A four-person panel of journalists and scholars focuses on multiple aspects of the 2020 U.S. presidential and congressional elections in this 75-minute video recorded Sept. 3, 2020. Major topics discussed include the COVID-19 pandemic, President Donald Trump’s domestic and foreign policy record, and the campaign between Republican Trump and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden. Panelists make incisive comparisons to the 2016 presidential election, assess the impact of economic, health and social issues roiling American society, estimate the influence that the American Jewish vote could have in battleground states, and address concerns of Israel’s supporters.
4th Tillie and Max Stein Family Lecture
Congregation Or Hadash, Sandy Springs, Georgia
September 3, 2020
Rabbi Lauren Henderson: [00:00:00] Good evening, everyone. Welcome. So glad to have you all here tonight. I am Rabbi Lauren Henderson from Congregation Or Hadash, and we are so grateful to be able to host this lecture. This is the fourth annual Tilly and Max Stein Family Lecture, entitled “American Jews and the 2020 Election: Texts and Consequences.” First, before we begin, I want to just say a few words of gratitude. one to our director of lifelong learning, Amy Robertson, who is running tech behind the scenes this evening and making sure you’re all able to log on smoothly. I want to say thank you to all of our panelists, who I am really, really excited to learn from to provide some really helpful context for all of us in this season. And I am especially grateful to our beloved Or Hadash member and educator and all-around incredible human being, Ken Stein, for sponsoring this lecture in honor of his parents. And so, without further ado, I would like to hand it over to Ken, who will tell us how this evening is going to work.
Ken Stein: [00:01:09] Thank you, Lauren, and welcome this evening to the fourth annual Tillie and Max Stein Family Lecture. I’m Ken Stein, a member of Congregtion Or Hadash. I want to thank the congregation for hosting this annual event, particularly to Denise Lee and Scott Allen, Rabbi Henderson, Dr. Robertson and our congregational president, Gail Duner, and all of our congregants who have always been warm and gracious with us as a family and particularly with our mother, who expressed her Judaism through the last 15 years of her life through Or Hadash. We’re delighted that many of you have joined us from near and far to hear assessments of the issues, factors, elements, likelihoods in this coming national election and hear thoughts about our national election, the senatorial and congressional races, as well as insights into the state of our republic, as seen by a very talented group of insightful and experienced teachers and scholars and writers. We’re here to learn about the politics and history, reflecting an interest of our parents, Max and Tillie Stein.
[00:02:46] They arrived in this country separately. My dad first in 1927, my mom later in ’34. They met at Penn station in New York City prior to taking the Long Island Rail Road to Montauk Point, where they hiked with other contemporaries. They got married, raised my sister and me in Hempstead, New York.
[00:03:06] And they were, of course, Jewish and refugees who were fortunate enough to leave Germany while there was still an opportunity to do so. Once here though, they became the heartbeat of this country. They were, like so many of your parents and grandparents, the American middle class. They worked, they saved, they were excited about what their children could accomplish in their new country.
[00:03:31] And they were patriotic. I think it would be fair to say that they were very patriotic. Their teenage years were spent in Germany, undergoing profound change, change that would ultimately see fascism grip Germany and most of Europe, fascism, intolerance, racism, antisemitism showing their evil natures. When they landed as immigrants in New York City, both of them quickly and staunchly adhered to the view that civics and civic responsibility were part of what made America a great country.
[00:04:01]They were like so many who came to America before and after World War II of two identities. They merged in my parents and most likely as many of you: Jewish Americans, just like so many immigrant communities who were Irish Americans, Polish Americans, Korean Americans, just to name a couple. Countering that as we grew up on Long Island, we habitually raised the American flag on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. Voting was a privilege that we never skipped, participating in the political process, learning about others, understanding and respecting. Maybe not always agreeing, but at least respecting another’s opinion shaped our youth. Evening news was with Eric Sevareid, Huntley/Brinkley, and “that’s the way it was” with Walter Cronkite. They became our informational bibles. When our parents came to Atlanta in 1981, that thirst to learn, to inquire and to study was part of what they constantly imbibed in their grandkids and their kids.
[00:05:02] And they made us all want to inquire more. In 2015, before a mom passed away at 99, in memory of our dad, she asked me to establish the Stein Family Lecture on Modern Israel and Modern Jewish History. Sustain learning, broaden horizons, engage in discussion. Do it all while showing unbending commitments to Jewish values and enrichment. In 2016, three years ago, the first Stein Lecture, we hosted Adi Nes, Israel’s most famous national photographer. Two years ago, Asher Susser spoke about the rapid political implosion of Middle Eastern states. And last year, Aaron Miller recollected the past, the success and failures for American diplomats in the Middle East. Tonight, due in part to our need for distancing, we’re meeting via webinar, convening a four-person panel on American Jews in the 2020 elections. That was the initial title for tonight’s panel. However, with the seismic issues sweeping this country from the very time I approached Rabbi Henderson about doing this back in July, so many things have changed that we decided to broaden out the evening’s discussion. And with what’s happening in November only, or exactly, I guess, 60 days from now, talking with the panelists, we thought we might use the talent of the panelists to focus on broader topics related to the elections. Regardless of your party affiliation, I think we all appreciate the gravity of the times we live in, and I’m grateful to our three panelists for making time this evening.
[00:06:37] Each brings decades of experience and perspective to what we’re witnessing in the news and will hopefully help put in context what we’re all experiencing during these challenging times. While I continue with the introduction and introduce each of our panelists, I’m going to ask the three of them to consider the following question as we, asked for their opinions right after the introductions. To the panelists, you are all longtime observers of American politics. With that, I would like to ask each of you to evaluate in what ways this national election is both similar and different to previous national elections. In what ways is this national presidential election in 2020 both similar and different to previous national elections. And if you want go back as far back as right after World War II.
[00:07:24] With us tonight is Patricia Murphy. Patricia Murphy is a nationally syndicated columnist for Roll Call, the leading daily newspaper covering Capitol Hill in Washington. Patricia has covered campaigns and policy debates for Roll Call, The Daily Beast, and for AOL’s Politics Daily when she was their Capitol Hill bureau chief. Patricia is the only one on the panel who has worked on Capitol Hill. She worked for three U.S. senators, including Georgia’s own Sam Nunn and Max Cleeland. And one of Patricia’s specialties is women in politics and women’s vote, which will likely play an immense role in the 2020 election. Patricia has a B.A. from Vanderbilt and an M.A. in journalism from Columbia, where she graduated with honors.
[00:08:07] Alan Abramowitz. Alan has been my colleague and friend at Emory University for nearly 30 years. He’s a national expert on elections, political parties, voting behavior, among other topics. Alan’s most recent book is “The Great Alignment: Race, Party Transformation and the Rise of Donald Trump.” Before that, he wrote “The Disappearing Center: Engaged Citizens, Polarization, and American Democracy.” Both books are available on Amazon. I’m sure he doesn’t mind the plug for either one of them. Alan has taught at William & Mary, SUNY-Stony Brook, and has a B.A. from the University of Rochester. Go Yellow Jackets. And an M.A. and Ph.D. From Stanford University.
