to give you an idea of how rocky that electoral road is, consider this: Biden's path to 270 starts with California and New York as its building blocks. And those states truly are "easy" ones.

In fact, taking Stepien's calculus a step further, the five biggest red states from 2016 by electoral votes are all battlegrounds this year, even if they didn't start off that way: Texas (38), Florida (29), Ohio (18), Georgia (16), North Carolina (15).

And here's the New York Times aggregates for each of those states, from worst to best for Trump:

  • Florida: Biden +4
  • North Carolina: Biden +3
  • Georgia: Biden +2
  • Ohio: Biden +<1 (i.e. Biden's winning by less than one point)
  • Texas: Trump +2

None of this is to say Trump couldn't win, it's just a reality check on how unlikely he is to be victorious. And tons of voting is happening right now, while the polls continue to look very good for Biden. Conversely, if you're Trump, the days are just slipping away. But the emphasis on early voting this year significantly lessens the chances that, for instance, the sitting FBI director could open a last-minute investigation into Biden that causes the bottom to fall out on his campaign. 

So even as a haunting déjà vu feeling hangs over my excitement this year, I just keep looking at the fundamentals, how the campaigns are acting, and the actions of congressional lawmakers who are up for reelection or sharpening their knives for a post-Trump era. The outlook is good, much better in fact than it appeared in 2016. 

And if anxiety is keeping you up at night, the very best antidote to that is taking action—doing has the medicinal benefit of occupying the mind so the hobgoblins of doubt can't hijack it. Together, we can all bring this election home, and then get back to the work of trying to build a more perfect union. 

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He’s a monster. He’s their monster. But suddenly Senate Republicans have never heard of him

Donald who, now? Oh yeah—that crazy loon. Cut him from my ad rotation months ago.

That's what nearly every Senate Republican in a dogfight for their seat could say right now when it comes to Donald Trump, the president they all coddled and refused to criticize and even acquitted of impeachment charges without hearing from a single witness.

Let’s give Senate Republicans the heave-ho! They sold out the American people—give $2 right now to take back the Senate.

In seven states where incumbent GOP senators are either trailing their Democratic opponent or running neck and neck, the Republican senator has failed to give Trump so much as a mention in any single TV ad over the past week, according to The New York Times. That's 48 ads across Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Montana, North Carolina, and South Carolina, and zero Trump mentions.

It's almost like they're embarrassed or something about the guy to whom they handed their spines after they had them surgically removed. And whether they say it or not, almost all of them are trying to overcome the deficit of voting to kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without any viable path to maintaining preexisting conditions coverage. Here's a brief look at what these Senate Republicans are throwing at voters in hopes of Trump mercifully fading from memory. Ha! As if—we could all do with a few less ALL CAPS tweets. Oh, and much of what these GOP senators are selling are bold-faced lies.

Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona: The ad her campaign has run most consistently claims she has “always supported protecting anyone with a pre-existing condition, and I always will.” Lie. As the Times points out, "The only national law that protects people with pre-existing conditions is the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and Ms. McSally voted to repeal it." Lie away, McSally—the jig is likely up for you.

Sen. Steve Daines of Montana: Daines is almost identically claiming that he has “always fought to protect Montanans with pre-existing conditions, and I always will.” Lie. Daines also voted to repeal the ACA without providing any alternative plan to protect people with preexisting conditions. Yet he says Gov. Steve Bullock is unfairly attacking that vote. Truly, these people have no conscience whatsoever—first voting to strip the protections, then flat-out lying about it after the fact. For that very reason, Bullock does have a chance of unseating Daines if Democrats have a big night on Election Day.

Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina: Tillis is hoping a texting scandal that has beset his Democratic opponent Cal Cunningham can salvage his ailing bid for reelection. He has leaned most heavily on an ad that edits together press reports concerning Cunningham's flirtatious texts with a woman who isn't his wife. The best that can be said for Tillis, who was getting trounced due to his wanting record on the pandemic, is that he didn't lie through his teeth about his record like Daines and McSally. Cunningham, however, has maintained his lead in recent polling.

Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado: Gardner also hopes to capitalize on a misstep by his Democratic opponent John Hickenlooper, who skirted ethics laws by his use of a private jet and some other perks. Gardner personally recounts those reports in an ad that closes with, “You and I may not always agree, but you know I honestly work hard for Colorado.” Except for his votes to repeal the ACA, cut taxes for the wealthy and giant corporations, and clear Trump after he tried to steal the election with help from a foreign government. The polls still heavily favor Hickenlooper, the former governor of the state.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina: Graham, who is getting absolutely crushed in fundraising, is slamming his Democratic opponent Jamie Harrison for being "too liberal" in ads heavily studded with appearances by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But it’s telling that Graham, who has become Trump’s chief bootlicker, isn’t playing up the alliance he very actively cultivated with Trump. Polls have shown Harrison in striking distance of unseating Graham in what has traditionally been a very conservative state.

Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa: Ernst is featuring an ad in which a supposedly former Democrat rants about "the radical left," says he wants "nothing to do with [Democrats] anymore," and claims Democrat Theresa Greenfield is a pawn of the left. Ernst is also trying to paper over her vote to repeal the ACA and kill preexisting conditions coverage with an ad in which Ernst's sister, who has diabetes, talks up Ernst's loyal support for her. The race has been tight, but Greenfield appears to have built a several-point edge

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine: Collins is leveraging the reputation of a retired TV personality, Bill Green, to account for her record of consistently enabling Trump, who is deeply unpopular in the state. Green calls attacks against Collins a "ridiculous smear campaign" and then encourages voters to split their ticket. “No matter who you are voting for for president, Susan Collins has never been more important to Maine," says Green, who recently hung up the reins after a 47-year career as a broadcast journalist in the state. Democrat Sara Gideon has been maintaining a several-point edge in the state and appears poised to capitalize on Trump's unpopularity there.

Senate Republicans second only to Putin in their reckless disregard for U.S. democracy

Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, who's up for reelection this fall, took a bold stand for the republic Thursday after Donald Trump had brazenly refused the day before to commit to a peaceful transition of power. “He says crazy stuff," said Sasse, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "We’ve always had a peaceful transition of power. It’s not going to change.”

Wow, strong stuff. Sasse really drew a line in the sand. But despite his hardball tactics, Trump shockingly went straight back at it Thursday. Asked again if he would accept defeat if he lost the election, Trump responded, “We want to make sure the election is honest, and I’m not sure that it can be.” Because there's nothing Trump values more than honesty. 

Sasse, his pathetic response, and those of all his Senate GOP counterparts—with the possible exception of Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah—are exactly why Trump is destroying this nation without a single care in the world. Every time Trump has done something totally unconstitutional or illegal— like deliberately corrupting our once-sacred elections—GOP senators have waved it off with a wink and a smile. Or worse yet, they've actively worked to band together and save Trump’s presidency, even in the face of a mountain of evidence. Voting to acquit Trump of impeachment charges without hearing from a single witness was both a masterpiece of cowardice and the height of complicity. 

Once Senate Republicans proved to Trump that no matter what he did, they could always be counted on to either look the other way or even exonerate him, Trump was free to do absolutely anything. And so he does. 

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who did her part to give Trump his get-out-of-jail-free card during the impeachment trial, had the gall to later suggest that Trump had learned "a pretty big lesson.” Now, there's some serious duplicity. Hope Collins is resting easy at night—maybe just skip that last look in the mirror before bed.

On Thursday, I made an honest mistake while writing up a story for the Daily Kos website. I published a piece that included an outdated poll of the presidential election. I should have caught it, but I didn't. When I realized my mistake, I started shaking as my blood pressure spiked and I sought to get it off the site immediately, which honestly took longer than I had hoped. It's certainly not the first mistake I've made as a reporter/blogger and, frankly, I've done worse.

But in this moment when the world feels upside down and we are all collectively pushing as hard as possible to save our democracy, it just felt horrible to think I may have misled people, however unintentionally, especially given all the misinformation out there. 

