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Capitol View commentary: Friday, October 30, 2020

Capitol View
Posted at 11:41 AM, Oct 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-30 12:41:38-04

CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst

October 30, 2020

NATIONWIDE VIRUS SURGE RAGES ON, DOMINATING EVEN THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION; ONE LAST LOOK AT THE 2020 PRESIDENTIAL RACE ON INSIDE POLITICS; FINAL ECONOMIC REPORT BEFORE ELECTION SHOWS RECORD ECONOMIC GROWTH BUT WILL IT CONTINUE? TENNESSEE AND NASHVILLE STILL DEALING WITH LATEST VIRUS SURGE; RECORD EARLY VOTING IS OVER AS ABSENTEE BALLOTING ALSO SETS RECORD; THE HOTTEST NASHVILLE RACE GETS EVEN HOTTER AND MORE CURIOUS;

NATIONWIDE VIRUS SURGE RAGES ON, DOMINATING EVEN THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

The coronavirus pandemic continues to see a third wave of cases in the United States, as well as increased hospitalizations.

Unlike previous surges there is no epicenter for where the virus is concentrated now, although the Midwest seems the hardest hit.

Will an increase in deaths (already now at well above 200,000) be next?

Breaking down the numbers during this surge are even more sobering.

By Friday, the situation and outlook continue to look worse.

It is not just the United States being hit hard. Europe is experiencing another surge with shutdowns and curfews being put back into place to fight it.

The virus spike in this country remains at odds with how President Donald Trump sees things and how he continues to run his re-election campaign featuring large rallies in battleground states with few wearing masks or practicing social distancing. He says the media is making too big a deal out of the virus.

Former President Barack Obama, increasing active and speaking out against his predecessor, is saying something else.

Nevertheless, and believe it or not, the White House this week sent out a news release claiming the Trump administration, along with its many accomplishments, has ended the coronavirus pandemic, a statement a Trump official later admitted is “poorly worded.”

Some new polling suggests the President’s re-election effort and technique may not be helping him at least some of the battleground states he needs.

Then there is this snafu that left thousands of Trump supporters out in the cold because of transportation issues following a campaign rally this week.

There are a myriad of other new polls coming out as the race approaches its end. All seem to indicate Democrat Joe Biden is holding on to a high single- digit lead nationally over the President. The race is closer in several battleground states, but Biden still hold narrow margins in most of those states, offering him several more chances to get to the 270 electoral votes needed to win, compared to the President.

One of more interesting new surveys I have seen this week, is one that does not ask voters who they plan to vote for, but how they feel when told that President Trump or Joe Biden will be elected.

Trump’s supporters overwhelmingly still believe their candidate will win.

There is growing controversy between polling groups about how close the race is.

And just like the “shy Trump” voters, some say there are “shy Biden” voters, lifelong Republicans who are supporting the Democrat but don’t want to publicly disclose it.

A continuing lack of funds for the President, and an overflowing surplus of financial resources, have left Joe Biden with a major advantage in last minute TV advertising.

What is likely keeping Democrats from sleeping is that millions of absentee ballots have still not been sent back to be counted.

Meanwhile Republicans wait to see if the red wave of GOP vote on Election Day materializes to counter any Democratic edge in the early and absentee mail voting.

With the outcome of the November 3 election still in some doubt, or at least likely delayed, it appears the national media is planning to be very cautious and patient in planning its coverage Tuesday night and onward.

ONE LAST LOOK AT THE 2020 PRESIDENTIAL RACE ON INSIDE POLITICS

As we enter the final weekend before next Tuesday’s presidential election, we bring two of our best political experts to give their final thoughts about what lies ahead in an election many are calling ‘the most consequential of our lifetime.”

Joining us this weekend on INSIDE POLITICS are Republican consultant Debra Maggart and Democrat Carol Brown Andrews.

We thank both these ladies for taking time to be with us in these final crucial days!

INSIDE POLITICS airs several times each weekend on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Those times include:

7:00 p.m. Friday.

5:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.

1:30 a.m. & 5:00 a.m. on Sunday.

THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 182 and on NEWSCHANNEL5’s over-the-air digital channel 5.2. We are also back on DISH TV with the rest of the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK.

One option for those who cannot see the show locally or who are out of town, you can watch it live with streaming video on NEWSCHANNEL5.com. Just use your TiVo or DVR, if those live times don't work for you.

This week’s show and previous INSIDE POLITICS interviews are also posted on the NEWSCHANNEL5 website for your viewing under the NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS section. A link to the show is posted as well on the Facebook page of NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Each new show and link are posted early in the week after the program airs.

Finally, I am now posting a link to the show each week on my Facebook page as soon as it is available, usually on Monday or Tuesday.

FINAL ECONOMIC REPORT BEFORE ELECTION SHOWS RECORD ECONOMIC GROWTH BUT WILL IT CONTINUE?

The final reports on the nation’s economy before the November 3 election came out on Thursday.

