Is the presidential race where the polls say it is? What might pollsters be missing this election cycle? Is there a scenario in which Biden wins the electoral college handedly and Republicans somehow hold the Senate? Polls suggest that Republican senators’ reelection odds aren’t looking too sunny in Maine, Colorado, and Arizona. But what about Republican Senator Thom Tillis in North Carolina? “Everything comes down to whether a late breaking sex scandal in North Carolina can preserve a seat that Republicans a few weeks ago thought was lost,” says Josh Kraushaar, National Journal’s senior national political columnist, on today’s episode. “Ultimately, they’re hoping on a Democratic blunder on the last month of the campaign to save the Senate.” Join Sarah, Steve and Josh for a conversation about prospective voter turnout, party infighting on both sides of the aisle, and the senators who are distancing themselves from Trump to save the Senate.

Show Notes:

The story that the New York Post published last week about Hunter Biden raised all sorts of red flags for veteran journalists. How did they come into possession of the information in the first place? How did they authenticate the story before publishing it? All things considered, the available reporting process indicates that the New York Post’s story was so shaky within the Post’s own staff that the person who wrote it didn’t want his name on the byline. “That doesn’t say that the information is false,” David concedes on today’s episode, “But what it says is that the procedures to vet the information before they put the information into the public square were inadequate.” Tune in to hear our podcast hosts discuss voter enthusiasm, liberal anxiety over a 2016 repeat, and what to expect from Thursday’s presidential debate.

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How do journalists and tech platforms determine what information is verifiable online? How can news consumers determine which media outlets to trust when the line between partisan bias and disinformation becomes hazier and hazier? On today’s episode, David and Sarah are joined by Renée DiResta—a technical research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory and a writer at Wired and the Atlantic—for a conversation about disinformation online. “Anybody with a laptop can make themselves look like a media organization, can use a variety of social media marketing techniques to grow an audience, and then can push out whatever they want to say to that audience,” DiResta warns. Where do we go from here? Tune in to learn about journalistic ethics surrounding the New York Post’s Hunter Biden story and what to expect from disinformation actors this election cycle.

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How is Amy Coney Barrett holding up in her Senate confirmation hearings? Well, her record is squeaky clean, she’s held fast to the Ginsburg rule, and she’s remained calm and collected despite the Democrats’ best efforts to break her composure. Another benefit from this hearing, as Sarah points out, is that “the media has finally come around to understanding that the Affordable Care Act is not going to be tossed in the trash.” On the flip side, the language of court packing on the left has shifted in the opposite direction, where Democrats now argue that the term simply refers to the act of filling existing vacancies with conservative judges they don’t like. On today’s podcast, Sarah and the guys walk us through the evolution of court packing in recent decades before giving us a temperature check on the presidential election, several competitive Senate races, and the unmasking probe commissioned by Attorney General Bill Barr.

Show Notes:

Donald Trump is trailing in the polls by roughly 4.2 points in Arizona, a state Republican presidential candidates have won consistently in recent decades (with the exception of Bob Dole in 1996). Our podcast hosts are joined today by New York Times reporter Jonathan Martin, who explains the demographic changes that have resulted in such a quick political realignment in Arizona and the Sun Belt more broadly. If the polls are all correct and the GOP is at risk losing Arizona, then why is Trump spending so much time campaigning there? “The difference between a modest Biden victory and an electoral landslide is the Sun Belt,” Martin tells Sarah and Steve.

Beyond demographic changes in key battleground states, public opinion surveys have continuously shown that the American public is much more cautious about the coronavirus than the president. For months, President Trump has downplayed the pandemic by holding in-person rallies, refusing to wear a mask, and railing against the efficacy of mail-in-voting. Do Trump’s advisers simply not have the guts to tell him that his mishandling of the coronavirus is losing voters? “It’s just hard to use polling data to get him to act in ways that he does not want to act,” Martin argues. Listen to today’s episode for some thoughts about online campaign fundraising, Mitch McConnell’s last ditch effort to save the GOP’s Senate majority, and the life expectancy of “Anti-Fake News” Trumpism in the Republican Party.

