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Hey, everybody, it's David Plouffe, welcome to Campaign HQ. Well, we're in the middle of Republican Convention Hell Week, and I'm recording this on Wednesday, so we still have Penson, Ivanka and Trump to come. A couple observations. I'm not sure there is strategy in Trump World. So one of two things is happening because so much of the content is really aimed at their base.
So either they're concerned about the state of their base, you know, the kind of registration and turnout they're going to get and some of their soft support. And so they're really aiming a lot of their weaponry at that. I think the only two speeches where you might say parts of them might have been aimed at, you know, potential swing voters would be Melania's and Scott's. I don't think they'd be effective, but everything else is red meat. So that's a tell.
You know, the other option is it's not really strategy based. It's just all they know. You know, they're in this bubble of Fox and and Breitbart and Rush Limbaugh and Trump's own head and they can't get out.
So, you know, I'll be fascinated to see what Trump does Thursday. You know, is it a speech about fraudulent elections and Obama is a criminal and Joe Biden's going to unleash MS 13 in your backyard and, you know, the greatest president of all time. You know, basically what he does every day, or is it a more cohesive and coherent argument for a second term? And even if it is, you know, is that what he'll do Friday and Saturday and the rest of the campaign?
So at the end of the day, Trump is the problem here. You know, you can see even some of what a Nikki Haley said or a Scott, more compelling messengers for both the pro Trump message, but also an anti Biden message and Trump. But Trump, you know, has 95 percent of the voting shares in this endeavor on the Republican side. And so I think the capstone to the convention is him. And ultimately that will probably keep a lid on whatever benefit they could get out of it.
You know, we continue to see a lot of attention, understandably, on just the process of voting, which, you know, we've talked about on this podcast. I'm very focused on. I think it is having run campaigns, you're always worried about that, you know, the process of voting. But this is a much more acute concern this time. So you've got to spend almost as much time on convincing people to vote for you as you do and making sure those that have decided to vote for you can vote properly and understand how to do that in the safest and most secure way possible.
So our guest today is Bob Bauer. Bob is someone who has a long and storied career in Democratic politics and in areas of campaign law.
He actually was the counsel for the Senate Democrats during the Bill Clinton impeachment trial, led a lot of the work at Perkins Coie, the law firm that on the Democratic side supports campaigns with their campaign finance and legal obligations. He was the general counsel for both Obama presidential campaigns. 08 12 served that role for Bill Bradley back in 2000. Was the White House counsel in Barack Obama's first term left after the 12 campaign was nominated by Barack Obama to serve, along with Ben Ginsberg, who was Romney's general counsel, interestingly enough, to work on a bipartisan election commission coming out of 12.
You probably remember there was lines that were really long and a lot of efforts by Republicans at the state level to make it harder to vote early and voter ID laws. So they put out just a tremendous blueprint about how to make our elections more user friendly, safer, secure. Sometimes it seems the hardest thing we do in this country is vote when it should be the easiest thing. But he's now serving as a senior adviser to the Biden campaign, was deeply involved in the vetting process for the vice presidential nominee that ended up in Kamala Harris being selected.
And he's got a range of responsibilities in the Biden campaign. Now, first and foremost is leading their election protection and integrity work. So I really want to go deep with Bob on how he assesses the landscape, where he's concerned, where he's not. The role of the average citizen can play with the Biden strategy is even what post-election may look like in different scenarios. So I think this conversation will give you comfort that someone like Bob is leading this effort will continue to give you cause for concern just because we have an incumbent president who's bound and determined to use every lever he can, legally or not, to hold on to power.
And what you can do to help in this process, to make sure every vote gets cast properly, accurately, gets counted and gets counted on on time. So next week I will, at the beginning of the podcast, speak a little bit post convention about where I think the race stands. Before we get to Bob, I will say there's some late breaking polls today, you know, showing a little bit of tightening. And that's what you should expect.
I've been clear about that. I think others who who follow the race carefully and are data driven are clear about that. You know, Joe Biden's lead is. Really large right now, there are some soft Republicans who've gone undecided who will come home to Trump. So we should expect some tightening. Joe Biden's race in the race is still incredibly solid. You know, in battleground states, he's got a lead, but more importantly, he's at 49 50, you know, as opposed to leading, let's say, 45, 40.
But again, he's not going to win this election. In all likelihood, there is a chance that this just results in a blowout. You know, if he has excellent debate performances, if coronavirus cases continue at a high level, if you have a lot of, you know, people continue to be harmed economically and that looks like it's getting worse, there's a chance Biden could win this race by margins we wouldn't have expected. But the best thing to do is plan and expect a tightening race.
