Hello from Maine! The autumn leaves are brilliant, the lobster is delicious — and so too are the Somali sambusas. That last one surprise ya? Despite being the whitest, oldest and most rural state in the union, the so-called Vacationland has gotten an immigrant injection in the past two decades — and while most are from Canada and the Philippines, a growing political force is emerging in former African refugees, coming from Angola, Somalia or elsewhere. It’s only one of the unheralded aspects of this state’s election cycle, with Maine playing home not just to a competitive Senate seat but also to a congressional district that President Donald Trump may rely on to force November’s election into overtime. Read on to see the view from Maine, as OZY hits the (socially distanced) road for the final stretch of this wild election.
Maine’s lowly four electoral votes may not seem worth the effort. But Trump sent Junior here just a month ago, and has personally called GOP congressional candidate Dale Crafts twice, including this past weekend. Why? Maine is one of just two states where candidates can win an electoral vote without winning the state overall. And there are multiple scenarios where Trump winning this district means a 269-269 tie, sending the race to the House of Representatives. The only problem? Trump, who won by 10 percentage points here in 2016, is seeing his support slip as this critical electoral vote becomes a toss-up.
Trump’s difficulty is surprising given that the district is overwhelmingly rural, older and working class — key constituencies that helped put Trump in the White House four years ago. His struggle here mirrors nationwide trends, in which Democrat Joe Biden has cut into his leads with senior voters, particularly in states like Florida. But it also may reflect the fact that Maine is one of the three least religious states (along with nearby New Hampshire and Vermont) in the country. Evangelical voters have been more devout in their support for Trump, while famously independent Mainers have shown some flexibility in their voting habits.
3. Can a Disabled Republican Mailman Deliver?
At a meet-and-greet inside a local BBQ joint, GOP congressional candidate Dale Crafts wheeled himself to the front and gave his pitch to Republican women who, like him, are big Trump fans and didn’t wear a mask, with his staff declaring that they weren’t “Big Brother.” The 61-year-old businessman, who, among other things, runs a local postal center, trades on his touching personal story: The former star running back was left paralyzed by a motorcycle accident in his 20s and went on to found several successful businesses. Crafts also carries an adventurous spirit, bragging about the buck he bagged last year while hunting and skydiving last month in support of veterans. Still, he is lagging in the polls by double digits against freshman incumbent Rep. Jared Golden, a Marine veteran who has quickly carved a reputation as a gun-loving moderate Democrat. Trump is relying on Crafts to help drive Republican voters to the polls … hence the recent calls.
4. The Somali Senate Edge
Immediately offering me warm tea and sambusas (savory stuffed pastries), Fatuma Hussein outlines the ambitious spirit of her fellow Somali transplants — bragging about her eight children, including a recent Swarthmore alum and a soon-to-be Georgetown graduate, while also protesting that they will have to work “three to four times” as hard as their white classmates due to their race. Still, the founder of the Immigrant Resource Center says, “We are people who believe in the system. We follow the laws, we worship education like religion … and we have very high rates of citizenship.” Hussein’s office, headquartered over a Somali restaurant in Lewiston, is on Lisbon Street, where dozens of the more than 12,000 refugees and African immigrants have transformed the New England shopfronts to African grocery stores and fashion outlets (from their rafters hang American flags next to those of numerous African nations). The first Somali City Council member, Safiya Khalid, was elected in Lewiston last year after three Somali Americans ran for the school board in 2017.While their vote is only a small portion of the more than 700,000 Mainers who voted in the presidential election four years ago, motivated new Americans like Hussein could play a pivotal role in the pivotal U.S. Senate race between incumbent GOP Sen. Susan Collins and Democrat Sara Gideon.
5. Rank This Choice
Next month, Maine will become the first state in the nation to use ranked choice voting in a presidential election. And while it isn’t likely to change the outcome — Maine has voted for the Democrat presidential candidate in each election since 1988 — its example is being used to propel efforts to pass ranked choice in other states. In November, Massachusetts will vote on whether to implement ranked choice voting going forward, while 67 bills across 22 states and Washington, D.C., were also considered in 2020.
