The Driving forces in the 2020 Election

The Means Report

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The Means Report continues its effort to inform voters in this series of politically driven episodes. It is an effort to help them have all the issues and candidate platforms well in hand when they go to the polls – or possibly when Absentee or Mail-In ballots are submitted. To do that Brad Means is joined by Dr. Craig Albert to talk about the race for the White House, the Supreme Court nomination process, and how secure our election will be.

Brad Means: Dr. Craig Albert from Augusta University, thank you so much, for lending your political science expertise to us. We appreciate it sir.

Dr. Craig Albert: Thanks for having me.

Brad Means: Let’s just start, I guess we’ll, we’ll try to start in chronological order. I’m sure we won’t stick with it, but if we do that then we’ll go back to the most recent event which was the vice-presidential debate on Wednesday night. What did you think of the vice-presidential debate and does that debate matter?

Dr. Craig Albert: I think it was a good debate. I think it was much more traditional than the first presidential debate that we had. Again, as a political scientist, I’m a little disappointed that there still was not as much policy initiatives discussed and outlined as much as I would like there to be. So, for people that are really on the fence or still don’t know for whom they’re going to vote, really laying out those policies in detail and how they’re going to achieve the policy is what I was looking for. Not just as a political scientist, but as a voter as well. And so, I thought that was lacking and that tend to be the trajectory, the past few presidential cycles that there’s not a lot of policy initiatives really given out in detail. So that unfortunately, it seems to be where we’re heading in and how it’s going to play out for the next few presidential cycles as well.

Brad Means: Did you find it? I’m sorry, Craig go ahead, I’m sorry, go ahead.

Dr. Craig Albert: It’s interesting to see this time if the vice-presidential debates will have an impact on people voting. I think it might, because those independents are people that are not traditional voters who might be fed up with both the presidential candidates might cast their vote for who the vice president is going to be. And I think that is particularly the case with Kamala Harris and those tending to vote on the left or thinking about voting for the left. They see Joe Biden as a transitional president, a candidate whereas a vice presidential candidate nominee Kamala Harris would be the more progressive candidate and that they might be seen to set her up to be the next presidential candidate in the next presidential cycle. So, it might have an impact in that they’re gonna vote for Kamala Harris versus voting for Vice President, Joe Biden.

Brad Means: Wasn’t it frustrating though when the moderator would ask a question and both candidates would do this, they just would not even acknowledge the subject matter of the question and would use their two minutes to just go off on another point?

Dr. Craig Albert: You know, as a professor, that’s one of the most annoying aspects of seeing these debates is that they just don’t answer the questions whatsoever they are, they’ll pivot, they’ll tilt, they’ll answer the question they wished was asked rather than the one that was asked, and that’s unfortunate. I don’t let my students slide on that. They need to answer the question that I had directly asked them. And I think we should hold our president and vice-presidential candidates to the same standards as we hold college students towards.

Brad Means: Hey, what about President Trump getting the Coronavirus. I sort of thought when it first happened that it would generate some sympathy for the president and then that sympathy would translate to a broader support. The polls don’t show that just yet. In fact, it looks like if you believe the polls Joe Biden’s lead got bigger after the president got sick.

Dr. Craig Albert: It seems so and there’s so much controversy and conspiracy theories floating around there as well. This is the unfortunate aspect of the, you know, the internet age we live in is that we can’t necessarily trust what’s going on out there. The potential viewers don’t know what side to believe. Some people are saying it’s all fake. Some people are saying President Trump is acting like he had it just to get an increase in the polls. It’s an unfortunate time with fake news. What we can be sure of is that President Trump having the Coronavirus is showing people that even the most powerful people in the world are susceptible to this disease. And so that, the United States shouldn’t be taking it very seriously and taking it as a national security threat. The president has it and that can’t show higher threat to the nation security then than that. And so, we need to start taking this much more seriously and I think the president should be taking it much more seriously as well. And I think that showing itself by the presidential debate commission moving the second debate online right now.