I went for a walk to shake it off. Later in the day, I started revisiting the damage done with a touch more perspective. No one had lost their job. No one had died. I hadn't irreparably harmed our democracy or willed future generations to suffer decades of fascist rule. I hadn't personally let children go hungry during a pandemic (though children are going hungry) out of sheer malice. I hadn't left struggling families without food, shelter, health care, and a basic sense of safety and dignity. And on top of the 200,000 already dead, I hadn't consigned tens of thousands more Americans to death in the coming months through the indifference and incompetence of my leadership.

Nope. That's what Senate Republicans like Ben Sasse, Susan Collins, and their entire band of miscreants have done. Through their conniving, they have lent a helping hand to Donald Trump as he's worked to flush every last vestige of this centuries-long experiment down the toilet and hang the American people out to dry.

Pondering all that really put my own misstep on the day in a new light. How do these people sleep at night? Do any of them have a conscience? Do they have kids or grandkids or nieces and nephews they care or worry about? And it may sound silly to even ask, but do they give a damn about anybody else at all but themselves? 

Following Trump’s failure to commit to leaving office peacefully, just one lone Republican senator dared to stand up for our democracy, however small a gesture it was. "Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus. Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable," Romney tweeted Wednesday evening.

GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, who trampled the Constitution to steal a Supreme Court seat, promised an "orderly transition" in a tweet without ever mentioning Trump. That's worthless as ever. Mitch McConnell doesn't believe in democracy, he believes in raw power. And if Trump has an opening to contest the election and hold on to power, McConnell will back him 100%. Just like with impeachment.

All that is to say, these people are simply horrific. Perhaps only Russian President Vladimir Putin himself has shown more disdain for U.S. democracy. Frankly, no one summed it up better than the satirical website The Onion. 

GOP Lawmakers Watch Silently As Trump Strangles Each Of Their Loved Ones In Turn

— The Onion (@TheOnion) September 24, 2020

Senate Republicans authorize subpoenas in bogus probe angling for October surprise to boost Trump

As Republican Sen. Mitt Romney acquiesced to voting to approve some three dozen subpoenas for one of two bogus partisan probes being conducted by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, he worried that at least one of the investigations "had the earmarks of a political exercise."

That's the understatement of the century. In fact, the committee chair, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, just came out last month and confirmed in an interview that one of his two ongoing  investigations "would certainly help" Trump.

Johnson, who is desperately trying to deliver an October surprise to boost Trump's reelection bid, currently has two probes going in his committee. He's hell-bent on delivering the Biden probe that Trump had tried to force on Ukraine before he hit that impeachment wall. But just in case that entirely baseless probe fails to curry favor with the public, Johnson's got a second investigation in the works focusing on the work of Obama administration officials during the transition period following the 2016 election.

That's the investigation for which Republican senators, on a party-line vote, approved a raft of subpoenas targeting people like former FBI director James Comey and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, according to Politico. Both men participated in the transition period and ultimately briefed Trump on the intelligence community's conclusions that Russia attacked the 2016 election to help boost his presidential bid. Another GOP target is former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, who temporarily took over for Comey after Trump ousted him. Romney's opposition to the Biden-Ukraine probe, however, forced Sen. Johnson to scrap a subpoena vote related to that pet investigation. In fact, that investigation is such a heap of trash, the U.S. Treasury Department recently declared one of the pro-Russian Ukrainians who helped fuel the probe an "active Russian agent for over a decade."

But the GOP's approval of dozens of new subpoenas prompted Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Homeland Security committee member, to introduce a resolution Wednesday afternoon "opposing efforts to launder Russian disinformation through Congress." 

From the Senate floor, Schumer charged that "While the rest of the country has been focused on fighting a global pandemic, for the last few months the chairman and Republicans of the committee have wasted taxpayer resources to run a hit job on President Trump’s political rival." Schumer said he would have more to say on the matter later, but added, "for one of our most important committees to be echoing a Kremlin-backed conspiracy theory is beyond the pale."

Johnson reportedly plans to release an interim report within the coming days on his Kremlin-driven probe into Biden's diplomatic efforts in Ukraine when he was serving as vice president. In the other investigation, Johnson will maintain the power to deliver headlining-grabbing subpoenas into October, even after Congress has recessed in the run-up to Election Day. How convenient. 

