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The Washington Report: August 7, 2020 … “America Stands Alone”

07 Aug 2020

The Washington Report: August 7, 2020 … “America Stands Alone”

Wile E. Coyote Moment … America Stands Alone … TikTock Countdown … ‘Tariff Man’ Is Back … 55 Years Ago … 75 Years Ago …  Most Competitive Senate Races 2020 (long read) … Dems Unconventional Convention & Who Won’t Be Hanging Out With Cheeseheads? … and other news of the week,
Best,
JR
Joyce Rubenstein
Capstone National Partners
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Wile E. Coyote Moment

WaPo “The effort on Capitol Hill to head off economic calamity with another round of emergency relief has reached a Wile E. Coyote moment. Negotiations between congressional Democratic leaders and the Trump administration have run off a fiscal cliff with no sign the urgency of the situation will yield a breakthrough. After three hours of talks on Thursday evening, the two sides agreed on this much: There is not much on which they agree.
The key sticking points:
  • The overall price tag. House Democrats passed a $3.4 trillion package in May; the administration has offered to spend $1 trillion. Meadows signaled the White House could agree to more.
  • Aid to states and cities. Democrats want to send $1 trillion to local governments to make up for budget shortfalls, fund public health efforts and keep government workers employed; Trump calls that a bailout for states led by Democrats, and the administration has countered with $150 billion.
  • The federal unemployment boost. Democrats advocate extending the $600 payments through January; Republicans proposed an extension at $400 that Democrats so far have rejected.
  • And there are other hangups. “Democrats are pushing for money for food stamps and child care … The two sides are also arguing about money for schools and the Postal Service. Republicans have sought to link some of the school money to schools reopening, which Democrats oppose. There is a dispute about pensions, and other issues also remain unresolved.”
While the Hill dealmaking remains in suspended animation, millions of Americans are confronting financial free-fall. They include renters, jobless Americans, small-business owners and others. The expiration at the end of last month of $600 in weekly enhanced unemployment benefits cut a lifeline for more than 31 million people. Compounding their crisis, the federal moratorium on evictions has also expired, as have many state-level bans on electricity shut-offs.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is not participating in the formal talks, said he will keep the body in session next week if no agreement is reached, but several GOP senators said they are going home.”
WHERE IS TRUMP? Politico … “Instead of working the Capitol to break the logjam, Trump is in his bubble, at his summer vacation home in Bedminster, while the people he ran against — lifelong politicians and a former Wall Street banker — flail at a compromise. Trump called the GOP negotiators several times Thursday evening, though.”
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TikTok Countdown

WaPo “The president issued two executive orders late last night: “The orders take effect in 45 days and prohibit any U.S. company or person from transacting with ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, or WeChat. While the nature of the banned transactions are not specific, it may mean the companies would not be able to appear on Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store in the United States. It also could make it illegal for U.S. companies to purchase advertising on TikTok,” Rachel Lerman reports.

“But the order should not affect a deal if Microsoft or another U.S. firm manages to buy TikTok before the 45 days are up.”

WeChat is especially popular in China: “It’s one of China’s most innovative Internet products to date, with Facebook adopting similar features years later in its Messenger app. But it’s also been adopted by Chinese officials as a useful surveillance tool, with growing numbers of people prosecuted for sharing politically sensitive content in chat groups.”

NOT TO BE MISSED: “The executive order came hours after the Senate unanimously passed a bill prohibiting federal employees from using TikTok on government-issued devices,” the Journal notes. You may recall the House passed a similar TikTok ban in its defense policy bill, which Trump threatened to veto because it contains measures to rename military bases named for Confederate officers.  With the House and Senate now in lockstep on TikTok, Reuters reported “the prohibition is expected to soon become law in the United States.”

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‘Tariff Man’ Is Back

Trump Reimposes Tariffs On Canandian Aluminum … “The move, which prompted Canada to pledge retaliation, reignites trade tensions with a key partner just months after the adoption of a new North American trade agreement.”. The president said the decision is because Canada reneged on a promise not to “flood” the U.S. with its exports. Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland, called the move ‘unwarranted and unacceptable’ and said the country would soon announce ‘dollar-for-dollar countermeasures.’”
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America Stands Alone

NYT “Nearly every country has struggled to contain the coronavirus. But only one affluent nation has suffered a severe, sustained outbreak for more than four months: the United States.
WHY?
  1. First, the United States has a tradition of prioritizing individualism over government restrictions. That aversion to collective action helped lead to inadequate state lockdowns and inconsistent adherence to mask wearing based on partisanship instead of public health.
  2. Second, many experts agree, America’s poor results stem in substantial measure from the performance of the Trump administration. “If you had to summarize our approach, it’s really poor federal leadership — disorganization and denial,” said Andy Slavitt, who ran Medicare and Medicaid from 2015 to 2017.The administration’s travel restrictions were insufficient. Health officials initially gave confusing advice around wearing masks in public. And the president’s public statements — including claiming that the virus wasn’t serious and would disappear — regularly spread misinformation. In no other high-income country have political leaders so frequently departed from expert advice.