No doubt much to the delight of President Donald Trump, it shows a record rebound in growth for the third quarter of this year.

The numbers are so good, they made a significant change in the betting odds favoring Trump from the wise guys handicapping the race. But are the odds better than the polls?

Back to the new economic numbers, new jobless claims fell to just over 750,000. That 40,000 lower than last week although still near historic highs.

The situation is similar in Tennessee with new jobless claims falling below 10,000 this week for the first time since mid-March. But the claims are still well above what they were before the pandemic with almost 900,000 Tennesseans have sought aid in the last 8 months.

Meanwhile some federal aid under the pandemic for the unemployment is ending soon.

As you can see, our economic situation is more difficult than what these latest reports might indicate. The decline in the economy last spring was so deep, the recovery has only gotten back about half the jobs that were lost and two-thirds of the overall economy, even as several parts of the economy are still hurting badly (travel, tourism, service industries).

The failure of Congress to pass another virus relief bill to continue the recovery is also slowing matters. Reacting to that lack of action, and to the new spike in COVID-19 cases, the stock market dropped significantly over several days this week. It did not immediately recover on Thursday.

Another still looming crisis is the millions of Americans who face eviction because they can’t pay their rent or mortgage. Evictions are being stalled across the country due to a national health order concern that such disruptions would only further spread the coronavirus.

This growing problem is further complicated by the lack of rent and mortgage payments putting the squeeze on landlord who also have mortgages and bills of their own to pay.

The eviction moratorium ends in January with nobody knowing what happens then.

For now, there is money available to help pay past due rents and mortgages, but demand is huge, and funds limited.

TENNESSEE AND NASHVILLE STILL DEALING WITH LATEST VIRUS SURGE

Like much of the rest of the country and the world, Nashville and the State of Tennessee continue to be hit with the latest surge in the COVID-19 virus. For the state, it has seen several days of a record number of cases and hospitalizations being reported. The positivity rate for the virus has been back into double digits. Tuesday saw Tennessee go over the quarter million mark for its citizens stricken by the disease.

Remember the issue with rising hospitalizations is not just available hospital and ICU beds, but enough staff to attend Covid-19 patients as well as others in the health care system. It is an issue some see building across the country in the weeks to come, much as it currently is in Europe.

State health officials are adamant. Unlike President Trump, they do not see the rise in cases being caused by more testing. In fact, the state is once again offering a round of free testing this weekend to help identify where the virus is, who has it, and who has been exposed.

State officials say the COVID-19 spike in Tennessee is caused by a community spread of virus. It is arising from people letting their guard down and not following precautions such as keeping social distancing, washing your hands, and wearing a face mask.

Indeed, there continues to be strong evidence (and a new study from Vanderbilt) that says a requiring masks be worn statewide is the most effective tool available to fight the virus.

But Governor Bill Lee, just returning from quarantine after being exposed to the virus, still says he thinks a statewide mask mandate would not be effective although he believes county mayors ought to step up and do just that for their residents.

As for what to do when a vaccine is available sometime in 2021, state health officials say they are considering conducting the state’s own review to assure its safety and efficacy.

In a matter related to two state agencies that have at times played a role in the state’s response to the virus and other emergencies impacting the state, the Governor is dealing with the departure of two of his cabinet members which were announced this week.

As for Metro Nashville, the virus numbers shows the city’s key indicators in how we are making progress against the virus, remain a very mixed bag of colors (red, yellow and green).

During his weekly media briefing on Thursday, Mayor John Cooper said the virus is now so prevalent than it can be transmitted anywhere people are “breathing on one another” without wearing masks. That is particularly true with the virus being spread in the workplace and home setting. The Mayor is not reinstating any restrictions, just continuing to urge everyone to wear masks, follow social distancing and avoid crowds of more than 10 people. He also with most counties around Nashville renewing mask mandates the case numbers will begin to recede in the next few weeks.

But one of Nashville’s most prominent downtown businesses and bars is shutting down on its own because of lack of mask enforcement by Metro.

There is a growing weariness among health officials. One, Jamie Dickeson Swift, the Chief Infection Prevention officer for Ballard Health in East Tennessee, posted this message on- line this week

As for Metro Schools, officials have decided to pause its gradual return to in-person instruction. The lower grades from K-3 will remain in classes. The others in grades 4-12 will stay in virtual instruction due to the rise in COVID-19 cases locally.

Metro school officials also continue to get a handle on the learning loss for its students, the vast majority of whom have learning on- line since March.

With more rapid COVID-19 tests now available in large quantities, school officials may be asked to take over testing responsibilities to reopen and keep schools open with in person classes. There is some hesitation about that even from state health officials.

RECORD EARLY VOTING IS OVER AS ABSENTEE BALLOTING ALSO SETS RECORD

The final day of Early Voting in Tennessee was yesterday (Thursday).

As is happening all over the nation, the numbers coming out to cast ballots is a record.

