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[00:00:03]

Hello from the Lincoln Project and welcome back, I'm Ron Suslow. In this episode, we're going to take a deeper look into Donald Trump's rhetoric and messaging and how it relates to incidents of violence, particularly last week in Kenosha, Wisconsin. We'll get into how Trump's law and order messaging may impact voters in key states like Wisconsin and how his remarks divide the country and stoke violence. With me today, I have two of my fellow co-founders of the Lincoln Project, independent political strategist Rich Galen, Hilary Weinraub, and Republican strategist and former political director of the California Republican Party, Mike Madrid.

[00:00:39]

Thanks for being on again today, Mike. Bright and early. Great to be with you guys. So to set the stage for our listeners here, last Sunday, a police officer shot twenty nine year old Jacob Blake in the back several times in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The shooting set off renewed protests across the country and in Kenosha on Tuesday night, a 17 year old Trump supporter from Illinois went to Kenosha with an AR 15, reportedly with the goal of assisting police and then shot and killed two protesters and injured a third.

[00:01:11]

This violent attack came months after Donald Trump calling for law and order and in the middle of the Republican National Convention. Before we dig into this messaging and we saw it throughout the convention, both from Trump and Gates and Giuliani and then just recently from Kellyanne Conway. And I will quote, The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who's best on public safety and law and order. And that was just on August twenty seventh in the Huffington Post.

[00:01:45]

Why is the Trump team sticking to this messaging? Well, I mean, this is all they've ever had. It was always going to come down to this. Ultimately the Trump folks are and Trump himself has has no positive message. He never has. He has no constructive message and it certainly has no forward looking message because the guy's incapable of thought more than 15 seconds ahead of what he's going to do and anything that's self-serving, that it's got to be something that divides, because the more people that know about how he acts and what he says, the less people like him and that he needs a low turnout election.

[00:02:23]

Mike is the expert on these things, but he needs less people to show up, which is why you hear all this ugly rhetoric while you hear the division, why you hear the delegitimization of vote by mail or absentee balloting, because they need less people to show up. I mean, that was the only reason he won in twenty sixteen was because it was historically low turnout. And as even as Steve Bannon said, they pulled it inside straight, you know.

[00:02:46]

Seventy seven thousand votes in three states, Hillary Clinton's president right now. And so if if African-Americans turned out, if Latinos turn out, if suburban whites turned out, then then Donald Trump loses by four million votes and in a historic electoral landslide. Now we see that he is sitting on top a, you know, historically bad numbers for himself. And again, I can go into these. And he this is all they have left. This is all they have left.

[00:03:14]

And so they're now employing also the classic authoritarian pieces of the game, which are, you know, again, not calling for law and order, but not abiding by it themselves, deploying federal forces into states to quote unquote, keep people safe while actually inciting violence. And then Trump has done this for his entire four day conclave of doom, was dedicated to scaring the hell out of suburban white voters. That's all it was aimed at. Well, and I should say also in firing up the people who continually get get their information from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, that's the whole ballgame for them.

[00:03:53]

Is division and reduction or deduction? Yeah. Mike, what is your take on this messaging? Is it is there a very clear purpose behind it? Yeah, there is. Look, Reid is tapping into something that I think is exactly right. And we see it in survey work, too. But fundamentally, at its core, Trump ism requires contrast because it lacks an ideological underpinning to fall back to. And so it needs to stand in contrast to something, frankly, anything.

[00:04:24]

And as long as there's contrast, that conflict is where Donald Trump does his master work. That's where he starts to kind of consolidate his base and kind of build something that he can work with. So it's why there is always blame. There's always blame. And again, we're not seeing this in a way to be, you know, derogatory towards the guy, although we're happy to do that, too. It's it's a very important observation to understand the way that he actually practices not only politics, but this was really the premise of the reality show that he was on.

[00:04:55]

Right. He was pitting people against each other and watching them in that environment. And that's there's a reason for that. There's a lot to be learned for that, because the goal, of course, is to be the last person standing. And in order to do that, you don't do that by being the nice guy. You do that by creating contrast and building a majority that way. The problem for Donald Trump is there's kind of a Trump fatigue that has set in now and people are kind of tired of that.

[00:05:20]

And even on this issue of law and order where he's seeking to stoke chaos and seeking to stoke violence, seeking to rile his voter base up, even the polls that were coming out, showing him improving suggests that this is a losing strategy. So, for example, only thirty two percent of the country believed that America would be safer if Trump wins versus 43 percent who thinks it will be less safe. This is from the morning counsel poll. 52 percent think Trump's re-election will lead to more violence.

[00:05:52]

Only twenty five percent think it will lead to less violence. Twenty seven percent say that Trump will protect us from the chaos versus forty six percent who believe that Trump is the source of the chaos. And perhaps most importantly, by a margin of about 13 points, voters are saying that Trump is more radical than by by thirty four percent to 21 percent. So the radical candidate, the chaos candidate already in the minds of voters. Is Donald Trump, and he shouldn't be surprised by this or the negativity because he's been branding himself this way for more than three and a half years.

[00:06:26]

He began during the campaign and what I think was initially very successful for him, if not dispiriting for the for the country, has now turned into a negative for him and to try to reframe and recast who he is. It's too late. The die is cast. The cake is largely baked. And he's going to have to find a different strategy if he's going to try to move the numbers, at least through traditional polling, to suggest that he's he's by a wide margin, a guy who is going to lead us to more of this if he is re-elected.