Brad Means: Yeah, who does that benefit Biden or, well I guess, the better way to ask the question is does a virtual town hall meeting next week hurt the president? He seems to do well with live people.

Dr. Craig Albert: I think it helps the potential voters because that might be more controllable because of course you can mute and silence people if they don’t answer the question properly, or if they start interrupting one another. So, I think that unlike the first debate where it was really a chaos and we did not get a lot of insight from either candidate, this platform might give us the capability to really see what the policies of both candidates are. Unfortunately, I think President Trump said he’s not going to do the virtual debates. So, we’ll see if he continues with that or if the campaign, which I think the campaign should tell him to do it. Because the people need to see the president as being in charge and being able to take charge in a debate, even if it’s virtual online. So, him bowing out is showing a little bit of presidential weakness, I think. And that’s something that the Trump campaign does not want the voters to see.

Brad Means: Yeah, I should remind the viewers we record The Means Report typically on Thursdays and so just realize that Dr. Albert and I are having this conversation on Thursday the day after the vice-presidential debate. Joe Biden as it stands, Craig has a 10-point lead in some polls, does he need to debate anymore?

Dr. Craig Albert: I think he does, he still needs to lay out those policy initiatives which again, he hasn’t been doing so. He also needs to lay out and answer the question about court packing and on the Supreme Court in general, what type of justice he would nominate to the Supreme Court. That’s a huge question right now and the policy’s really lacking, and he needs to come out. Now, remember with these polls, we have to take those with a grain of salt because the first question a poll and those that are polled and are asked, are if you’re a potential voter. And so that’s only given us an insight to people that say that they are likely voters. So that’s leaving out anybody that says, no, they’re not likely to vote. Then they’re not included again in these polls. Most Trump supporters or a lot of people that voted for Trump the first time, reluctant Trump voters say they’re not a potential voter. And so, then the poll doesn’t continue. So, they’re left out of that. So that creates a larger standard of error or a larger percentage going forward potential Biden voters because the Trump voters don’t necessarily always like to be polled. So, we always have to take that into account. When we talk about these polls. With that said, you’re right in almost every poll Vice President, Joe Biden has about an eight to 12 point. But again, in 2016, Hillary Clinton had significant leads almost leading up to the double digits at least a month before the presidential debate, before the presidential vote. And so, we saw how that turned out. So, we can’t rely and rest with these types of numbers that you need to continue to debate, continue to put out your platform, continue to be strong and vigorous and make your points heard. So that those independents show up for those reluctant voters that they show up, for the youth, the millennials, the generations years that are gonna be able to vote this time. They still are unconvinced because they don’t see the policy differences between the two candidates. So, I think if Joe Biden lays down his guard right now that he’s gonna hurt himself and you might see the same outcome of 2016 where people think that the Democrats are gonna win. So, they just don’t show up because they think there’s such a great lead by the Democrats. And that’s a little bit of what happened in 2016. And if I were telling the Democrats what to do, I would say, don’t let up, you have to keep going otherwise people might stay home.

Brad Means: I haven’t met an undecided voter in my life. At least since President Trump announced he was running for president. Have you met an undecided voter? I can’t imagine there are that many out there anymore.

Dr. Craig Albert: Those generations years in the millennials, a lot of my students say that they’re undecided or just fed up and they’re not gonna vote one way or another. And so they’re undecided as to whether they think the voting process affects them and if it’s important for them to vote. And that’s sad to see. So it’s up to the presidential candidates to really generate some type of appeal to these younger voters, specifically, to show them why it’s important to show up, that this matters and that there are stark policy differences. You know, I live chatted the first presidential debate with my students. And most of them said that they were so disappointed that they became disenfranchised by the debate that they no longer want to vote in the presidential election. And that this was their first time being able to vote. And I think if, you know, political science students say that this is how their debate made them feel, what effects did it have on the general population. So I think both sides, and if I was a party person on either side leading the, the national committees I would make sure that they knew this. And to really get out the differences in your campaign and your platforms because most people don’t know the platforms and the policies of either side right now. And that’s something that’s gonna hurt the country in the long run.