Here is a county by county breakdown of both early and absentee voting, which is also a record.

It is also interesting to compare the 2020 vote so far to what happened in the last presidential election in 2016. The increases, both in of percentages and raw vote numbers, in some of the largest counties such as Shelby and Davidson are stunning. All 95 counties in the state, except one, Carter County in upper East Tennessee, are showing double digit increases.

I don’t have total vote numbers for other counties, but Nashville/Davidson County election officials list a record (in this century) of 268,656 voters casting ballots in 2008, so we could be headed towards an all- time presidential vote record here and across the state.

Across the country, there is growing concern (especially among Democrats) about the millions of absentee ballots sent out but still not returned. Given delays in the U.S. Postal Service deliveries, it is recommended you immediately take your mail in ballot directly to the Tennessee post offices listed in this story to insure same day delivery by November 3.

Even if you have COVIFD-19 symptoms, the state and county election officials are offering a safe, in person way for you to vote, if you haven’t already done so.

The changes in state’s absentee voting procedures this year seems to be increasing voter participation for those with disabilities. Will the changes now be made permanent by the Legislature?

WeGo, Nashville’s bus system, is offering free rides to the polls Election Day. You do have to wear a mask.

It is very heartening to see this kind of voter participation.

But I still can’t understand why the largest vote ever in a Nashville mayoral race was 148,000 plus and that was 33 years ago, in the runoff race between Bill Boner and Phil Bredesen in September 1987.

THE FUTURE OF METRO AWAITS A JUDGE’S RULING

The future viability of Nashville’s consolidated Metro government went on trial this week in a Davidson County Chancery courtroom.

A citizen’s group, 4GoodGovernment, has garnered enough signatures on a petition to meet the legal requirement to call a special election to change the city’s charter.

The proposed changes would repeal the 34% property tax increase approved by Mayor John Cooper and the Metro Council this summer. The petition amendment also seeks to change the Metro Charter to greatly restrict the size and frequency of future property tax hikes, as well as limit the Council’s power to sell city property, enter into leases or approve bond issues without approval by a public referendum.

However, city officials, along with the Davidson County Election Commission, have serious questions about the wording and legality of the proposed amendment. They have gone to court seeking a declaratory judgement about what they should do.

The matter was argued for two days in front of Judge Ellen Hobbs Lyle. She has promised a ruling by November 3. The arguments may not have gone well for the lawyer for the citizens group. He has maintained for weeks absolutely no changes should be made to the petition language.

However in court, the lawyer, Jim Roberts, admitted it would be OK to delete some items. However, he then put a witness on the stand who testified the reason he signed the ballot measure was because of one of the provisions the citizens group lawyer now says would be OK to delete. Whoops!

An appeal is expected no matter what Judge Lyle decides. In that regard, a friend of the court brief has been filed by the local affiliate of Americans for Prosperity, a well-funded conservative group affiliated with the Koch Brothers. It is believed this group’s assistance helped get the signatures needed to call the charter election.

Meanwhile, if the special charter amendment election is approved to go to voters, there are preliminary efforts underway to rally the business community and others to defeat the measure at the polls.

Meanwhile, in a seemingly related effort, a petition drive to recall Mayor Cooper and some Metro Council members has failed for a second time in recent months. The failure came even as getting the 70,000 voter signatures needed was made somewhat easier as over 200,000 of them have been in line early voting the past 15 days.

The stated reason the recall effort was folded was because a major donor had reneged on paying for a major direct mail piece to be sent to voters.

THE HOTTEST NASHVILLE RACE GETS EVEN HOTTER AND MORE CURIOUS

As 20th District State Senator Dr. Steve Dickerson continues his quest to be re-elected and remain the only Republican in Nashville’s state legislative delegation, another controversial ad is being run on his behalf by the PAC of his fellow Republican senators.

Like their first TV ad, it is an attack on Dickerson’s Democratic opponent Heidi Campbell. The initial commercial attacked Campbell’s support for Gideon’s Army, a local civil rights group which the GOP ad termed radical.

The ad so infuriated a statewide LGBTQ group, it rescinded its endorsement of Dickerson, because he would not renounce the ad and ask it be removed.

Now a second ad paid by the State Senate GOP caucus may raise eyebrows even more.

Watch the ad. Note who is being criticized by the narrator who begins: “Are you tired of rude politicians who don’t treat others with respect?” Among those pictured are President Donald Trump, along with Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The ad then goes after Heidi Campbell for “being out of control” and ‘unhinged.”

Why would a GOP group would attack Donald Trump even in a blue-leaning state Senate district? Why also go after others who many Democrats support?

Dickerson keeps running his campaign (and a lot of different TV ads) to show he believes in putting “people over politics’ including in one of his latest spots touting his support medical marijuana and criminal justice reform.

But as for Dickerson’s GOP colleagues they seem ready to attack anyone, even the national leader of their own party, to tear down an opponent. That sure doesn’t sound like people over politics to me.