Return to Transcripts main page
How The "Blue Shift" Could Affect 2020 Race; Republicans Helping Boost Kanye West's 2020 Campaign; Has Lenient Prosecution Encouraged Chicago Rioters?; Will Decision Not To Play College Football Help Trump? Aired 9-10a ET
Aired August 15, 2020 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Say it's election night 2020, the presidential race all coming down to who wins Pennsylvania in order to win the electoral college. Now, remember President Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the state in 2016 by only 44,292 votes, less than three quarters of a percent. That's the narrowest margin in 176 years. So let's imagine that on election night it's even closer, that he's winning, say, by 20,000 votes.
The "Associated Press," the cable networks like ours have not yet declared a winner because they've learned the hard way how numbers can shift before the final official certification of the election results. They remember all too well the nightmare in the year 2000 when Al Gore was declared the victor and then Florida's results changed and he lost. So in our scenario, both candidates end the night without claiming victory or conceding defeat.
Now imagine that as the returns continue to be tallied, that 20,000 vote lead begins slipping away. It could well happen due to the phenomenon known as the blue shift, the fact that since 2000 votes counted after Election Day have predominantly skewed Democratic.
For example, that 44,000 vote win that Trump eked out in Pennsylvania in 2016? When the first results were tabulated, it had been nearly 68,000. So by the end, Hillary Clinton gained over 23,000 votes and that wasn't a fluke. In the three previous presidential elections in Pennsylvania, each Democratic candidate also gained over 22,000 votes between election night and the final certified results.
So back to our hypothetical. What might the president do if his margin of victory keeps dropping? Well, look at the 2018 senate race in Arizona. On election night, Republican Martha McSally was ahead by 15,000 plus votes, but Democrat Kyrsten Sinema came from behind bigly, picking up more than 71,000 votes to win by nearly 56,000. The president got involved. He noted this and tweeted the claim of electoral corruption and called for a new election.
Then there's Florida in 2018 where Republicans Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott won the governor and senate races respectively, but after Election Day, their leads began to dwindle and the president again tweeted, quote, "The Florida election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible. Ballots massively infected. Must go with election night."
So what if we go to bed on November 3rd with one candidate projected as winning, but another candidate later certified as victor? Will Americans accept an election result that comes after a blue shift? This is the scenario imagined by this piece titled, "Preparing for a Disputed Presidential Election: An Exercise in Election Risk Assessment and Management." It was published in the Loyola University Chicago law journal by my next guest.
Edward Foley is a constitutional scholar and professor at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University where he directs the election law program. Professor, how plausible the scenario that you've outlined?
EDWARD FOLEY, LAW PROFESSOR, OHIO STATE U./DIRECTOR, ELECTION LAW PROGRAM: Unfortunately, very realistic. And good morning. Good to be with you.
SMERCONISH: You say that why?
FOLEY: Well, this is a phenomenon that occurred before the COVID virus, but it's been accentuated by development since then. I wrote the piece last year because of observing what happened in 2018 like you talked about, but I first noticed this back in 2012.
So it is a new phenomenon in the last two decades since 2000 and when I first noticed it, it wasn't understood then, but I tried to publish my piece in 2013 to bring to light this phenomenon because it is new. It's the product of changes that have taken place with good intentions, but an unintended consequence of election reforms.
SMERCONISH: Is it indicative -- this is the key question. Is it indicative of malfeasance?
FOLEY: No, not at all. It's the new normal. It's provisional ballots which was a reform Congress adopted in 2002 in the Help America Vote Act. It's the increased reliance on no excuse absentee voting which has occurred in the last two decades even before the pandemic.
So there have been these other changes in our election system since those hanging chads of 2000. All good changes, but the byproduct is it takes longer to count votes until that final certification that you mentioned.
SMERCONISH: Well, why are the Democratic candidates the one who seem to glean the benefit?
Why is it the blue shift? Why is it not the red shift?
FOLEY: Well, that's a fair question. There have been some red shifts, but the predominant trend in most states is the blue shift and that's what I wanted to point out. As political scientists, social scientists, we're still studying this. I think we have a good understanding, but not perfect. Provisional ballots accounts for some of this because demographically, more mobile voters, younger voters, urban voters tend to rely on provisional ballots.