Brad Means: I guess this is more of a medical question than a political question, but do you think the president’s apparent quick recovery from the Coronavirus might cause some people to let their guard down about it, might cause them to not take as many precautions because they say, “Look this 74 year old man “beat it pretty quickly.”

Dr. Craig Albert: It could, and we see that a lot on social media that people saying if the president got over it with his health conditions and, you know, two or three days, how bad can it be? I would like to caution everybody that the president has the most experienced medical staff in the world, the most powerful medicine in the world two experimental regimens, the president was placed upon that you or i Brad could not get access to, no matter how much money we had or what kind of power we had that only goes to the president of the United States. So he’s able to recover or supposedly recover. He’s still in that dangerous area where symptoms could reappear in the next six days or so. So he’s not out of the woods yet. Let’s be clear about that. And, and that’s being said with him being on two experimental regimens and the greatest hospital in the world and the best doctors in the world. So let’s not, let’s not fall into the trap of thinking it’s not dangerous. He has the best team in the world behind him, helping him. And even he had to be put on oxygen a few times during his hospitalization. So let’s not forget that.

Brad Means: No, you’re right, good points indeed, Dr. Albert. I wanna ask one more quick question Coronavirus related if I may, before we take a quick break and that just has to do with the prospect of a vaccine coming soon. The president says that its arrival is eminent does a vaccine before election day help the president. Does that mean more votes because he delivered it in time.

Dr. Craig Albert: That could be the second October surprise Brad. If he delivers a vaccine in time. Having the vaccine is one thing, convincing the American population that it’s safe and effective, and to sign up to take it as another thing. So we’ll have to see how the American public trust a vaccine that’s rushed out right before the election. I have a feeling that most people would see it, whether it is or not as some type of political stunt. And there might not be that many people signing up to take it. But I think the president wants it to be released before November 3rd. So it’ll be interesting to see whether that’s the, the November surprise, if he will, if he releases it or it comes available on November 1st. And I think that’s something that he really want’s to push out.

Brad Means: All right, so there are the debates, there is the Coronavirus and oh yeah, a Supreme Court nomination is underway. We’re gonna talk about that with Dr. Albert and more when The Means Report continues. Stay with us, we’ll be right back.

Part 2

Brad Means: Welcome back to The Means Report. We appreciate you staying with us as we continued our discussion with Dr. Craig Albert, political scientist from Augusta University. Dr. Albert let’s talk about the Supreme Court nomination process. You have Amy Coney Barrett nominated for the Supreme Court. Is it important for the president’s reelection chances to get that finished before November 3rd and get her on the bench?

Dr. Craig Albert: I think so, and this is something that President Trump has been extremely successful in during his administration is getting conservatives not just to the Supreme Court of course, with two previous nominations in confirmation to the Supreme Court. But he has really packed the federal court system with a plurality if not a majority right now with conservative appointees. And so if I were advising the president, this is what I would be running on for re-election is that the court system has been packed by conservatives. That’s something that the candidate Trump in 2015, in 2016 wanted and he has achieved this, but he’s been reluctantly silent on really playing up how successful his administration has been in this. And that’s something that could pivot some of the independent or undecided electorate one way or another is his appointees to the federal court system. I think he was definitely going to push this through. And I think the Senate majority leader is also going to allow this confirmation hearing to happen and for a full vote before November 3rd. if it doesn’t happen before November 3rd, one way or another, I still think that the Senate majority allows it to happen before of whatever transition of power may happen on January 20th.

Brad Means: Yeah, one way or another, she’s gonna be a Supreme Court justice. if I’m hearing you correctly?