[00:08:45] Lynn Sweet is the Washington, D.C., bureau chief of the Chicago Sun-Times. Many of you have probably seen Lynn on TV a great deal. In Washington, Lynn covers the White House and Capitol Hill but is also very tuned in to the Midwest, where the 2020 presidential election may be decided. She just returned from Kenosha today. Lynn also had a front cover room to the rise of President Obama in Illinois politics and his groundbreaking victory in 2008. Lynn is a past president of the Gridiron Club and a graduate of UC Berkeley and Northwestern’s Madoff School of Politics. Lynn is a former fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. Lynn followed very closely the candidacy and election of Barack Obama. And I will ask you later, Lynn, in the evening, if you’d make some judgments about his two campaigns as compared to this particular one, which we’re seeing unfold in front of us.
[00:09:40] I’m Ken Stein. I teach Middle Eastern history at Emory University. I don’t know why I have to read my own bio, but I will. I’ve been at Emory for 43 years. My work is primarily focused on the Arab-Israeli conflict in American foreign policy and the history of modern Israel. I helped establish the Emery Institute for the Study of Modern Israel in 1998 and the Center for Israel Education in 2008. So with our panel tonight, let’s go back to the first question. Let’s take in the in row, Patricia, Alan and Lynn. As longtime observers of American politics, in what ways is this national presidential election in 2020 both similar and different to previous national elections that you have witnessed or that you understand? Patricia?
Patricia Murphy: [00:10:28] So I’ve covered a number of presidential elections. I would say it’s certainly the most polarized and vitriolic in my lifetime. I don’t think it’s the most vitriolic of anyone’s lifetime. I think this country has been through, Many times of upheaval, of fear, of unrest. and we’ve seen candidates try to take advantage of those moments to their own advantage. This is not a new piece of the playbook in American politics, but since I have been involved in politics on Capitol Hill and the kind of ’90s and 2000s and then having covered it, for me as a, as somebody observing it, it is the most, the most polarized I’ve seen. And I have to say as a reporter, it’s the most difficult I’ve ever covered because we have no access to voters. So we really cannot get out to the events with candidates that we typically would. We, it’s very hard to travel with candidates. We are going to be abundantly reliant on polls, which makes me very uncomfortable because I think polling obviously has its own limits. And, obviously there are, there are people in the system who would like to see unpredictability and chaos, and it’s very hard for me to get a sense of where voters really are because it’s very hard to access voters to report on them and their attitudes firsthand. And those conversations that you can have with voters, just pull them aside after an event: Why did you come? Why are you here? Maybe they’re not even a supporter of that person that they’ve come to see, but they wanted to hear them out. What did they think of the arguments? Did they buy it? For for me, it’s the hardest election to cover that I’ve ever had to. And that, that does give me a lot of concern. Going into the election, I literally don’t know what to expect. Even more so than we know that we’re never supposed to know what’s going to happen, I think now we really don’t know what’s going to happen.
Ken Stein: [00:12:28] Alan, please.
Alan Abramowitz: [00:12:31] Well, I would, first of all, echo a lot of what Patricia just said, So what I see happening right now is that, first of all, in part of a continuation of long-term trends that we’ve seen in American politics and American elections toward increasing partisan polarization, yes, and also toward the increasing nationalization of our elections, where we’re seeing a closer and closer connection between the results of the presidential election and the results of elections below the presidential level, congressional elections, but even state-level elections. So we’re very, very divided, but, as Patricia said, we’ve been very divided at other times, although not in the very recent past, I would say. The other thing that makes this such a very unusual election, though, I would say, is that we are experiencing as a nation really three overlapping and intersecting crises right now. First of all, obviously we are going through this pandemic that has cost over 180,000 Americans their lives and that is undoubtedly going to result in the deaths of many, many thousands more Americans, and that has totally disrupted daily life. and of course the political campaigns as part of that.
[00:13:43]And then we are experiencing a very severe economic crisis, as a result largely of the pandemic with a very high unemployment, plunging real gross domestic product, the economy shrinking, many jobs lost, and just many people suffering as a result of that. And then third, of course, we’re also experiencing racial unrest, in part as an outgrowth of the publicity over the police shootings of African Americans that we’ve found out about in recent months. And we’ve seen protests and demonstrations across the country. We’ve seen violence in a number of American cities. And that of course is also part of the context in which this election is taking place. So I think the combination of these long-term trends, but with these things that are very specific and peculiar to the 2020 election. And then I think we have to say that President Trump is providing something different here. I mean, he’s a different kind of president, whether you like him or dislike him.
Ken Stein: [00:14:54] Let me get on to Lynn and we’ll, I’m sure before the evening’s over, we’ll get back to Donald Trump.
Lynn Sweet: [00:15:00] Well, good evening. And, first of all, thank you so much for having me on your webinar bimah tonight. The thought I had to build upon what Patricia and Alan said is what is making this difference, in addition to everything they said, is that we’re living in an era where basic facts are questioned in a way they have not been in any of our lifetimes. The communication channels now are so vast for people to have political messages going back and forth that there are new tributaries being formed rapidly. When one closes down, another opens up. For example, Twitter and Facebook now are cracking down. The tweets of some people who are saying things that are judged to be incendiary by Twitter now are saying in messages “I’m moving over” to this platform or that platform, and Twitter can’t take that down because that’s not incendiary. The thing that makes this a groundbreaking, I think ,election is that people, not only are we not able to cover things in person. And I think that this can be made up for after being out a little bit now talking to people in Kenosha for Tuesday and today. You have to do it carefully and with distance and, you know, figure out a way around people who don’t want to wear masks. So you can do some of that. But what you can’t do is know what you don’t know. That is a danger along with the lack of agreement of an agreed set of information, where you can even have a conversation. We all agree, perhaps, that it’s Thursday, but there are some people who may say to that “if you say so.”
Ken Stein: [00:16:52] Most of the time when we see American elections, and we see an incumbent running for office, the incumbent is usually judged by their track record, domestic, foreign policy, whatever it might be. How are we able to judge the track record of this particular candidate before we even judge him against his major party candidate? How do we do that? And how do we do it objectively?
Lynn Sweet: [00:17:27] I’m happy to take a stab at it. There are many yardsticks that may be meaningful to people. And one of the things I do want to set up in this discussion, this election is really about a relative handful of people and a small number of swing states. So one other thing I should have brought up before: We all experience this election differently. If you are in a deep blue state, you’re not seeing ads, you’re not getting targeted email. Your Facebook isn’t populated with particular messages. If you’re not in a swing state, you see it and experience very differently, even from the direct mail you might get, devoted contact. Now, so having said it, this goes back though to facts. So if you can believe Trump on some claim, then you can evaluate it, but he makes claims that just are not true. So you have that extra layer of scrutiny. If your issue is taxes, well, you could go and look up his record on taxes. If your issue is Supreme Court appointments, you can do that, federal judges, lower on. But that may be information without a distinction if we’re going back always to the question of what does this mean in terms of who will win or do you just want to know Trump’s record on increased funding for low-income housing? So, yeah.
