Hoisted on his own anti-VBM Petard

Trump's nonsense campaign against vote-by-mail could cost the GOP votes.

Back in July I noted some data that suggested Trump’s rhetorical attack on vote-by-mail were having an effect on Republican voter behavior. WaPo has the following that adds more evidence to that possibility: As Trump leans into attacks on mail voting, GOP officials confront signs of Republican turnout crisis.

Multiple public surveys show a growing divide between Democrats and Republicans about the security of voting by mail, with Republicans saying they are far less likely to trust it in November. In addition, party leaders in several states said they are encountering resistance among GOP voters who are being encouraged to vote absentee while also seeing the president describe mail voting as “rigged” and “fraudulent.”

As a result, state and local Republicans across the country fear they are falling dramatically behind in a practice that is expected to be key to voter turnout this year. 


In the process, some Republican officials have tried to draw a distinction between “absentee ballots,” which Trump claims are secure, and “mail ballots,” which he has repeatedly attacked. The terms are typically used interchangeably.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, describing a recent meeting with a group of Republican voters in Fort Payne, said he felt compelled to explain that there is only one kind of mail-in voting in Alabama, and that it is safe and secure.

“They were confused about two different kinds of mail-in balloting,” he said, “where one is ‘good’ and one is not.”

Gee, I wonder why they are confused?

Trump has repeatedly tried to pretend like an absentee vote is distinguishable in some significant way from voting by mail. Of course, there is not effective different, save in terms of scale: some states have universal vote-by-mail and others have differing levels of barriers to get the ballot via mail.

Of the ironies here is that despite conventional wisdom, most studies indicate that vote-by-mail does not favor one party over the other, but Trump is convinced it helps Democrats. However, his campaign to convince his supporters to reject mail-in voting may very well translate into an advantage to Democrats based solely on depressed usage by Republicans because of Trump’s inane rhetoric on this topic.

Glen Bolger, a pollster with the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies, said that in one swing state he declined to identify, only 15 percent of voters planning to cast ballots by mail were Trump supporters. “Republicans are skeptical about voting by mail, and that’s a problem up and down the ballot,” he said.

Similarly, an analysis of current absentee ballot requests in North Carolina shows that Democrats have vastly outpaced Republicans, even though roughly the same numbers of Republicans and Democrats voted by mail four years ago.

“Everybody’s up,” said Michael Bitzer, a politics professor at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., who conducted the analysis. “It’s just that Democrats and unaffiliateds are through the roof, and Republicans are not even on the second floor.”

Just consider what a decline of few percentage points in GOP turnout might have in a swing state or in a close Senate contest. Trump’s self-immolation here is remarkable, especially when would realizes that, also via WaPo, At least 77% of American voters can cast ballots by mail in the fall.

Senior Trump advisers, including RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, have warned the president that his broad rhetoric is complicating Republican turnout efforts, multiple strategists said. McDaniel and Justin Clark, Trump’s deputy campaign manager, have repeatedly encouraged the president to promote the use of absentee ballots. McDaniel has additionally urged him to stop his blanket attacks on mail voting and present a more nuanced message.

(Emphasis mine).

Yeah, good luck with that.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, 2020 Election, US Politics, , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    McDaniel has additionally urged him to stop his blanket attacks on mail voting and present a more nuanced message.

    She has a Tweet today once again repeating Trump’s attacks on VBM, this time in Nevada.

  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    While he is attacking vote-by-mail…his campaign is actively encouraging it.

    I think we should stop trying to analyze any of what he does.
    It’s pretty clear he is suffering from diminished mental and physical capacity.
    That is what needs to be discussed.

  3. Roger says:

    If it holds true that Democrats vote by mail at a substantially higher rate than Republicans, it’s not hard to predict the cries of fraud we’ll hear when races that Republicans are narrowly leading on election day end up being losses after the mailed ballots are counted, and races with small Democratic leads turn into landslides. It’s hard to believe it’s not going to get ugly.

  4. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    McDaniel says that Trump’s supporters are “out in force.” That looks like a pretty sparse gathering to me.

    Abd also, having backed down somewhat on delaying the election, didn’t Trump then say he wanted it moved forward?

  5. dazedandconfused says:
  6. CSK says:

    He says “we” beat Obama 4 years ago? I wasn’t aware Obama was running for anything 4 years ago.

  7. Kathy says:


    Well, now, that the Democrats might agree to. they should. If the election were held tomorrow, Trump would lose bigly. He might not take the GOP down with him, but what the hell.