[00:07:00]

I was thinking about this after I saw the some of the snap polls, after the after Trump got done talking and just the ugliness of the of those four days. And I was a little bit concerned that maybe it would catch on. And I do believe that we are in a moment in this in this campaign between now and the end. And for all you football fans out there, you know, there might be one hundred plays in a game, but only 10 of them ultimately matter.

[00:07:23]

And this is one of them. And I think that you've seen that, you know, Trump, you know, I think that that there was a there was a belief among the media that that the the violence in Kenosha would be additive to Trump's message, that it would reinforce his message. And I you know, I bought into that for about twenty four hours. And then I started looking back on and I said that the Kenosha police shot a young black man in the back seven times, right, left him for dead, chained, handcuffed him to his bed.

[00:07:56]

Right. I don't know how many people have. Seven gunshot wounds are going to get out of their hospital bed and climb out. Yeah. And then as you noted from this young man who's clearly troubled and I think if you start to read back on some of this stuff has been troubled for several years, know his mom drives him to Kenosha. And, you know, he he shoots two people, three people with an AR 15 thinking he's some sort of vigilante.

[00:08:23]

And and that's not good for Donald Trump either. That speaks to something that we've seen from the media for years. Right. He's he's he's stoked racial violence going back to the Central Park five and bring back the death penalty even when it was clear that they had not committed the crime. So none of this is you know, this is what I always say. Never be surprised by what Donald Trump says or does because he's been doing it for 50 years.

[00:08:51]

There's no there's no new Trump playbook. There's one Trump playbook, and he just rolls it out. And it is Mary Trump says in her book, and I'm sure I've said on this podcast before, he does this because he his entire life, he has gone and done the most outrageous things he could come up with. And people are so shocked and agog that they back off because they don't know what to do about it. And from the moment he was a kid in school to the twenty sixteen campaign standing on those debate stages to today, he assumes that people will get out of the way.

[00:09:22]

And I think what you're seeing is that there are people not only like us in the Lincoln Project and a lot of allied groups, but I think you're seeing a lot of the country saying we're not. We get it. The act doesn't work anymore. I wanted to ask you something that I raised on the roundup on Friday. Speaking of history, do you see any similarities? Maybe, maybe the right way to ask this is what are the similarities and what are the differences between Nixon's 1968 law and order pitch at the convention versus what we're seeing now from Trump?

[00:09:57]

Well, I think it was I mean, first and foremost, that was 50 years ago, so, I mean, there's that I think that you had a you know, there was tremendous unrest in the country already because of Vietnam. Then Mayor Daley, you know, sick to the the Chicago Police Department on the on the 68 Democratic convention. So there was a lot of there was a lot of evidence that this was, you know, that there was there was turmoil in the country.

[00:10:22]

I think that I obviously remember that LBJ, I think in March of 68, had said he was not going to run again because of Vietnam. And remember, at that point, I believe that less the less than half of the ultimate casualties of that war had had fallen. But when he decided he wasn't going to run for re-election, if you think about that, 58000 Americans ultimately died in Vietnam. Less than half of that had had caused LBJ to decide he was no longer fit to be president, I should say, fit to be president, but no longer thought that he could serve in the office.

[00:10:54]

Yeah, so and I think that it was also this was also in the midst of the civil rights movement when I think you saw that there was a lot of mainstream media who was not comfortable with the words of MLK, with the words of the civil rights movement, probably had not come to grips with the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act of 64 65 that that Johnson had passed. And so I think the country was just in a dramatically different place.

[00:11:25]

And I think there was a sense that in that I make I make no moral judgment on this. But I think politically that the country was a lot more conservative, was certainly a lot more white, and that Nixon was coming in to clean up the mess that that Johnson had made. I don't even know that it was you know, there was obviously the racial overtones that were you know, they weren't dog whistles, they were bullhorns. But I think also there was just a lot different a lot different things like Hubert Humphrey was not going to beat Richard Nixon.

[00:11:57]

I mean, remember, Nixon won California. This is a different world. And so I think that the comparisons probably stop there. And then you also hear that the Trump campaign has started trying to make comparisons between the 1988 campaign and today when president then Vice President George H.W. Bush was behind Michael Dukakis, you know, going into the summer, going into the conventions. And again, I think that's a that's a faulty comparison as well, because Dukakis took two and a half weeks off after his convention, let his bounce erode, was was was judged unfit on national security and then ultimately gave the worst, maybe the worst answer in the history of presidential debates on, you know, when Bernie Bernie Bernard Shaw asked him whether or not if his wife had been raped and murdered, he would want the the man executed for the and he said no.

[00:12:52]

And whether or not there's a moral position to be taken on the death penalty, if somebody asked you if if somebody rapes your wife and kills her, do you want the guy dead? The answer is yes. At least that would be my answer. And so I think that there's just not any comparisons. And I mean, remember that that, you know, we were still at the end of the Cold War, the country was still in the frame of communism versus democracy.

[00:13:19]

And I think that, you know, Dukakis just wasn't the man for that time. So I think that the comparisons they're trying to make are all faulty. And if you spend more than 15 seconds digging into them, you'll see that.