    Together, skepticism toward collective action and the administration’s scattered approach have undermined the national response to the pandemic. True, the United States has made some improvements, including on mask wearing and testing. But unlike in South Korea, Germany and other countries, the virus continues to overwhelm daily life for Americans. The frustration for many experts is that this outcome was avoidable. As one said: “This isn’t actually rocket science. We know what to do, and we’re not doing it.”

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Virus Spreads As Schools Open

WaPo ” Mississippi, now experiencing the country’s highest rate of positive tests, is emblematic of the pandemic’s new reality. The virus is no longer principally an urban problem: It is present throughout every state, and those infected often don’t know it, leading to what top public health officials call ‘inherent community spread.’
Axios “A cluster of states in the Midwest are seeing more of their coronavirus tests coming back positive — potentially an early indicator of a growing outbreak. Between the lines: Total U.S. testing this week decreased by nearly 13% compared to the week before, muddying the picture of what’s going on in some states.
  • Arkansas, for example, saw an increase in its positivity rate over the last two weeks, as its testing decreased by 34%.
  • Nebraska, on the other hand, is also facing a growing positivity rate, but its testing increased by 9% — a bad combo. The state of play: A high positive rate means that a higher share of those getting tested are sick. That could be because there are more sick people, or because a state isn’t doing enough testing.”

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55 Years Ago

theSkimm “The Voting Rights Act was signed into law 55 years ago Thursday. Remind me about it. Signed by President Lyndon B Johnson, it’s considered one of the most significant civil rights laws in American history. It was designed to ban discriminatory voting practices (think: literacy tests) that disenfranchised racial minorities, especially Black Americans. And it required some states and localities to get federal approval before making any changes in voting rules. Following its passage, Black voter registration in the South went from 35% to 65% in just five years. And for nearly 50 years, the law was highly effective in preventing discrimination against Black voters and helping increase the number of Black elected officials.
I’m sensing a ‘but’… Here it comes: But seven years ago, the Supreme Court effectively struck down the law’s key enforcement provision – freeing certain states from having to get approval for voting rule changes. The decision was met with backlash from voting rights advocates who said it would lead to a resurgence of voter suppression. And since then, it has. In recent years, lawmakers across the country have introduced voter ID laws, closed polling places, purged voter rolls, restricted felons’ voting rights…the list goes on.
Is anything being done? Voting rights advocates and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have worked in the past to restore the powers of the VRA. Last year, the House voted to do just that…but the legislation stalled in the Senate. But the fight’s garnered renewed attention since the death of civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis. In his eulogy for the late congressman, former President Barack Obama called on Americans to honor Lewis by revitalizing the VRA – a law he “was willing to die for.”
SO …
Fifty-five years ago, the US took a historic leap by helping bring equality to Black voters. But in recent years and throughout this presidential election, many have pointed to evidence of voter suppression. And with less than 100 days to Election Day, many are advocating for change to make this democratic right accessible to everyone.
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75 Years Ago

NYT “The United States dropped the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima 75 years ago today. Three days later, a second bomb leveled Nagasaki. The attacks killed an estimated 200,000 people. Now the survivors number around 130,000 and on average are 83 years old.”
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Campaign 2020: Most Competitive Senate Races of 2020

