Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Cue the next act in the reality show

Stu Rothenberg/Roll Call:

Excuse me, but is that a partisan wave building?

Democratic polling, enthusiasm, fundraising make Republicans nervous

GOP insiders are now hoping for the best but bracing for the worst.

Veteran Republicans have all but given up on Donald Trump’s reelection and are now focused on minimizing the damage down ballot. They criticize Trump’s poor messaging and salute the Democrats’ fundraising numbers, which reflect Democratic enthusiasm and foretell Republican problems down the stretch.

While Republicans still have a chance to hang on to the Senate, Democratic gains are inevitable, and a net Democratic gain of at least three seats is likely.

But Republican nervousness doesn’t end there. They fear that dampened GOP turnout on Election Day, combined with unusually strong turnout by younger voters and a clear Democratic preference among seniors, could produce Democratic Senate (and House) gains that were once simply unimaginable.

No, it’s not your imagination. Or mine. In two weeks, we see what has been building for four years.

New for @VanityFair: The case for a Blue Tidal Wave based on ~FuNdAmEnTaLs~. An underwater incumbent, suburbanites + seniors who actually vote drifting to Biden, a swirl of Dem fundraising & downballot energy in red states. 400 Electoral Votes? Possible!— Peter Hamby (@PeterHamby) October 20, 2020

Smart move, Mitch. That is, if you want to see a Democratic Senate.

NEWS w @JStein_WaPo : McConnell warns White House against making stimulus deal before election, sources say— Erica Werner (@ericawerner) October 20, 2020

He’s afraid of two things: distracting from confirming Amy Coney Barrett, leaving Joe Biden in better shape on the economy.

Biden +9 and survey shows Taylor stung by election fraud scandal:— Jim Hanchett (@hanchettjim) October 21, 2020

Keep an eye on Biden’s numbers in district polling.


Covid-19’s known unknowns

We could find similar examples for every aspect of covid-19 science—discussions of whether viral mutation is changing SARS-CoV-2 infectiousness or virulence, the extent of personal immunity to SARS-CoV-2 generated by previous infection with SARS-CoV-2 or another endemic coronavirus, the infection fatality rate, the value of different testing strategies, the effect of school closures, what we can learn from international comparisons, and so on. Strongly contrasting but apparently equally authoritative statements are made about all of these and more.

Of course, overconfidence about our understanding of covid-19 comes in various guises. One is when the evidence changes little but conclusions based on it harden, as with the value of facemasks in the early stages of the pandemic. Views polarise alongside the increasing certainty with which they are expressed, as if we are in a trench war where giving an inch risks losing a mile.

Another comes in the form of the “armchair epidemiologist” who seems blessed with the astounding ability of star economists and physicists to fully assimilate and transcend within weeks what infectious disease specialists have learnt over decades. The seriousness with which they are received in some circles is likely to be damaging. Similar over-reaching is seen within the broad range of disciplines that are central to epidemic disease management, with some academics who are ubiquitous across every media appearing to have complete and cutting edge knowledge on everything from macroeconomics through sociological and psychological science to stochastic RNA mutation. Dealing with pandemics is an inherently multidisciplinary task, and expertise in one area does not confer expertise in another.

Lots of chatter about not reading too much into the early vote. One reason *it does matter*, per a smart young D operative, is that banking the base early means more time to broaden the universe. “I’ve maxed out on my voters so now I have 14 days to talk to persuadables.”— Dave Catanese (@davecatanese) October 21, 2020

John M. Barry/NY times:

What Fans of ‘Herd Immunity’ Don’t Tell You

A proposal to let people with low risk of infection live without constraint could lead to a million or more preventable deaths.

So the idea of returning to something akin to normal — releasing everyone from a kind of jail — is attractive, even seductive. It becomes less seductive when one examines three enormously important omissions in the declaration.

First, it makes no mention of harm to infected people in low-risk groups, yet many people recover very slowly. More serious, a significant number, including those with no symptoms, suffer damage to their heart and lungs. One recent study of 100 recovered adults found that 78 of them showed signs of heart damage. We have no idea whether this damage will cut years from their lives or affect their quality of life.

Second, it says little about how to protect the vulnerable. One can keep a child from visiting a grandparent in another city easily enough, but what happens when the child and grandparent live in the same household? And how do you protect a 25-year-old diabetic, or cancer survivor, or obese person, or anyone else with a comorbidity who needs to go to work every day? Upon closer examination, the “focused protection” that the declaration urges devolves into a kind of three-card monte; one can’t pin it down.

Third, the declaration omits mention of how many people the policy would kill. It’s a lot.