[00:13:32]

Yeah, and in both of those races, by the way, they were there was no incumbent. I mean, George Herbert Walker Bush, you could argue, was sort of an incumbent because he was the vice president. But 68 in 88, the country was deciding who was going to be a leader and demonstrating some capacity for strength, as it were, matters who's going to be the person who's got his hand on the on the the wheel here. And that is not the case.

[00:13:57]

Now, Donald Trump is not not he's trying to run an outsider campaign. At the same time, he's he's got all these negatives because the failed leadership, that dog doesn't hunt. So he's got to he's got trouble. But look, recap on something that's really interesting to what has changed from 60 to now. Everything he said is absolutely correct and he touched on this a little bit is the attitude of white voters. Whites are fundamentally different now than they were in 1968 as the country has diversified more and more specifically, the gap between college educated whites and non college educated whites has grown from this gap into a chasm.

[00:14:38]

And that is the real definitive split in the Republican Party that you are seeing. And it's not only affecting and limiting and containing Trump's ability to consolidate his base as much as he needs to. It's actually provided the road map for the Lincoln Project and its strategic objectives for the entire duration of our existence and. Going forward for the next 60 days or so, Mike, can you you've mentioned this multiple times in multiple formats, and I want to take this opportunity to ask you to characterize that gap.

[00:15:07]

What besides education, what characterizes the chasm that has opened up between noncollege educated whites and college educated whites? That's a great question. And so it's not any one single issue which is really important. And it really explains why this could be a realignment in American politics going forward. I believe that it will be, if not this election cycle, I think is a very good chance. It will very good chance. But but it's already happening and it's been happening.

[00:15:32]

And the Trump era has really stepped on the gas here, making the split happened. So so here's what's going on. Basically, what you are seeing is the Republican Party under Trump and Trump ism become the party of white identity politics. Identity politics is fundamentally based on the idea of victimhood. It's where we are at in the social hierarchy and what we demand and what we are losing. And are we being replaced and what do we deserve from this American experiment, this American society, and not the least of which.

[00:16:04]

And we began this discussion as a country trying to figure out with everybody reading Hillbilly Elegy and who were these people in the Rust Belt states and why are they doing this and why are they feeling that way fundamentally? Again, it's about decline decline ism. And that's what Trump speaks to. It's blame, as I was saying earlier, and it's about trying to find an excuse for why we are at this moment in time when I may be feeling hopeless.

[00:16:28]

And what happens when you lose hope is you start to act out destructively, which, of course, we're seeing daily in the streets right now. White, college educated Republicans don't feel that same way. They're much more racially sensitive. They're much more aware of the problems of black and brown people in our society have had. They're much more upwardly mobile economically. They're not people who are worried about their job prospects nearly as much because they're trained to operate and function in this economy and in the future.

[00:16:57]

And they still believe that America is a place where their children can have a brighter future. The distance between these two groups, again, is growing largely on cultural lines. It's not even necessarily an economic distinction. You can make it economic, but fundamentally what it's about is one group still feels aspirational and positive about America, meaning those with a college degree. And there's a group that does not, which is non college educated whites. It's important, as a practical matter, in campaigns because non college educated whites are the largest segment, certainly the largest plurality of voters in America.

[00:17:35]

What is happening is they are becoming more geographically isolated in a monolith in the Midwestern states and the Rust Belt states in the Deep South and increasingly up into some parts of New England. And they are beginning to vote as a bloc regardless of geography. And it's why Trump has been able to consolidate in the Electoral College the possibility of being reelected and being elected in the first place while he's continuing to slip further and further behind in the popular vote. Just one quick thing, back to back to 68 and Nixon, nobody ever liked Dick Nixon, but he was competent or at least perceived as competent.

[00:18:14]

That likeable and incompetent. So he he's he's got two strikes and then I think I think Mike is right. I mean, you know, I grew up in the 80s in a you know, in a you know, in Northern Virginia, which might seem sort of dominated by, you know, you know, affluent white people. Now, it was probably mid middle income, middle income, upper middle income, but it was also highly diverse. I mean, I went to I went to school and maybe this was the nature of growing up in Washington, D.C. with diplomats, kids from every country, every faith, African-Americans, Latinos.

[00:18:51]

I mean, it just it to me, it was never you know, it was like, well, that person's black that I didn't see him that way. Right. I mean, maybe I did probably. But it did in my mind anyway to being. And I think that you're seeing that there are I'm forty four. I think you're seeing a lot of my friends from high school and college probably exact same way that they've never really been. Maybe they were Republicans, but they were never conservatives, if that makes sense, like in the content, what it means today or that conservative used to mean limited government, fiscal conservatism, strong on national defense.

[00:19:26]

It doesn't mean any of those things anymore, at least in the American context. And they don't want anything to do with it. I mean, if you look at the picture of, you know, those those guys storming the Capitol in Michigan a few months back, if you see the boogaloo boys with their their their Hawaiian shirts bursting at the seams in the air, 15, that's not who. The the folks that Mike is talking about associate themselves with because they're not and that's the other thing, too, about this whole you're going to ruin our suburbs thing, right?

[00:19:56]

Is that the people that live in the suburbs don't believe that. Yeah, first and foremost, because they've been stuck in their suburbs for five months and their kids aren't going to school and maybe they're not going to their offices, maybe they're never going to an office again and they don't see any of this stuff. So they see it on the news, but they don't experience it. And I think those two things are different. Yeah. And again, I think that there is a markedly different attitude, which is if there were the 68 riots around the country that were an expression of frustration and anger like we're seeing now.