Ken Stein: [00:18:51] Information without distinction is a very interesting term.
Lynn Sweet: [00:18:57] Yes.
Ken Stein: [00:18:59] Can you build out on it a little bit?
Lynn Sweet: [00:19:01] Here’s information without distinction. If you’re talking about how to, let’s say predict who’s going to win, it may not matter what Trump’s defunding of certain programs will mean one way or the other, or if he added funding, if it’s not an issue that is important. So you may now slice and dice some information. That’s up to you. And, of course, if we go on, I’m sure, I’m guessing a part of this evening will be about the Trump record on Israel and what it means to Jewish voters. And when we get to that, we have some examples. But name any sector that people are interested in. If your issue is why are we not getting more unemployment money to people who have no ability to pay their rent or bills because of the pandemic, then you have a set of information to talk about. Then is that the important data, though? Is it what may make somebody decide or not. Other what I call data without distinction usually goes to congressional candidates. When they say I introduced a hundred bills, I’m sure Patricia has done this. Well, I introduced 102. It doesn’t mean anything. What happens is if you’re an influence, if you have a novel idea, if this bill is the first time. So just think. Think of a time, the first time somebody came up with the idea of protecting people we now know as dreamers; that was a big deal. That was a groundbreaking concept. That was, by the way, by Senator Durbin of Illinois. I didn’t realize when I covered him at that moment that was a groundbreaking concept, that it would get hold and seize the national attention and develop into something. So data without distinction is also talking about why voters may do something if there’s no information to believe that. Well, six out of 10 think it’s going to be hot tomorrow. So I, I use that also when people might talk about saying there’s a lot of crowds for Trump. It could mean something. And actually it turned out in 2016 it did. And people didn’t pay proper attention to it. Or sometimes it’s not.
[00:21:21] And that, that’s why, when you talk about the record of someone, Ken, you, you have to kind of tell me, well, what is it we’re looking at it? If you’re saying on race-related issues, agricultural issues, are tariffs good or bad, that if you’re a soybean farmer, you might have some real data to determine what’s going on. So that, that’s what I mean when you have data that means something as opposed to some information that kind of sounds good but may not be meaningful and, or a commission that may be created or a panel to study something. So what Trump threatened, yesterday, that he’s going to strip federal funding, he signed some decree or proclamation, it has no legal, thrust to it. It’s a threat, but Congress has to act on it. There’s many steps to go until you actually stopped the flow of money. Anyway, I’ve talked enough.
Alan Abramowitz: [00:22:12] Yeah, so I’m going back to, building on that and going back to Ken’s original point about elections involving an incumbent generally amounting to primarily a referendum on the performance of the incumbent. That’s true, and that’s what we know. That’s what the data show, when an incumbent’s running for re-election, there is a very, very strong relationship between the incumbent’s job approval rating and the incumbent’s vote share. And that means that Donald Trump is in trouble because his approval rating has been stuck in the low 40s, you know, ranging between say 40 and 43, 44%, for just about his entire presidency. And that’s about where it is right now. So that makes it very difficult for him. Now, typically one of the most important factors influencing that job or that evaluation is the economy. Remember back in 1992, we had an election in which the slogan of the Democratic candidate, or not slogan, but this was something they had on the wall of their campaign office, was “It’s the economy, stupid.” James Carville wanted people working for Bill Clinton to remember to keep focusing on the economy.
[00:23:27]That’s not necessarily true right now, even though the economy is doing very poorly and by many measures. It’s a different sort of, this, this is a very different sort of recession in that it was brought on deliberately by shutting down the economy to try to control the coronavirus. So it’s really the pandemic and the handling of that, that I think is the central issue in this election. Not the only issue. But I think more than anything else, that’s what’s shaping this. And that’s why I think the president is trying to change the subject. He’s trying to shift the focus away from that onto other things where he thinks, you know, he might have a better chance, and shifting onto Joe Biden. He wants it to become about Joe Biden and his extremism, as he describes it, rather than about his own record.
Ken Stein: [00:24:22] Patricia?
Patricia Murphy: [00:24:23] Well, you talked about how do we evaluate a candidate’s record? When I talk to voters, they don’t really speak in those terms. It’s not “How is Donald Trump doing?” It’s “How am I doing?” How, it’s the old adage: Am I better off today than I was four years ago? And I think that’s why the coronavirus question is going to be so important. It’s not just about. people’s health and safety. It’s about are their children in school or out of school? Are their communities coming back? Is the local economy really struggling? How is your stock portfolio? It really has treated different groups of people very differently. And I think that that’s why, while the coronavirus is hugely important, it will be a negative factor, very, very negative for many, and more of a mixed bag for others to say, “Well, he couldn’t have, how he, how could he have prevented it?” And, you know, “My economy’s going OK.” When I hear President Trump say, “Promises made, promises kept,” that’s a way to sort of assure those voters: “You can trust me. You’re doing better because of me.” Less so than “I promised you this, this, this.” I don’t see voters going through their checklist. It really is that gut feeling. Am I doing better? And can I trust this person to continue to take care of me and my family, or at least help me and my family do as well as we can in the future? It’s so much more of a gut issue, and I think in this case, in particular, that’s why we see very few undecided voters.
[00:25:53] This really is, I think, less of a partisan question. It’s been framed as an existential question, the future of the democracy, the future of your own personal safety. Candidates are speaking in very big sweeping terms. And I think that’s because where voters’ minds and hearts are also. It’s just such an unprecedented time. People’s emotions and decision-making processes are at that heightened level as well.
Alan Abramowitz: [00:26:19] I would add one thing to that, which is everything is filtered through the lens of partisanship. We are in one of the most partisan eras in American history. If you look at the breakdown of how people feel about Trump and how they evaluate his performance and their vote and how they plan to vote, what you find is that Democrats, including independents who lean Democratic, overwhelmingly support Biden. Republicans and independents who lean Republican likewise overwhelmingly support Trump. There’s only a sliver of the electorate in the middle who are actually up for grabs. What makes the swing states swing states is not that there are lots of voters who are movable. It’s not the case. It’s that they’re closely divided. That’s what makes them swing states. So I think that’s something that’s important to keep in mind. Partisanship just overpowers just about everything else when it comes to assessments of this president.
Patricia Murphy: [00:27:17] Alan, have you seen any realignment in your work? Those Rust Belt voters who may have voted Democratic in the past, has there been any permanent realignment that, that you’ve seen and could enlighten me on?