And that's why our conversation with Bob is so important, is we better assume we don't have a single vote to waste in any of these states. And we've got to make sure that that anybody, whether they're casting their vote by mail, they're voting early, they're voting in person, that they do so properly and that vote gets counted. And also that election officials have the resources they need to to deal with what is just going to be a huge turnout.
Maybe that won't happen. But if you look at twenty eighteen, those off year elections where we had the highest turnout in a century, you look at a lot of the primaries that have happened this year, it would be surprising if we don't have exceedingly high turnout. And so even if we didn't have a pandemic going on, that's going to tax the system. But you add that to a pandemic, just a lot more votes coming through that funnel the degree of difficulty to make sure we execute this election properly as high.
So no one better to kind of go deep on these than Bob Bauer.
Bob Bauer, thank you for joining us on Campaign HQ.
It's a pleasure. Thank you, David. Good to talk to you. Will you as well.
So, Bob, you've got a range of responsibilities for the Biden campaign. One of them, amongst others, is to ensure now that you're done with your task of helping you pick a wonderful vice presidential candidate. Kamala Harris is voter protection and ensuring that this election is conducted free and fairly, that all the votes are counted. I'm sure you're also spending some time thinking about a post-election period.
So let me start with what is giving you the greatest concern right now as it relates to the people who intend to cast their vote, no matter who they're going to vote for, to be able to execute that?
I like to frame my my concern more as a focus of interest. We have obviously a great deal of alarmist rhetoric out there. Some of it, by the way, perfectly reasonable expressions of anxiety about how we're going to conduct an election successfully under these conditions. But I'm actually more optimistic than most that we will be able to give voters a range of successful choices for casting their ballot. One clear focus of attention is simply the difficulties that a lot of jurisdictions currently have, and I think they're trying very hard to meet them in just putting the election on under these conditions.
Which is to say, as you know from the report of the Presidential Election Commission on Election Administration that President Obama set up by executive order in twenty thirteen, we have an electoral infrastructure in this country that is spotty. In some places it's strong, but in many places for a variety of reasons, including for some reason that election administrators are not given the resources and support they need. We have a frail electoral infrastructure. So when you layer on top of it the current challenges, not least of which is the pandemic, we obviously face some significant issues here in making sure that voters, for example, in states that are ramping up voting by mail very rapidly and don't have a long tradition of heavy voter participation by mail or in all jurisdictions, providing voters with safe in-person voting options, there's an enormous amount of work to do between now and November.
A lot of jurisdictions are working really hard at this. Most of them are and making progress. But it is a tall order. And just that alone is something that I spend a lot of time. And I know that my colleagues working on the voter protection program and the Biden campaign spend a lot of time following, trying to be supportive about, worrying about. Right.
So if no additional financial resources comes from Congress to help these jurisdictions and it is getting late, you know, people will be voting next month in September. A lot of battleground states do what can be done.
Is there private sector or philanthropic resources that could be utilized? What can we do here if there's no additional help coming from Congress and we all hope there will be?
Well, you put your finger on it. There is a robust philanthropic community, including, of course, very notably non-profit organizations dedicated to voting rights that have invested significant resources in various jurisdictions to help them with expertise and with. Resources, they need to run their election. And so, yes, this is a place where the government has not stepped up, but the non-profit and philanthropic community has stepped up and it has made a significant difference across the country right now, Bob.
So when you're thinking about these local entities, as you said, they're almost all universo, whether they be in red states or blue states want to conduct a fair election no matter what they hear from Trump.
You know, is it machines and equipment? Is it poll workers or is it just I think sometimes we're so focused on the pandemic, understandably, as it relates to the election. But we're also may have record presidential turnout. So you just can have a lot more people participating. So what are the real bottlenecks here that need to be cleared to give us the best chance? And I think it's really not just to make sure people's vote counts. And we'll talk about this a little bit later, but also that they're counted quickly enough so that we know one way or the other the election result as quickly as possible.
Yes, you put your finger again on something important, which is the polling places for any person polling have to be staffed. And when the pandemic came to the United States reached our shores, you clearly had a large number of poll workers, particularly in the advanced age categories, which is the category from which a lot of our poll workers are drawn, bowing out of the process, quite understandably, because of health concerns. So there has been a serious attempt underway now to make sure that we have the poll workers needed to staff polling places, also to make sure that as some polling places are sort of withdrawn from active duty, like, for example, schools, that there are other sites that can be made available for polling purposes to open up to receive voters who want to cast their votes in person.
