Mixing bravado and insults, Trump rallies delight supporters
By JILL COLVIN
Monday, October 15
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump gazes out over his rally crowd and lets loose a stream of insults with a theatrical flourish and playful grin. He jabs at Cory Booker the “disaster” mayor, Elizabeth Warren the “Pocahontas” pretender and “sleepy” Joe Biden.
“I want to be careful,” Trump tells the crowd, feigning a confession. He doesn’t want to hit his potential challengers too badly, he says, because then the Democrats may find “somebody that’s actually good to run against me. That would not be good.”
The venue may be Council Bluffs, Iowa, or Erie, Pennsylvania, or Topeka, Kansas, but the formula is largely the same.
Start with a few derisive nicknames, mix in some dreamy-eyed reminiscences of Election Night 2016, spice things up with an unexpected quip or zinger out of left field and you’ve got Trump’s recipe for a successful campaign rally.
Trump’s rallies once were the cornerstone of an unconventional, star-powered presidential campaign that eschewed traditional organizing and defied every expectation. Now they’re being deployed with gusto as Trump and his team work frantically to defy polls and precedent and save his Republican majority in Congress in November’s midterm elections.
The rallies — more than two dozen so far to boost GOP candidates — never fail to delight Trump’s supporters.
“Look at this,” says Brenda McDonald, 58, of Woodbury, Minnesota, gesturing to the thousands of people standing ahead of and behind her in a line that wound around buildings and snaked through alleys for at least a mile when Trump’s rally tour stopped in her state on Oct. 4.
“Have you ever seen rallies like this before?” she asked.
Trump has been aggressively campaigning across the county to try to boost vulnerable Republicans before the Nov. 6 elections, when the stakes couldn’t be higher. A Democratic takeover of Congress would stymie his agenda and mire his administration in endless investigations, including possible impeachment proceedings. Trump’s team believes his appearances fire up his loyal base, countering the wave of Democratic enthusiasm that polls suggest will lead to significant Democratic gains, especially in the House.
But after more than 350 rallies since he first began his presidential run, some things have changed.
Trump’s supporters remain as enthusiastic as ever, standing for hours in hot sun or driving rain and exploding into thundering applause when he takes the stage. They wave the same signs, wear the same hats, and chant the same “Build that wall!” and “Lock her up!” refrains that they did during the early days of Trump’s campaign.
But the once insurgent candidate, who told his supporters the system was rigged against them, is now president. And he’s been delivering on many of his campaign promises, in spite of lackluster approval ratings.
Trump’s 2016 rallies had the feel of angry, raucous, grievance sessions, as Trump’s “deplorables” gathered in the face of charges they were racist, bigoted and could never win. Gone now is the darkness, the crackling energy, the fear of potential violence as supporters and protesters faced off, sometimes trading blows. The mood now is calmer, happier, more celebratory. Trump’s rallies have gone mainstream, complete with a new playlist featuring Rihanna, “Macho Man” by the Village People and Prince’s “Purple Rain.”
Trump’s campaign, which was notably stingy during his own election effort, has been investing heavily in his recent tour, covering all the costs of organizing and paying for the rallies, including footing the Air Force One bills, according to the campaign.
“Of course, President Trump’s favorite way to connect with and charge up voters is with rallies hosted by the Trump Campaign,” the campaign said in a statement.
And they believe the money is well spent.
Trump’s events often dominate local news for days. Trump’s rally in Johnson City, Tennessee, for instance, earned more than $270,000 worth of local television coverage that night and the morning after, according to data compiled by the media tracking company TVEyes and shared by GOP officials. That’s not counting front-page stories in local papers and coverage when the rally was announced.
The Republican Party has been sending cameras to the rallies, so they can quickly post footage that can be spliced into ads.
Officials say they’ve tracked notable polling bumps they attribute to Trump’s visits.
But while the rallies are about boosting GOP candidates, they’re also always about Trump, who has been using them to test-drive messaging for his 2020 campaign.