Alan Abramowitz: [00:27:32] Yeah. I mean, there’s been a, a gradual realignment. This didn’t start in 2016. It’s a continuation. it goes, really goes back to the New Deal and post-New Deal era. I mean, the, the party coalitions are very, very different today than what they were 30 or 40 or 50 years ago. And it’s been a gradual change. And Trump built on that. And what we’ve seen under Trump is kind of a continuation of that, but the white working-class voters who were the kind of heart of the Democratic electoral coalition under Roosevelt and then Truman and really all the way through Kennedy and Johnson to some extent at least, are, are no longer a part of the Democratic electoral coalition. It’s now one more white college-educated voters and minority voters, of course, who are the foundations of the Democratic electoral coalition, and non-college white voters, usually described as the white working class, although I think that’s a little misleading, but they remain very much in Trump’s corner. Maybe not quite as much as four years ago, but they’re very much in Trump’s corner.
Lynn Sweet: [00:28:36] What do you think of the idea that it was, this completes the movement of what we once called Reagan Democrats to the Republican side?
Alan Abramowitz: [00:28:45] I think that that’s happened a long time ago. In other words, Reagan, Reagan, so-called Reagan Democrats, you know, have, became Republicans. I mean, for the most part. And if you look at a state like Georgia, I mean, we see this very clearly here. I mean, when Reagan was elected in 1980, he lost to Carter here in Georgia, but then he trounced Mondale in 1984 in Georgia. And, you know, those folks were, there were still some conservative Democrats who would vote for Reagan and then vote for Democrats for state and local office. That’s why Georgia still remained a Democratic state at the state and local level. That has not been true for some time, though. What we’re seeing now is the alignment from top to bottom. And this is what I write about in my book. So that’s what’s called the Great Alignment. There’s almost a perfect alignment from top to bottom. As Trump and Biden go, so will go the Senate candidates here in Georgia in all likelihood, and, and so will go the swing House districts and swing state legislative districts here in Georgia and across the country.
Ken Stein: [00:29:50] Let me pivot a little bit to some of the, some of the, the key states that we categorize as swing states and also address or ask the question about the impact of gender and the American woman or the American woman voter or the woman voter in this coming election. What is different and what is similar, Patricia, as far as women are concerned that you’ve been able to detect from North Atlanta?
Patricia Murphy: [00:30:28] I would say, we saw a big swing, the group that most people are looking at, I think because they are really quite a swing group, are those suburban women voters, these white suburban women, although it’s important to say that the suburbs are increasingly more diverse. And that’s an important reason why a number of, suburbs, if you look at exurbs of, of Atlanta, of Dallas, of Houston, of a number of cities, the suburbs are becoming more and more diverse. But the suburban women voters really swung very heavily toward the Democrats in 2018, and that helped to flip more than 30 seats from the Republicans to the Democrats. They were seats that president Trump had won in those districts in 2016, and they gave control of the House to Democrats and Nancy Pelosi.
[00:31:18]And those are what we call the majority makers. Those were largely moderate lawmakers who ran in those seats. They were not the AOCs of the world. It was a much more moderate, national-security-, health-care-focused group. And the women got really square, squarely, squarely behind those voters in 2018. It was seen as, I think, a real rebuke to President Trump and the Trump administration, and, going into 2020, the question is, what are those women going to do? They are hugely important, not just to the presidential race, but of course to control of the House and Senate as well. So that, that group is one that I’ll be watching for very carefully.
[00:31:57]And one thing that we know that those families in the suburbs, that all families are dealing with, are the question of the incredible stress of what’s going on with their families, their children, either homeschooling or they’re driving their kids to school and dropping them off and don’t know what’s going to happen by the end of the day. So it’s a very unusual, difficult, stressful time for those voters. And I think they’re going to be in the thick of it when they go to the polls in November.
Ken Stein: [00:32:22] I just want to say so in addition to the polemics and the polarization, there is distress that’s working on people’s decision-making.
Patricia Murphy: [00:32:30] Yes.
Lynn Sweet: [00:32:31] So you may think of Biden’s visit to Wisconsin today as Kenosha, but after he visited Kenosha, where he talked very much about race-related issues that are at the heart and policing issues at the heart of the Jacob Blake case, he went to a suburb of Milwaukee. Now this is GOP turf, but if he could, he only lost Wisconsin by 22,000 votes, or if you could shave some support, but where did he go? He went to Wauwatosa. It’s a suburb. He went to a suburban home. He sat with educators and parents in the back yard to talk about school reopening and this era of the pandemic.
Patricia Murphy: [00:33:07] Yeah.
Lynn Sweet: [00:33:08] Exactly, Patricia, to your point that this was like a surgical strike because in the Milwaukee TV market, they, they’re not going to ignore Kenosha. It’s a big story for them, as, by the way, it is in Chicago because the city’s between us. But when he’s in a suburban back yard talking about school reopening, and what are you going to do and how are the kids going to be safe and what should we do? And Dr. Jill Biden is sitting next to you, an educator in her own right, I thought that was a very good use of a doubling-up on one trip. When Trump came on Tuesday, he actually landed at an airport in Illinois and drove up, did that one event on law and order, and went back. Now he has been in Wisconsin plenty, but it will be interesting now to see what his, what the Trump’s suburban angle is, besides having the campaign of fear, where he says, “If we don’t change things and if it wasn’t for me, we’re going to have people you don’t want live in your suburb.” So actually that is an interesting frame if the whole game is suburban women. What message is going to work? Talking about what I could do to help your kids get into school and be safe, or have a thinly coated, race-related message about safety in your suburb because of some low-income housing model that is changing.
Alan Abramowitz: [00:34:32] Yeah, I think, I think that’s a great point. I think that if you watched the Republican convention, we saw a lot of that kind of messaging. It was sort of interspersed with attempts to try to make kind of softened Trump’s image somewhat, people talking about him, you know, how, how they know him personally and what he’s really like. But a lot of the messaging was about trying to instill fear, of what could happen if, if Biden and the Democrats are in power. Particularly fear of crime, fear of low-income, presumably Black people moving into your suburban neighborhood. We know there’s, you know, there’s a big gender gap this year. There has been a pretty big gender gap for some time, of course, with women being, tilting substantially more Democratic than men, and women make up a majority of the American electorate, about 52%. But I expect that we’re going to see, a, an even larger gender gap because women, especially college-educated women, seem to be particularly turned off by a lot of Trump’s sort of rhetoric and his style and his personality. The same, you know, it’s not just his policies; it’s also about him, him as a person. So I, I, that’s something I think will play, that’s going to be a big factor in the outcomes of the elections in a lot of these swing states.
Lynn Sweet: [00:35:53] Well, it will be, but I’m also looking at the weaponization of things like masks and the impact they may have.
Alan Abramowitz: [00:35:59] The polling shows us that the public does not agree with it. I mean, that’s what’s so striking to me is that, you know, if you read the polls, both the swing state polls and the national polls, it’s pretty clear that, the public all from the beginning has prioritized safety and prioritized trying to get the pandemic under control over reopening the economy and resuming normal activities. And and understanding that, you know, dealing with the pandemic has to precede resuming life, resuming opening the economy.
Lynn Sweet: [00:36:35] There were many Trump supporters who were out in Kenosha streets on Tuesday. How did I know? They were wearing T-shirts and hats, etc. And to a person, no one was wearing a mask.
Alan Abramowitz: [00:36:45] It’s stunning. It’s stunning.