There are four states that have to really count on an extraordinary relative to their history, extraordinary amount of mail voting.
There are all sorts of issues having to do with equipment and having to do with paper supplies that they have to attend to, having to do with training that they have to attend to.
So there are all these adjustments across the board that have to be made both for mail and also for in-person voting. And then, of course, they all have to be able to communicate with the voters. Now we have a voter education program that's very robust, but the jurisdictions also need to be in touch with voters and let them know where they were going to be able to vote, whether there's been any change in their polling location, answer questions that they have about participation.
So all of that has to happen for this election to function effectively, to be put on successfully.
Bubb, historically, when you think about the battleground states, Florida historically is a state that's done a very good job of counting all the early vote and absentee vote leading up to the election. So the reporting vote totals relatively quickly and pretty comprehensively. You've got other states this time who don't have that history. And so what can be done to make sure that as many votes as possible that are cast early are counted and are released on election night. So maybe in states we don't know, one hundred percent and we certainly will in states like Arizona.
But where we are, particularly if the race is decided by some margin, we know who's won on Election Day, either election night or November 4th, as opposed to waiting two or three weeks.
State laws vary and some states permit votes to be tabulated before Election Day and ready for release on Election Day. And other states put restrictions on when those ballots can be counted and included in the tabulation and where the state legislatures have chosen not to relax those laws or to change those laws to permit it.
I mean, obviously, that presents a challenge. Clearly, some states that are trying to do what they can to equip themselves, both as a matter of personnel and equipment, even if they can only start counting late to do so expeditiously with both equipment and frankly, multiple twenty four hour shifts, that sort of thing.
I will tell you that it is too early to say because it has come to be said often and I think incorrectly or it's come to be overstated. There are going to be states and states that are of critical importance that we're going to hear from, I think, relatively quickly, and I think it's going to shape an understanding of what's taking place in the race. It is also true that we cannot buy into Republican propaganda about what it means if we have late counts in some states, as we've seen where the heavy mail balloting requires a significant amount of additional time to count beyond November 3rd.
Those are still lawful ballots. They've been cast lawfully in contrary to the Republican hypothesis that we have a country rife with fraudulent voting, which is absolutely incorrect as a matter of the empirical and historical record. And so it will be important in particular for the press when it begins to, if you will, heighten the publicity about the coming election and begin to talk about the objectives of their Election Day programming to continually emphasize that we're in a frame here where we will hear from some states on the schedule.
People are used to and we may not have projections in other states where more time will be required to have a projection or much less an official count. And that's just a change in the way we think about things. And it's really incumbent upon the media to begin earlier rather than later just to educate people into that fact. If they don't, then what you're going to be hearing from the Republicans is, well, the only reason we're not hearing from date and the only reason so many ballots remain uncounted is because the Democrats are stealing it, which, of course, is not true.
All right. Let me talk about that. I agree and I'm worried about how the media is going to handle that, quite frankly. And so that's going to take a lot of work and vigilance. But in a scenario, listen, we all hope Joe Biden wins by a large enough margin and states are counting enough ballots that sometime the night of the third or the fourth, he's declared the next president. But in a scenario where even though it's clear from what's happening in other states and it's clear Joe Biden's going to win when all the votes are counted, if you're in a scenario where, you know, both candidates are short of 270, but because not all the states have been called the Trumps ahead, let's say in a state like Pennsylvania on election night, it's pretty clear that that lead will wither over time.
How are you guys thinking about and this isn't just a job for the Biden campaign. It's Democrats in Congress. It's outside groups, a scenario where Donald Trump is saying, I've won a I'm curious, do you think that most of the Republican establishment will follow that and say, yes, Trump has won? Or will it be like when he suggested that the election be postponed and for the first time really in his presidency, the entire Republican establishment said no?
Or do you think this is going to be a big challenge for the country? And are we literally going to be where? Forty five percent of the country thinks Trump's won and you know. Forty eight percent of the country thinks Biden's won?
We're going to have to have we're going to have to have institutions and community leadership in this country and the media really step up here. You pointed out that where Trump has completely Trump jumped the shark. And by the way, the circumstances in which the Republican Party has stood up to him are unfortunately far fewer between. But as you say, there are circumstances like his declaration that maybe we need to delay the date of the convention has met with opposition even within his own party.