[00:20:27]

But I think there was a there might have been a belief in the suburbs there that, you know, those people. Right. And that's who Trump wants to he wants to believe. He wants you to believe that those people are coming to get you. Yeah, but when Kellyanne Conway says that this stuff is good, she's saying the quiet part out loud that, you know, it's it's and we knew this from the beginning. We might have even set it on a pre approved podcast or certainly on a triple.

[00:20:51]

The the Republican National Convention was a black and white. It was about division versus unity. It was about black people versus white people. It was about Trump's vision versus Biden's vision. And it's all these decisions are not difficult and they are binary. There is not there is there's very little gray in this decision if you believe this is what you're going to get. We saw now guys in their pickup trucks roaring into downtown Portland, shooting people with pepper spray and, you know, and you're going to get more of that because he cites it and he invites it.

[00:21:27]

And to him, that's good. And I don't believe that's a good thing. So, I mean, Ron, what I think is you have guys like me right now, have kids live in the suburbs on our own, different than we grew up in, but similar in nature. And we live around a lot of people like we grew up around, which is, you know, we might have grown up in a in a situation where it was a I want to call it multicultural, but certainly it wasn't lily white.

[00:21:51]

And so to us, there have always been there's always been a diversity of race, creed, whatever it might be. And so we now we we haven't we internalized that as children. We probably imparted it to our kids because we see that is, you know, in our own minimalist way, you know, judge, judge someone not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. And I think also, you know, and this is where Mike, I think, has a really good take on, you know, people like me.

[00:22:20]

Look, I lived in D.C., I lived in California. I now live in Utah. And so when guys like me or families like ours are now spreading throughout the country and places that we haven't traditionally lived, and I think that that has a real opportunity to change the dynamics of this election. And Mike certainly has a really great I think I think Mike and his team have maybe nailed a preview of what the electoral makeup is going to look like going into the future.

[00:22:47]

So you mentioned you mentioned the Boogaloo boys read, which is a good segue because I wanted to talk about Pence's speech in which he lamented the death of a federal officer. Dave Patrick Underwood, you said, was shot and killed during the riots in Oakland. That's a quote, which is essentially a bait and switch, right. Because he accused the accused killers appear affiliated with the boogaloo movement. And just so we're all clear, the Southern Poverty Law Center says boogaloo is frequently associated with racist violence and in many cases was an explicit call to race war.

[00:23:26]

And the FBI and an agent in charge says there is no evidence that these men had had any intention to join the demonstration in Oakland. As some of the media have asked, they came to Oakland to kill cops. Why? Why do they keep what do they have to keep going back to Black Lives Matter? They need the contrast again between black America and white America. Look, California is going to become an increasingly convenient target as we as as the Trump campaign starts to focus more and more on the battleground states.

[00:24:00]

His road map to victory is really dependent on over performing with white voters, especially non college educated white voters. And the states in the Rust Belt where he's looking at have a overwhelming and disproportionate share of those voters remaining in the country. So drawing the contrast on race, we know we know something about voters. It's very tight and close to the human nature, of course, and that is that the more you are exposed to people that are not like you, the less fear you have of them, the more understanding you have and the more peaceable a society becomes as it becomes more diverse.

[00:24:37]

It's those states that are the least diverse where these messages play the most strongly. So when the vice president says things like Oakland. Quote unquote, California and everything, all of the negative connotations that that brings to the to the Rust Belt states, cop killer and black, I mean, you've got a powder keg, right? That's what they're trying to do, is light up that constituency because the only hope of pulling another inside straight and again, that's what they're going to have to do again is to turn the dog whistle of twenty sixteen into a bullhorn and say, if you weren't clear enough about what we were dog whistling on in twenty sixteen, let me make it louder and clear that as a as a white person, especially white male, you are being replaced, you are under attack and America is a white Christian nation and any threat to that means these people are invading.

[00:25:32]

And that is where the call to arms starts to happen. And one of I think the most phenomenally interesting thing as a student of politics has been watching in this part of the country how that language is is manifesting in the symbology of the Confederacy in the north. Right. We've all been on this campaign trail for about a year now as part of the Lincoln Project. Whenever we've tracked Donald Trump or seeing sightings of the Confederate flag, it's a lot less than Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia than it is now in Maine, New Jersey, Michigan and Iowa.

[00:26:10]

And that that is not surprising when you realize that's where the largest concentration of this demographic now resides. That has nothing to do with Southern heritage. It has everything to do with being replaced by, quote unquote, those people. So, Mike, that's a good segue to the next thing I wanted to talk to you about, and this might be where I just turn it over to you to talk about the recent polling, because there's been a lot of talk about it from the August 20th YouGov poll to the ABC poll that just came out rather than me reading these statistics.

[00:26:43]

Why don't you just why don't you sort of craft the narrative that we need to understand about all the recent polling? Because there's been a lot of speculation about what all of this means.

[00:26:51]

And I think if I understand you correctly, not a lot of it is actually helpful, which is usually the case with polling, because every every methodology is different. So there's four polls that have come out since the end of the convention. We're just a few days out of this, by the way. And that's, I think, one of the one of the things that kind of kind of bugs me a little bit is you're pulling into these different environments where you've had four days of activity, of very specific messaging.