Lynn Sweet: [00:36:47] And the people without T-shirts, which is everybody else. It’s Wisconsin, which is not a heavy masking environment, but you saw some people do or don’t, but it was to a person. And this, when you talked in the beginning, Ken, about what makes this election different, who and what prior comparison, we don’t have anything like wearing a mask for health reasons is, is an issue. If you had said people are going to wear masks to represent their club, their shul, their political, you know, association, I would say that’s cool. And if we could figure this out, the incredible ability that Trump has as a communicator, as a persuader, as a credible person to convince people “Yeah, masks somehow aren’t for them,” is the kind of in-depth study that an academic like the gentlemen, two, to find out why people would take a risk. So I’m OK that somebody might say masks are pretty good. They’re not as good as we thought, but they’re better than nothing. Or, you know, what do you, or do you use the famous phrase of Trump: What do you got to lose? And if that’s his attitude for other things, the idea that he wouldn’t transfer this to masks is an extraordinary political question.
Alan Abramowitz: [00:38:21] Yeah. Look, look, look at the, acceptance speech that he gave, on Thursday night at the Republican convention, at the White House, and look at the audience there.
Lynn Sweet: [00:38:31] Oh, yeah.
Alan Abramowitz: [00:38:32] You had 1,500 people crowded together with no social distancing, almost none of whom were wearing masks, maybe 5% or 10% at most. So that, that, that was striking, but so he has this remarkable ability, but, but it’s limited to his base, see, and his, to me, what doesn’t make a lot of sense is that his whole strategy, not just during this campaign, but for throughout his presidency, has been to play to his base. He plays to his base. And I think he understands that that’s the way that he got elected in the first place. And he thinks that’, what’s going to get him re-elected in 2020. But, you know, the evidence so far is that that is probably not a winning strategy, but we’ll see. A lot of us were surprised at what happened on election night 2016.
Lynn Sweet: [00:39:21] I was chided by a very influential, local Democratic consultant the other day because he was saying, well, look at the poll. Fox has a poll. Biden’s doing well. Everything’s fine. And I, I’m one, I just have a sense that this law and order message is more, sinking in more than what may be detected, but I have no data. I have a point to bring up that may be seen as either fact or data. In his speech today at a church in Kenosha, all of a sudden Biden said, “Hey, for those of you who think that this law and order thing is making inroads, I have something to tell you.” And then he says in a stage whisper, “It’s not.” Then why bring it up? So maybe he does know something, but how do you account, for my two professors here, this, this quick ability in a snap to turn masking into a potent potentially turnout issue for the base.
Patricia Murphy: [00:40:18] And, Lynn, I think it’s not just masking. It’s, it’s masking. It’s the Postal Service. It’s mail-in voting. It’s just this cascade of issues that their trust in him is so deep and thorough. And to me, it’s almost a, not just a personality test, it’s a values test. It’s a “What kind of American are you?” test. And he’s their kind of American.
Ken Stein: [00:40:43] Before we go further down this road of talking only about one individual, which we could easily do probably until we, we, we read the Torah tomorrow morning, something about the Senate, something about swing states. There are 35 Senate seats that are up for election, including the special election in Arizona, many of which are expected to be very competitive as Democrats vie for control. The Senate currently, as I understand it, is made up of 53 Republicans and 45 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats. The Dems have to win three or four seats to take control of the Senate. Do any of you foresee that happening? Without you, of course, having a crystal ball, we are exactly 60 days away from the election on Nov. 3. And where do you see that possibly happening? In what states would you suggest it might? Why don’t each of you take a minute and a half to get into that summary or two minutes?
Alan Abramowitz: [00:41:47] Yeah, I think, I think that it’s a better than 50-50 chance that Democrats will have a majority, although a narrow majority, in the Senate. They have to make a net gain of three or four, three if they control the vice presidency. And they’re probably going to lose, almost certainly going to lose, one seat in Alabama. So they’d have to pick up four other seats. At least right now it looks like there are four, five, six that are very winnable. They’re not certain by any means, but I think Arizona looks very winnable. I think Colorado looks very winnable. I think Maine looks winnable. And I think North Carolina looks winnable. And I think Iowa is potentially winnable. It’s a little hard to tell. And don’t forget, we have two Senate races in Georgia, both of which I think are winnable for the Democrats. It’s a little hard to gauge what’s happening in the Isakson seat because it’s a so-called jungle primary, but I think the Ossoff-Perdue race is going to be neck and neck.
Ken Stein: [00:42:42] Patricia?
Patricia Murphy: [00:42:43] Well, I think, obviously, Democrats are at an advantage because they are defending just 12 Senate seats, and Republicans are defending 23. So just by nature of the math alone, the Republicans are gonna have to just defend their turf a lot more. And I agree completely with the list that Professor Abramowitz put forward. I do think Doug Jones is going to have a really hard time in Alabama. He has run a very sincere campaign. I mean, he’s not trying to hide the fact that he, he is who he is, but I think when you get down to just the partisan makeup of Alabama, it’s a really very difficult seat for Doug Jones to hold on to. And then it really is going to get into, I think there’s always this wild-card factor of just who those candidates are. Something like Susan Collins in Maine always seems to pull it out. So she’ll have this X factor of loyalty that is difficult to capture in a poll. But she seems to always sort of pull it out, even though the polls are not looking too good for her. And I think it’s very important when you go state by state to look at what the state makeup is in terms of who has already been elected statewide. I think that’s why somebody like Thom Tillis of North Carolina has a heavier lift than David Perdue here in Georgia. There is a Democratic governor in North Carolina. Democrats have recently won statewide there. A Democrat has not won statewide in Georgia in a very, very long time. The infrastructure that Republicans dominate here is so heavy to overcome. There are these additional factors that go into it. I would say if anybody’s in real trouble, it’s Martha McSally. She was appointed to that seat. Mark Kelly, who’s running against her, is really a celebrity in his own right because he’s a former astronaut. He’s also married to former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, really beloved by the Democratic Party. They’re dumping cash into that race. And the demographics in Arizona have changed very rapidly, and Latinos make up a significantly larger share of that voting population than they did even in 2016. And, those Latinos are voting predominantly Democratic. So I think all of those factors go into it. But I agree with Professor Abramowitz that Democrats have a leg up right now.
Lynn Sweet: [00:44:48] Well, everything’s been said. I just want to have a footnote to what Patricia said, and then we could move on. I also think that in Arizona you also have a migration of seniors from California and other Rust Belt states who are bringing their Democratic leanings into the state. And that bulks up, especially when you look at, you know, the Tucson and Phoenix areas, where you have a lot of population. And I would just say that’s another factor that makes it better for Kelly.
Ken Stein: [00:45:22] Lynn, you wrote an article in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Lynn Sweet: [00:45:28] OK.
Ken Stein: [00:45:28] Right. I know that’s an accusation.
Lynn Sweet: [00:45:31] Yes, I did.
Ken Stein: [00:45:33] On Aug. 23.
Lynn Sweet: [00:45:34] I made Patricia laugh. OK, please.