At rally after rally, Trump has cycled through a short list of buzzed-about potential rivals, labeling each with a derisive nickname, just as he did when he cleared the unwieldly Republican field in 2016.
The insults have been among Trump’s biggest applause lines in recent days, along with his attacks on Democrats for their treatment of his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, as the Senate investigated sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh.
Trump’s crowds seem most entertained when he veers into offensive, “politically incorrect” territory. He’s bragged about how easily he could pummel Biden, the former vice president, or Booker, the New Jersey senator and former Newark mayor, or Warren, the Massachusetts senator whom Trump denigrates for her claims of Native American heritage. And he’s mocked the Senate testimony of California professor Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school.
Those moments add spontaneity and a tinge of sinister mischief that keep Trump’s speeches interesting, even as they grow increasingly formulaic.
Indeed, the rallies, at times, take on the feel of a high school reunion, with Trump taking the role of star football jock, reliving his glory days, play by play.
In laborious detail, Trump takes his audience through Election Night 2016, re-enacting cable news anchors calling state after state in his favor, adding dramatic commentary.
“Was that the most exciting evening of our lives?” Trump asked his crowd in Erie, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday. “Was that the most exciting night? Was that the greatest?”
The risk, as he prepares for the 2020 campaign, is whether Trump’s supporters will tire of the shtick.
They say it won’t happen.
“I’m just totally, madly in love with him,” said Peggy Saar, 64, of Rochester, Minnesota, as she attended her first Trump rally earlier this month. She said Trump was galvanizing people like her to vote in the midterms.
“I was never this active,” she said. “I was never this involved.”
And person after person pointed to the crowd as evidence Trump was generating enthusiasm for GOP candidates even though he’s not on the ballot.
“I think the fact he’s still turning out these crowds of people, two years in, it’s absolutely amazing,” said Richard Eichhorn, 72, of Stockholm, Wisconsin. “I think it’s huge.”
Colvin reported from Johnson City, Tennessee; Topeka, Kansas; and Council Bluffs, Iowa. Associated Press writers Kyle Potter in Rochester, Minnesota, Zeke Miller in Southaven, Mississippi, and Catherine Lucey in Erie, Pennsylvania, contributed to this report.
Why is it so hard to get an accurate vote count?
October 15, 2018
Research Professor at the Center for Political Studies, University of Michigan
Michael Traugott received funding from the National Science Foundation to study voting technology.
University of Michigan provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
In Kansas this past August, vote totals in the Republican primary for governor fluctuated by more than 100 votes over the course of a few days, and the winner – Secretary of State Kris Kobach – wasn’t declared until a week after the vote.
In Virginia, a hotly contested battle last year for the commonwealth’s House of Delegates first gave the race to the Republican by 10 votes, and after a recount, the Democrat led by one vote. A court later decreed the election a tie, and it was decided in favor of the Republican by a random drawing.
Why are the vote totals for many political offices so hard to nail down?
Shouldn’t it be easy to count ballots, the way they do in Britain, for example?
One major explanation is that we don’t really have a national election like they do in Britain. And with each state and local government running elections and counting ballots, often with the help of citizen volunteers, mistakes can happen.
In the United States, we have a series of simultaneous state and local elections held at around the same time. There is no national agency that administers American elections; they are overseen by more than 10,000 local jurisdictions.
This means that there are different ballots, different voting machines, different registration and eligibility requirements, and different administrative procedures for counting votes all across the country. That’s a recipe for occasional confusion and miscounts.
Goal is same; methods aren’t
Sometimes the technology itself can confuse voters and cause them to make errors when voting. That was the case with the “butterfly ballot” used in Palm Beach County in the 2000 election, whose “hanging chads” made it hard to determine for whom the ballot was cast.
Shifts to new technology can produce problems and then errors in vote counts, as my colleagues and I showed in research supported by the National Science Foundation.