But I think it's going to be really important for there to be both a media and a civil society push back the Democrats. And I'm certain this is true. Vice President Biden and his running mate, Senator Harris, are going to speak truthfully to the issue, but, of course, is going to be a segment of the country that's going to discount anything from the Democratic Party or from the Democratic ticket and say, well, of course, that's their position.
They're their adversaries of Donald Trump. They're going to take whatever position is consistent with their own interests. I suspect that would be the view of some, unfortunately. But it is going to be important for community leadership, the bar, the business community, the ecclesiastical community, to stand up for the democratic process. If Donald Trump engages in the reckless, anti-democratic rhetoric that we have seen, that there's got to be a line drawn somewhere.
And, you know, we just saw in the Republican convention just the norm smashing that takes place on a day to day basis, kind of the indifference to the lines that we typically do, all the norms we typically enforce in our democracy. When we get to Election Day, that really just has to be intolerable. So I think we need to hear from the country's community leadership, editorial boards, the Quantcast media, everywhere, that this election is potentially subject to some outrageous claims by Donald Trump.
And by some who are supporting him, that is essentially another disenfranchising maneuver and it just simply has to be resisted, it has to be resisted and that cannot be said often enough and it cannot be said from credible community and other leadership sources soon enough. So I think just this constant push back is going to be critical. But I do think I mean, imagine a few scenarios where he's railing about having the election stolen, but the early states that are reporting in make it very clear he cannot win.
And I think at that point he's probably, in any event, going to see some Republicans start to peel away just because he's kind of scheming, scheming on them on the hilltop about something everybody knows not to be true. Right? Well, that's our hope.
But I agree that I think, you know, to have Republican candidates and elected officials on the record now saying, you know, do you think mail ballots should count? I think most of them are going to say yes. Right. Because they need them to. That's the other thing. Usually the last two nights, no one's talked about any of these crazy voting stuff. Right. It kind of is not something that's helpful, I think, for Trump with with swing voters.
So let's talk about the last two nights, Bob. So you served as White House counsel. I was there for you a while, with you for a while in 2011 before you went back to be the general counsel for the Obama for president campaign.
I mean, you know, you wouldn't let us do anything, understandably, like the Hatch Act mattered. I don't know if you saw today the White House chief of staff is saying, well, no one outside the Beltway cares about the Hatch Act. And so I feel like this is another case where it's like, well, Trump's doing another crazy thing.
And I get that maybe for somebody out in Wisconsin, they don't understand the Hatch Act. But I think at the end of the day, the violations we're seeing using the White House as your backdrop is unprecedented. Just speak about that a little bit, because part of what you did, obviously, this is a small part of what you did, but you really, as White House counsel, tried to keep us all in line and understood that there's lines that simply could not be crossed no matter how convenient they might be if they were for the overall enterprise.
Yes, you said at the beginning, I never let you do anything, but you never asked me to do anything improper. So I did let you do many things that were completely wrong.
I appreciate you cleaning that up our. Yes. Yes.
I just want to make that clear.
But yes, listen, nobody wants to from a prior administration. I certainly don't want to somehow, in a way that some people would find suspicious, present the prior administration as somehow morally pristine. I think we were, however, an administration and it all starts at the top and it stays at the top that understood that the United States leads by example and is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. And the compliance with legal requirements is of just should be of undoubted critical importance.
I mean, just saying having to say that is absurd. Right. At some fundamental point, a conversation ends when the White House counsel says, well, that's all well and good, but we can't do it because the route that we were discussing for doing it presents significant legal issues and that ends the conversation. Or at a minimum, the question is what are the issues and how can they be resolved? And then there's the question of fidelity to the institution.
Well, it really does make a difference. Every president and I know that certainly was true of President Obama thinks about the office is one of trust that he and and one day I think we all know and hope for, she will hand on to predecessors in Chape in good constitutional shape, having set norms and standards and respected them in a way that allows for that institution to be passed on to successors in healthy form. And as you can tell from the chief of staff's comment and also, by the way, some background comments that Trump aides made to The New York Times recently saying that was a point of pride for them, that they were violating the Hatch Act.
That isn't even in the universe of the way they think about things.
They just don't. And so it is a terrible attack, in my view. It's a terrible attack upon the office itself, lack of respect for the voters who entrusted that office to Donald Trump for the four years that and hopefully the last years that he will be serving.
It's just mind boggling.
But we've seen this over the course of four years. But we've also seen, by the way, is that as time goes by, Donald Trump begins to empty the building out of people who will say no. He's adding more and more people who are prepared to be sort of instrumental in their views, prepared to enable him in the conduct he wants to engage in, less willing to say no. And he's set it up that way. He's turned the White House into the Trump or.