Ken Stein: [00:45:37] On Aug. 23 about Pompeo’s speech, and what I’m trying to get to is I’m trying to get to Pompeo and the Republicans and Trump and the reach for evangelicals and Pompeo’s speech that was framed by it being given in Jerusalem, right in the middle of the Republican National Convention.
Lynn Sweet: [00:45:57] So this is when we’re talking about special interest groups. One of the groups in swing states are Jews. But whenever you hear Israel, when Trump says it, he’s not talking about the Jewish vote. He’s talking about the evangelical vote. That’s why you had this extraordinary situation at the Republican convention for secretaries of state, who never participate blatantly in the political venue, had Pompeo on a balcony of the King David Hotel, the dramatic Old City background, talking about the accomplishments of the Trump White House. So we know that the evangelical base is important, partly because Trump basically has told us. He was in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, I write in my column, where he had that famous — now there is, I’m looking, there is less than 1% of Jews in Wisconsin. So why would you go to Oshkosh and start talking about moving the capital, moving the embassy in Jerusalem, and talking about your accomplishments? So after he, after Trump goes through the list of things he’s done, he does say, and this has become a very famous quote, he accuses Jews of being disloyal. So how do I know we’re talking about the evangelicals? He said, as an aside in Oshkosh, we talked about moving the embassy. He said, well, that’s for the evangelicals. “The evangelicals are more excited about this,” he said, “than the Jewish people. That’s right. It’s incredible.” He’s also accused Jews of being disloyal, and the evangelical vote has been very loyal to Trump, their issues, abortion, which means judges, homeschool, are big. By the way, a homeschooling is a very big issue for the Orthodox Jewish community too in many places, but not in places necessarily where there might be a swing vote. So there is this tremendous emphasis on Israel because that is a central place on Earth of interest to the evangelical Christians.
Alan Abramowitz: [00:48:05] Right.
Lynn Sweet: [00:48:05] So Pompeo’s speech probably alone in the end doesn’t mean much, though it caused a lot of ethics specialists to say this is wrong. Add that to a long list of other things. But among the things to watch is to see how Israel is used in the two months left to the election. Now, I believe there is an intent to try and get more Arab partners in on this peace deal that they’re trying to do, or I’m not even sure if we could call it a peace deal or just a road to peace deal. We have the developing agreement with Israel and the UAE. On the 31st there was the first flight between Israel and the Emirates, which Jared Kushner was on. They’re trying to get other air partners because Trump — here’s what Trump wants to have done in two months for the election. He wants to have a vaccine that everybody will believe is safe and will take. And he wants to solve the problem of Mideast — he wants to create Mideast peace that has eluded people for a long time, or at least to have a signing deal.
Ken Stein: [00:49:13] Well, if he does that, then I’ll be out of a job in January. I’m not, I’m not really worried about it.
Alan Abramowitz: [00:49:18] I heard an interesting interview today with the scientist actually who is heading up the vaccine program for the Trump administration, and he said, point blank, this is not going to happen. He said that the reason, you know, it might make sense to say get ready to distribute the vaccine just in case. But he’s saying it’s a real long shot. And even when they have it, it’s going to only be available initially for, you know, a minority of the population, people most at risk, you know, front-line workers and maybe the elderly. And then it’s not going to be until, he’s talking about the middle of next year for widespread distribution of a vaccine.
Lynn Sweet: [00:49:56] This goes back to the Trump amazing ability to be a persuasive communicator. And this is, this is why it’s going to be tough. We’ve got the upcoming debates coming up. And Trump will say, “You will have a vaccine, so this problem will be done by election day.”
Alan Abramowitz: [00:50:15] I don’t think Trump’s a very good debater, actually. I have to say.
Lynn Sweet: [00:50:20] Here is the question. It’s not just, we have a vaccine, and we’re done. I am amazed always at how this sticks because people are smart. They know what they want to do for their health. The idea that there would be one vaccine that every scientist says, “It’s a great thing. This is it. We’re going to get together and do that,” when multiple vaccines are in play, when we know how hard it was and how long it took just to convince people to take flu shots, and then to think that enough other stuff will be manufactured and distributed and syringes to go with it at the same time we need syringes for flu season. That this will, and his word, and how do we get it? And then you will probably have to deal with an anti-vaxxer. So, oh, here’s an interesting intersection of politics and science. I believe, and I’ll be interested in your opinions, that the anti-vax movement is also more Trumpized.
Alan Abramowitz: [00:51:17] Oh, yeah, for sure.
Lynn Sweet: [00:51:19] How ,don’t you have to be pro-COVID vaccine? But then how could you be anti-flu-shot and other vaccines? How’s that going to work?
Alan Abramowitz: [00:51:27] The hard-core anti-vax is very small. It’s a very small group.
Patricia Murphy: [00:51:32] Oh. I was gonna hop in. Lynn, since you mentioned that the, and now I’m going to just like do a 180 back to something that you had mentioned about the UAE agreement with Israel. I’ve been so fascinated to watch this play out, to know that Jared Kushner and the Trump administration really was very deeply involved in that, the reporting has certainly borne out. And, Ken I, I would love to hear your thoughts on what, where that agreement sort of stands in relation to other agreements that have been struck by leaders of Israel and the United States and the Middle East and where do you think this falls in relation to the ones that you’ve seen before as well?
Ken Stein: [00:52:16] I’ll be brief. But Trump tried very hard, in part because his vice president, Pence, is a born-again Christian, very hard from the beginning to put his arms around Israel and embrace Israel. It so happened that the Israeli leader and Trump have similar kinds of autocratic leadership personality traits. I think that would be fair to say. And they sort of imbibed one another. There’s no doubt that Netanyahu’s great nemesis in the previous eight years was Barack Obama and that Netanyahu went out of his way to work as hard as he could to see to it that a Democrat did not become president. The UAE-Israel agreement is different than all others. It’s not between Israel and a neighboring state. It’s not having to pay a Palestinian price. It’s a promise not to annex territory, has nothing to do with giving anything back. And it’s very much based on the strategic national interest of both the UAE and Israel, more so than anything else that you can put your finger on. The UAE-Israel agreement may be a vehicle through which the Saudi leadership crawls its way back into Washington, regardless of whether it’s Biden or it’s a second Trump administration. The Saudis are looking for a way out of Yemen. It’s a billion-dollar-a-month campaign that has been totally wasted. The euphoria of the agreement in Israel for this understanding with the UAE is not even close to the euphoria that was expressed between Egypt and Israel in ’79 or Jordan and Israel in ’94. And that’s because Israelis, like Americans, have two other very big issues on their agenda. And that is COVID-19 and my job, my employment, and what am I going to do about my kids’ schooling? It’s the exact same issues that are irking and eating away at the American electorate. This agreement did not follow decades of trauma between Israel and the UAE. The UAE is more interested in cyber security from Israel and artificial intelligence than they’re worried about who’s going to withdraw from what settlement. This agreement, and Lynn, you’re right here, the Trump administration would like to find a way to squeeze this agreement out of a tube over the next 60 days so that you have a treaty signing or an event signing in Washington sometime in between, let’s say, two of the three presidential debates. It’s going to be intentionally timed. I would love to know who does the choreography of the calendar timing for the Trump administration in terms of what is put on the agenda every single day that makes us sort of feel like it’s the Wheel of Fortune because we’re never quite sure what’s gonna pop up.