Do this week’s national presidential polling averages doom Donald Trump’s chance at winning the election? Joe Biden has maintained a steady national polling lead of 6 to 9 points for months now, with no signs of letting up as we approach November 3. The latest CNN, NBC, and Rasmussen polls from this week show Biden in a 16-, 14-, and 12-point lead, respectively. “Even if [these polls] are outliers on the top number,” Jonah says, “The unspoken story about all of this is Biden is running away with it with seniors.” Trump won seniors decisively in 2016 and a Democrat hasn’t won the demographic since former presidential candidate Al Gore in 2000. All things considered, our podcast hosts warn that this could be one of the biggest presidential sweeps since Bill Clinton defeated Bob Dole in 1996. Tune in for a conversation about the right’s transition to online social media trolling, the president’s Twitter addiction, and tonight’s upcoming vice presidential debate.

Show Notes:

Donald Trump shocked the world when he announced overnight via Twitter that he and the first lady tested positive for the coronavirus, a startling development in an already news-saturated week for the president.

Who better to discuss these momentous developments than Dr. Jonathan Reiner—a cardiologist, professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, former physician to Vice President Dick Cheney, and a consultant to the White House Medical Unit during the Bush, Obama, and Trump years?

Last night was the first presidential debate and it was … not a great moment for the country, to say the least. As Sarah reminds us, presidential candidates go into debates with a strategy, basing their metric of success on their ability to boost turnout among an already existing base. Did either candidate achieve what they wanted to achieve? Are undecided voters who watched the debate now more or less likely to show up to the polls? If you haven’t been following every twist and turn of the race, Trump appeared strong and forceful during the debate, interrupting the moderator and his doddering opponent in perpetuity. But were Trump’s interruptions strategic? As Jonah argues, “He didn’t let Biden talk when Biden was talking badly.” Rather than give Biden the opportunity to fumble, the president was just a “blunderbuss of interruptions,” a problem that was compounded by his refusal to condemn white supremacy.

Biden, on the other hand, somewhat succeeded in his do no harm, let Trump be Trump strategy, minor gaffes aside. But it was by no means a show-stopping performance from the Democratic nominee. All things considered, it mostly served as a reminder that maybe mute buttons would be a good idea next time around. After a debate recap, Sarah and the guys discuss the electoral and national security implications of the New York Times’ report on Trump’s tax returns, as well as the DNI Director John Ratcliffe’s letter to Sen. Lindsey Graham regarding the FBI’s handling of Crossfire Hurricane. Stick around for a fun conversation about our podcast hosts’ favorite cult classic films.

Why are Supreme Court vacancies more important to Republicans than they are to Democrats at the ballot box? It all goes back to conservative resistance to living constitutionalism, Judicial Crisis Network president Carrie Severino tells Steve and Sarah on today’s episode. “We know historically, it has been conservatives who are incredibly engaged by the Supreme Court,” Severino argues, because “it’s been conservatives on the receiving end of judicial activism.” In recent decades, the Supreme Court itself has made a point of constitutionalizing issues that simply aren’t in the Constitution, which can be traced to the left’s complete misunderstanding of our country’s founding charter.

Severino argues that the underlying logic of judicial activism is as follows: “If it’s constitutional it must be good, if it’s not constitutional it must be bad, and likewise, if it’s good, then it must be required by the Constitution, if it’s bad it must be forbidden by the Constitution.” Tune in for some punditry on Democrats’ religious tests for conservative Supreme Court nominees, the prudence of confirming a Supreme Court justice during an election year, and Republican Sen. Josh Hawley’s insistence that he won’t confirm a Supreme Court nominee who hasn’t vowed on record to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death on Friday immediately kickstarted a battle among conservative pundits and politicians over the prudence of pushing through a Supreme Court nominee before November 3. The first problem is that mail-in voting is already under way, meaning Republicans would technically be advancing a nominee during an election. Republicans have also been hypocrites about this in the past with their opposition to Merrick Garland’s hearing in 2016. Steve thinks we should push through a nominee, but David, Jonah, and Sarah are more sympathetic to arguments that Trump should nominate a justice and the Senate should wait to confirm until after the election, keeping in mind Democrats’ threats to throw out the filibuster, pack the court, and add Puerto Rico and D.C. to the union if Republicans have their way with Trump’s forthcoming nominee.