[00:27:17]

And it creates most instances, what I call a sugar high that gives you the short burst, but it's not really staying and you come crashing back to reality. That seems to be what's happening. So there's four polls that have come out and speak really briefly about all of them. Please, there's a YouGov Yahoo! News poll, which is a panel poll. And what that means is they are interviewing the same people over and over again to gauge and assess movement.

[00:27:40]

I'll talk about that in a second. There's the Morning Consult poll. This is the one that showed Joe Biden's ten point lead moving to a six point lead and kind of got a bunch of people panic to go. What's happening? What's happening, running around in circles. We'll talk about that one second to today. This morning's ABC Ipsos poll shows the exact opposite of what the two previous polls showed. It actually showed Biden strengthening and Donald Trump weakening.

[00:28:05]

And then there's the USC poll, which also is a panel poll. Again, a panel poll. Talk to the same interviewees over the course of a campaign cycle to watch the movement in opinion and see what shifts are occurring and tries to assess why that poll is showing that Biden is also leading and growing his margin. So two polls are showing tightening. Two polls are showing Biden increasing his lead in general. But all this means is I believe it's really much ado about nothing.

[00:28:32]

By Wednesday or Thursday of this week, we're going to fall right back into the same normal, hyper partisan stratified range that we have been for a good part of this year. But having said that, let's talk a little bit about each one of them. So starting from the top, the YouGov Yahoo! News poll showed a nine point lead moving to a six point lead for Joe Biden after the conventions. The main shift in support came from these white, non college educated voters that we were talking about.

[00:29:00]

This is that Republican base kind of consolidating the Republican base for Donald Trump has remained remarkably resilient over the past three and a half years. What finally broke the fever on most of this stuff was covered outbreaks and then covid became real. The incompetence and the mismanagement made people realize, hey, maybe this was not a good idea. And I'm speaking about Republicans specifically. Democrats were already opposed to him and have stayed opposed to him. But here's where it gets really interesting.

[00:29:29]

Where the pop upwards for him came wasn't the notion of strength. They felt that he was a stronger president or would be a stronger president. Donald Trump I'm talking about here, but at the same time, there was absolutely no shift in opinion about how they felt about law and order. There was no change at all. So so that is telling me something very important. And it's what it's saying is, again, this is a sugar high, is people watching the fireworks and the flags and the White House unfortunately, behind them.

[00:30:01]

And there's this kind of rush. But the fundamentals were not changed at all in the Yahoo! News poll. And perhaps most importantly, what it also showed was even though it's only a three point race, the poll show that ninety six percent of Biden Trump supporters had already made up their mind. There's a very, very few undecideds out there. And so these movements of two or three points are really one percent of voters shifting one way or the other.

[00:30:29]

And that's not going to be determinative, at least at this point in the race. So that's kind of the Yahoo News poll. Morning Consult poll shows something very similar again. And I ran through some of those. The most important ones were the most important findings were trying to assess whether or not Donald Trump accomplished the goal of being the law and order president, establishing himself as this, quote unquote, authoritative figure out there and whether the strongman was kind of what people were looking for.

[00:30:56]

And while there was a two point shift towards him, most of this was coming in the consolidation, again, of Republican voters coming back, something we have always anticipated at the Lincoln Project with the same demographic we've been looking at. Again, it's this non college educated male vote is consolidating again. They're looking at Biden there. Even this group is uneasy with Trump, but they are they are coming back and saying, OK, I'm going to vote Republican.

[00:31:24]

And again, that is not the margin for victory for us, by the way, folks, as we said at the Lincoln Project, our goal is going to be talking most specifically to these college educated Republicans that we were speaking out earlier. And as I mentioned, even with all voter groups, there's overwhelming sentiment that Donald Trump is the cause of these problems. He is not going to be the remedy. And most people by a very large majority believe that this will continue the continuation of the violence and the chaos and the the strife that the country is going through will get worse if Donald Trump is reelected.

[00:32:02]

Did so as the chaos candidate. That is probably the only contest that Donald Trump is winning at this point in time. And it's not even the good news in the polling, I think is really bad news if you realize that he's going to keep leaning into this in Wisconsin and God forbid, any other issues that develop or even violence that's breaking out in cities throughout the country, most voters, while they are tired of it and they obviously do not like the violence, they are keenly aware that this would not be happening if anybody else were president.

[00:32:37]

And so the dots are being connected. People are getting it. They are turning away and turning sour on the violence. There's actually been a downtick in support with black lives, the Black Lives Matter movement generally as some of the equation of this activity and violence is starting to connect with them as well. But still, strong majorities of people believe that Donald Trump is the is the is the reason that this is all happening. The ABC Ipsos poll that came out again this morning didn't have a head to head of who you would elect or re-elect.

[00:33:08]

But what it showed was that Donald Trump actually slid backwards negatively. And again, I want to equate it to a crashing sugar high is a lot of us have had kid you have a have a kid who's six or eight and taps into the Halloween candy and they go nuts for a good hour and a half and then they crash out and fall asleep on the living room floor. That's sort of what's happening here. And that's what the ABC Ipsos poll shows is now that voters have had a little bit of distance between the conventions, a couple of days, they've looked at them, they've assessed them.