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OZY has been speaking to undecided voters nationwide. Are you torn between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden? Thinking third party, or wondering whether to vote at all? We want to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I swear to God, if the Democrats dropped their super pro-abortion stance and super gun-control stance, they would win every election from here until kingdom come. Those are the two issues that get people to vote Republican when they wouldn’t otherwise. If the Democrats made a space for pro-lifers or people who are concerned about nonsensical gun control, I could be way more amenable to everything else.”
“I liked Obama. But when I hear the Democrats talk, they say, ‘Let’s introduce diversity’ — but it seems like they have a preference: They would prefer Black voters or Hispanic voters but don’t think about other minorities like Asians. I lean Republican because I focus more on economic, rather than social, issues. And yet, when I hear the Republican side, there’s a lack of compassion. When they say tax breaks, I feel like they don’t understand how economics actually works for us.”
3. Kathy Evans-Palmisano, 65, Pennsylvania
“I voted for Trump in 2016 because I thought he should know how to run a business, so he could run the country more like a business, and he didn’t owe anybody anything. I thought he would not be beholden to the lobbyists, the way the other incumbents tend to be. I had really great hopes, and he has not done anything that I’ve been really happy with. But, that being said, I think Biden is an old incompetent. So I don’t really want to vote for either one of them. I really wish we had a multiparty system.”
Have you been enjoying the show? Check out some of the kind words that reviewers atVariety, NBC and USA Today have had to say recently. On today’s episode, get to know the real Chelsea Handler. The famed comic keeps Carlos laughing while discussing how she fights against injustice, and encourages us to “get out of your own a**holes” and approach others with empathy. Of course, she also gives us the latest scoop on her relationship status. Need a laugh today? Check out The Carlos Watson Show on YouTube.
It appears the president is reading the polls. “Suburban women, will you please like me?” he asked at a rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday night. “Please, please.” Largely, they don’t. And pending their response to this plea, it means Trump is a severe underdog to win reelection. Our latest OZY/0ptimus forecast — a predictive model that crunches polls, demographic data, economic indicators and more — gives Biden an 84 percent chance of victory, up from 82 percent last week, and projects him around 315 electoral votes.
The biggest problem for Trump is where this race is being contested: In addition to Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, we have five states as toss-ups, meaning Trump has a chance of victory between 40 and 60 percent: Arizona (41%), North Carolina (41%), Georgia (52%), Iowa (52%) and Ohio (53%). Even if Trump sweeps all of these and Biden only holds lean-Democrat or bluer states, Uncle Joe becomes No. 45.
3. State to Watch: Kansas
Talk about an unlikely battleground. Senate Republicans now have just a 7 percent chance of holding their majority according to our model (there’s a 9 percent chance of a 50-50 tie), because they’re having to battle it out in places like the Sunflower State, which last elected a Democrat to the Senate in 1932 (trivia answer: George McGill). The GOP establishment thought they’d knocked this one off the board by making sure the famously anti-immigrant Kris Kobach (who blew a gubernatorial election for the Republicans in 2018) lost the primary. But two-term Rep. Roger Marshall is in a tight race with Democrat Barbara Bollier, a moderate suburban state senator who switched parties in 2018. On the backs of strong polling and fundraising, this race was the biggest Senate mover in our model this week — and is now in toss-up territory, with Marshall holding a 59 percent chance of victory.
Even Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to be able to read the electoral tea leaves, notwithstanding his attempts to meddle in the outcome. Asked last week whether he could work with a Biden White House — in an interview that went largely unnoticed in the West — Putin talked up Russia’s support for America’s racial justice movement, just like the Democrats, and said he and Biden were aligned on the New START treaty. He’s just one of several of Trump’s overseas pals who seem to be hedging their bets.