David and Jonah propose a deal: If Trump wins, the Senate confirms his nominee; if Biden wins, he agrees not to pack the court. Others argue that confirming a justice during an election year is just politics, meaning whichever party is in power gets to do whatever it wants. But what about principled conservatism? “My main critique of philosophical pragmatism is we are now talking about basically saying power decides every question of principle,” Jonah says on today’s podcast. This puts Republicans and conservatives in a bind, he argues, “particularly because for the last give or take 5,000 years, one of the jobs of conservatives has been to make a distinction between things you can do and things you should do.” Tune in for a conversation about the forthcoming attacks on Amy Coney Barrett’s Catholic faith should she be Trump’s nominee, the upcoming presidential debate next week, and the New York Times’ eagerness to rewrite its own history surrounding the 1619 Project.

“People ask me this all the time, ‘Why the hell did you stay?’ ” explains Miles Taylor, the former chief of staff for the Department of Homeland Security under the Trump administration and founder of the Republican Political Alliance for Integrity and Reform (REPAIR). “And my response is: If you saw what was happening, why the hell wouldn’t you stay if you cared about your country?” On today’s episode, Miles Taylor gives Sarah and Steve an inside scoop as to what it’s like working for a president who constantly gives you orders to break the law and who believes he has “magical powers” to do whatever he wants. The most frustrating part of his job as DHS chief of staff, he said, was watching high officials who expressed disdain for the president in private but refused to speak up when it mattered most. “There was another time that we were in [the Oval Office] and he went off on a tirade about the Mexicans,” Taylor explains, “In the conversations he said, ‘Look, Mexico is just a total hellhole, isn’t it? It’s just a total hellhole.’ And he kind of looked around the room for agreement, and he was like, ‘Right? You know I can’t say [expletive]hole countries anymore but it’s a hellhole, right?” Taylor said most people in the room—except for one official who Taylor didn’t name—laughed it off and nodded rather than standing up to the president.

Taylor said he and his colleagues went into that administration recognizing that Donald Trump was a man of pretty poor character, but there was a hope that the office itself would perhaps change the president for the better. “I really think once he had the powers of the presidency, he got drunk on the powers of the presidency and they did not have that sobering effect, they had a very inebriating effect on President Trump and magnified some of his worst impulses.” Tune in to hear Miles explain what it’s like having a Trump tweet change the trajectory of your entire day as a DHS staffer, whether Republicans should vote for Biden this election cycle, and how REPAIR hopes to fix the GOP in the post-Trump era. If anything, tune just in to hear Taylor explain why “every single day in the Donald Trump administration was a pride swallowing siege.”

On Tuesday, Israel signed two historic peace agreements with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in a major step toward greater diplomacy in the Middle East. Though the Trump administration played a crucial role in brokering both peace deals—with the signing ceremonies themselves taking place in the White House—media coverage of the deals has been scarce, begrudging, and dismissive of the president’s involvement in the negotiations. How much credit should the Trump administration get for facilitating the deal? And more importantly, will other countries follow suit in normalizing relations with Israel? “The UAE is like a beta test of the bigger deal with Saudi Arabia if it is to come,” David explains on today’s episode. “This is sort of dipping the toe in the waters.” As we inch toward November 3, will this deal be a major selling point for Trump’s re-election campaign? According to Sarah, probably not. “Our politics goes in cycles of foreign policy having domestic policy relevance, normally when we’re talking about having our people overseas,” Sarah explains, “This is not one of those elections.” Much to the Trump administration’s chagrin, this deal is simply not getting the coverage it deserves and many Americans who are more focused on domestic issues may never even hear about it at all. After a foray into the foreign policy world, our podcast hosts discuss The Big Ten’s return, the conspiratorial trajectory of American politics, many Republicans’ conviction that Joe Biden is nothing but a cardboard cutout for the progressive far-left, and … Grover Cleveland!

