What smart reporters still don't know about the presidential campaign
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The conventions, a curiously low-news, high-exhaustion experience, are over. The polls in the next several weeks, say some political scientists, should be pretty predictive of happens on Nov. 8. The majority of Americans who don't get a paper or watch cable news will start paying attention.
So it's also worth checking in with some of the smartest reporters and editors about what they still don't know. They've closely followed a stupefying political year. But what would they still love to know about the campaign ahead?
Dan Balz, The Washington Post: "I'd like to know what Pennsylvania looks like on Oct. 1. I'd like to know the gender gap between White non-college women and White non-college men. I'd like to know how close Clinton can come to winning Whites with college degrees."
Roland Martin, radio talk host and TV analyst: Is there anyone in the trump camp who can tell him, 'Dude, stop lying!' And does Clinton have anyone who can tell her, "Stop spinning the emails! You got busted. Move on!"
Mark Barabak, Los Angeles Times: "So apart from the obvious — who wins? I'd like to know whether, indeed, there are enough White male voters turning out for Trump to deliver states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and others he needs to win the White House, which extends to places like Michigan and Wisconsin if he were to lose Virginia and/or Florida.
The point being, no Democrat has won the White male vote since LBJ in 1964. So White guys voting Republican isn't exactly breaking news. The question, then, is whether there are enough White male voters who...would have supported Clinton or...stayed home who instead turn out for Trump in sufficient numbers to win him those states he needs."
Michael Barone, The Washington Examiner: "Turnout."
Thomas Edsall, The New York Times: "I am interested to see how far Trump can push Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell with new outrageous comments and still keep their endorsements."
Mike Flannery, chief political reporter, Fox 32 Chicago: "What does Putin really have on Hillary and Bill to drop as an 'October Surprise?'"
Steve Kornacki, MSNBC: "I want to know if Trump will actually debate — and if so, if he'll force some kind of significant change to the format. I also want to know if any major Republican figures who have so far refused to disown Trump (like Ryan or McCain) step forward and denounce him in the fall. And the question that is unknowable until we get results: Does Trump gain more support among blue-collar Whites than he loses among professional/college graduate Whites? If he does, he may have a chance. If not, forget it."
Bill Kristol, The Weekly Standard: "I'd like to know the outcome of the first debate."
Jill Lawrence, USA Today: "The most intriguing aspect of the general election campaign is whether Donald Trump will ever succumb to the normal laws of politics. Each day brings multiple gaffes and revelations that would sink any other candidate, or at least send party leaders scurrying to repudiate their nominee. Will Trump's response to the Khans be the breaking point? It should be, but based on the season to date, I wouldn't bet on it."
Rich Lowry, National Review: "First, we need to know what the race looks like after the (polling) bounces settle down (if Hillary gets one, which she should). If, as seems likely, she is back ahead, she can probably grind Trump down with a superior organization in the fall, assuming no debacles in the debates or damaging exogenous events.
If she's tied or still narrowly behind, well, then, they really need to panic. Not sure exactly what that looks like, except it will be ugly. Trump will continue to be Trump, and there's a chance that will work for him in terms of unlocking the Midwest. Something that the Democratic convention lacked was a concerted appeal to working class voters, and that's his opening."
John McCormick, Bloomberg News: "I'd love to know whether Pennsylvania is really a battleground state. There's every reason to believe that it isn't, given the electoral history and suburban population growth. But if Trump is able to make it a real contest there, it would likely mean wins for him in Ohio and elsewhere."
Roger Simon, Politico: "The Hillary campaign has gamed/plotted/planned everything. Every speech, every convention night and soon every debate. What's the theme of each event? Who is the target audience? How do we reach the unlikely voter and the voters who don't trust and plain dislike Hillary. It's professional, it's slick, it's tightly controlled.
For Trump, it's, 'Hey, let's hold an event. It's in Cleveland or someplace. What do we talk about each night? Let Todd the intern or Sarah the second year from Brown handle that. It doesn't matter.' Donald is going to do what he wants to do.
...Am I being fooled? Is Trump so super-slick that it looks un-slick? It's possible. But I doubt it."
Jacob Weisberg, Slate: "I make the assumption that a traditional, precinct-level tracking and get-out-the-vote effort is worth two or three points to Hillary Clinton, given that Donald Trump lacks the money and patience to build one. But might social media serve the same purpose for him when it comes to turnout in the key states? I doubt it. But if we knew for certain that the only way to get your voters out is the old-fashioned way, those of us who think a Trump presidency would be an unparalleled national catastrophe would sleep more soundly between now and Nov. 9."
It might be safe to say that nude photos of Melania Trump both on the New York Post's cover and inside are a presidential campaign first. (New York Post) Was it a presidential first? Well, not if you count famous shots taken of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy on a Greek beach in 1972, reminds Carl Cannon of RealClearPolitics.
