A Campaign on Oxygen

While Trump’s poll numbers sag, efforts to resuscitate his chances by blocking a clean election outcome continue

Good evening. Voting in the 2020 presidential election concludes in 27 days.

The Latest 

The big dynamic this week is pretty simple. On one hand, voter sentiment since last week’s debate has broken toward Biden to a perhaps literally unbelievable degree. On the other — and perhaps as a result — Republicans at multiple levels of government appear to have stepped up efforts to keep the tally of votes when voting closes within the margin of theft. 

Let’s dig in:

Major polls released this week paint a devastating picture for the Trump-Pence ticket. An NBC/Wall Street Journal survey released on Oct. 4 placed Biden 14 points ahead of Trump. Two days later, CNN released a poll that showed Biden with a 16-point lead — drawing 57 percent of likely voters, compared with Trump’s 41 percent. 

A number of factors could explain those yawning margins — Trump’s hospitalization and stormy debate performance, for instance, might have dissuaded some likely Trump voters from responding to pollsters. It looks beyond question, though, that Trump faces a deficit greater than any other presidential candidate in October polls this century.

Voter suppression and other tactics to interfere with the electoral process, however, continue apace. The likely goal: to keep the Democratic and Republican candidates’ final numbers close enough, when voting ends, to make efforts to hijack the process viable. 

While we have few recent points of comparison, the margin of defeat may be an important psychological factor for forces contemplating shenanigans. In the 2019 gubernatorial election in Kentucky, for instance, a 5,000-vote lead for the Democratic candidate after a recanvass was enough to dissuade Republican lawmakers from letting then-Governor Matt Bevin contest his defeat.

Those Republican efforts fall into three categories:

  • Voter suppression. In recent days: Republicans in Ohio and Texas have blocked local governments from opening satellite drop-boxes for collecting absentee ballots — leading to lines in urban centers in those states as early voting begins.

    Texas:

Ohio:

  • The Republican-dominated Supreme Court in Texas has also blocked officials in Harris County — the third most populous county in the United States — from automatically sending absentee-ballot request forms to its 2.4 million registered voters. Late last week, the United States Supreme Court blocked attempts to waive South Carolina’s requirement that absentee ballots be signed by a witness.

  • Disinformation. Efforts within the Trump administration and campaign to confuse voters about salient facts remain frantic. The president, upon his helicopter return from Walter Reed, promised voters that a coronavirus vaccine would come “momentarily.” Trump’s effort to rush an announcement, however, appears to have run aground; the Food and Drug Administration rolled out long-delayed vaccine guidelines with a timeline that appears to make approval before voting ends on Nov. 3 impossible.

  • Federal interference. The U.S. Department of Justice has reportedly lifted an internal policy against public measures — such as announcements of investigations, or raids — that may affect the outcome of voting. A report by ProPublica says that an Oct. 2 department email announced “an exception to the general non-interference with elections policy” that named federal workers involved with mail-in voting — Postal Service employees, for instance — as potential subjects of enforcement actions before voting concludes. (Yes, former Justice Department officials do worry that this change sets up future efforts such as the immediately propagandized announcement of an investigation into mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania.)

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Tracking the Conversation

What You Can Do

The coalition to Protect the Results is looking for volunteers to lead, join, or support direct actions and protests to defend a fair ballot account after Election Day. There’s no time like the present to sign up.

A Moment of Zen

Regardless of what one might think about the president’s … er, erratic outbursts since leaving the hospital on Monday, this much seems clear: “that boy,” as The Avalanches said in the song “Frontier Psychiatrist,” “needs therapy.”


American Interregnum is a pop-up newsletter covering the issues and ideas that will define the Presidential transition period from Nov. 3, 2020, through (we hope) Jan. 21, 2021. It is written and edited by Justin HendrixGreg Greene, and Melissa Ryan. Have questions or comments? We love your feedback. Reply directly to this email. We read all responses and respond to most. 

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