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Primaries, profanities, and political punditry
Introduction written by Mike Moffo, founder of Moffo Co
News briefing by Katie Stanton, senior associate
8 April 2020
In the social media era, an elected official aiming a profanity-laced Tweet at his political rivals is increasingly unremarkable.
But, in the coronavirus era, respected political leaders like Mandela Barnes find themselves struggling to avoid profanities in describing the election to choose the next president of the United States.
Yesterday’s Wisconsin primary election was scheduled to be the 27th state Democratic primary in the long 50-state nomination process. All 16 US states with elections scheduled in April postponed their elections or limited the election to vote-by-mail ballots.
Yesterday, Wisconsin (a state with a larger population than Norway and slightly more reported COVID-19 deaths) became the only US state to move forward with a statewide in-person election since the outbreak of COVID-19. While citizens around the world remained locked down, Wisconsinites left their homes to gather at public polling locations and cast their ballots.
As other states prudently postponed elections, Wisconsin was plagued by Republican intransigence. After claiming for weeks that he was powerless to unilaterally postpone the election, Democratic governor Tony Evers proposed sending a mail-in ballot to every registered voter in Wisconsin. The Republican-controlled state legislature declined.
Then, last week the governor called a special session of the Wisconsin State Legislature to postpone the election. Once again, the Republican-controlled state legislature declined. A group of political organisations took court action to protect the validity of mail-in ballots that may be delayed, but the State Supreme Court and the US Supreme Court shut it down. Yesterday, Governor Evers issued an Executive Order postponing the election until early June. It was overturned by the courts within two hours.
So, yesterday, Wisconsin held an in-person election in the midst of a global pandemic. Unsurprisingly, the view on the ground was grim. Twitter was flooded with chilling anecdotes from local voters and activists: older voters who have never missed an election did not know about absentee voting and were therefore blocked from the ballot. A record number of Wisconsinites requested mail-in ballots, overwhelming the system and causing postal delays. Many reported that their ballot had never arrived in the post. Many voters were forced to relinquish their voting rights because they were sick with COVID-19, caring for friends and loved ones, or helping at hospitals. For those willing to risk leaving the house to vote in person, the process was more difficult than ever before. The City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s largest urban centre, normally has 180 polling places. Yesterday, only five were open.
Wisconsin is one of three or four states that will literally decide the winner of the November election between Donald Trump and (presumably) Joe Biden. After a string of Biden victories, the Democratic nomination is all but decided. Under normal circumstances, yesterday’s election results would have been one of the closing chapters of the Democratic nomination. In the days before yesterday’s vote, Joe Biden was leading Bernie Sanders 62-34 in Wisconsinand political pundits were already calling it Bernie’s last stand and speculating about his exit strategy from the presidential race.
But, something much larger was at stake. Yesterday’s election also had a State Supreme Court justice on the ballot. Conservatives currently hold a five-two advantage on the court and if the conservative judge Daniel Kelly is re-elected, several voting laws are very likely to be restricted and over 200,000 voters are likely to be purged from the rolls. This will make it significantly harder for Joe Biden to beat Donald Trump in Wisconsin this November.
Republicans have admitted to a desire to suppress the overall vote, based on their belief that low turnout helps the party. During an appearance on Fox News this week, Trump pushed back against an effort by House Democrats to secure billions of dollars for election assistance in the coronavirus relief package, saying: “The things they had in there were crazy…if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
A recent article in Politico outlines Trump campaign efforts to limit voting rights across the country.
As if the scenes in Wisconsin were not disturbing enough, here’s a final thought: Governor Evers – who was not on the ballot himself – hesitated for weeks to invoke his executive authority, even though he felt the election should be postponed in the interest of public health. One wonders whether President Trump would be as hesitant in November, if he thought executive authority could help keep him in office.
Mike Moffo is a veteran of 22 political campaigns in 18 US states. In 2004, he led John Kerry’s Iowa Caucus campaign in Northwest Iowa. In 2008, he was Barack Obama’s Nevada Caucus Director, before serving as Deputy National Field Director for the 2008 General Election. He was also a consultant to Elizabeth Warren from December 2018 through January 2019. Based in Edinburgh since 2013, Moffo provides creative and communications strategy to leaders, companies, and causes.
Boris Johnson has spent a second night in intensive care as he continues to receive treatment for coronavirus. The prime minister is being kept at St Thomas’ Hospital in London “for close monitoring”, although his condition is “stable” and he remains in “good spirits”, according to Downing Street.