The Great Barrington Declaration, the medical community response and what it says about us #COVID19 – Fresh on @33Charts— Bryan Vartabedian (@Doctor_V) October 20, 2020

Shannon Pettypiece/NBC:

Trump ramps up rally strategy that may come with more risk than reward

Despite now-daily campaign events, he has complained to aides that there are too few on the schedule, telling them he wants to hold as many as five a day.

Now, with two weeks to go, he heads into the final stretch of the race relying heavily on his rallies to change the dynamic of the contest — a risky strategy for a persistently unpopular candidate, and one that has failed to demonstrate success in moving voters into his column.

New Axios/Ipsos poll: Trump seen as less trustworthy to give accurate #COVID19 information after his diagnosis Three-fourths say attending campaign rallies is risky, including 54% of Republicans, 79% of independents, 93% of Democrats— Chris Lu (@ChrisLu44) October 20, 2020

Yanna Krupnikov and John Barry Ryan/NY times:

The Real Divide in America Is Between Political Junkies and Everyone Else

Most Americans view politics as two camps bickering endlessly and fruitlessly over unimportant issues.

The common view of American politics today is of a clamorous divide between Democrats and Republicans, an unyielding, inevitable clash of harsh partisan polarization.

But that focus obscures another, enormous gulf — the gap between those who follow politics closely and those who don’t. Call it the “attention divide.”

What we found is that most Americans — upward of 80 percent to 85 percent — follow politics casually or not at all. Just 15 percent to 20 percent follow it closely (the people we call “deeply involved”): the group of people who monitor everything from covfefe to the politics of “Cuties.”

So you’re worried Trump is going to try to steal the election? Join the club. But Bob Bauer, the Democratic super-lawyer and head of Biden’s massive voter protection effort, had a soothing message when I sat with him for @SHO_TheCircus: “He will fail.”— John Heilemann (@jheil) October 20, 2020

Catherine Rampell/WaPo:

Trump has shifted the country to the left — or at least away from his own views

Read the room, Mr. President.

After nearly four years in office, President Trump appears to be doing almost exactly the reverse of what most Americans want. On nearly every major policy issue, he has pushed the country to the left — or, at least, in the opposite direction of whatever his own stance is.

Sure, in some ways, he has reshaped the presidency and the populace in his image. He has normalized overt bigotry, for example. And he has expanded the bounds for what counts as acceptable behavior from the leader of the free world to include bullying, pathological lying and possible self-dealing.

On matters of policy, though, the reverse is true. Trump has driven Americans, including many Republicans, away from his positions. Even — perhaps especially — when it comes to the issues most central to his agenda.

Pretty shocking, but Trump deciding to make his closing arguments 1)attacking a hugely popular scientific expert and 2)a ratfuck that is such obvious bullshit Fox News wouldn’t touch it with Bill O’Reilly’s loofah has not caused the race to tighten #hessogoodatthis— Scott Lemieux (@LemieuxLGM) October 20, 2020

Eugene Robinson/WaPo:

Trump isn’t even trying to slow the virus’s spread

At almost every rally, Trump tells his supporters that the nation is “rounding the turn” on covid-19. Those who say otherwise, Trump told one crowd last week, are “cynics and angry partisans and professional pessimists.”

The numbers disagree. At the end of last week, new U.S. coronavirus infections were being reported at rates of more than 60,000 per day — levels not seen since August. Hospitalizations, which lag behind infections, have also begun to increase sharply; deaths, which trail hospitalizations, are expected to follow the same trajectory.

One jaw-dropping story after the next- these @NYTimes reporters are simply amazing.— Jane Mayer (@JaneMayerNYer) October 21, 2020

Sarah Longwell/Atlantic:

Why People Who Hate Trump Stick With Him

Since 2018, I’ve conducted roughly 50 focus groups with Trump voters to understand the shifting dynamics within the Republican Party.

What makes one voter who supported Trump in 2016 decide to support Biden? And what makes another voter—even one who thinks things are going badly—stick around?

In the simplest, broadest terms, those who are abandoning Trump are doing so because they place most of the blame for the state of the country on the president. Those who are sticking with him, despite their expressions of discomfort with him personally, are driven by an even deeper scorn for the president’s detractors.

Biden leads with all age groups including by +10 with voters 65+, who usually favor Republicans.— Trip Gabriel (@tripgabriel) October 20, 2020

Tom Lehrer has released all his songs into the public domain and the best part is the style notation at the start of each piece— Brandon Hardin (@hardin) October 20, 2020

Your musical interludes:

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