Lordy, there’s tapes: vulnerable Senate Republicans squirm over Trump’s coronavirus confession

Back in July, as Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst was being pressed on her previous assertion that two Ebola deaths on Obama's watch amounted to "failed leadership," Ernst told CNN that Donald Trump was really "stepping forward" on stemming the coronavirus. At the time, despite 130,000 Americans having already died, Ernst managed to squeeze out that claim with a relatively straight face.  

But now that we know Trump did exactly the opposite by admittedly downplaying the pandemic, Ernst, the erstwhile self-professed hog castrator, is running scared. Thursday marked the second day in a row the GOP incumbent senator who's locked in a very tight reelection race ducked questions about Trump's taped confession that he lied to the American public about how deadly the coronavirus is.

Wanna put the Senate back in the hands of people who actually care about saving American lives? Give $3 right now to boot Senate Republicans from power.

“I haven't read it, I haven't seen it, so give me a chance to take a look,” Ernst told CNN's Manu Raju of the revelations in Bob Woodward's latest book, Rage.

Notice what Ernst didn't say, she hadn't heard it. Yep, there's tapes and that's a big part of what makes this so sticky for Ernst and all her GOP colleagues struggling to hold on to power. Remember, earlier this year they all strapped themselves irrevocably to Trump when they voted to acquit him of impeachment charges without hearing from a single witness. GOP senators didn't care that Trump was willfully corrupting U.S. elections in order to win a second term, and now that he has deliberately brought death and destruction to the American people, they're either turning a blind eye or just running for the hills, à la Ernst.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn laughably pooh-poohed the reporting from arguably the most famous journalist of a generation who backed up his account with recordings of Trump himself. “I don't have any confidence in the reporting, so I'm not going to comment,” said Cornyn, who's got a 9-point advantage over his Democratic challenger M.J. Hegar, according to Real Clear Politics. Sorry, but at the risk redundancy, there's f'ing tapes. Cornyn may as well just say he doesn't have any confidence in Trump himself, since Trump’s the one who privately told Woodward back in early February how "deadly" the coronavirus was.

And North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, who's trailing his Democratic challenger, suggested that Trump's pandemic response has been right on the nose.

“When you're in a crisis you've got to strike the right balance (not to create) a panic,” Tillis told CNN’s Raju. Tillis apparently thinks 190,000 American deaths and counting is "the right balance."

All these spineless GOP lawmakers remain more concerned about their reelection bids than the toll their craven silence has taken and continues to take on the nation. Unconscionably sociopathic.

The Trump onslaught begins—4 unadulterated days of brainwashing his cultists

Instead of waiting until his culminating nomination speech on Thursday to make a splash at the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump showed up Monday shortly after the convention's start to deliver a lie-laden rant lasting longer than his Democratic rival's 26-minute acceptance speech last week.

By conventional standards, Trump’s timing was a strategic error. The whole point is for the nominee to build anticipation throughout the week and then deliver a triumphant address on Thursday that draws in maximum viewership. "From a purely tactical perspective doesn’t every additional, unfocused Trump speech like this one in North Carolina, cheapen what his campaign would prefer to be the BIG SPEECH night on Thursday?" wrote NBC reporter Garrett Haake Monday as Trump was chipping away at objective reality from the podium. 

But that assumes Trump is running to win. In traditional U.S. presidential campaigns, major-party nominees generally start with base support of at least 40% and then they work toward winning over swing voters, independents, and perhaps a swath of disaffected members of the other party to reach 50 plus one on Election Day.

Not Donald Trump. As we have seen over and over again, Trump's campaign is much too incompetent and too disinterested to win over new voters. In reality, Trump is chiefly interested in cementing his base voters because his strategy is to lose by just a narrow enough margin to steal the election by claiming it was ridden with fraud.

Trump's strategic goals, therefore, don't rely on any buildup to Thursday. Rather, his strategy depends on saturating his cultists with propaganda that ensures they show up to vote and then automatically distrust any result that doesn't result in Trump's reelection. In other words, he's both brainwashing and preprogramming them.

On Monday, for instance, Trump fed his cultists patently false absolutism that if he lost reelection to Joe Biden, then the election was necessarily "rigged."