The Fix “Can Democrats win back the majority in the Senate in November? It’s looking increasingly possible, thanks largely to President Trump’s spiraling poll numbers over the coronavirus and race relations. Democrats’ likeliest path is to pick up at least four Senate seats and win the White House to get the majority, but they’ll have to win in some conservative-leaning states to do it. Here are the top 14 Senate races most likely to flip parties in November, updated from April. There are 12 chances for Democrats to flip Senate seats and just two for Republicans on this list.
Because so many of the races are so close and could go either way — while others are more of a stretch for Democrats — we placed them in three categories: More likely to flip than not, toss-ups, and could flip under the right conditions.
LIKELY TO FLIP: Alabama, Arizona & Colorado
  • Alabama (Democratic held): Sen. Doug Jones (D) remains the most vulnerable senator in 2020, as he has been all election cycle. This is one of the most pro-Trump states in the nation, and Jones voted to convict Trump on both impeachment counts.
  • Arizona (Republican held): Former astronaut and current gun-control activist Mark Kelly is probably one of the Democrats’ strongest candidates of 2020. He has outraised Sen. Martha McSally (R) the entire race and is leading in most major recent polls.
  • Colorado (Republican held): Democrats put themselves in a good position to unseat Sen. Cory Gardner (R) by convincing former governor John Hickenlooper (D) to run after his failed 2020 presidential bid.There have been very few nonpartisan polls, but in private Democratic polling (which is to be taken with a grain of salt), Hickenlooper has a regular lead.
TOSS-UPS: North Carolina, Maine, Iowa, Georgia and Montana
  • North Carolina (Republican held): Sen. Thom Tillis (R) narrowly won his first term six years ago and is now running in a state Democrats have since made major gains in. North Carolina may also be the swingiest state at the presidential level. Two recent polls show Tillis behind former state senator and Iraq war veteran Cal Cunningham (D) by nine points, numbers that are surprising even some Democrats. … expect the race to tighten.
  • Maine (Republican held): Could this be the year Democrats finally kick out Sen. Susan Collins (R) after more than 20 years? This is the most Democratic-leaning state in the toss-up category. And Collins’s independent brand seems to have been damaged by Democrats attacking her high-profile votes in Trump’s favor, such as for his Supreme Court pick Brett M. Kavanaugh and to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial. Her opponent is Maine House Speaker Sarah Gideon, who has been outraising Collins and hasn’t made any major stumbles. A Colby College poll in July has Gideon up five points; a Quinnipiac poll out Thursday has Gideon up by four. Still, Collins is a force in Maine, and the entire Republican apparatus knows this is a race they must win to keep the Senate majority.
  • Iowa (Republican held): First-term senator Joni Ernst (R) officially has a competitive reelection on her hands against Democratic real estate executive Theresa Greenfield, in large part because the presidential race is suddenly competitive in Iowa. Trump won it in 2016 by 10 points, but he is just three points ahead of Joe Biden now in a new Monmouth University poll. Both sides acknowledge this is going to be a tight race. That Monmouth poll had Ernst up three points over Greenfield. A Des Moines Register poll in June found the same margin, but with Greenfield ahead of Ernst. So, a toss up.
  • Georgia (Republican held): Democrats’ optimism that they can kick out Sen. David Perdue (R) is buoyed by how competitive Georgia is looking at the presidential level. A recent Monmouth University poll showed Trump and Biden in a dead heat among registered Georgia voters. Democrats think Perdue may be caught off-guard by the rapid growth in diversity in Atlanta’s suburbs. But for now, the first-term senator is still consistently leading in polls over his opponent, Democrat Jon Ossoff. Some polls show this as a margin-of-error race. Democrats will still need a bit of magic to get him over 50 percent. But they have a chance
  • Montana (Republican held): It’s a testament to how successful Democrats have been at recruiting candidates that this Trump-friendly state now has a Senate race considered a toss-up. Steve Bullock (D) is an outgoing popular two-term governor who won reelection in 2016 when Trump won by 20 points. After a failed 2020 presidential run, Bullock will try to unseat Steve Daines (R), a first-term senator. Good polling is hard to come by in Montana, but Montana voters are known for voting for the Republican for president and a Democrat for governor or Senate.
COULD FLIP IF THE RIGHT CONDITIONS: Michigan, Georgia, Texas, South Carolina, Kentucky and Alaska
  • Michigan (Democratic held): Besides Alabama, this is Republicans’ best pickup opportunity. Yet the race keeps getting less competitive for them, in part because Republican candidate John James, an Iraq War veteran and conservative media darling, just hasn’t been able to gain traction against Sen. Gary Peters (D).
  • Georgia’s special election (Republican held): After a retirement, Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) was recently appointed to this seat. She’s having trouble keeping it, but not necessarily because of Democrats. Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R), who vocally defended Trump during impeachment, is challenging her for the seat. All the candidates, regardless of party, will be on the ballot in November. If no one gets above 50%, the top two will have a runoff in January. Democrats are hoping that one of their candidates, specifically Atlanta pastor Raphael Warnock, can squeeze into the top two. But if he does make it to a January runoff, he won’t have Biden at the top of the ticket to help him get out the Democratic vote. And while Georgia is an increasingly competitive state, it hasn’t yet proved to be a place where Democrats can win statewide.
  • Texas (Republican held): The same goes for Texas, though Democrats got close in 2018 when Beto O’Rourke came within 2.5 points of beating Sen. Ted Cruz (R). This time, Democrats recently nominated former congressional candidate and Air Force veteran MJ Hegar to try to take out Sen. John Cornyn (R). But Cornyn is a less polarizing senator than Cruz. … The main reason this race is on our list is because it has, remarkably, tightened at the presidential level. Two recent polls show this basically a dead heat between Trump and Biden, which is not a position Trump or Cornyn want the president to be in less than three months from the election.
  • South Carolina (Republican held): Under normal circumstances, we’d be hard pressed to see how … Lindsey O. Graham (R), could have a competitive race in a deep red, pro-Trump state. But Democrat Jamie Harrison has managed to raise millions, and now a Quinnipiac University poll out Thursday shows Harrison tied with Graham at 47% each. It suggests Trump’s struggles in dealing with the coronavirus are dragging down Graham, a prominent Trump ally. But Republicans are still questioning whether there are enough independents souring on Trump here to make a difference. It will almost certainly require Trump’s numbers dropping even more for Democrats to win in this state.
  • Kentucky (Republican held): We remain extremely skeptical Democrat Amy McGrath can unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), despite her massive fundraising. … That said, Trump isn’t helping. As the president’s numbers sink even in Kentucky, a Quinnipiac University poll has McConnell with a five-point lead over McGrath, which is narrower than some expected, and independents in Kentucky actually back McGrath right now, 46 points to 40 points. It will still take a historic Democratic tsunami to knock out McConnell though, like the other races at the bottom of this list.
  • Alaska (Republican held): Democrats are throwing their support behind independent Al Gross, a doctor and fisherman with money of his own to spend, as he tries to unseat Sen. Dan Sullivan (R), who narrowly beat a well-known Democrat six years ago to come to the Senate. Yet again, Trump’s handling of the coronavirus is the top reason it has the potential to be competitive. Alaska does have an independent streak and has elected Democrats to the Senate. But this state is also hard to poll.
  • A note about Kansas: The open Senate seat is another one Democrats think could flip in the right conditions, even after Republicans got their preferred candidate, Rep. Roger Marshall, through a primary this week over the much-weaker Kris Kobach. But the primary just happened, and we need to see more evidence of how the race between him and Barbara Bollier, a state senator who recently left the Republican Party, shapes up before it goes on the list again.”
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Dems Unconvention Convention & Who Won’t Be Hanging Out With Cheeseheads?