Scary thought, but true, and that's one question, you know, we we hope that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be there for eight years. The question is, the next time there's a Republican president, are they going to follow the Trump route or was this just a four year aberration?
You have any thoughts on that? Because I think, you know, this isn't just all going to get fixed if Trump gets beaten. I mean, I think the attack on our democratic institutions, the rule of law is profound and is not just going to snap back overnight.
I agree. I think that's right. And, you know, this is a concern that has surfaced periodically. You'll recall Arthur Schlesinger Jr., his famous book, The Imperial Presidency. From time to time, these issues have come up, particularly in relation to president's presidential claims of authority, untrammeled authority in national security affairs and in the deployment of force.
My day job, to which I will return after the after the election, which is as a member of the law faculty at NYU. These are issues that I've looked at and I've recently co-authored a book with Jack Goldsmith entitled After Trump Reconstructing the Presidency. And the premise of the book is that we do need a reform program, much like the one we had after Watergate, to start to repair the cracks that have opened up in the institutional presidency, dangerous cracks in the norms and legal structure of the presidency.
And that is work I think both parties ought to be committed to. I don't think it's going to be committed to by this Trump Republican Party, but I think there is a period of time after Donald Trump leaves office and in a Biden presidency and beyond. And I'm not speaking out of any particular policies where there needs to be a debate about going back and repairing the damage that Trump has done and looking generally at the opportunities that had been afforded someone like Trump, just gaps in the structure of the law and in the force of the norms that he has exploited in this presidency and that we don't want to be exploited in any future presidency.
Well, must read book that you've put out, Bob. And I think at the end of the day, that's going to be a must do list. You know, we obviously have the pandemic. We've got an economy that needs to rebuild alliances that need to be rebuilt. But Joe Biden's going to have to make sure he and his team have the bandwidth to sell some of those cracks. So let's talk about the post office. And I think it's worth reminding people that if you want to vote early in person, if you're allowed to do that in your state or you want to vote on Election Day, by all means, do that, bring your mask, be prepared for a wait.
But you should do that. But I think the majority of people in this election are going to vote by mail and on the post office. Obviously, the Biden campaign has extreme interest in this debate and all the changes that have been made by that clown, Dejoy.
But, you know, Democrats in Congress in particular, I think have a responsibility here. I thought, you know, both the hearings Friday and Monday, I think did put more pressure on Dejoy. He committed to some things, but I don't think we can trust him at all. And so what else needs to be done to make sure that if somebody in Wisconsin or Florida, Arizona does wait till the end, we're going to tell them not to.
But they wait to the end and they put their ballot in on a Thursday or Friday in late October, that it's going to be received by November 3rd, as it always has been in the past.
So I think the mail complications fall into a couple of categories. One of them certainly is some of the hazards of using the mails at the last minute. And that's a problem we might have faced prior to this election, but certainly very faithfully could face it in this election, where somebody decides to wait until the last minute to put their ballot in the mail and they happen to be one of the unfortunates whose mail is just is not delivered within the requisite time period.
As you know, there has been litigation around the country, some of it successful, to move from a received by Election Day, a deadline to a postmarked by Election Day deadline. That would make a difference. But there will still be periods of time and that will vary from state to state within which the ballots still have to be received, even if it's postmarked by Election Day, a certain number of days after the election when it when it should be received.
So there really isn't any there's really no alternative but to ask people to just take that into account, just the normal possibility of delayed mail and vote early. But secondly, the pressure on the post office absolutely has to continue. I think these oversight hearings in the House and Senate have been extremely important and extracting some important commitments from the postmaster general. But as you say, he has to be held to them. And these operational changes in particular are the ones that we have to keep an eye on.
We cannot have what we had, which is some inclination on his part to suddenly right before an election, two months before the election, whatever his motives. May have been, and we can certainly speculate about them to cut over time or to change a delivery delivery schedule, procedures, all of that really makes no sense. And he's conceded that it resulted in delays and delays that just we can't abide across the board for citizens, but we certainly can't abide them for the mail.
So pressure on him to account for that. And let me just add one more thing, which is the post office has the resources. It needs more, by the way, in the future. So Congress absolutely needs to provide the post office with more money, but it has the resources and it has the capacity. The recently tweeted out this to this effect to handle the mail volume that we're anticipating. It can do it, but we need to make sure that postal workers and by the way, we're struggling through this pandemic.