When the bombshell revelation about the country's leader is that she has smoked cannabis, you know you’re not in America. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern faces conservative National Party leader Judith “Crusher” Collins, who patronizingly referred to Ardern as “dear” in their latest debate. Better than calling your opponent a “clown,” perhaps. They’re fighting ahead of Saturday’s election over housing, mental health and plastics. Two separate referendums on cannabis use and the right to end one's own life are also on the ballot. You see, they’ve already effectively defeated COVID-19.
Instead of a debate tonight across all networks, we will get competing town halls with Joe Biden (ABC) vs. Donald Trump (NBC). That’s because recovering coronavirus patient Trump didn’t want to debate Biden over Zoom and risk the judgment of Room Rater. The result: much lower ratings and less coverage for both candidates. It will deprive Trump of his best chance to elevate a new New York Post story, cooked up by Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon, about how Hunter Biden introduced the then-VP Joe Biden to an adviser to the Ukranian energy company Burisma while Hunter served on the company’s board. This plays into Trump’s corruption narrative against the Bidens (you may recall the president was impeached approximately 100 years ago for seeking such dirt from the Ukranians). But the FBI apparently has had the alleged emails for nearly a year without uttering a public word, and a previous Senate Republican investigation has found no wrongdoing on Joe Biden’s part. Social media companies, finding it dubious, have suppressed the story’s reach, drawing intense criticism. A debate stage would have been the perfect chance for Trump to get more than 70 million Americans to at least Google it.
2. Cash Rules Everything
Third-quarter fundraising numbers are due tonight and will solidify the fact that Democrats have more money than they know what to do with. Biden already announced his staggering $383 million haul just for September, and is flooding even gas stations with ads (here’s the deal: there’s no escape), while Trump’s numbers are expected to reflect how his campaign is already triaging on the ground, pulling ads from Ohio and Iowa. (The president also is leaning more on federal government resources for a boost, from a coronavirus-themed advertising blitz to drug discount cards for seniors.) The same story is happening down ballot, where money makes more of a difference because candidates are less well known. A green wave for the blue team will likely tip the OZY/0ptimus forecast even further toward Democrats next week.
3. Amy Coney Barrett Is Winning
At this week’s hearings,Senate Democrats are trying their damnedest to make Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation fight about your health care instead of her faith — particularly as Biden courts Catholics. But regardless of the topic, they know it’s futile. Barrett, who’s shown the poise and evasiveness on specifics we’ve come to know and love from our SCOTUS nominees, is a sure bet to be confirmed, likely before Election Day. And the public is warming to her: 48 percent now want Barrett confirmed, according to one poll, up from 37 percent when Trump nominated her last month. Meanwhile, Biden continues to give awkward answers under pressure about whether he’ll push to add justices to the Supreme Court if elected. Still, there is a political benefit for Dems in this fight when it comes to cash (see Harrison, Jaime).
4. Voters Are Voting
More than 17 million Americans have already cast a ballot this year by mail or in person, and Wisconsin is already above one quarter of its entire 2016 turnout — with 19 days to go. By comparison, 5.9 million people had voted nationwide with 17 days to go in the 2016 election. Given how much the pandemic has juiced mail voting, it’s hard to model what it all means, but the early vote is exceeding expectations so far. Given how much of the vote is coming in early, with Biden strongly ahead, it’s raising the prospect of the election being called on election night after all, making the “red mirage,” well, a mirage.
5. Surprises Shouldn’t Be Surprising
A bit more shy after the 2016 stunner, political insiders are starting to at least hint at the word “landslide” for Biden, while Democrats frantically search for wood to knock and Trump fans maintain their confidence that the know-it-alls still know nothing. Reality check? America is a deeply divided country and this one will likely be close. Plus, given how 2020 has gone, we’re due for another two to three jaw-dropping news events before Nov. 3. Just because nothing has shaken Biden’s lead yet doesn’t mean nothing can.