[00:33:39]

Biden's numbers are actually getting stronger. Trump's numbers are getting weaker. And the the actually the USA panel poll shows the exact same thing. So in in an aggregation, taking a look at all of these, my strong suspicion is most of this by the middle of next week, this week coming up, meaning three or four days is probably all going to wash through. The sugar will all be washed through the system. What we're talking about, the debates coming up.

[00:34:08]

And the truth of the matter is the race is so stratified at this point and partisanship is so locked in, there are so few undecideds that there's highly it's highly unlikely that debates will have any sort of an impact either. If you are so strongly predisposed for Trump, you're going to think he won. If you're strongly predisposed to Biden, you're going to think Biden won. And most of the trajectory of the race, the fundamentals aren't going to change one bit, which, of course, would still want you to be Biden at this point in time, certainly nationally.

[00:34:35]

But I do expect the race will tighten up, as it has in the battleground states. For the main point I brought up earlier, which is the one demographic that Trump can still consolidate, is noncollege educated whites. They are overrepresented in the battleground states north in the northern part of the country. But as we may get into a little bit later on, a lot of college educated white Republicans live in the Sunbelt states. And the problem for Trump is as he's consolidating non college whites with law and order and racially tinged messaging, he's losing an equal amount with white, college educated Republicans who culturally cannot accept being in an organization or a party that shares those beliefs, waves the Confederate flags and dog whistles on race issues.

[00:35:25]

Yeah, and I think, too, that the just thinking back to the Republican convention, I mean, there might have been. Some folks who were inclined to think about voting for Trump and after that first day, especially at the end when you had Don Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle do it, they're like, oh, you know, plea to go to Passages Malibu for a few days like that was crazy. And people know crazy. They know Trump crazy, but that was claverie crazy.

[00:35:54]

So people probably saw that. And if they only watched day one, they would say, I want nothing to do with that. And I think the Trump knew that too, which is why you saw the remainder of that. The convention was monotone and dead eyed, staring into the camera, which was not partic people. This is where you have to really discount a lot of what the national media says. Oh, well, it was well produced.

[00:36:16]

OK, great. Well, you can have a well produced movie that still sucks, right? Like, the cameras can be great, the mikes can be great, the actors can be top notch. And if you get bad material, it's a bad move. Right. And I think that's that's ultimately what it was. I think the other part, too, you know, to to piggyback a little bit on what Mike says is that this is not occurring in a vacuum.

[00:36:38]

This is this is occurring. As a what Trump needs it to be, which is a distraction from one hundred and eighty thousand dead Americans, six million sick Americans, 30 million Americans out of work, and the rituals of American life ruined, at least for this year and maybe for the next couple of years. And so what what Trump is hoping to do with certainly I think with his people, as Mike noted, is distract them enough from the real shittiness that they are experiencing if they haven't seen their parents, if they haven't seen their grandparents.

[00:37:14]

Aren't going back to school. Need something to hold on to the channels, that anger and frustration away from Trump and to Biden or the Libs or whoever it's going to be. And so you're going to see that, because if there's one thing we've known about Trump is that he is the master of deflection, he will distract people from what's really going on. I think the difference is here, as we've seen since March, is that reality and the coronavirus don't give too damn about what Donald Trump wants.

[00:37:42]

It's going to I mean, at the University of Alabama opened and within a week, a thousand kids are sick. Like that's going to happen everywhere. Mike, is it is it fair to say that those distractions that that Regis noted that you that you articulated are essentially what has caused him to shrink identification with the Republican brand by about 10 percent just this year? The one thing that has broken the Republican fever, as I call it, with the association with Trump ism, was, as Reid pointed out, it was covid because the covid outbreak made the abstract real.

[00:38:18]

It was no longer talking about kids in cages, which, while horrible, wasn't bothering the the Republican suburban mom getting her kids to school every day. Yeah, she didn't like it, but it didn't affect her. covid affected her. It means that she was worried about her parents' health, whether school was going to reopen and what they were going to do for quarantine and being isolated as a family in their own environment. It literally affected everybody. Now, that changed his support levels.

[00:38:46]

And for the better part of the past five months, Donald Trump has been hovering at the lower part of his range, its historical range. In fact, he was breaking below that number. We hear it Blinco project. We call that the Lincoln Project effect because, of course, we were messaging right into that right. We're hammering them right into this and pushing his support levels lower, where most professional pollsters would say he can't go that low because it's too partisan.

[00:39:12]

Republicans are never going to leave him. Well, they did. What's happening at this moment in time is we have a remarkably short memory as as Americans specifically, but as people generally in this new technology driven world. And it's covered in many parts of the country, starts to appear in the rearview mirror. His Republican numbers are starting to come back. The problem for him is because he's doubled down on these really stupid and inane policies related to the management of covid.

[00:39:40]

We're seeing outbreaks again in Florida, in North Carolina. Arizona is about to blow up again. And so all of these states where it should have been put away these openings without finding a vaccine or a cure or imposing the right types of mandates to make sure people are safe, there's a very good likelihood that these states open back up again. The gap between his support levels and his drop starts to go right back to where it was in the middle of the summer.

[00:40:10]

That's a very good likelihood as people start to realize, gosh, this guy's screwed up for the third time, right? Not just the first time and not just what happened in the Sunbelt the first time, but the third time. The guy can't get it right and he's never going to. And as Reid said, that covid took it from the abstract to the very real and it has affected everybody's life. And you can't get around that reality when you can't leave your house, when you're worried about your parents being sick and you're worried about what you're going to do for school and your job prospects.