Dr. Craig Albert: Exactly.

Brad Means: Let me ask you about another thing that might generate votes for the president. That’s this stimulus package that’s being discussed. As of today, the president at first said he didn’t want to have any more talks about it until after November 3rd, then he changed his mind. It looked like and said okay, let’s do talk about getting everybody a $1,200 check. Let’s try to push this through. Does that look like a ploy to get votes or does that, is that actually something that could help the president as well?

Dr. Craig Albert: Both yes, it is a ploy to get votes and yes it could help the president win re-election as well. Again, this is something that he has not been good about messaging or the narration of what he’s done so far as president. If I were advising him, I would say look, you need to tout the first stimulus package as being something that you did, that you created, that you passed. And then the second stimulus package, especially if it comes out a week or two before the election this is something that the president can use to say that he understands what the average American person is going through. And he could even tie it in with him being sick with the Coronavirus as well saying he knows the pain and suffering that people that have had this terrible disease have had, the financial impact, what it has done to our economy. I mean, some of our forecasting us to lose between six and eight of our GDP this year, six to 8% of our national GDP this year. And this is something that the president could use to help his re-election efforts. But you’re absolutely right. He’s been reluctant to hold negotiations on this, but that could be a part of his messaging and his narration strategy. He likes the control the message as you know, he likes to narrate everything according to how he wants it released. And so, all of this could be to, could be a ploy by him to convince the voter that he’s the person they want in office for the next four years.

Brad Means: Dr. Albert, let’s move a little closer to home and look at the Georgia Senate races. You know, Georgia has two Republican senators, so does South Carolina, Do you think, especially on the Georgia side the polls showing those two races really tight could a Democratic challenger take one of the Republican Senate seats in Georgia, or do you think it’s just going to play out as it has in recent years and the GOP wins on both of those?

Dr. Craig Albert: You know that, many political scientists and pundits have been saying that that Georgia is purpling right now that it’s going into one of those mixed States. I’m reluctant to say that. I still think it’s solidly conservative, especially outside of the Atlanta metropolitan area but here’s where the issue comes to play. If Trump voters are people that typically vote Republican don’t turn out for the presidential election that affects all dot down ticket items. So, if more people show up that try to vote for the president on the left, that means more down ticket items are gonna be voted for on the left as well, which includes those Senate seats. So, it all turns, it all hinges on voter turnout. If Republicans stay home, especially those Republicans who don’t want to vote for President Trump, if they don’t turn out in great numbers, that’s gonna affect all local candidates and state candidates as well. So that’s the one part that I think that the Democrats could win fully. The state of Georgia is if Republicans stay home.

Brad Means: Are we vulnerable to our enemies right now? I feel like I’ve been asking you that a lot lately but now you have the president ill, the Supreme Court nomination process making everybody, making emotions high, and you have members of the joint chiefs of staff whose job it is to militarily protect us being quarantined. Can enemies, is there an opening for them now?

Dr. Craig Albert: They might perceive it as what we call a window of vulnerability or a window of opportunity to attack the United States’ interests abroad or through terrorist attacks at home but make no mistake. The military understands what’s going on, it’s vigilant, it’s ready to protect the United States and the United States interests. So, the public should be calm, and safe, and assured and know that even though there are some high officials that have been sick with Coronavirus, it is not affecting the military. They have been handling this very well with, with self-quarantining, for military members for staying at home with their military bases. For military members, they are ready to protect the United States should anybody interfere. One thing I would like to say is that cyber-attacks have been up and up tremendously, from nation state actors and from non-state actors, such as ISIS and terrorist affiliates. They’re trying to get into our systems to get our information to see where we’re vulnerable. So now more than ever, I think Americans need to be protected from cyber vulnerability. So, they need to operate good cyber hygiene, don’t click any links you’re not aware of, you know, try to stay away from anything online that you’re not used to. If it looks suspicious, stay away from it because you have China and Russia trying to get into our systems, trying to get into our health systems especially, trying to get into our research institutions as well to see if they can get some of the data on Coronavirus and how to fight it and how to fight it better, so that they can be positioned on top of the United States when it comes to the vaccine and fighting the disease. So, this is something that we all need to be aware of. Cyber-attacks are up tremendously as well as information operations and information warfare emanating from China, North Korea Iran and Russia, as well as non-state actors, such as ISIS.