It also seems to be the case that even if Republicans and Democrats use vote-by-mail in the same amount historically, that the Democratic mail ballots get counted later. That's the piece that we're still studying, but that's a trend that's developed. It doesn't mean those ballots are fraudulent in any way. They just are counted later.
SMERCONISH: The president, as recently as minutes before I came on air, maybe even as I speak, continues to give heft to retweet complaints, people who are noting what they perceive to be problems with the mail-in process.
So the confluence of events that you see coming together is this pre- existing situation developing with the so-called blue shift and now a commander-in-chief who is railing against mail-in votes generally and therein lies the concern, that Americans watching television on the night of November 3rd see one thing, maybe wake up to something else, now are mindful of all that they've been hearing from him and they draw a conclusion, which you say is unfounded, that the vote is being stolen. That's really what we're talking about, right?
FOLEY: I think that's right. I think, you know, my job as somebody who studies election law is to explain what I understand the process to be and the new process is that these are valid ballots, they just are counted later. They're still counted according to state deadlines.
The certification deadlines are in-state law. There's no lateness to the count until you miss a certification deadline. It's just that these ballots cannot be included on election night, but that's not a problem and so a proper understanding of the system is to understand why it works this way.
SMERCONISH: So I -- a final thought. I understand. It therefore becomes, I think, incumbent on the media to educate the public -- hopefully we're doing that now -- that if there is some type of a delay before there's a victor who is certified, it's not indicative of fraud, but can anything be done so that there isn't a a shift of any kind?
FOLEY: Well, some changes in state law in some key states would be very valuable, Pennsylvania, for example, also Michigan. The election officials there are asking the legislature to allow for the pre- processing of absentee ballots because an absentee ballot has to be verified before you can even count it and those states have old- fashioned laws that don't allow for that until Election Day.
That's OK if there's a tiny volume of absentee ballot under the old regime, but those states have moved to the new regime of no excuse absentee voting and therefore they should update their counting rules to allow for the pre-processing before Election Day of the ballots that arrive early. SMERCONISH: I spoke yesterday to the Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and among the things that we discussed is how historically Pennsylvanians, about 5 percent voted absentee. In this presidential election, it's anticipated that it could be 50 percent or more and we're neophytes, you know, we're rookies in this regard. Professor, I think you've done public service in discussing this and hopefully the word gets out. Thank you for your time.
FOLEY: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
SMERCONISH: That's Professor Ned Foley. What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish or go to my Facebook page and I'll read some in real time during the course of the program. From Facebook, "The election must be a blow out no matter which side. Otherwise the next president will forever be suspect and our nation's divisions will remain."
Yes, John, you make a good point. If it's a landslide election either way, then we need not be concerned about these sort of things, but I don't think we can go into it without assumption and the takeaway here is that it may take a while to count all the ballots, but that's not suggestive of fraud.
Up ahead, Chicago's Magnificent Mile was pillaged by looters this week with over 100 arrested, some local politicians blaming Cook County prosecutor Kim Foxx who they say is too soft on crime. She's here to respond.
Plus, the Big Ten, the PAC-12 won't be playing college football this fall. How will these fans in midwestern battleground states feel when they see the SEC and ACC and the Big 12 playing? Will they hold anybody accountable politically? I want to know what you think, by the way. Go to my website this hour at Smerconish.com and answer this week's survey question.
Should college football be played in the fall?
And rap star Kanye West, a past Trump supporter, has been traveling around America to get his name on the ballot to run for president himself. So why has he been meeting with Jared Kushner?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS REDD AS KANYE WEST, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: And I don't wanna brag, bro, I don't wanna brag, but I really have a high IQ. I'm a stable genius. I got a big brain and I got the best words.
ALEC BALDWIN AS DONALD TRUMP, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: Oh, my God. He's black me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Is Kanye West serious about running for president or is it all just part of a dark, twisted fantasy?
