What Trump’s ‘delay the election’ tweet could set us up for come November.
It is always risky to read too much into President Trump’s tweets and offhand remarks to reporters. To what degree was he making an explicitly race-baiting appeal to suburban homeowners by promising to block the construction of low-income housing in their backyards? Would he actually try (the Constitution notwithstanding) to postpone the election, as he suggested on Thursday?
These could be the unpremeditated remarks of a public figure who knows how to roil the water, and — from his years playing the corners in the famously raucous New York City media market — how to change the subject. Mr. Trump’s tweet on elections came after the release of a report that noted the economy was contracting at a record rate.
But whether by design or not, Mr. Trump’s latest attack on voting, less than 100 days before the election, sows distrust in one of the basic pillars of the American system at a time when the country is culturally and politically polarized, confronting regular demonstrations and battered by an out-of-control pandemic.
These remarks set the groundwork for disputing the outcome of a close election, should he lose to Joseph R. Biden Jr., empowering his supporters, Republican politicians and lawyers to reject the result if it is not to his liking. That could take the form of recounts, court battles or protests.
The weeks after Election Day — rather than being a time for transition and healing if Mr. Biden wins, or preparations for a second term if Mr. Trump wins — could end up being a period of chaos that eclipses the level of disruption Florida witnessed in the closing days of 2000 after the disputed election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
It seems noteworthy that when Mr. Trump questioned postponing the election, pushback came from the Republicans who have been his most unquestioning supporters, among them, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. The question now is whether those men, and other congressional supporters of Mr. Trump’s, will be back at his side if the president comes to dispute the legitimacy of the election.
Mr. Trump’s new attacks on mail voting and attempt to cast doubt on the timing of the November election raise a couple of questions:
At this moment of coronavirus-driven insecurity, where do Americans stand on voting by mail? And how many might be persuaded, as the president argues, that the election’s very legitimacy is in doubt?
Recent polling shows that Americans now overwhelmingly support universal access to mail-in voting. In national surveys from the past few months, all taken after Mr. Trump began attacking the idea as dangerous, upward of six in 10 respondents have said that they would favor making absentee voting universally available.
But surveys also reflect how susceptible many people’s opinions can be to misinformation, when it comes to matters of fraud and vote security. For instance, 49 percent of Americans said in an ABC News/Washington Post poll in mid-July that mail-in voting was “vulnerable to significant levels of fraud.” That lines up cleanly with a Gallup poll from April that showed 49 percent of Americans thought expanding access to mail-in ballots would increase the prevalence of voter fraud.
This despite the fact that studies have consistently proven voter fraud to be exceedingly rare — including in the five states that now conduct all their voting by mail.
Few countries have worked harder than Britain to please Mr. Trump. But now, with Mr. Trump trailing in the polls to Mr. Biden, British officials are waking up to an unsettling prospect: The president they tried so hard to accommodate may be out of power.
In Paris and Berlin, a Trump defeat would be welcomed with unalloyed relief, removing a leader who has sundered alliances and threatened a trade war. But in London, where Mr. Johnson’s government just left the European Union, it is more complicated.
At a moment of British isolation, Mr. Trump’s full-throated endorsement of Brexit has made the United States a safe harbor. His promise of a lucrative trade deal gave Mr. Johnson a selling point with voters.
If Mr. Biden wins in November, Britain would face a president who opposed Brexit, would look out for the interests of Ireland in a post-Brexit Europe, and would have little motive to prioritize an Anglo-American trade deal. His former boss, President Barack Obama, once warned Britons that if they left the E.U., they would put themselves at the “back of the queue” in any trade talks with the United States.
“It will not be lost on Biden that the last two British prime ministers went out of their way to be nice to and about Trump,” said Peter Westmacott, a former British ambassador to the United States. “He is instinctively comfortable with Brits, but London will have to work on the relationship.”
As the Kansas Senate primary barrels to a close, tensions are rising between Senate Republicans and the White House over the potential nomination of Kris Kobach, who party officials fear would jeopardize the seat and further imperil their Senate majority.
Mr. McConnell is worried that Mr. Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state who rose to national prominence with his hard-line views on immigration and voting rights before losing the 2018 governor’s race, may win the nomination in Tuesday’s primary only to lose the seat in November — and he is frustrated that Mr. Trump is not intervening in the race, according to multiple G.O.P. officials.