  8. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    It’s hard to believe it’s not going to get ugly.

    Trump and Barr are going to take every single state he loses to court…with the SCOTUS, and Justice Boof, as the end game.

  9. Kathy says:

    On a more serious note, at what point do GOP House and Senate candidates decide they should distance themselves from Donald the Unhinged, if they have any hope of hanging on or winning their seats?

    Oh, no doubt there are many races, especially for the House, that are a GOP lock, with just a proforma Democratic opponent. But where they are competitive, would there be anything to gain by dumping Trump? Or would Trump’s inevitable retaliation make things worse?

  10. CSK says:

    Yes indeed. He seems to not know what he’s saying. I mean, he never really did, but it’s gotten a lot worse since the pandemic started. Wasn’t he just threatening to ban Tik Tok by Saturday? Didn’t he promise to deliver a comprehensive new health care program by yesterday? And has he forgotten about the existence of Stella Immanuel and her demon semen?

  11. @Kathy: I am not sure it matters at this point. What’s the profile of a voter who isn’t willing to vote for Trump but would vote GOP for Congress if those GOPers eschew Trump?

  12. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:


    Didn’t he promise to deliver a comprehensive new health care program by yesterday?

    Yes, indeedy…July 19th:

    We’re signing a health-care plan within two weeks, a full and complete health-care plan

    Two weeks would have been yesterday…Sunday…when questioned about it on Friday:

    Might be Sunday. But it’s going to be very soon.


  13. Kathy says:


    To quote that great embodiment of the dumb American, Homer Simpson: Oh, well of course everything looks bad if you remember it.

  14. Jen says:

    The real danger in voting by mail, right now, is the disastrous management of the Post Office right now, as led by Trump donor/crony DeJoy.

    Voting by mail is managed by each state, with differing rules on what constitutes a ballot eligible to be counted. In some states, the ballot must *arrive* by voting day. In others, it must be *postmarked* no later than voting day.

    In states where ballots must be received by voting day, a mail slow-down either deliberate or through incompetence, is a real threat and potential problem.

    Check your local requirements, please. In New Hampshire, you can request an absentee ballot and then hand-deliver it to your local county clerk, but no one but you is permitted to drop it off.

    Right now, I’m still planning on voting in person.

  15. dazedandconfused says:


    Apparently “Who did you run against in the last election?” wasn’t a question on his cognitive test.

  16. CSK says:

    The testers could have made it a multiple choice question: Person? Man? Woman? Camera? TV?

  17. gVOR08 says:

    Republicans have spent decades learning how to suppress in person voting by the wrong people; voter ID, scarce polling places, obsolete equipment, and the poll monitor practices they had to give up under a court order that’s now expired. You can’t expect them to give all that up just because of a deadly pandemic.

  18. David S. says:

    @Kathy: “On a more serious note, at what point do GOP House and Senate candidates decide they should distance themselves from Donald the Unhinged, if they have any hope of hanging on or winning their seats?”

    In recent weeks, the Senate majority leader has become so concerned over Republicans losing control of the Senate that he has signaled to vulnerable GOP senators in tough races that they could distance themselves from the President if they feel it is necessary, according to multiple senior Republicans including a source close to McConnell.


  19. Monala says:

    @Jen: My car tabs renew every year in July. I couldn’t remember the exact date, so at the beginning of July, I went online, entered my license number, and paid to renew my tabs. I could choose to have them mailed to me (but there were warnings online about how it could arrive late), or pick them up at an area licensing center. I chose the latter.

    The day I arrived, anyone who had paid for their tabs online didn’t have to enter the actual office, just show their license at the door, and they brought the new tabs and registration out to you.

    On Saturday, August 1st, I received a renewal notice for my tabs in the mail, saying it was due by July 24th.

    What if I had forgotten they were due in July, or had no access to the internet to renew online? I could be dealing with an unaffordable ticket or towing fee by now.

  20. Joe says:

    McDaniel has additionally urged him to stop his blanket attacks on mail voting and present a more nuanced message.

    Isn’t Trump already trying to be too nuanced, trying to distinguish absentee ballots from mail-in votes? Isn’t the point of public messaging to simplify?

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    What’s the profile of a voter who isn’t willing to vote for Trump but would vote GOP for Congress if those GOPers eschew Trump?

    A Bulwark reader.

  21. Kathy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Republicans who dislike Trump just a little more than they dislike Biden.