Once an outspoken Trump supporter, West told "Forbes" that he's taken off the MAGA hat and wouldn't, quote-unquote, "argue" that his campaign serves as a spoiler. "NPR" has documented how several Republican operatives, some with Trump ties, are actively helping the rap superstar get on presidential general election ballots in various states. Kanye West officially on the ballot in Vermont, Colorado, Oklahoma and Arkansas and has filed recently in Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa.
Jared Kushner met privately with West last weekend in Colorado where the two partook in a friendly conversation. Kushner confirmed to reporters Thursday that the meeting wasn't focused on his presidential campaign, but was more of a discussion on policy, an assertion that he reiterated on "CBS News."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JARED KUSHNER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: We were talking about different policies. Kanye's obviously a very visionary thinker. He's somebody who cares a lot about our country and a lot of people. A lot of these ideas for how we can get better schools and better capital and better jobs into the inner cities to those who need it the most are ones that President Trump's very focused on. So Kanye and I like to talk about ideas like that, but we haven't discussed his actual campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: The RNC and Trump has denied involvement in West's campaign, but the president isn't exactly discouraging the competition, saying he thinks it's, quote, "Great that he wants his voice heard." The cost of having West's voice heard is a gamble GOP operatives are betting on that could mean pulling voters, especially African-American voters, away from Joe Biden in places like Wisconsin.
The president carried the state by fewer than 23,000 voters in 2016 with a substantial decline in turnout among black voters from the 2012 re-election of President Barack Obama, but recent polling suggests Biden's comfortable lead with black voters is still solid. The billionaire mogul polled at only 2 percent support among black registered voters compared to Biden's 72 percent and Trump's 14 percent. West also polled only 2 percent support overall.
So how much of a spoiler is Kanye West actually? Joining me now to discuss is Randall Lane, "Forbes" Chief Content Officer and a journalist who has interviewed Kanye West exclusively multiple times, including one epic four-hour chat. His recent piece is titled, "Inside Kanye West's 'Almost Daily' Chats With Jared Kushner." Randall, what's it like to chat with Ye for four straight hours?
RANDALL LANE, CHIEF CONTENT OFFICER, FORBES: The Ye marathon. Listen, he's a very smart guy and he's a very interesting guy. He doesn't know a lot about politics and he doesn't know a lot about most issues, but people who think that he's just a naive -- it is (ph) not true. He's quite smart. He doesn't know what he's doing in politics, but he's quite smart and he knows a publicity opportunity when he sees it.
The question right now is is he being used to affect -- and once he's on the ballot in Wisconsin and Ohio -- and again, it's still to be determined whether he finally gets on. I mean, now this is a legitimate issue in the 2020 race.
SMERCONISH: Was he surprised when you told him that he can't get to 270 based only on the ballots that he's qualifying for?
LANE: Talking to -- talking to Kayne, it's a little bit in riddles. He is a poet in many ways, but it's a lot of riddles, but he keeps on going back and forth. He tells me he's in it to win. I tell him flat out he can't win. He says, well, I'm not going to argue with you and when you push him that he's there as a spoiler, he clearly listened.
As much as he says -- he told me I'm taking off the red hat, but then he will say almost nothing bad about President Trump even though he's running against him and he's very easy to get to talk to -- to say negative things about Joe Biden.
It's very clear he prefers President Trump to Vice President Biden. So the question becomes how much -- to me, it's not really a Kanye West story anymore, it's a White House story because this week, we connected -- I mean, it's not just that one meeting in Telluride. We have sources, multiple sources telling us that Kanye's telling people he's talking to Jared Kushner almost daily.
SMERCONISH: You reference his poetry. He allowed you to record a couple of pieces of sound. This one's about 20 seconds long. Play it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
KANYE WEST, RAPPER: That the COVID made this hate. Try to keep us quiet, cause riots. Try to keep us quiet, cause riots. How about we change up our diet? How about we change the diet? How about -- how about we get a real plan? How about we change up the meal plan? How about we stop hiding in the bunkers and be a real man?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Give me some context for that. What was going on in your chat?
LANE: Well, again, if you listen to the last line, stop hiding in the bunkers and be a real man. The one thing he did say about President Trump -- I asked him why are you running? Why are you against President Trump right now?