"The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election," Trump said. Never mind that Trump is losing in basically every reputable national poll along with most battleground state polls.

Trump also delivered a gusher of disinformation during his inaugural convention speech. "Most of the country is doing very very well," he claimed as reported U.S. deaths surpass at least 175,000 and total unemployment claims top 57 million. He told the crowd that Democratic governors were shutting down their states solely to hurt his reelection bid. He also mythologized that before the coronavirus "we were really coming together"—except for that whole impeachment proceeding over one of Trump's other attempts to steal the election.

This is a classic propaganda campaign designed to thoroughly brainwash his followers—the more they buy into his demented reality, the quicker they'll dismiss any fact-based reports that don't comport to Trump's fantasy world. In fact, that's why polling already shows that by a 3-to-1 margin Republican voters believe the battle against COVID-19 is "going well," while among all voters six in 10 say it is going "badly."

It's not the wow factor of a big speech that infects the minds of these GOP voters—it's the repetition, the bombardment, and the saturation that they succumb to, mostly because they need to believe in something. In deeply uncertain times, Trump offers them the “snake oil of certainty,” as Brené Brown calls it. 

And apparently, the media is going to fully help the campaign mainline Trump's disinformation straight to the public. After restricting Democrats to two hours of coverage a day during their convention, cable news outlets mostly took Trump's speech in full.

"I’m a little confused why Trump is being granted a full-day convention to just give a steam of consciousness rant of outright lies," wondered Jesse Lee, vice president of communications for the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

Meanwhile, before Trump even set foot on stage, he started dialing up his alternative reality wherein he's always being victimized and other people are always getting better treatment.

"Incredible that @CNN & MSDNC aren’t covering the Roll Call of States," Trump tweeted as both networks took part of the congressional hearing on U.S. Postal Service delays during the truly lackluster roll call. "Fake News! This is what the Republican Party is up against. Also, I’d like to hear the remarks of the Delegates from individual States, rather than @FoxNews anchors. Ridiculous!"

CNN and MSNBC ultimately both took major portions of Trump's speech, as did Fox News of course. So even as Trump complained about slighted, he actually got more than his fair share—all part of the brainwashing.

‘Masterful’ McConnell’s GOP caucus now in an all-out defensive crouch clinging to seats

Remember when political reporters crowed about what a masterful play Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had made when he lined up his caucus to acquit Donald Trump without hearing from a single witness? Yeah, that acquittal came on February 6 when U.S. senators were already getting briefed on the seriousness of the coronavirus' spread abroad. 

But Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, fell all over themselves to make sure Trump was at the helm when the pandemic hit U.S. shores. Now, what once looked like a promising cycle for Senate Republicans has turned entirely treacherous precisely because the caucus is saddled with Trump as their standard bearer. 

Let's give Mitch McConnell and his GOP majority the boot. Give $2 right now for bragging rights on election night!

Politico reports the party is directing nearly its entire $100 million war chest at saving the seats of eight incumbent senators while the few GOP candidates aiming to defeat a Democrat have been left almost entirely to their own devices. With the exception of funneling a little money into the effort to defeat Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in Alabama, they simply don't have the resources to play offense. 

The seat of Democratic Sen. Gary Peters from Michigan, for instance, once seemed like a flippable seat. But as Trump has tanked in the state and Joe Biden is presently positioned very well there, Senate Republicans have left Republican candidate John James to fend for himself. 

Instead, GOP groups, including the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund have been trying to bolster their defenses in Georgia, Iowa, and Montana—three states that weren't even on the radar as potential Democratic pick ups when the cycle started. 

Perhaps even more striking has been the GOP spending to protect seats that Democrats weren't even truly contesting yet. In Montana and Georgia, for example, Republicans went up with defensive ads before Democrats even got there.

“It's unusual when the other side goes there first and expands the map for you,” said J.B. Poersch, president of the Democratic super PAC Senate Majority PAC.

The bottom line is that Republicans have been left with little choice but to protect a growing map of incumbents who are inextricably linked to a president who has presided over 165,000 American deaths and counting while decimating a decade of economic growth. In fact, Trump is such a drag now that McConnell has reportedly given GOP senators the green light to distance themselves from him whenever necessary. Yeah, good luck with that after four years of letting Trump trash the country without raising hardly a single objection. 