We clearly have the ranks continually affected by covid, but that postal workers are supported and that includes supported with really intense, focused training and all of these jurisdictions. So they're doing everything they can to treat everything they can to assure that the procedures for treating the mail on a priority basis are followed. And that is something that we need to keep a really, really close eye on. In one sense, that's inside baseball, but it's of critical importance because really going to your hypothetical, it's in the details.
Ultimately, if everything else with health conscious consent, it's just in raw administrative performance that we're going to either see success or frustration.
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All right, so let's talk about Election Day, so there will be, at least as a percentage of the electorate, fewer people voting on Election Day than historically, but they're still going to be a lot of them. And, you know, the efforts I mean, voter suppression, which will be state sponsored, they're directly from the White House podium. I'm sure the Trump campaign, his friends in Russia and elsewhere will be running social media campaigns to try and confuse people, lie about polling locations and times.
I wouldn't be surprised if there's troops, you know, that Trump tries to place or at least forces in some of these states talk about what year. And this is something you have always in the elections I've been next to you on, you know, masterfully worked on Election Day, just making sure we have the legal apparatus, you know, recount planning in place, you know, working with the media to correct misinformation. But this seems to be that this is going to be even a more challenging election environment than some of the ones you've been involved in before.
So let's talk about Election Day and what you're doing to prepare for that.
So, again, going back to the point that from my point of view, as soon as ballots were available and people can start voting, it's already Election Day. Right, right, right. And as you also know, there's going to be and has been a lot of skirmishing right up to Election Day. Let me say two things about preparation for that. First of all, then we'll have more to say in the near future about how we're structuring it.
We'll have more detail to offer. You know, I did this for you in two thousand eight and we worked together on the twenty twelve campaign. And we had a robust election integrity voter protection program, the one that we're building out for all the reasons you suggest, because the circumstances are unique, is the most sophisticated, most robust, best resourced voter protection program that in my lifetime I've ever known. And I've been around for a long time. And since two thousand, when presidential candidates post Florida recount began to really invest in voter protection programs, campaigns have been ramping up their voter protection program.
What we have in place this year is as large, I think, as sophisticated and well-organized as any more. So just because the circumstances require it. So we will have everything that we need to have will have the right number. And it will be a substantial number of lawyers who, by the way, are properly deployed and properly trained. People oftentimes talk about no lawyers and sheer numbers, like thousands and thousands of lawyers as well, sort of depends on who you're recruiting, how you're training them and where you're putting them.
That's what matters the most. So we're in we certainly will have that. And we'll have poll watchers and we will coordinate with jurisdictions, by the way, including as necessary with local authorities to make sure that any mischief around the polling places is properly addressed. So when Election Day comes, we'll be in a position to respond nimbly to any number of things that can happen. Polls open somehow late, but the authorities decide not to extend the polling hours.
Well, we'll intervene if that's necessary. There is some attempt on the part of.
Organizations that are trying to do so. So all sorts of discord to show up at the polling places and intimidate voters. We'll have a plan to deal with that. We'll have voters with lots of questions that they're asking. Maybe some confusion, perhaps fostered by misinformation. And we'll have a plan for that.
So if I were to go through all of the contingencies, it would take me a while. But we are planning for all the contingencies up to and beyond Election Day, and it is just an enormous undertaking. But I just want to emphasize again, it's not all about filing lawsuits or being in a position to answer lawsuits. It's about supporting election administrators and supporting voters and having this be a successful process. And as you know, sometimes you have a lot of success working with election officials to solve problems.
And we're always in that mode first, right?
Yeah, no, I think your point about election is right. It really is election season. And what's interesting about this, you know, they're still going to be tens of millions of people who probably vote on November 3rd in person. But because so many people will be requesting ballots, hopefully turning them in, you don't know how those people voted. But you know, the information about who's requesting ballots and who's returned home is public, that that universe is going to be smaller as a percentage of the electorate, which I think, you know, it's still going to be nerve wracking but makes it a little bit more manageable.
So, Bob, this is not to malign any state or series of states. You know, there's going to be states that Pennsylvania is a state that clearly is going to have more mail in voting than they've ever had before. Are there any states that you're concerned about just because, you know, maybe it's the first time they're dealing with this kind of volume? You know, they really are underresourced, you know, because of the state law that may prevent them from counting ballots till Election Day might be behind on totals.
Are there any states of acute concern that you can identify?
I thought as you were asking, that you have the question was going to end and you were the question mark is going to be I probably I probably wouldn't want to identify just and fair election officials which ones. Right. Concerned about.