The only thing he could say is that he didn't like that he hid in the bunkers -- hid in the bunker during the Lafayette Park protest. So it's unclear why -- he has no real reason -- he does not have -- he has very strong pro-life values and obviously he's very, very religious.
He could not articulate why he wanted to run and at first in the first hour when I talked to him, I talked to him right after he declared. When he announced on July 4th that he was running, he got 1.2 million likes on Twitter. He has a huge platform. I texted him (ph) and then we talk and I ask him why are you running?
He couldn't really articulate that and at first, it seemed like a publicity stunt, but then, as you said, Michael, he starts getting on ballots and then this becomes real, this becomes something that could, on the margin, potentially affect the race and that's news (ph).
SMERCONISH: When you say to him -- final question. When you say to him are you simply playing a -- hoping to play a spoiler role, what does he say or do you get a riddle?
LANE: He says -- not just a spoiler role, but to hurt Biden. He says I'm not going to argue with you, but then that night when that story came out, it went pretty big, he texted I'm in it to win, but he can't win and he's talking to Jared Kushner we're being told -- you know, he's saying almost daily, but certainly regularly and that raises a question to me.
Again, it's not a Kanye West story. This has become a White House story. Are they trying to use somebody who has bipolar -- who's been diagnosed with bipolar , are they trying to spin him and use him to get an advantage?
SMERCONISH: Randall, thanks for the insight. It's fascinating. I haven't paid attention to it up until now. Now I'm going to.
LANE: My pleasure. Great to be here always.
SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying via my Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages. This I think comes from Facebook, "Yes, enough people will vote for Kanye just cause that is the world we live in." Michelle, you know, there are a lot of folks -- I'm not -- I'm not -- I'm not questioning their intelligence, but they're low information voters.
Might be very, very wise, just paying attention to things other than, frankly, this kind of a program and might they go in and cast a ballot for Kanye West? They might. I think it's simplistic, though, to say -- I think it's overly simplistic to say, aha, here's a Joe Biden voter otherwise.
People said the same thing about Johnson and Weld in the last cycle and Jill Stein and I just don't think it's so simplistic. I think there's a lot more going on with those third-party candidacies.
Up ahead, the hundreds of thousands of seats in many of America's college football stadiums will remain empty this fall due to COVID restrictions. When those fans vote in November, will it impact their vote? I want to know what you think. Go to my website at Smerconish.com this hour. Should college football be played in the fall? Also, looters brought destruction to Chicago's Magnificent Mile stores this week. Critics of the local prosecutors say her reforms, easing felonies of theft, may have encouraged them. What does she say? I will ask her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), CHICAGO: We can't continue to allow this to happen, for people to believe that there is no accountability through our criminal justice system. No one wants to hold people in jail because they are poor, but people who engage in this kind of criminal activity, they need to be held accountable and we can't do it alone. We need the prosecution and we need the courts to step up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Is part of Chicago's rampant crime problem due to the fact that the local prosecution is viewed as being too lenient? Late Sunday night, police exchanging gunfire with a 20-year-old black man appears to have led to rampant looting that devastated the city's Magnificent Mile business district on Michigan Avenue. Looters ransacked Nordstrom, broke windows at Saks Fifth Avenue, COACH, Pandora, even a Ronald McDonald House, as well as smaller businesses already hit hard by closures due to the pandemic.
Police arrested more than 100 people, though to-date only 43 are being charged with felonies by Cook County's top prosecutor Kim Foxx. The damage may already be done. Some local officials are blaming the looting on Foxx's unwillingness to prosecute crimes committed during the protests that stemmed from the killing of George Floyd. Foxx was elected in late 2016 on a platform to improve a criminal justice system that disproportionately affects poor people and racial minorities.
She, like many Democrats across the country, believe the increased policing of black and brown communities resulting from initiatives like the so-called War on Drugs have exacerbated racial disparities. For this reason, she's championed efforts to expunge low-level cannabis convictions and decriminalize marijuana use altogether.
She's also raised the minimum standard for felony theft charges from $300 to $1,000 in stolen goods and in her first three years, dropped charges against nearly 30 percent of felony defendants.