Mr. McConnell and other Senate Republican leaders have made urgent pleas to the president to block Mr. Kobach by endorsing one of his opponents, Representative Roger Marshall. But Mr. Trump has so far declined to do so, and his aides said they had no plans to change course. Compounding the frustration of Capitol Hill Republicans, White House aides have refused to tell Mr. Kobach, a longtime booster of Mr. Trump, to stop using the president’s imagery in his campaign materials.
With a number of incumbent Senate Republicans trailing in polls and being out-raised by their Democratic rivals, they have little margin for error as they seek to protect their 53-47 majority. And because of Mr. Trump’s broad unpopularity, and a health crisis that has devastated the economy, even a deeply conservative state like Kansas, which has not sent a Democrat to the Senate since the 1930s, is no sure thing for Senate Republicans this year.
“We have eight months of data that says the majority is gone if Kris Kobach is the nominee,” said Josh Holmes, a top lieutenant to Mr. McConnell. “It’s that simple.”
Back in April, Jill Karofsky became just the second person in 50 years to defeat a sitting Wisconsin Supreme Court justice. A liberal judge on the state circuit court, Ms. Karofsky is planning to be sworn in at mile 35 of a 100-mile ultramarathon she is running in Wisconsin starting at 6 a.m. Saturday.
Ms. Karofsky, who has run several marathons, will have a say in cases dealing with voting rights and Wisconsin’s pandemic response, and she spoke with our reporter Reid J. Epstein this week. The conversation was edited and condensed.
OK, why are you being sworn in during a 100-mile race?
I was supposed to do a 100-mile race and I just thought, “Why not get sworn in in the middle of this 100-mile run and make it a little more of a bigger deal than it might be otherwise and than other people have done in the past?”
What is special about the 35-mile mark to be sworn in there?
Five miles past Belleville is an old bar called Dot’s Tavern. And when you’re actually doing the run, the deal is you have to run into the tavern, go down to the basement of the tavern, and get a coaster to prove that you were there. So yeah. It’s just for shtick. And that’s at 35 miles.
How long is it going to take you to run 100 miles?
I’d be happy to finish around 30 hours, so I’d like to be, I’m hoping to be done by noon on Sunday.
So help me with the math, what sort of pace does that mean you’ll be running?
Oh, it’s about 13-minute miles. But you also have to factor in I’m going to lose at least 30, 45 minutes getting sworn in.
Are people running with you or is this all by yourself?
I have a couple of friends who are going to meet me out there at different sections of the course. One of my friends is going to run through the night with me.
How is keeping this sort of running regimen helpful to doing a job like being a Supreme Court justice?
No matter what your job is, when you sit down to do your job, to have the clearest mind possible is how we all perform the best. And I think that making important decisions on behalf of the state of Wisconsin, if I can come at those decisions from a place where my mind is clear and I’m not making decisions from a place of stress, then I can perform at my best.
With the death on Thursday of Herman Cain, attributed to the coronavirus, the reality of the pandemic has hit closer to home for Mr. Trump and other Republicans than before, as it claimed a prominent ally whose frequently dismissive attitude about health precautions reflected the hands-off inconsistency of party leaders.
Mr. Cain, a former business executive and candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, had an irreverent, confrontational style that mirrored the president’s own brand of contrarian politics. In his more recent role as a public face for the president’s re-election campaign, he became an emblem of Trump-supporting, mask-defiant science skeptics, openly if not aggressively disdainful of public health officials who warned Americans to avoid large crowds, cover their faces and do as much as possible to limit contact with others.
His view was shared by many conservatives, who have applied a hard-nosed, culture war mentality to the virus, the most serious public health crisis in a century.
Mr. Trump wrote in praise of Mr. Cain on Twitter on Thursday, calling him “a Powerful Voice of Freedom and all that is good.”
But Mr. Cain’s death showed how ill-suited that mind-set is to the country’s current predicament. More than 150,000 Americans have died in a pandemic that is ravaging parts of the country where conservative leaders long resisted taking steps that have slowed the virus elsewhere, such as mask mandates and stay-at-home orders.
Those include places like Tulsa, Okla., where Mr. Cain attended a Trump campaign rally in June and showed his disregard for safety precautions on social media shortly before receiving a diagnosis for the virus.
With a uniformity that has defied rising death tolls in their own backyards, Republican officials at the federal, state and local levels have adopted a similar tone of skepticism and defiance, rejecting the advice of public health officials and deferring instead to principles they said were equally important: conservative values of economic freedom and personal liberty.
Reporting was contributed by Reid J. Epstein, Katie Glueck, Mark Landler, Jonathan Martin, Adam Nagourney, Jeremy W. Peters and Giovanni Russonello.