[00:55:31] I wouldn’t be surprised if in six months or a year from now, Israel has become the intermediary for Arab states to get closer to one another as much as get closer to the United States, regardless of whether Biden becomes president or not. I don’t think whoever’s the occupant of the White House is going to make a hill of beans of difference in making the Middle East more stable. It’s just not going to happen. And you don’t direct Middle Eastern politics from the Oval Office. There’s only one stable country that a Democrat or Republican can rely upon, regardless who controls the Senate. And that’s the state of Israel. And I think that’s what the UAE realized. They realized there aren’t many of us who can claim stability as we want to face Iran. So the agreement is very different than the previous ones. I personally, for the question you didn’t ask me, I don’t think they’re more than 20% of the American Jewish voting electorate that will make a decision on who they will vote for in November based solely on “Is this person good or bad for Israel?” Because regardless, the person who’s going to be in the White House has to be good for Israel because the United States doesn’t have a choice.
Alan Abramowitz: [00:56:56] Yeah, I think that’s right.
Patricia Murphy: [00:56:57] That was going to be my next question.
Alan Abramowitz: [00:56:58] I think that’s that’s right, and the, and the data supports you in that. You know, I was looking at a survey of American Jewish opinion that was conducted in late February of this year by Garin-Hart-Yang polling firm, and what it shows is that for, American Jews first of all remain very, pretty overwhelmingly on the Democratic side and don’t like Trump, and they support Israel. but that’s not their primary voting issue. When they’re asked about what’s the most important issue for you in this election, Israel is pretty far down the list. And it’s the same issues that are concerns to most Americans. It’s the domestic policy issues that are really driving things right now, especially ’cause we’re not so it’s, it’s, you know, it’s the pandemic, it’s health care, it’s the economy. You know, and it’s actually race relations, and the thing that American Jews find most off-putting about Trump, according to the survey, is willingness to pander to white nationalists and racists. That’s something that really turns off a lot of American Jews.
Lynn Sweet: [00:58:05] The only place where this will really be put to a test is in Florida. Florida has the largest, of the swing states, Florida has the largest population. I think it’s about 3½%. The next big state after that would be Pennsylvania, but I remember going to Florida in 2012 for Obama’s re-election. And I went on a campaign swing with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the congresswoman from Florida, and Rahm Emanuel around Israel. Emanuel, then the mayor of Chicago, former chief of staff for Obama. And basically it was a tour to convince the nervous Floridians who had misinformation, disinformation or something else that the question was always, and I’m using this as a quote, that, that they wanted to know did Trump really, not Trump, did Obama really believe in his kishkes, that’s a quote, that he was for Israel. And, no, we can’t read people’s minds, but we can read Alan and Ken the data, and the data on military funding. I’m paying for every missile that the Israelis wanted, every kind of financial support, joint training with the Israelis, cooperative agreements. The wedge issue was over settlements and the relation with Netanyahu, and that’s where I think you may see if you want to have a study of where the evangelicals swim in the same water as it appeals to Jews, I would look at Florida, and Florida, as you all in Georgia know this much better than I, Florida has its own distinct voting areas. So I would think if we were just going down there as, if I could say, “Patricia, let’s do some in-person reporting,” I would say, “Why don’t we meet in Fort Lauderdale or Miami? And we’ll do a southern Florida examination of what the condo Gulf is going to do.” And then perhaps you would be able to see some things we talked about playing out. But that’s not the rest of America and especially in the swing states. So, I mean, even in a swing state, Wisconsin doesn’t even have 1%. Alan, I’m sure you know these numbers. Nevada, the only other place where there’s a sizable vote, is also Nevada, which voted for Clinton in 2016, and then it’s Pennsylvania. But Arizona, when we talked about the factors there, they’ve got about a almost 2% Jewish vote. So that, if that vote’s getting bigger, then that also probably helps Mark Kelly.
Ken Stein: [01:00:47] We’ve got about five or 10 more minutes, a couple of interesting questions that I’d like to pose to the three of you. One question is if the Democrats win the Senate, you think they’ll overturn the filibuster?
Alan Abramowitz: [01:01:03] Yes, they have to, because there’s no way they’re going to get close to 60 votes, and, which means their agenda would be dead on arrival. But a Biden agenda would be dead on arrival if they’re going to allow Republicans to filibuster. So I think, yes, they’ve already eliminated the filibuster for executive branch nominations, for judicial nominations, for everything except legislation, and they’re even workarounds there. And so I would be shocked if they don’t eliminate it. I think that’s, I think there’re, you know, some more interesting questions about will they try to expand the Supreme Court? Will they make the District of Columbia a state?
Ken Stein: [01:01:45] Another question is, and I had posed it to the three of you beforehand and someone posed it in the Q&A, should those who are interested in Israel regardless of their attitudes toward Israel, whether it’s left or right, should they be skeptical of a second-term president, regardless of who that second-term president is? In other words, Begin intentionally campaigned in 1980 against Jimmy Carter. There’s no doubt that Benjamin Netanyahu campaigned heavily against Hillary Clinton in 2016. More so that Hillary was a third-term Obama than anything else. Are second-term presidents more or less likely to be constrained by the Senate than first-term presidents?
Alan Abramowitz: [01:02:40] I don’t know that it’s the Senate, but I think it’s the fact that they can’t run for another term.
Ken Stein: [01:02:45] Or they don’t have to, or they don’t have to worry about the general public.
Alan Abramowitz: [01:02:50] So then the thought is, well, they can now really do things that they wanted to do without worrying about the electoral consequences. I don’t know if there’s much evidence for that or how it would affect policy toward the Middle East, but I think that’s something people worry about.
Patricia Murphy: [01:03:08] A third of the Senate will always be up for re-election. They’re always going to have to think about the consequences of their actions. But I’ve been so interested that the opposite has been true for President Trump. He has very few constraints from this Republican Senate because they’re up for re-election, not because they can do whatever they want. So it gives him a much freer reign because those Trump voters have really been very clear that they’ll punish Republicans. And, more so than I expected, Republican senators have really been, at least publicly, very, very hands off in terms of constraining this president. And I know some of it goes on behind the scenes, but those really are very carefully chosen moments, very strategically chosen, and then there’s always a price to pay afterwards. So this president has had few constraints because there’s an election coming up, not because there’s not an election coming up.
Alan Abramowitz: [01:04:01] Because he remains so popular with the Republican base, and, you know, so the Republican senators and members of Congress are very reluctant to cross him. They wait until they’re out of office.