By coincidence, Sunday also brought word of a new book that claims those photographs were a result of husband Aristotle Onassis allegedly tipping off the media as part of a smear campaign against his own wife. (The Daily Mail)
Did Ailes commit "psychological torture?"
New York magazine would appear to lay to rest any doubts about the lurid, sexual harassing ways of brilliant former Fox News chief Roger Ailes. On the record, its former chief booker goes public with her tales of being forced into servicing a man she says committed "psychological torture." She's apparently suffered mental breakdowns in recent years and concedes that she's now violating terms of a confidentiality agreement she signed when she got a $3.15 million severance deal from Fox in 2011.
But the level of detail is unseemly and raises questions (not broached in the piece) about what the hell the ruling Murdoch clan knew about the modus operandi of a top lieutenant, who comes off here as a pervert. There were folks at Fox who always did wonder what Laurie Luhn actually did. Well, this lays out, from her, what wound up being her at times de facto no-show job (at around $250,000) orchestrated by Ailes. (New York)
The fat comp deals Verizon inherits from Yahoo
AOL has a lot of work to do in integrating Yahoo and dealing with Marissa Mayer-inspired messes. "More immediately worrisome are pricey employee retention plans that Mayer has put into place over the last year in order to keep talent at the company as its fortunes continued to wane." (Recode)
"According to sources, those costs are enormous and closely linked to what some consider excessive stock compensation grants given to top execs. Sources said that under newish change-of-control rules, members of Mayer’s executive staff — such as CFO Ken Goldman and SVP Adam Cahan — will be allowed to fully vest their four-year stock option grants if they are fired within 18 months of the deal."
Yes, siree, fully vest. Once again, the real outrages in corporate America are what's totally legal.
Jeffrey Toobin offered historical perspective on televised terror in The Wall Street Journal weekend edition's always terrific "Review" section. It harkened back to the domestic terrorism of the 1970s that was actually far greater than what we associated with San Bernardino, Orlando, Dallas and Baton Rouge and whose best-known figure was publishing heiress Patty Hearst. (The Wall Street Journal)
Obama on the links
President Obama played golf Saturday. Indeed, CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller says it was his 299th round during his presidency. Claims are that Dwight Eisenhower and Woodrow Wilson played more but the empirical bases of those assertions are ambiguous. 299 rounds is a whole lot of golf. Duffers should be envious, present company included.
"Why doesn't the media want to report that on the two 'Big Thursdays' when Crooked Hillary and I made our speeches — Republican's won ratings," Donald Trump tweeted Saturday afternoon. (@realDonaldTrump) Ah, as many noted, they did in multiple stories. (@feldmaniac)
NFL letter that wasn't
"Donald Trump’s efforts to weasel out of debating Hillary Clinton have hit a peak, as the GOP presidential nominee has repeatedly blamed his opponent for the scheduled debates that were approved by the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates nearly a year ago. That lie apparently not being bold enough, Trump has now claimed the NFL wrote him a letter complaining that two of the debates are scheduled against pro football games." (Deadspin) CNN's Brian Stelter asked the NFL if such a letter existed and it said no. (CNN)
Speaking of the NFL...
Trump and the league do have some common denominators in dealing with the press. I heard Rich Campbell, a Bears reporter for the Chicago Tribune, on sports radio detailing the restrictions placed on his ilk even while covering the pre-season practices of the team at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois.
They seem Trump-like. Even at practices that are open to the public, reporters are barred from doing lots of stuff. They can't report what level of the team somebody is taking "reps," or plays with (whether starters, second string, etc.) They can't identify kickoff or punt return candidates. Nothing about formations. If they're describing a play, they have to be generic. They can't report on trick plays being practiced. If a guy is hauled off on a stretcher after obviously screwing himself up, they can't describe the injury until coach John Fox addresses it after practice (until then, can only say if a player is participating in the practice). And after a few initial stretching and other drills, no photography or videography.
Very simply, as Alexander Burns, a New York Times political reporter, tweeted Saturday, "If Clinton wins VA+FL, Trump would need to win PA+OH+NV+IA+CO+NH just to TIE at 269 …& if CO stays blue, Trump would need long-shot MI or WI." (@alexburnsNYT)
VR in Zuckerworld
Bloomberg Businessweek is very good on Mark Zuckerberg's plans for virtual reality. It looks at Facebook's VR goggles and software. "Strapped to the head, it offers 360 degrees of vision and sound, potentially opening new possibilities in playing games—the gateway drug for VR, Zuckerberg says. He also wants it to be used for watching sports, making movies, joining conversations around the world, or things no one’s imagined yet. But it’s still limited—in resolution, how it tracks movement, and how the body responds to what it projects, among many other things." (Businessweek)