"They're just not making the early investments they would if the president or the party was running better in the polls," said Saul Anuzis, a former GOP state party chair in Michigan.

And a giant part of the party's downfall is due to McConnell jamming that acquittal vote down the throats of his caucus members. Masterful. 

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Top GOP senators give Trump the Biden probe he got impeached for trying to force on Ukraine

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is using his investigative powers as chair of a Senate panel to push forward with a thinly veiled attempt to stir up Russian disinformation about presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Johnson, who chairs the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, says he's investigating if the hiring of Biden's son Hunter by a Ukrainian gas company posed a conflict of interest for Biden while he was serving as vice president. Hunter Biden, a trained lawyer, served on the board of Burisma Holdings from 2014 to 2019 as the company sought to repair its image following allegations of corruption in its ranks.

No credible news organization has found any meat to the allegation that Biden's diplomacy in Ukraine was improperly influenced in any way. In fact, Biden's work in 2015 and 2016 to help oust the corrupt Ukrainian top prosecutor had the support of U.S allies across the international spectrum.

But however thoroughly discredited this right-wing conspiracy theory is, The Washington Post reports that Johnson is intent on rehashing it along with the help of GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee. And Democrats charge the probe is just a gateway into fanning the flames of a bunch of Russian disinformation about Biden and Ukraine. In other words, Johnson and Grassley are giving Trump the investigation he got impeached over—trying to force Ukraine into doing his dirty work. Ukraine officials ultimately declined to even announce such a probe, let alone conduct one. 

But Johnson and Grassley? Sure, let's give legitimacy to an investigation Ukrainian officials already declared illegitimate. Apparently, there aren't more important things to do right now as Senate Republicans let a relief package flounder that's critical to keeping the country from sliding into an economic depression.

“Senator Johnson is diverting his committee from oversight of the failing response to the pandemic — even though over 4.5 million Americans have been infected — and is instead facilitating a foreign influence operation to undermine our democracy,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said.

But Johnson's no neophyte when it comes to doing Trump's bidding on Ukraine. During the House impeachment probe, Johnson admitted to The Wall Street Journal that he had been alerted early to Trump's quid pro quo pressure campaign in which he withheld $400 million in U.S. aide from Ukraine. But Johnson was content to raise the issue with Trump and take his denial of the allegation at face value—because Trump's nothing if not a man of his word. Just FYI, that’s the type of interview a senator gives to a friendly outlet when they want to frame a story before it’s publicly revealed by someone else. In fact, a House impeachment probe might be just the type of incentive that makes a senator want to come clean.

Ukraine is currently a hotbed of disinformation on the topic. "Johnson’s probe is proceeding as Ukrainians with a variety of competing agendas and links to Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani have been releasing apparently pilfered official conversations that Biden conducted while vice president with Ukraine’s then-President Petro Poroshenko, aiming to tarnish the presumptive Democratic nominee and his longtime interlocutor in Kyiv," writes the Post. So there's lot of dubious fodder for Johnson to blow up.

When the Post asked Johnson if he was getting information from "pro-Russian Ukrainians," he offered only that he was receiving input from "a variety of sources," including the U.S. government. He also said that they would "verify" all information before publicizing it in a report he's promising to deliver in September. 

In response to the probe, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have asked the FBI to deliver a “defensive counterintelligence briefing” to all members of the House.

“Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign influence campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election in November,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote in a July letter to the FBI.

Of all people, even Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former GOP intelligence chair Richard Burr of North Carolina have raised concerns about Senate staffers potentially using Russian disinformation supplied via Ukraine as the basis for a bogus investigation. 

Johnson declined an interview with the Post but issued a statement saying he refused to be deterred by "despicable tactics designed to discredit a legitimate investigation."

Nothing good will come of this. Not with Johnson behind it. He already discredited himself by admitting how easily he let Trump off the hook for soliciting foreign interference in the upcoming election. But now Johnson is actually doing Trump's dirty work for him. Can't imagine why a sitting U.S. senator would do that.