Lynn Sweet: [01:04:14] Well, which is why one of the Democratic messages from the Biden campaign and allied Democratic groups is buckle up because what you’ve seen in the first term is nothing compared to what you may see in the second when Trump doesn’t worry about re-election. As you may recall, he all but announced re-election within weeks of being sworn in in 2017. He created his re-election committee. So the unconstrained, unrestrained Trump may be a selling point either way. If ya like what he’s doing, you’ll get more of it if he’s elected, or you could say the same thing, except in the sense “and you won’t like it if he’s re-elected,” but the, the lack of predictability about Trump, I would think would worry the single-issue voter. So now we talked about how he’ll do so much in his wooing of the evangelical vote. Well, he doesn’t have to worry about being re-elected, maybe he won’t care. Maybe he’ll have some legacy issue that he has, so he won’t care if an abortion-related measure gets traded off in order to get 60 votes in the Senate or get some kind of coalition in the House. One of the, I would, just one of the issues with Trump is I don’t perceive him as having a very strong set of core beliefs. So if he’s not constrained, that was the leverage on him. So he still will have influence on the Senate because, as Pat said, they’ll have a midterm election. But in terms of policies, in terms of proclamations, executive orders, all bets may be off.
Patricia Murphy: [01:05:55] Well, and I think we all remember when George W. Bush won re-election and the next day he had his press conference and said, “I’ve got political capital, and I’m going to spend it.” I think he felt it was an enormous vote of confidence in his plans and what he planned to do. He felt he really had the voters on his side. And I think that President Trump would very much feel that it was an endorsement of all that he had done up to this point if he wins again. And so, even more than anything, it would, it would be to say, what? “They’re for me, they’re for me. It’s, you know, I’m doing what I want because I won re-election.” And it’s going to be more of a certainty in his mind than anything. Go ahead.
Lynn Sweet: [01:06:37] But we also have to worry about whether this election does, it seems to be headed that it won’t be known election night. OK. I know so many journalists want to call the election as soon as possible. I think there are so many other big issues to report on even before we had COVID, even before this upset over mail-in ballots. So you, you move on for a few days. We may have a very unclear election result, which will also be dangerous in the contested election. And I know we only have a few minutes left, but we could have a very long and needed discussion just about the vote and the features and what will make people believe that the outcome is credible.
Alan Abramowitz: [01:07:20] Well, I think the only way that Trump could be re-elected is another Electoral College misfire, or if you want, you know, using that term. In other words, he’s not going to win the popular vote. I think there’s almost no probability that he’ll win the popular vote. And I think there’s an extremely high probability he’s going to lose it by more than he did last time. So if he’s re-elected, it will be with an even bigger gap between the overall national popular vote and the results in the Electoral College, which is going to result in, you know, I think a lot, a lot of people being very, very, very upset.
Ken Stein: [01:07:59] Hm. Political angina.
Alan Abramowitz: [01:08:02] Yeah.
Ken Stein: [01:08:02] Let me ask a question as we, you’re right, Lynn, we could probably go for another hour and a half easily just on the next 60 days and the three weeks after those 60 days. So let me ask you, each one of you, to think for a moment: What would be a highly unpredictable but expected October surprise?
Alan Abramowitz: [01:08:28] That’s sort of a contradiction in terms.
Ken Stein: [01:08:31] Yes, I know.
Lynn Sweet: [01:08:31] I had something. Often October surprises are seen in terms of, oh, some dirt that’s been dug up on a candidate or a scandal. Well, Trump’s been impeached; he’s scandal-proof on that front. I would think that the surprise could be some natural disaster or weather disaster and then the execution of the cleanup plan and how it’s handled. May it have an impact? So the California wildfires in a deeply Democratic state, which Trump, I think, has said happened because they don’t clean the floors of the forest properly. If, if you just have a natural disaster in a swing state, if Florida has some problem that the federal response is not what is expected, if for some reason Trump can’t muster it, or if there is just another incredible and deadly surge of COVID-19, that would not necessarily be a surprise, but it could serve that function.
Alan Abramowitz: [01:09:37] Yeah, that is possible, but in combination with the regular, with the flu season.
Ken Stein: [01:09:42] We haven’t talked at all. I know we’re at the very end of it. We haven’t talked at all about the whole issue of, of, of racism in America and the role that it could or might play in turning people out to vote, or the whole issue about immigrants and immigrant voting. And those are two very, very large parts of the American political, political feeling and electorate. Any of you want to say anything before we say good night, something about either the racism issue or immigrants.
Alan Abramowitz: [01:10:14] One thing I’d say is that I think that, and this has been touched on already, that the American society is becoming increasingly diverse. And I think that the, the growing influence of nonwhite voters and immigrants and children of immigrants has already been felt, but I think we’re going to see that even more so in this election. And, and that, I think is a big, it’s a big problem for Trump, and it’s a big problem for the Republican Party. And the fact that he’s pandering to, appears to be pandering to, white nationalists and and racists is, is not helping him at all in that regard.
Patricia Murphy: [01:10:53] I think one thing I would add is that in so many of those protests that we saw, those were not just Black crowds. There were very large contingents of White marchers with Black protesters as well. And this is not a Black-White issue. And I think especially for younger voters, they’ve been deeply activated by this. Regardless of their race, they are having a sense that it’s a question of character and a question of deciding what kind of country they want to live in. And I think it’s a much more potent issue than maybe has been understood. It certainly is in the streets. I think that many White voters will be activated by it as much as, as Black voters. There’s just a question of basic, fundamental justice that we see that’s missing in so many of these videos. It’s just so heartbreaking that I think that will, I think if there is an increase in youth voting, it will be tied directly to that single issue alone.
Lynn Sweet: [01:11:50] And you’ve seen the rise and the mainstreaming of Black Lives Matter in the wake of the George Floyd killing. And whether or not this movement decides to focus on November voting, registration, getting people to the polls, figuring out if there’s, if people are going to be reluctant about using mail and ballots, then, you know, just, just figure out the workaround, or what do you do safely in these COVID times? Well these are now big questions for the immediate future of some of the movement, that if you know what you’re going to get, and it probably isn’t what you want, in a Trump presidency, because he doesn’t address the issues of systemic racism. And he’s been asked multiple times in the past few days. So one of the turning points, the critical one for Joe Biden’s political life, was winning the South Carolina primary. Before that, he would have just faded away. But on the strength of Congressman James Clyburn, on the strength of the African American vote there, he was able to go on and win the nomination. So you have a strong voter block. You have animating issues, and you have new organizations that are socially networked and mobile and nimble. So we’ll be watching as political reporters to see if it transforms itself into a turnout operation in these weeks before the election.
Ken Stein: [01:13:27] I don’t know how to thank the three of you. You have been enormously generous with your time, the erudition, the insight. It’s been fascinating. It’s like sitting for a college seminar, and you just don’t want it to end. Patricia, Lynn, Alan, thank you ever so much. I, my only regret, of course, is my mom and dad didn’t hear this. But you certainly have kept alive their thirst for knowledge and imparting wisdom to future generations. So thank you all so very much. Shelter well, all of you, and thank you all, the participants, for joining us this evening. It was a marvelous night.