The US recorded the most coronavirus deaths in a single day yesterday with 1,939 fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University. The record daily figure brings the total number of deaths in the US to 12,722. Meanwhile, President Trump has threatened to pull funding from the World Health Organisation (WHO), calling the global body “China centric” and “biased”.
The president of the European Research Council – the EU’s top scientist, Mauro Ferrari – has resigned after failing to persuade Brussels to set up a large-scale scientific programme to fight Covid-19. (£)
Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the coronavirus pandemic, has lifted its lockdown. The city’s 11 million residents are now able to leave their homes without special authorisation for the first time in more than 10 weeks.
Business and economy
According to analysis by the Resolution Foundation, the UK’s Job Retention Scheme may cost £30-40bn over three months. This figure is three times initial estimates, which projected a take up rate of 10%. British Chambers of Commerce figures suggest that nearly a fifth of smaller firms plan to furlough all their staff, with 50% of companies planning to furlough most of their staff.
One-fifth of small businesses are planning to apply for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), despite initial problems with its rollout. The state-backed emergency loans have been heavily criticised for imposing penalising conditions on borrowers and for their slow delivery. (£)
Meanwhile, City AM has revealed that just 2,022 loans have been made to the UK’s small and medium-sized firms through the government’s coronavirus business lending scheme, meaning a paltry 0.65% of enquiries have resulted in loans so far.
Financial results released by Tesco this morning reveal that a 30% boost to sales from coronavirus panic buying is likely to be offset by the “significant extra costs” incurred in dealing with the crisis. The FTSE 100 grocery group also announced that sales were marginally down on the previous year, with underlying profits up 13.5%, and that it will pay a final dividend.
Columns of note
In this week’s New Yorker, Benjamin Wallace-Wells examines how inequality is intensifying the coronavirus crisis in Michigan. Though African Americans represent just 14% of the state’s population, they account for 41% of its Covid-19 victims. Black Americans have increased rates of high blood pressure and diabetes, conditions which are overrepresented in those Covid-19 victims who grow critically sick. What started in coastal cities has now spread inland and, once it seeds, those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged and disconnected from institutions will be the most vulnerable. (£)
Writing in The Telegraph, Rosa Prince explains why the US is baffled by the way we Brits treat our prime ministers. In Washington, the White House Medical Unit has 24 staff, making constant risk assessments about the physical and medical status of the president. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson fights for his health in an NHS hospital, the same way any other British patient would. (£)
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 clung to gains yesterday as the rate of new coronavirus cases slowed. The index finished the day up two per cent, having been hampered by cooling gains in US stocks later in the day. At 2.20pm it had surged by 3.2%. Travel stocks fared particularly well, as investors expressed optimism that travel bans could be relaxed.
Additionally, to keep you up to date on the corporate landscape more broadly during the lockdown, the following companies updated the market yesterday:
Energy group ExxonMobil announced yesterday that it will slash this year’s capital spending plans by $10bn and cut cash operating expenses by 15%, as it seeks to preserve its dividend in the face of the crude price collapse.
Revenues at online trading platform Plus500 jumped nearly 500% in the first quarter after market volatility caused by the Covid-19 pandemic spurred an increase in bets on currencies, stocks and cryptocurrencies.
Cineworld, the world’s second-largest cinema chain, has cut its dividend and executive pay and is in talks with lenders over its liquidity requirements. The firm has been forced to close its entire estate of cinemas as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Samsung Electronics said first-quarter profit would be near its lowest level in five years, as the economic fallout from Covid-19 weighs heavily on sales of electronic devices. The South Korean technology company said yesterday that it expects operating profit for the first three months of the year to come in at $5.23bn.
Accountancy firm Grant Thornton reported a more than 90% fall in the profit it makes from company audits, with the figure sitting at £1m in the 18 months to January, compared with £13m for the previous 12 months.
WH Smith has raised £165.9m through a share placing and subscription by directors, as part of the company’s effort to improve liquidity amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Waitrose pledged today to reverse a policy that compelled workers self-isolating because of their family to make up the hours owed at a later date.
Shares in Asos rose by a third yesterday after the fashion retailer tapped investors for more than £200 million. A slump in demand for clothing from self-isolating shoppers has knocked its sales by a quarter in the past three weeks.
What’s happening today?
The Pebble Gro.
Maven Grwth 3
Int. economic announcements
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)
Thomas Cook offered tours to public executions in the 1800s.
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