Show Notes:

It’s the 19th anniversary of September 11, 2001, one of the most harrowing historical events in living memory. Today, our podcast hosts reflect on their personal memories of the day as a launching point into a discussion about the United States’ current understanding of al-Qaeda nearly two decades later. In reality, we don’t talk about al-Qaeda much anymore other than within the context of Trump’s “endless wars” rhetoric. Just this week, the Trump administration announced that troops in Iraq will be reduced to 3,000. What’s more, peace negotiations are taking place with Taliban representatives, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and representatives of the Afghan government this weekend. So as Steve points out, “You’d be forgiven for thinking this is all over.” But as Dispatch Podcast guest Tom Joscelyn reminds us on today’s episode, “Al-Qaeda is still very much alive.” Though Tom concedes that there’s a lot you can criticize about U.S. military intervention post-9/11, “It’s much more common, in my experience, that people who are against the U.S. using military force or U.S. military action to play disconnect the dots than it is for some sort of a so-called hawk to overconnect the dots.” On today’s episode, Tom, Sarah, and Steve discuss American intelligence officials’ current misunderstanding of al-Qaeda, the UAE and Bahrain’s plans to normalize their relationship with Israel, and the real and imagined foreign threats to the upcoming election.

Show Notes:

News broke overnight of President Trump’s plans to reduce U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, less than a week after Jeffrey Goldberg’s bombshell article in The Atlantic highlighted anonymous accusations of the president’s poor conduct toward American veterans. Sarah, Steve, and Jonah tackle some of the move’s political implications for Trump’s re-election campaign before launching into a lively debate over the ethics of using anonymous sources in journalism. “It is the case that reporters can pick and choose their anonymous sources to tell the story that their predetermined narrative would have them tell,” said Steve. “But I think you judge anonymous sources to a certain extent based on the amount of credence you give to the particular reporter who’s using them.”

The Dispatch Podcast also covers curveballs that could upset current polling favoring a handed Joe Biden victory—namely, the Hispanic vote and presidential debates. New data out of Florida reveals that the former VP might not have the Hispanic vote locked down, but as our hosts point out, assuming that a diverse group of people will vote as a monolithic bloc has always been a dangerous oversimplification. Steve, Sarah and Jonah also chat about the upcoming debates and how possible Biden blunders could either hurt him or paint him as a sympathetic figure, depending on how the president chooses to respond.

Erick Erickson, host of 95.5 WSB’s Atlanta’s Evening News and creator of The Resurgent, joins Sarah and Steve on the latest Dispatch Podcast to state the case for the president’s re-election, despite his own wide-ranging reservations about Trumpism and the future of the Republican party. To Erickson, Trump represents the lesser of two evils—acting on the better judgement of behind-the-scenes administration officials to move forward beneficial policies like the Israel-UAE deal, the Trump Tax Reform Plan, and economic deregulation.

When pressed about dangerous outgrowths of the populist right, like the QAnon conspiracy theory, Erickson contends that the misinformation crisis coincided with the country’s lost faith in the media. He says that when journalists for self-described nonpartisan mainstream news sources publicly exposed their biases on verified Twitter accounts, many Americans abandoned orthodox news sources in favor of word-of-mouth and alternative media. “All of this plays into more and more people tuning out of media and tuning into their friends on Facebook, and not being able to distinguish truth from fiction,” Erickson said.

On the campaign trail and throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has painted himself as a law and order candidate. We’re now three years into Donald Trump’s America and waves of violence and racial unrest are sweeping across America, most recently in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Do the riots and looting in Kenosha benefit Trump electorally? It’s hard to say whether the rioters and Antifa supporters—who are burning down small businesses and hitting innocent bystanders with concrete water bottles—are supporting Biden’s campaign or even voting at all. But if everyone thinks that the left is a monolithic movement—as alleged by Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump—that’s a bad look for the Biden campaign. “If you can get successfully tagged as the party of people who are setting fire to Korean grocery stores,” Jonah warns, “You’ve got a huge problem.” Listen to today’s episode for some thoughts on the way our preferred media outlets warp our worldview, ongoing Senate races nationwide, and an update on election meddling from foreign actors as we approach November 3.