  22. Jen says:

    @Monala: We’ve had similar delays, but not for anything as important as tags and renewals. It’s happening juuuuust often enough that I’ve become incredibly wary.

    Here’s the article I meant to post earlier:
    Trump just told us how mail delays could help him corrupt the election

    And here’s an additional reason for alarm that needs more attention: The impact of those delays could be dramatically exacerbated by state laws that invalidate ballots that are mailed before Election Day but arrive after Election Day.

    Guess which key presidential swing states have such provisions invalidating ballots that arrive after Election Day?

    All of them do, with the exception of North Carolina.

    “In states where ballots won’t count if they are received after Election Day, the impact could be devastating,” Vanita Gupta, the CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told me, adding that this could “result in potentially hundreds of thousands of ballots getting rejected.”

  23. CSK says:

    Thanks very much; I was looking for this article. I think I mentioned that over at Lucianne.com they were high-fiving each other over how brilliant Trump was to have thought of this. Screw up the mail to ensure that ballots aren’t received on time! Who could have conceived of such a dazzling diabolical plan but a stable genius?

  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Monala: Wa! I got my Washington State license tabs form in the mail at the end of April for a June 30 deadline. I wonder what happened between May and June.

    My driver’s license renewal reminder didn’t ever come at all, though. On the other hand, renewing online was easy, I got a 6 year renewal (which at 68 may be all that I’m going to want anyway), and the license showed up about a week earlier than it had in the past. Overall–good performance by the DMV/DOL.

  25. Matt says:

    @CSK: Remember when Trump was running for President the first time that he was going to introduce/pass a superior healthcare plan that left no one behind and was going to be fantastic? Then nothing for four years. Oh look he need re-elected lets dust that promise off again….

  26. CSK says:

    I could be wrong, but I believe that back in 2016 he said he’d have that plan on his desk and ready to go “on Day One.” Then a few weeks later he asked, “Who knew health care could be so hard?”

    The man’s a moron.

  27. Scott F. says:

    One of the ironies here is that despite conventional wisdom, most studies indicate that vote-by-mail does not favor one party over the other, but Trump is convinced it helps Democrats.

    But in general, when more people vote it helps Democrats and though the statistics aren’t conclusive, data suggests that vote-by-mail increases turnout. So, the GOP is faced with a choice: some combination of moderating their policy positions or communicating their broad benefits better in order to make Republican politics more popular OR suppress the vote generally even if it costs them some votes that might accrue to them.

    They’ve been backing vote suppression for decades now. Pandemic conditions aren’t going to lead them to change course.

  28. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:
  29. Mister Bluster says:

    @CSK:..I could be wrong,..
    Only about the date and that could be a typo.

    I thought that when I won (the election) I would go to the Oval Office, sit down at my desk, and there would be a healthcare bill on my desk, to be honest. And it hasn’t worked out that way. And I think a lot of Republicans are embarrassed by it.
    Donald Trump
    Reuters Sep. 20, 2017

    And I think a lot of Republicans are embarrassed by it…
    HA! HA! HA! What a joker!

  30. Kathy says:


    The man’s a moron.

    And water is wet.

    But, seriously, Republicans had been bleating “Repeal & Replace” for so many years during the last time America had a real president, that a person ignorant of politics could be forgiven for assuming they’d have a plan all thought up and ready to go as soon as they could implement it.

    A person with some knowledge of politics, would have thought they’d at least have some rough idea of what “replace” could be, and would flesh it out once a GOP candidate won an election. At the very least, GOP leaders in Congress would get together with the inning candidate after the election, and tell them “Here’s a rough idea.”

    Of course, a person with some knowledge of politics, if they’d won a presidential election, would summon their party’s congressional leadership and ask them “What idea do you have to replace the ACA?” Hell, they’d have done it, hurriedly and in a very shallow way, during the campaign.

    But I guess such people would want to govern, unlike, say, McConnell and Trump.

  31. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Scott F.:
    The Nevada legislature passed a bill to send mail-in ballots to all voters ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election, and it will be signed by the Governor…but Trump calls it a coup and threatens legal action.
    He will sue every state that he loses in November and tie the whole election up in court until Justice Boof gives him the win…but in this circumstance only…

  32. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    One of the (very) few things I have any sympathy for Trump about actually is the day 1 plan to repeal and replace. If you lived in the Fox bubble, you too would be shocked the Republican party had…nothing.

    One of the reasons I say Trump is a symptom, not the disease.