The cost of holding elections is paid from local tax revenue, so local governments have a disincentive to invest in upgrading voting systems. Since providing police and fire service, a good education and picking up garbage all have a higher priority than administering elections, financial support for election administration is often a low priority.
Ultimately, the secretary of state in each of the 50 states (or the head of an election division within that office) is responsible for certifying the result of the election for each office, property tax or bond issue, or proposition appearing on the ballot. It’s in that office that conflicting vote totals ultimately get reconciled.
But how they get to a certified result varies by location as well.
Changes in how votes are cast
Voting used to take place on a single day. A voter had to show up in person to cast a ballot.
In 1993, in the interest of convenience and increasing turnout, Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act, also known as the Motor Voter Act. The legislation allows registration for voting at the same time a person applies for a driver’s license or renewal, as well as other registration opportunities when interacting with state and federal government agencies.
Turnout in the United States is lower than in most democracies, and a number of procedures have been adopted in various states to allow people to use absentee ballots, cast votes at early voting sites, and even to obtain provisional ballots for people who show up to vote in person but whose eligibility is questioned.
All of these parameters vary by location. For example, early voting can start as much as 46 days before Election Day in some states, like Minnesota and Illinois, while states like Michigan do not allow it at all.
In many states, different kinds of ballots are counted at different points in time.
In-person ballots are often counted on election night, and absentee ballots are counted then or shortly thereafter.
Provisional ballots, which are used when there are questions about a voter’s eligibility, are held confidentially in envelopes with signatures and other identifying information. They have to be checked for eligibility back in a local clerk’s office and may not be counted for a day or two.
Military ballots mailed in from overseas will be counted as long as they are postmarked by Election Day, but they could take several days to get to the local office.
Because of this complexity, election administrators must have a set of procedures in place to ensure the integrity of the voting system.
Once the votes are in
In each precinct on election night, there is an audit process that the local election director oversees to insure the integrity of the ballots and the count. An initial count is made in a series of steps. Here is what that looks like:
After the ballots are first counted in each precinct, often by volunteer poll workers with various levels of experience and training, those totals are transmitted in person to a secure location. Then, totals are added up for the ward, city, county and the state level.
The ballots themselves – or devices with ballot totals like voting machine cartridges – are brought by precinct workers to a secure location. Sometimes, because of human error, a small number of ballots – typically one precinct or less – may be temporarily misplaced: for example, one ballot box or one cartridge. When they are recovered, the initial vote count will be adjusted. In all of these ways, a final preliminary vote count is generated.
After the initial vote tabulation, there is a period when the results can be challenged for various reasons and a recount requested.
In some jurisdictions, a recount may be mandatory when the winning margin falls within a certain small range.
All of these procedures must take place in a period from 30 days after the election to when the state legislature next convenes and the secretary of state certifies the results as final. The vote totals again have a chance of changing – typically by a small amount – but hardly anyone pays attention to these final adjustments.
One more variable
One final note: For decades the Associated Press provided county-level vote totals to news agencies on election night.
But starting this November, there will be two major exit poll operations and associated systems for collecting and disseminating the county-level votes.
The Associated Press will partner with Fox News, while Edison Research, which has been responsible for the National Election Pool, the exit poll conducted for a combine of major news organizations since 2004, will tabulate raw vote totals as well.
Because Edison Research will be new at providing vote totals, it could encounter some technical difficulties in collecting and disseminating the data. There could also be some variability in the speed with which the vote totals are released.
As a result, conflicting vote tabulations could appear in the 2018 general election. Remember – these are only preliminary vote counts for the benefit of news organizations, not the certified results.
Our election process is corrupt and no one wants to talk about it because both parties are cheating. It’s easy to hack into voting machines and make up whatever result you want, and the chances of getting caught are slim to none. Here is a computer hacker testifying under oath to doing exactly this in a state senate race over a decade ago.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzBI33kOiKc
More college students expected to vote in 2018 midterms
October 15, 2018
Director of the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education, Tisch College of Civic Life, Tufts University
Nancy Thomas does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Tufts University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
In order to gain insight into the role that college students might play in the outcome of the 2018 midterm elections on Tuesday, Nov. 6, The Conversation reached out to Nancy Thomas, director of the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life. Thomas predicts a higher voter turnout among the nation’s 20 million college students, a “formidable voting bloc” that she says was jolted to attention by the 2016 election of Donald Trump as president. But she also warns that personal and practical factors might impede the college vote.