I would say this. I would say this, that what we're finding and I'm serious about this, is that in many jurisdictions where we do have concerns, we are encountering election officials who seem to be really dedicated to doing their work.
And again, I do not want to underestimate the challenges. I don't and I certainly am not going to credit Donald Trump as a presidential candidate in his campaign team with anything like good faith, because I actually assume the opposite on this particular issue.
But having said all of that, there are even Republican officials around the country who are determined to have a successful election. Like, first of all, it's what they do for a living. Because they don't want to be blamed for something that goes wrong afterwards, because they're singled out in their communities for failure, although, by the way, I might add, when elections go well, they're rarely singled out for praise because it's assumed that's what should happen.
And I will tell you, yes, there are some jurisdictions that whether it's planning for in-person voting and trying to find the open up enough polling sites and plan for enough poll workers and plan for enough equipment, including obviously protective gear for the polling places, there are some jurisdictions that have really, really had to ramp up their efforts and they've had challenges. I've mentioned that the philanthropic community has stepped up, but the election officials have also stepped up and are variations in performance.
There always will be. But I think if people understood how hard some of these election officials are working and again, I'll say even Republicans, they'd probably be surprised because that's not typically consistent with the media narrative. And so we are working quietly but appropriately. We'd love to have, you know, if you recall, let me just say something and then explain it. We'd love to have the other side help us with this. Know we're doing this to me.
Voting rights and the administration of this election is a nonpartisan issue. We know we're not going to have it. We're not going to have that kind of support. But we also know that election officials are welcoming the support this year. And we'll do our part, along with all of the voting rights organizations and other elected officials who are doing what they can to help bring this election off. All right.
Well, let's talk a little bit about, let's say, mid-November on.
So let's say let's be optimistic for a minute whether it's late on November 3rd or November 4th, November 11th or November 12th, whatever it is, Joe Biden passes 270 electoral votes and is declared our president elect.
And, you know, I think in that scenario, you know, maybe Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. and that whole group of grifters and criminals will say that the election was stolen. I do. And I'm going to come across as a naive, you know, fossil for saying this. But I think there will be, you know, senators and members of Congress and governors and even media figures in the Republican Party to say he lost.
We've got to move on. But that doesn't mean that Trump will. Right.
And so what are you in terms of even if it's all fruitless, I assume Trump will be filing lawsuits and all number of things to try and contest the election. And what will that look like? I mean, do you have a sense of what their strategy may be? Not a winning strategy, but just what what will they try and deploy if for no other reason than to raise more questions? So when he leaves, he's got enough of his base as possible, you know, believing he won as opposed to actually thinking he can change the results of the election?
Yes, well, of course.
I mean, I think everybody understands that even if, as I expect, Joe Biden is handily elected and Donald Trump has to leave office, I can imagine a circumstance in which he concedes that he lost the election. But maybe he does find it hard to imagine, given the relationship he's established with facts in the world.
But the. The Republican Party and the Trump campaign have been filing lawsuits around the country. I think one can glean from this that they're setting themselves up to make all sorts of arguments, both before and after Election Day. The theme, of course, is the one that you've heard, which is that this election is going to be the most fraudulent election in history. And the fraud is probably going to be focused, primarily will be focused primarily in the area of male voting.
Bear in mind that for years the Republican Party anti fraud campaign has been focused on in-person voting.
Of course. Yeah, that was what that's what it was. Voter ID. That's it. Male voting. Not a problem. Now it's switch the other way. You probably were also aware that.
Enormous numbers of studies over the last 20 years, 50 years, precisely to define the time period have been done on the prevalence of fraud in elections in the United States. And it's just surpassingly rare. It's just surpassingly rare. Have fraudulent votes ever been cast in an American election in its history? Yes. But are the Republicans claims about the possibility of a presidential election being tainted, in fact, decided by fraudulent votes in person or in mail even remotely plausible?
No, no, absolutely not. There's just no evidence whatsoever.
There are, of course, all sorts of controls that enable states to protect against any kind of outcome, determined to defraud the idea even years ago that in-person voting fraud could possibly swing the outcome of an election was, quite frankly, a fantasy.
So I suppose the answer to your question is, will he could he say it? And could various lawsuits be filed with whatever hope of success to elevate that claim and to seal it into the minds of his supporters and enable him then to move to a successful career and on Fox, making the same arguments? Yes. And we don't we take that seriously because it's very bad for our democratic process. Very bad. I however and you mentioned this earlier when you talked about the Republican resistance to his suggestion that the election might be delayed.
I think there will come a time when he's hollering at the top of his lungs about all of this and frankly, his audience has diminished. It will be even fewer in number than those who attended his inauguration.
