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What Matters: The conventions are over. What’s next?


The next closest recent bounce would be Jimmy Carter, who got a 10 percentage point bounce in 1980 — and then lost the election. John Kerry and Mitt Romney both lost ground after their conventions in 2004 and 2012.

But then this is a remarkable year, with a genuine movement for social change, some riots, and the uncertainty and carnage of a worldwide pandemic.

In CNN’s most recent poll of polls, conducted before the Republican National Convention, Biden had 51% to Trump’s 46%.

But it’s the Electoral College that matters. Several battleground states show much tighter polling numbers. CNN has given a competitive rating to each state.

Biden is close to 270. For now. The Electoral College votes from states that are safely or leaning toward Biden add up to 269, one fewer than the 270 needed for victory.

That includes two states that narrowly chose Trump in 2016 — Pennsylvania and Michigan — but that CNN now rates as “lean Democratic.”

Related: See CNN’s ratings and make your own map here

What Trump needs to do. If those ratings hold up, Trump would have to sweep battleground states to win the election.

But the race is far from over. We’ve still got plenty ahead of us. And, as Michael Dukakis would tell Biden, there’s still plenty of time to lose this thing.

The next key gut check: debates. They are scheduled to occur September 29, October 15 and October 22. A vice presidential debate is scheduled for October 7.

One wrinkle this year is that with so many millions of Americans expected to vote by mail — and with so much reason to vote as early as possible, amid concerns about whether the post office can handle the flood — many millions might decide who to back before the debates are over.

Forget about changing minds. That said, there’s a school of thought that the undecided voter is a myth. People know who they’ll support, even if they’re unwilling to admit it. (Seriously, who is on the fence between these two candidates?)

That means this is all about turnout from here on out, which is why Democrats are doing everything they can to make it easier to vote by mail (or any other way), and Republicans are trying to make it harder.

Trump’s America vs. Biden’s America

Trump made Joe Biden’s America sound like a very dark and dangerous place during his convention address on Thursday night.

He didn’t acknowledging that the Donald Trump’s America we’re all living in, with its racial tensions and its more than 180,000 Americans dead from Covid, often feels like an unstable place.

He did promise to keep people safe from marauding mobs that will take over American streets should Biden win. If you haven’t read about it yet, read about it here.
Or read it for yourself. But if you do, please also read this fact check of more than 20 false or misleading claims Trump made.
The most mind-bending contradiction of the night. What sticks with me is that he was applauded repeatedly for granting clemency to Alice Johnson, the drug dealer reformed in prison. (He granted her a full pardon on Friday.) And in his speech he bragged about passing “historic criminal justice reform.” Which is all great.

But then he accused Biden of wanting to let 400,000 criminals into the streets (he’s referring here, I think, to Biden’s call to end a cash bail system).

Shrinking the US prison population is the next step of prison reform. That’s what Trump had just claimed credit for doing! Anyway. Whatever. Onward.

Convention spread? At least four cases of Covid have been tied to the RNC’s non-distanced gathering in Charlotte. More will likely follow, including from the mask-free gathering of more than 1,000 people to watch Trump’s speech and see an opera performance in Washington on Thursday night.

JFK, meet MLK

Friday was the 57th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, and activists rallied at the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate the original and push further for racial justice. See images from the Library of Congress here.
Read about Friday’s event here.
JFK, meet MLK. After the march and speeches, civil rights leaders were invited to the White House and met in the Oval Office with President John F. Kennedy. Martin Luther King Jr. and Kennedy had a complicated relationship, and during that meeting Kennedy told the leaders he would have trouble passing what we know today as the Civil Rights Act.

This was about three months before his assassination, and his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, would use momentum and unity from both the march and Kennedy’s assassination to push through the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act a year later.

Justice was scrambling US political parties. At the time, the Civil Rights Act effort was bipartisan, and so was the opposition. Southern Democrats helped lead filibusters. But a Southern Democrat, LBJ, also muscled it through. Today, party loyalty feels much stricter, which makes passing any kind of legislation very difficult.

Same issues, different generation. One image I saw from 1963 had signs calling for voting rights and an end to police brutality. Those same signs could be used today.

Holy Moses. Looking at the archive images, it’s striking how mainstream that march felt, at least in hindsight. I was interested to see a picture of Charlton Heston, whose politics I always associated with the Second Amendment, when he became a caricature for his speeches on gun rights. In 1963 he was there with Marlon Brando, Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier, an A-list if there ever was one.

Today’s calls for justice are similarly mainstream, which makes you think something substantive could be done. If the activists had access to the White House, that would help.

Yet, imagine Donald Trump asking activists for police reform into the Oval Office. In the midst of a genuine protest movement today, Trump called the NBA a “political organization” for its walkout earlier this week. He didn’t even mention the issue of police violence during his convention speech, but he painted protesters as threatening mobs from which he’d protect voters.


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