Police Chief David Brown said this on Monday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUPERINTENDENT DAVID BROWN, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: Criminals took to the streets with confidence that there will be no consequences for their actions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Back in May after the unrest in Chicago sparked by the killing of George Floyd, Chicago's Mayor Lori Lightfoot said this on a conference call briefing with the city's aldermen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
LIGHTFOOT: I don't know about you, but I haven't seen s--t like this before. Not in Chicago.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Here to discuss is Cook County Prosecutor Kim Foxx. State Attorney Foxx, do you regret not charging more people for the incidents at the end of May after the killing of George Floyd?
KIM FOXX, (D) COOK COUNTY, IL STATE'S ATTORNEY: First of all, good morning. And I think we need to be clear ...
SMERCONISH: You too.
FOXX: ... our office has worked with the Chicago police department who brings us the cases and ask for felony charges. I think there's been a misperception here.
We can only charge felonies when the Chicago Police Department asks for them. And in light of the unrest that we saw, particularly with the looting, we did in fact file felony charges in 300 cases that the Chicago Police Department brought to us. I think the confusion was, they made thousands of arrests but in fact only asked for felony charges in a few hundred of those cases. And those cases weren't back- charged.
SMERCONISH: You heard the clip that I played. Police Superintendent David Brown said this week that the recent looters took to the streets with -- quote -- "confidence there would be no consequences for their actions." What's your response to that?
FOXX: You know, certainly, when we woke up on Monday morning it was a shockingly horrifying display, watching people destroy the property, going in and out. And there was a lot of frustration and anger and emotion. But I have to operate in the facts. And the facts are, is that people were being prosecuted for what will we would call looting.
Our office did make a decision that we were not going to prosecute people who were peacefully protesting and exercising their First Amendment rights. People who had violated curfew, for example. Or were standing on state-supported property. But for those who were engaged in the criminal conduct of looting, they were in fact charged.
And what I would say to everyone is that in this time of heightened fear and anxiety and where we are, we cannot get caught up in emotion and political rhetoric. We have to deal in the facts. And we have to speak honestly to the people that we serve so that we can get solutions to prevent the next round of looting.
SMERCONISH: The mayor said this week, and I'll roll the tape, that this was really not about, I'm paraphrasing, really not about any First Amendment issues. Let's hear what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), CHICAGO: -- can only be described as brazen and expensive criminal looting and destruction. This is not legitimate First Amendment protected speech. These were not poor people engaged in petty theft to feed themselves and their families. This was straight-up felony criminal conduct.
This is not anywhere near acceptable. And I call upon our state's attorney and our courts to make sure that these individuals who are arrested and those to come are held accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: When she calls upon the state's attorney, she's no doubt referring to you. What's your response?
FOXX: You know, I stood with the mayor yesterday as we talked about the plan moving forward and I shared with the mayor and the city what I'm sharing with you. Is that when the police have brought us cases of felony charges, which is the only way that felony charges can be filed in Cook County is when the police bring the requests, we file them.
Just this week, there are 44 cases that were brought to us for felony charges related looting, 43 of those cases were filed. Again, the incidents that we saw the other night, they weren't part of peaceful protests. They weren't an off-shoot of protests that had happened that morning. It was bold, emblazoned criminality. I don't disagree.
But what I do disagree with is the attempt, I think, by many to try to shift focus on what we need to do moving forward. We believe that criminal justice reform is absolutely necessary here in Cook County. And we also have a responsibility to ensure public safety.
I wholeheartedly believe that we can do both. And I think it's disingenuous to try to conflate the two. We believe that what happened the other day is completely unacceptable, and we'll hold the people who engaged in that conduct accountable as we have back in May, in June and this week.
SMERCONISH: So, I get the point that you're making which is to say I can only prosecute those claims -- those cases more accurately that they bring to me, and if they don't bring them to me, I can't prosecute a felony. Do you nevertheless see any causal relationship between what you describe as criminal justice reform, and the rise of this type of violence?
FOXX: Absolutely not. The fact of the matter is when I took office in 2016, we had another year, 2016, that was horrifically violent. I started in December of 2016 and that year, prior, it was horrific. In 2017, violent crime went down. 2018, it went down even further. 2019, even further than that.