“Who made the cut — or got axed — for coveted Democratic convention speaking slots”: “Bernie Sanders and John Kasich will share a night in the spotlight, and both Clintons are slated to have prominent speaking roles at the all-virtual Democratic National Convention in less than two weeks, multiple people familiar with the plans told Politico.

“Others who’ve been tapped for coveted speaking slots during an event that’s been shrunk down to eight prime-time hours over four nights are Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Jill Biden. And it goes without saying that the party’s two most popular figures, Barack and Michelle Obama, will be featured prominently. “One source said Kasich — the former Republican governor of Ohio and a major critic of President Donald Trump — would appear on the same night as Sanders early in the week in a demonstration of unity. The duo would be designed to showcase a broad anti-Trump coalition that is backing Biden.”

AND .. Democratic Party officials announced Biden won’t go to Milwaukee, WI, for the Democratic National Convention. Instead, the DNC will be almost entirely virtual and Biden will give his acceptance speech on August 20 from his home state of Delaware.”
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QAnon Believer’s Racist Remarks Stoke GOP Alarm

  • *Georgia’s 14th District will hold a runoff on Aug. 11
  • *National, state GOP condemned candidate’s remarks
BGov “Republican lawmakers and leaders rushed to distance themselves from Marjorie Greene after the House candidate’s history of racist and Islamophobic comments, on top of her belief in the QAnon conspiracy theory, emerged following the June primary. That’s helped make a race out of her runoff … against neurosurgeon John Cowan. Greene was the clear winner of the June 9 primary, picking up more than 40% of the vote in a field of nine candidates. Cowan received 21%. The Republican nominee is almost guaranteed victory in November: the district is one of Georgia’s most Republican, with 75% of voters supporting President Donald Trump in 2016.”

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Amazon’s Very Good, Excellent Year

WaPo “Like many companies, the tech giant was unprepared for the pandemic: “Delivery times and customer reviews slipped, essential items were unavailable in some areas, and worker absences created extended challenges. For the first time in years, the company’s share of e-commerce in the U.S. actually fell according to the WSJ.”

“But as the virus raged on, Amazon spent billions of dollars on its response, hiring workers, increasing pay, improving delivery times, conducting medical tests for employees and stabilizing its supply chain. Its share of online sales has already begun to rebound … The e-commerce juggernaut has added more than $700 billion to its market value since its March lows, or about the size of Facebook Inc. Its market capitalization now exceeds $1.5 trillion, behind only Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. among public companies.”

CEO Jeff Bezos sold $3.1 billion in shares: The company’s stock is up 73% this year. “Bezos, the world’s richest man, had said he planned to sell stock worth about $1 billion each year to fund his rocket company, Blue Origin,” (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

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