  33. Barry says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “She has a Tweet today once again repeating Trump’s attacks on VBM, this time in Nevada.”

    I just went and looked at that. It’s hysterical!

  34. CSK says:

    @Mister Bluster:
    He thought there would be a health care bill on his desk. Poof! Just like that, out of thin air. How sweet.

    As soon as he uttered this drivel, impeachment proceedings should have begun.

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Thanks. Loved it.

  35. MarkedMan says:

    @Monala: Just out of curiosity, where do you live? I’ve never heard license plates referred to as “car tabs” before. Or is it something else? In several places they are referred to as “tags”. Autocorrect get you?

  36. MarkedMan says:


    The man’s a moron.

    I’ve said the same thing since 2015: The most important thing to realize about Trump is that he is a moron. For decades people have been puzzling out his motivations because, well given how rich and famous he is, he must have motivations. But he doesn’t. He is little more than a quivering bowl of the most primal and animalistic urges.

  37. CSK says:

    Trump says the presidency is the hardest work he’s ever done. Well, let’s see. He watches television and tweets in his bedroom till…when? Eleven a.m.? Then he goes to the office. He has lunch. He calls it quits around 5 p.m., and it’s off to another evening of bed, burgers from McDonald’s, and television. That’s a six hour day. Exactly how hard did he work before he became president? Four hour days?

    I haven’t counted the huge swathes of time off for golf.

  38. CSK says:

    Well, I think he’s very highly motivated by the desire for revenge against those he feels have slighted him, such as the upper crust of Manhattan.

  39. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Still, part of the problem on health care was that Trump got played by the GOP Congressional Caucus. Remember that they spent the final 6 years of Obama’s term in office saying that they had health care reform ready to go anytime that we wanted to vote them in so that they wouldn’t have to share credit with the Democrats on getting it done.

    ETA: Why Trump believed them when people like you and I didn’t is beyond me, but I guess that’s where the moron part comes into play.

  40. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    How hard would it have been for him to check with someone? Or would it not have occurred to him?

  41. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: I can’t speak for Monala, but I live in Washington State where the little epoxy backed mylar stickers that you put on a license plate have been called “license tabs” for as long as I can remember (just turned 68 3 weeks ago). And yes, that may be a PNW, or even a solely Washington State thing. (Or even just a Seattle thing as I didn’t move anywhere else in the state until I was 35.)

    ETA: BTW, License tabs show that you paid the annual license plate renewal fee and any property taxes (repealed in WA some time in the 90s). Some states may not have renewal fees. I don’t know.

  42. Liberal Capitalist says:


    Tabs are the sticker that get put on the plates (or tags, as you said).

    Do you get plates new every year in your state?

    Or, are you in fact an agent of Russian dezinformatsiya, attempting to spread propaganda that registering a car by mail is not as safe as mail in registration?

  43. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Plausible deniability may play a role in that part of the situation. Many times and in many places where I’ve worked, I’ve not asked for facts/information/policy/whatever about subjects where ignorance would serve my personal needs better. I think it’s human nature.

    In this case, had I been Trump, I would have simply assumed that it was a lie and calculated the likelihood that I could get away with throwing Congress under the bus. But I would have played that hand much more forcefully than he did even so.

  44. MarkedMan says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: ya got me, comrade.

  45. Mister Bluster says:

    @CSK:..As soon as he uttered this drivel, impeachment proceedings should have begun.

    Apparently they weren’t embarrassed enough.

  46. Mister Bluster says:

    Just received my Application for Ballot-2020 General Election from the Jackson County, Illinois, Clerk and Recorder, Frank L. Byrd.

    I can request a Vote By Mail ballot through email, mail, online, or in-person or phone.
    Ballot can be mailed to address where I am registered or any address that I specify on my application.
    Application must be submitted by mail delivery or in-person delivery to the courthouse.
    Or send a scanned copy or photo of the application via email.
    Or apply for a Vote By Mail ballot online.
    Applications for Vote By Mail Ballots must be received by October, 29 2020, if mailed, or by November 2, 2020 if delivered in person.

    Receive ballot in mail.
    Ballots will be mailed out starting September 24, 2020, and voter should receive them no later than October 5, 2020. For applications received after September 24, 2020, ballot will be mailed within two business days after receipt of application.