[00:40:43]

I'm sorry, there's no well produced convention that's going to move you off of that. It's just not possible.

[00:40:57]

So, Reid, given everything we've talked about, particularly the exceptional elucidation of the of the polling that bike has done for us, can you talk a little bit about what that means for the next 30 days with Lincoln Project in terms of how we're going to be spending our time and our resources? Sure. So I think a couple of things. One, as we as we've heard from various sources, that Trump is still very upset about the idea that Biden's speech got more about two million more viewers than his did and that they are that the Trump campaign is actively working to message against that.

[00:41:33]

What that tells us is that Trump is still going to be himself and he's going to be worried about things that don't matter. And so the audience of one strategy that we've employed will continue right through Election Day, because what we know is that when he's distracted, he is giving the Biden campaign a year and the Biden campaign, who has largely been able to sit on the sidelines until now because Trump has just been doing such a poor job as both a candidate and a president, you know, their battleship has now moved into the space.

[00:42:03]

And so they will bring their three or four hundred million dollars worth of resources into into play. And I think also you're going to see that the vice president and Senator Harris are going to start moving around the country. I think that the the end of the backyard campaign is upon us. And I think as they go into states, even with small events, you're now going to see that the local media attention that they will receive will, I think, will start to drive their numbers higher because they're going to come in with a positive message, a unifying message that's going to put a higher floor underneath them.

[00:42:32]

And we'll probably start to degrade Trump's numbers in some regards, too. And that will also help Democratic turnout, which I think all things being equal. If more Democrats show up than Republicans and there are more Democrats than Republicans than Trump will lose. I think the incredible work that Mike and his team have done at the state level with tens of thousands of volunteers coming to us organically and really understanding how to use those folks as voter contact machines in their own right to their contacts on Facebook, you know, their families, their networks, but also has incredible content amplifiers for what we do.

[00:43:08]

I think that they are going to have the market difference to help us get past that what's called banner line, which Mike can really get to. And then I think, you know, in the United States Senate where we have been playing pretty act in a pretty active role, I think that you're going to see states like Alaska, Montana, Maine probably start to shift towards the Democratic candidates there as Trump's Trump's coattails become, you know, short tails, that he's not going to have the ability to draw these Republican voters out as they get probably more and more depressed about the whole country, the whole idea of of Republicanism, whatever it is.

[00:43:45]

And these are also good Democratic candidates. We shouldn't underestimate that. And then lastly, I think one and maybe the thing that that we will all do that is perhaps the most important thing. And remember, too, that voting in North Carolina will start the week of Labor Day vote. Ballots are going to go out next week and that or this week, I should say. And so that's going to be a really serious thing that we will focus on, which is how do we ensure that every voter that we want to talk to understands how they can vote, how they should vote, what's the most effective, efficient, safest way for them to participate, get those ballots in early?

[00:44:23]

You know, if if we can get if we can lock in our people in North Carolina and the Democrats can lock in their people in North Carolina and have those ballots in, say, by the end of September or the first week of October, it could be. And Mike will get me will correct me if I'm wrong here. It could be that no matter what it is Trump voters do on Election Day, that there's just too many votes that have piled up in the meantime.

[00:44:45]

And so I think you're going to see our efforts there in, again, places like Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, maybe even a little work in Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania. You know, that's that's where this will be focused on. Ultimately, as Mike noted, there's only a few undecided voters left in this ballgame. I think we will always be messaging to them to try and get them to come across the line. But we're very soon going to be in a turnout operation.

[00:45:13]

If we turn more people out than he does, we'll win. And I think that we are I think we are as a coalition, a broad based American coalition, very well positioned to do that over the next 60 days and in the next 30 days, you know, things are going to change. I don't know about dramatically, but we should assume that Trump will get crazier, not less crazy. He has he has been pent up and he will he's going to do these airport rallies and he's going to say crazier and crazier things.

[00:45:40]

He almost fell off the stage in Manchester, New Hampshire, the other day like he's not well. And so I think those are the things we'll be tracking. So Mike Reid mentioned the Bannon line, which is a term that we've been using internally. To talk about a very specific threshold, so I'd love for you to explain what that means to our listeners, why we've been using it internally. And then I want you to talk about the where, the who and the why of our state selection strategy.

[00:46:06]

Yeah. So obviously, we we have a little bit of fun here, like every campaign does. And we've honored Steve Bannon with what we call the Bannon line. The Bannon line is the number of voters that Republican voters we think we need to get. And by get we mean peel off, make sure they do not vote for Donald Trump in order to be successful in making sure he's not re-elected, that. No, his own his own number is four percent.

[00:46:33]

And that's really important for people to understand and listeners is I think that there's this kind of sense that we're trying to win 50 percent of Republicans to put the party in half. That's not what we're trying to accomplish. What we're trying to do is make sure that Joe Biden is elected the next president, United States. And in order to do that mathematically, just a small sliver. Remember, the Republican Party has been shrinking rapidly for the past three or four years.