Brad Means: Well, that’s great advice for the corporate and individual people who may be watching right now. Watch out for cyber security. Let me ask you a question about election security. Do you think it’s safe to mail-in our ballots? Should we worry about that? Will we know who wins the presidency on election night or will we wait for the mail-in items to arrive days, weeks later?

Dr. Craig Albert: Those are great questions. I think for the Mail-in, let me be clear, everything is as secure as it possibly can be. So, I want the voters, the viewers to understand this the States handle this system, they’ve been practicing, they’ve been preparing for it. So, it might be slower to count all those votes. So, it might be a week or two before all those votes are counted. That’s, that’s typical with Absentee ballots and Mail-in ballots from the military from overseas, for instance, it takes a while to be able to really count those on, to say what candidate got the most. It’s gonna be hard to say Brad, with how many people Mail-in versus show up. We know how many registered voters there are, on election day, we’ll be able to do that statistically to see how many voters that are registered actually showed up to the voting booth versus how many or what percentage might’ve stayed hold and both mailed in their ballot. So, we can through statistical measures, predict if we can expect, you know, 40 more percent voters to arrive in mail after the election day. And so that’s gonna be on the day type of calculations to see how many we know. We do know how many votes have already been sent in and counted in States that allow that. The issue is different States Brad, this is why it’s fun to be a political scientist. Different States have different operations for counting those votes for when you can count a vote being mailed in how early voting works, when you can do it, where you can do it, how you can do it. That’s all handled by the party and state organizations. And so, I would advise all your viewers to be aware that it could be a little process before we know for sure what side wins. And it could be a kind of a fight because it might look like one person wins in the Mail-in of the ballot, but another person might have more in person voting. And so, it could be pretty contentious. It’s 2020, so we should be ready for some type of contention but be aware that our institutions are secure. They know how to handle this. The constitution is sound, and it’s able to take any type of confusion because of new voting protocols by the state. So, it’s as secure as it can be, and I’ll be mailing in my vote. So, I have no problems with it.

Brad Means: Yeah, and just to hit on it one more time. You’ve already answered it, but you could go to bed election night thinking one person won, only to wait a week later and find out no, the other person did.

Dr. Craig Albert: Right, I don’t think anybody will call it this year. So, I know that the national media organizations and the local media organizations are having meetings about this now. They’re gonna be very tight lipped on calling a state for one candidate over the other because it’s just not gonna be known, how many votes are outstanding through the Mail-in system. And so, I think what you’re likely to see is a different type of wording it. So, they might not call the state of Florida for instance, but they might say it’s heavily weighted in favor of one candidate or another. So, I think we’re gonna see a different way of handling that process by the national and local media organizations. It shouldn’t be fun. Again, it’s gonna be secure, the States have been working on that. Some States have figured out some issues in the past few weeks and they have worked steadfastly to secure and fix those issues. And so, I don’t think anybody has anything to worry about it.

Brad Means: Craig Albert, thank you for a busy half hour. All the best to you. We’ll see you as election day gets closer.

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Brad Means

The Means Report first aired in January of 2009 offering coverage that you cannot get from a daily newscast. Forget about quick soundbytes -- we deliver an in-depth perspective on the biggest stories. If they are making news on the local or national level, you will find them on the set of The Means Report. Hosted by WJBF NewsChannel 6 anchor, Brad Means, The Means Report covers the topics impacting your life, your town, your state, and your future.