    Vote and return ballot.
    Your ballot may be returned by mail, or delivered in person. In-person delivery can be by either the voter, or any person authorized the voter, or by a company licensed as a motor carrier of the property by the Illinois Commerce Commission Under the Illinois Commercial Transportation Law, which is engaged in the business of making deliveries. If delivered, the ballot must be received by the election authority prior to the polls closing (at 7:00 p.m.) on Election Day: November 3, 2020. If mailed, you must affix $0.70 in postage, and the ballot must be postmarked by Election Day.

    So what am I going to do?
    Voting by mail does have it’s advantages. Won’t have to stand in line at the polling place surrounded by virus laden electors. But I never have to wait in line to vote at my polling place no matter what time I get there. Usually early.
    I have voted absentee in the past when I was out of town traveling to work. More recently I have voted early. Once at the Courthouse and once at City Hall.
    I waited to vote in person in March in the Illinois Democratic Party primary because I wanted to see who was left on the ballot.
    On the one hand I suspect that there is not much question about the names of the Democratic and Republican candidates on the General Election ballot this November.
    On the other hand Biden, Trump and I are all in our 70s and any one of us or all 3 of us could drop dead at any time.
    If I send in a ballot marked Biden and he’s not available…I don’t want to think about that.
    If it’s me I guess my vote will be counted if I go toes up after I mail in the ballot.
    Maybe I better see if I can scratch up 70cents out of the penny jar.

  47. Kari Q says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    We have the same thing in California, but we call them tags.

  48. Jax says:

    Car “tabs” and “tags” are interchangeable here in Wyoming, same definition. Might be a Western thing!

    Fun fact….Wyoming had an error with their company that makes the stickers this year. The glue was sub-par. I’ve had to get two pairs, so far. I’m running illegal on the back and legal on the front, it’s basically the car equivalent of a mullet. 😉

  49. Mister Bluster says:

    @Jax:..the car equivalent of a mullet.

    So do you have two license plates, one front and one rear? And both get stickers and the front sticker is still attached and the rear one is gone?

    Just checking. I have seen many configurations. Two license plates, one front, one rear with a sticker on the rear plate only like here in Illinois. Some states use two stickers on the rear plate. One sticker denoting year and the other sticker denoting month. Tennessee issues one plate for the rear.

    There were metal tags years ago that bolted in the corner of a full size plate denoting the year.

  50. Monala says:

    @MarkedMan: No, tabs. Washington.

  51. Michael Cain says:

    Here in Colorado, “sticker for your license plate” is all I’ve ever heard people use. It indicates that you’ve (a) passed any necessary emission tests and (b) paid your registration fee for the coming year. My Fit is 12 years old and I hadn’t driven through enough of the fancy mobile roadside laser measuring setups in the last six months, so had to get an emissions test recently. I had to wait in line for 45 minutes, but the test was quick because they just plugged their machine into the diagnostic port and took the car’s word for it on the sensors and emissions.

    The last time I visited my in-laws in rural central Kansas, I learned that there is a thriving business there in modified ROMs for large diesel engines on farm gear. More power and better mileage at the expense of worse emissions.

  52. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Jen: There is a very informative table put together by the National Conference of State Legislatures regarding the timing (by each state) as to when mailed ballots (both absentee and VBM) are processed and tallied.

    In summary, 30 states process these ballots (authenticate, open, and prepare to tally, or in some cases actually tally) PRIOR to election day. Some sixteen states have chosen to not begin the authentication process until election day.

    With regard to actually tally of votes 12 states actually begin the tally each ballot prior to election day. The remaining states either tally beginning on election morning or after the polls have closed.

    In Florida, signature verification can begin 22 days before election day, the ballots prepared for tally, but the tally doesn’t begin until the close of the polls.

  53. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Mister Bluster:
    Other items of interest regarding your absentee or VBM ballot:
    1) the signature verification process on your ballot envelope must begin within two days of receipt by the voting authority, then your ballot is queued to be tallied.
    2) however the actual tally of your ballot (and all others) can begin at 7PM on election day.

    Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, July 7 2020. (see comment to Jen, above for the link

  54. ImProPer says:

    I was always under the impression that if a leader forsaw a potential problem, they came up with potential solutions, not just whine, and stir up outrage. Really stretching the imagination, and giving Trump, the benefit of the doubt, that he is concerned with the democratic process, shouldn’t there be at least a razor’s edge of proof of said fraud? The fact that the POTUS, can basically call the American people too untrustworthy to vote, and actually enjoy support from at least some of them is mind blowing. At least as much as the mind can be blown after the last few years.