Right? Well, this is a bipartisan observation.
People with megaphones who then lose that megaphone get chattery.
You know, people don't have a lot of time for losers in the political process, and I agree with that.
So, Bob, when you think about, you know, twenty twenty two in twenty, twenty four and obviously you led the election administration commission that President Obama established back in twenty thirteen.
What needs to happen beyond this election to get to the point where, you know, we're surrounded every day, challenged during the pandemic.
Right. But we we use our phone for just about everything. I assume the last thing we'll do is voting with it. And there's legitimate security precautions, but hopefully at some point we will.
But, you know, companies today largely are successful or not and governments are judged to be successful or not based on the user experience. Right. How quick is something? How intuitive is something? How painless is something? And, you know, elections are the thing.
I think in our society above all else, the DMV is even more pleasant sometimes in elections.
How do we get to the point where, you know, this is just and right. There is a responsibility for a citizen here? I loved how you put it.
This can't just be another error and it's something you plan out and you have a plan for it.
But what do we need to do to make sure that, you know, because a lot of this is math, right? If if five thousand people are going to show up in a precinct, how big does the precinct need to be and how much equipment do you need to have and how many paper ballots and how many, you know, people.
And that's not just a problem for red states. There's lots of blue states where we have lines that are way too long and maybe going forward, a lot more people will vote by mail, just generally, which would be great. But how do we get this election system to really work for people so their vote can be cast fairly and accurately and counted on time?
But also it's just something that is fairly painless.
That was that was the theme ultimately unanimously agreed to by the bipartisan Obama commission. You'll recall I co-chair that commission with Ben Ginsberg, with Ann Romney's campaign general counsel. Hard to imagine that today, right? That right. That the Republican candidates council would co-chair a commission like that. But the commission was a professional commission of election professionals. And we.
Wound up doing field hearings around the country and listening to election officials at every level of the process, and I will say this, which is if there is anything and it always catches up with us, if anything, the country has to come to terms with its that we don't take the electoral process, we take elections seriously. We don't take the electoral process, the system and what's required to modernize and update it and support it seriously. And that's that's a great point.
Every four years it happens and then it's behind us. If you talk to local officials, they tell you that they're the first item on the chopping block whenever there are budget cuts to be made, because it just matters less to people since it's an every two year, every four year, whatever it is recurring event, there are always something else that takes priority in the funding scheme. And as a result, election officials operate in a world in which.
The machinery needs to be updated, it would cost a lot to replace and they don't have the money. They have to operate polling places with personnel that it is very difficult for them to recruit and they receive very little support in recruiting.
I could list all sorts of other ways in which I think they're stymied in their efforts to successfully administer an election, but it is a governmental failure across the board. It just is. And the last thing I will say, which I think is I mean, I can go on forever and the report goes on for some time, sort of detailing these problems and making specific bipartisan recommendations, some of which I think have seen a reasonable degree of implementation. But I add one more point.
About what we have to do to take elections seriously, and that is we really have to professionalize election administration, in all honesty, they cannot be. Election administration is fundamentally under the control of partisan politicians, a partisan officials who have tremendous pressure on them from their own parties and of course, in many cases, the competing pressures of their own ambitions. Now, some of them address it extremely well. They run for the office, for example, of secretary of state, and they attend to these duties professionally.
And they are surrounded by people who have expertise. But too often we see them under tremendous pressure to answer to the demands of one political party for sort of loyalty and performance. So we really need to have a view that election and this is was one of the clear cut themes of the election administration commission election administrator of election administration is public administration. It's not a partisan political process, not even a political process. It needs to be handled as an administrative matter that professionals with real experience handle.
And we do that and provide resources.
We could have a very different arrangement in this country, very different experience with elections.
Well, I encourage everybody to read the report that Bob and Ben and their colleagues put out. You know, we have a lot of public policy challenges in this country, some of them easier to solve than others. This is a solvable problem. You know, it's just a matter of will and resources and, you know, some of the reforms that Bob and his colleagues identified.
So, Bob Bauer, thank you for your time today. Thank you for all you've done to safeguard our democracy over the last decades. All you're going to do over the last couple of months here to make sure we have a free and fair election. All you're going to do to help Joe Biden win. And personally, thank you for keeping me out of jail. You know, throughout my career, David, you never even came close.
So you and I both know better.
Yeah, it was your character. Anyway, thank you very much. I really enjoyed the conversation. Yeah. Thanks, Bob. Thank you. Bye bye.