[00:46:55]

And even with what remains, there are a swath of voters. Most polling would suggest it's between 15 and 18 percent that are very tepid in their support. They're really uncomfortable with with this guy. And I think it may be even deeper than that. But for the moment, let's just say that that's what we're we're working with. The Lincoln Project's goal is to get across the ban line is to move just four percent, one in twenty five Republican voters away from Donald Trump, hopefully to Biden.

[00:47:21]

But they don't even need to go to Biden. They just need to to vote every other office down ticket. But at the top, right. In your favorite conservative, true conservative or simply leave it blank as your own statement about what's happening with the state of the country, the Republican Party. So we refer probably thousands of times a day to staff to where this strategy is working with the Bannon line. And does this get us there or does it not?

[00:47:42]

That's what we're singularly focused on. So how do we get there? How do we get to that four percent? The best road to success are really through two key parts of the Republican coalition, the first which we've talked about ad nauseum. But we'll continue to for the next 60 days or so. Are these college educated voters, generally women, college educated women specifically. But because of covid, we've also seen as a deterioration amongst sixty five plus voters, senior voters, older voters, those that are the most likely to be very sick and unfortunately die from the pandemic.

[00:48:17]

And the mismanagement and incompetence of the Trump administration has put them squarely in harm's way from this invisible virus. And that has politically created a huge opening and a softening where seniors are moving off of of Trump in a really unprecedented way. There's no Republican president in the history of Gallup polling that has ever not won the senior vote. Donald Trump won with 11 percent by 11 percent. Seniors in twenty sixteen. He has negative seven right now to Biden and heading into the final stretch of twenty twenty.

[00:48:59]

So we will be focusing on areas again, put it really well right after Labor Day. This is the part of the campaign where we say revolutionary army parlance. We can now see the whites of their eyes, right. It's no longer just conditioning the environment and doing broadcast wide messaging. It's now hand-to-hand combat in the right states and the right counties with the right voters on the right blocks to start moving the voter model. And so the Lincoln Project will be very engaged in that activity.

[00:49:29]

And again, as we mentioned, we will be focusing on the states and the areas that have most of those demographics. It gets down to what we call the efficiency of the spend. Where do you find the most voters that meet that criteria that gives you the highest efficiency to move the right state with the right combination to get to two hundred and seventy? It's really like a multilevel chess game, which is, of course, why we love the business.

[00:49:54]

The stakes, of course, are real and very high. We take it extraordinarily seriously, but that's where we'll be focusing. And I think that you may see a very different road map to 270 than you have seen in probably the past thirty years in American politics, largely because of the shifts that we have been talking about. One of the things that is happening is, as Trump does close up the white, non college educated voter and pushes away the college educated Republican voter is he's expanding the battlefield.

[00:50:25]

So even when you see polling tighten up, we don't necessarily think that's a bad thing, because what it means is he's consolidating the traditional Rust Belt states. But at the same time, because of the same messaging and the same tactics, he's actually expanding the battlefield. As we just said, Alaska starts looking differently. Montana starts looking funny. Georgia starts getting stronger for Biden, Texas gets did more. Arizona starts to widen four for Joe Biden in Florida is a much bigger range for Biden at this point than it should be for Donald Trump.

[00:50:59]

That is all a result. That is all a direct result of the same strategy that he is using and that used during convention and is clearly going to try to use and emulate throughout the course of the campaign to consolidate these quote unquote, must have states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, where, again, Joe Biden is competitive and outside the margin and a lot of these states. But the more he makes his stand there, the more he is pushing more states into play.

[00:51:27]

So some people call it a tightening. I guess that is one way to look at it. I prefer to refer to it as a flattening. The race is flattening because more states are tightening up on the other side because of the same tactics that he's using to consolidate his base. And that's just one of the problems that you run into when you have a very small, shrinking, highly regional base of voters and you have literally turned off, alienated and inspired every other demographic in the country to vote against you.

[00:51:58]

You know, I think the one thing that we should never forget is that the Lincoln Project fights hard and we forget we fight in close quarters, but that everyone on our team is ultimately an optimist. We would not be doing this. We would not get out of bed. We would not work the hours. And in conjunction with the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of people who have come along on this ride with us and who are really the backbone of this operation, if we didn't believe that it matter, it would it would be a lot easier to stay in bed every morning and say whatever happens, happens.

[00:52:31]

And so I can tell you, and I think I speak for everyone, that there's no place I'd rather be doing the things that we're doing than what we're doing right now with all of you and everybody else on the team. And so I think that it's very easy to get discouraged. It's ugly out there. And I think that from now on, we should see this as not the just the defense of the country against Donald Trump, but the opportunity to relieve the country of Donald Trump, to relieve him of his duties and to say, OK, in January 20th, twenty twenty one, where are we going to go?

[00:53:04]

What are we going to do now? And how are we going to do it together? Because we need to get back to a common goal, a common argument, a common discussion. We're not going to do that while this guy is who is in the White House. Thank you to Mike and read for being on today. And thanks to all of you at home for listening. You can find more information about our movement at Lincoln Project US. If you have advice or questions about the podcast, you can email us at podcast that link and project us.

[00:53:32]

Please note that even if you don't receive a response, we read every email we get and we always appreciate hearing from you. If you haven't yet. Please make sure to subscribe, read and review the show wherever you get your podcasts. This helps us stay up in the rankings so that more voters can find the show and join our movement to defeat Trump and Trump ism for the Lincoln Project. I'm Ron Stessel. I'll see you in the next episode.