The TAKE with Rick Klein
A president used to defining his own realities is running into some stubborn ones -- big enough to force him to maneuver around them rather than try to barrel through them.
This week saw President Donald Trump replace his campaign manager and downscale plans for his convention. One move was a tacit acknowledgement of his political standing, while the other is a nod to the health realities of the country.
The president himself largely ignored the worsening COVID-19 crisis in his public remarks this week, even while more states with Trump-allied governors caved and mandated masks. And one Republican governor who has clashed with Trump blasted him for ignoring his administration's own experts while "talking and tweeting like a man more concerned about boosting the stock market or his reelection plans."
The president is coming up against a crisis of trust. The new ABC News/Washington Post poll out Friday morning shows 64% of Americans questioning his credibility on COVID-19, with nearly as many -- 60% -- disapproving of his handling of the pandemic.
Tellingly, Trump this week backed a half step away from a confrontation with Dr. Anthony Fauci -- even as people in his White House declared open warfare on him. He has not, though, come down firmly on Fauci's side, just as he has not wavered in his pressure on schools to reopen this fall.
Trump's political response has been, in part, to try new lines of attacks out on former Vice President Joe Biden.
But the president's political predicament isn't about Biden, or Fauci, or GOP critics or who is running his campaign. It's about Trump himself, who is leading a nation that doesn't trust him at the moment.
The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema
Away from the campaign trail, but still looking toward November, Trump has made repeated -- yet unfounded -- claims about widespread mail voting fraud. With just over 100 days until an election in which voters are expected to predominately cast ballots by mail given pandemic conditions, Trump's messaging on the issue appears to be increasingly scattered.
While the president frequently ties his allegations of fraud to Democrats, on Thursday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany did not indicate that the president was aware a member of his own party, Rep. Steve Watkins of Kansas, is facing new criminal charges in a voter fraud case. Watkins was endorsed by Trump in 2018 and was a speaker at a Trump rally in the lead up to the midterm election.
Noting that the president "does have very real concerns about voter fraud," McEnany proceeded to give "information" that aimed to support those concerns. Her list included "about 1% of absentee ballots nationwide" having been "thrown out" in 2016; a Postal Service truck "that may have been carrying mail-in ballots" having caught fire; and an incident in which Republicans received Democratic ballots in New Jersey. She added that the ballots "had been voided and then reissued."
Later that day on the campaign front, Steve Guest, an RNC Rapid Response Director, tweeted, "Elizabeth Warren endorses voter fraud, says her dog will be voting Democrat," and linked to a video in which Warren jokes about her golden retriever voting for Biden. Guest added that "voter fraud is not a joking matter," citing an Atlanta-based report of a deceased cat with a human name getting a voter registration form in the mail. The report included a statement from the Georgia secretary of state's office saying that even if the cat were alive and came to the polls, it wouldn't be able to vote without a valid ID.
The increasingly scattershot messaging could be leaving a very real footprint in battleground states. Already, Democrats are touting their ability to outpace Republicans in enrolling voters to vote by mail in Florida. Sounding a warning more than a thousand miles away in Wisconsin, the chairman of the Republican Party of Fond du Lac County, Rohn Bishop, said the GOP is risking scaring away their own voters, a notion with which his fellow Republican and state Majority Leader, Jim Steineke agreed.
"Taking a stand can be lonely. Very lonely. But I think I'm right," Bishop tweeted Thursday.
The TIP with Quinn Scanlan
It's still unclear how serious Kanye West's presidential bid is, but the rapper-fashion designer is quickly approaching the point when it will be mathematically impossible for him to even hit the magic number of electoral votes a candidate needs to become president of the United States.
West successfully got his name on Oklahoma's general election ballot Wednesday by paying the $35,000 filing fee, which would be a financial feat for the average independent candidate, but is pocket change for him. But he failed to submit the 30,000 valid signatures required to get on the ballot in battleground Michigan before Thursday's 4 p.m. deadline.
Oklahoma's seven electoral votes wouldn't get West any closer to the presidency than he is now. He needs 270 to win, and after missing Michigan's deadline, there are only 306 electoral votes left among the states, plus the District of Columbia, where the filing deadlines have yet to pass. If he misses the last July deadlines -- in Missouri, New Jersey and West Virginia -- the maximum amount of electoral votes he could potentially achieve would be 284.
Five states have an Aug. 3 deadline, and even if he just missed Pennsylvania, which requires only 5,000 signatures and a modest $200 filing fee, his presidential aspirations would have to wait until 2024 -- assuming he doesn't forge ahead with an attempted write-in campaign -- but in most states, even write-in candidates have to submit paperwork by a deadline if they want their votes counted, and in several others, it's not an option at all.
ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Friday morning's episode features ABC News Chief Business & Economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis, who tells us about the 'K-shaped' economic recovery we're seeing. Then, ABC News contributor Dr. Darien Sutton explains why many people who recover from COVID-19 can still feel its effects for a lifetime. And, ABC News contributor and former Marine Col. Stephen Ganyard tells us about the motivations behind Russia's alleged hack of COVID-19 vaccine data. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
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