1. Is there any reason to expect voter turnout among college students will be higher this time around than it was in the previous midterm election?
I predict that college students will vote at higher rates in 2018 than in the 2014 midterm election, but that’s a low bar since the National Study of Learning, Voting & Engagement revealed only 18 percent of students, including graduate students and older students who tend to vote at higher rates, opted to vote in 2014. Only 13 percent of students aged 18-24 voted.
New numbers suggest that 2018 will be different. The number of 18-29-year-olds who voted in 2018 primaries is 4 percent higher than in 2014, and has more than doubled in key battleground states. The number of people who registered on National Voter Registration Day in September 2018 was 800,000, significantly higher than the 155,000 who registered that day for the 2014 midterm.
2. What’s at stake for college students in the midterms?
The 2016 presidential election results jolted college students – and faculty and administrators at their colleges – to attention. Young Americans preferred Hillary Clinton over Trump by 55 percent to 37 percent, so many were disappointed and surprised by the results. Our research institute provides campuses with individual reports of their students’ registration and voting rates. When campuses saw their rates, which averaged 48 percent in 2016, that was a wake-up call.
When I talk with college students throughout the nation, they say they care about immigration and the treatment of Dreamers, #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, gun violence and ownership, economics and jobs, student loans and the environment. This Harvard poll confirms many of my impressions.
Students represent a formidable voting bloc. There are 20 million college and university students nationwide. There are now more eligible voters under the age of 30 than over the age of 65, with 49 million ages 18-29 and 45 million over 65.
From our studies of politically engaged campuses, we identified that a combination of factors can foster interest in public affairs and voting. For example, politically engaged campuses provide lots of opportunities for students to talk politics. Peers also matter. Getting one person in a club or friend group can motivate others in the group. Student activism, and positive reactions by the administration, can give students a sense that their voices matter. And of course, students like fun. Parades to the polls, entertainment for students who need to wait in line to vote and social events will generate excitement.
3. What are the biggest obstacles to voting for college students?
College students face two types of barriers to voting – technical and motivational.
Technical barriers include challenges like overly restrictive identification requirements or registration processes, distant polling locations, long lines or laborious processes for voting absentee. Local officials can also present arbitrary barriers. One tried to administer questionnaires that suggested additional prerequisites to voting. Sometimes, students feel they are too busy to find the time to vote on Election Day. Voting should be convenient.
Motivational barriers include students disliking our political system or sensing that the candidates do not represent their interests. Some feel that their district or state is so heavily weighted toward one political party, that their vote doesn’t matter. Some students feel uninformed about the issues or candidates.
With broad variations in ballots and voting machines, the process itself can be intimidating, particularly for first-time voters and students who did not tag along with their parents on Election Day.
While historically, many college students might have been labeled apathetic, all signs point to high levels of student interest in the upcoming election.
4. Will college students shift the nation in a different direction in the coming years?
Whether college students can shift policy depends on whether they turn out to vote – signaling that they are serious about influencing policy – and whether elected officials care what they think. If enough turn out, candidates will have no choice but to care.
To determine the direction policies might go, it helps to look at the demographic breakdowns, particularly age, gender, and race of college and university students and their turnout patterns. Of the 10 million students in the database for the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, around 85 percent are undergraduates. If this group turns out, they can shape the outcomes in many districts this November.
More women attend U.S. colleges and universities than men – the split is around 60-40. In 2012 and 2014, among students in the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, black women in college had the highest voting rates among college students. As in the general population, college women vote at higher rates than college men. Attracting the vote of college students, then, may mean crafting policies that appeal to women and women of color in particular.