Show Notes:

The Democratic and Republican conventions are finally over but most of the major credible pollsters are waiting for the dust to settle before tracking public opinion of both presidential candidates. The critical message pushed by the RNC this week was that Trump kept the promises he made to voters, but is that a real policy agenda moving into his second term? Is Biden’s “nice guy,” “Build Back Better” strategy winning over wobbly Republican voters? Do conventions even affect voters’ perceptions of candidates all that much? “I don’t know that anything unexpected or dramatic came out of the last two weeks, and I doubt that to the extent there are persuadable voters, a lot of them are spending eight hours of their life in front of the tv each week watching this,” said Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson on today’s episode. “I would highly suspect you had more hardcore Democrats hate-watching the Republican Convention than you did genuinely persuadable voters in the middle.” Tune in to hear Sarah and Steve chat with Anderson—co-founder of Echelon Insights and columnist at the Washington Examiner—for a conversation about the historical importance of conventions in moving the needle for presidential candidates in the polls.

Widespread destruction of businesses and private property has devastated Kenosha, Wisconsin, in the wake of the police shooting of a Jacob Blake last week. As we explained in today’s Morning Dispatch, “Blake was airlifted to a hospital, underwent surgery, and is still alive, but reportedly paralyzed from the waist down.” The details leading up to Blake’s shooting are still murky, but protests, riots, and looting have ravaged the city for days in response. “Suppressing civil unrest is one of the most difficult things that any law enforcement agency can do,” David says on today’s episode. But still, we should expect leaders to draw brightline distinctions between constitutionally protected expression and violent protest. There has been a predictably partisan reaction to the riots: Democrats have been reluctant to condemn the violence in fear that doing so will alienate young voters. Republicans, on the other hand, have been quick to ridicule even peaceful protesters. When it comes to quelling the violence, there is also a difference, David adds, between “overwhelming force, which can be often extremely counterproductive and inflame further violence, and overwhelming and prudently deployed presence.” Beyond the events in Wisconsin, tune in for some punditry about the Democratic and Republican conventions, the GOP’s non-platform, and comparisons between the presidential elections of 2020 and 1988.

Show Notes:

When Politico reported on Republican congressional candidate Marjorie Greene’s racist and bigoted comments in June, several top GOP officials—including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy—condemned her campaign. But after she beat her Republican opponent Dr. John Cowan in Tuesday’s primary race, McCarthy immediately switched gears. A spokesman for McCarthy’s office told Declan that the GOP leader “looks forward” to her win this November. Why on Earth is the House minority leader welcoming a racist conspiracy mongering candidate into the GOP with open arms? Our Dispatch Podcast hosts have some thoughts. It’s also worth exploring how she was able to win her primary in the first place, especially with all the negative media attention she’s gotten in recent months. A source close to her opponent’s campaign has a theory: “The most consistent thing we heard [about why voters were supporting Greene over Cowan] was that, ‘Well, she’s gonna go and she’s gonna fight, she’s gonna fight, she’s gonna fight.’ When you prodded a little bit deeper and asked, ‘Well what does that fight look like?’ They couldn’t tell you, but they just know she’s going to fight.” Tune in for some insights into what the future of the Republican Party will look like with a QAnon supporter in its ranks.

Show Notes:

On Tuesday, Joe Biden tapped Kamala Harris as his running mate. But let’s be honest—we all saw this coming. As we wrote in The Morning Dispatch today, “D.C. conventional wisdom had Sen. Kamala Harris pegged as Joe Biden’s likeliest choice for months.” Despite Harris’ numerous attacks on Biden over his busing record and relationship with segregationist senators —not to mention her dicey criminal record as a prosecutor in California—she checks a lot of boxes. She’s a senator in one of the country’s biggest states, she’s the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, and she has experience running her own presidential campaign (albeit a failed one).

“When she was running for president, it was pretty obvious she didn’t know what she was running for,” David says on today’s episode. “But now as a good lawyer she sort of has a client, and the client is the guy at the top of the ticket and the Democratic platform, and that will unleash some of her better skills.” Today, Declan joins The Dispatch Podcast for some punditry on what Biden’s VP pick means for the future of the Democratic Party, a deep dive into foreign election meddling, and a much-needed update on the status of sports during the pandemic.