We've had three years of violent crime reductions in Cook County, particularly in the city of Chicago, while working on criminal justice reform. And, so, I flatly reject that we will ignore the history of the last three years because we find ourselves in a really challenging time, not just in Chicago, but across the country. We've seen violent crime rise in places like New York and Atlanta.
In places like Oklahoma or in places like Texas. This is a phenomenon we're seeing across the country that everyone is looking at and saying, how do we move through this together?
But I flatly reject the notion, in fact. It is proven otherwise that you can have criminal justice reform and public safety, the last three years have demonstrated that.
SMERCONISH: Attorney Foxx, one more. And by the way, thank you for your willingness to come on and respond to all of these issues because, you know, the entire nation is concerned about Chicago.
Here's a headline from "The Tribune." "The Tribune" says that you have dropped nearly 30 percent of felony prosecutions and that that represents a significant increase. Can we put that up on the screen? And that that represents a significant increase from your predecessor. There it is.
"Kim Foxx drops more felony cases as Cook County state's attorney than her predecessor, Tribune analysis shows."
Did they get their facts right?
FOXX: They got their facts from me. And, in fact, we have said when we came into office that we were going to focus our attention on going after violent crime because, you're right, Chicago has become a national symbol for violence. And the reality is that we spend more of our resources here in Cook County going after nonviolent low-level drug offenders, than we do after guns, after shootings.
And so, in fact, we have been dropping more cases involving, for example, simple drug possession, than my predecessor had. And the reality also is that Cook County was once known as the false confession capital of the United States, that we had accepted a dysfunction in our system where people were being wrongfully convicted because of a reluctance to drop cases that did not have the evidence to support it.
And so we believe that it is our responsibility as prosecutors, as ministers of justice, that if a case is not sufficient to continue that we drop it. And I think that we have to look at this with the nuance that is required. And headlines are catchy, but reading the article will tell you that the cases that were dropped were cases that were nonviolent and low-level offenses and that were not in line with public safety.
SMERCONISH: Final question, to someone watching this who has seen the footage of the Magnificent Mile and attributes it to, oh, there's that prosecutor in Chicago who is soft on crime, you want to tell them what?
FOXX: I want to tell them that what they saw the other day was devastating, and I understand the fear that they have. But we are in truly unique times. And the prosecutor's office here in Cook County are going to hold people accountable but I would remind them to look at where we've been over the last three years. And remind them that violent crime had continued to go down.
And what made this so shocking is because this was so beyond the pale of anything that we've seen, but we're in very different times. And so, it's easy to scapegoat. It's easy to look for simple solutions. But the reality is, this is complicated.
But we stand here with our law enforcement partners ready to address the issues that we're seeing. But the reason that we are in this conversation as a nation over these last several months is because we have a duty to make sure that our justice system is fair and just. But we have also the same duty to make sure that our streets are safe and people are held accountable.
SMERCONISH: State's Attorney Foxx, thank you for your time.
FOXX: Thank you, Michael. I appreciate it.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, how are college football fans at Michigan State, Penn State, University of Wisconsin going to feel when they see schools in other conferences playing ball? Will this affect their vote?
We have a pollster who says this could be a game-changer for the election. Whose hand does it play into, Trump or Biden? We'll discuss that next.
Remember, go to Smerconish.com, answer this question, should college football be played in the fall?
SMERCONISH: As summer is coming to an end a lot of Americans look forward to the start of college football in the fall, but the coronavirus pandemic has found yet another thing to disrupt. The Big Ten, the Pac-12 have postponed their 2020 seasons. The Big 12, ACC and SEC are three of the Power Five leagues who are slated to play football in 2020, at least as of now.
President Trump has weighed in calling for football games to resume this season, tweeting, the student athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled, and play college football. Trump is not alone in his thinking as my next guest tweeted. Midwest battleground state swing voters who see SEC and/or the ACC play football this fall will punish candidates who don't constantly and loudly oppose the Big Ten's decision.
To put it in geographical context the Big Ten schools make up the Midwest major football programs in swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The Pac-12 represents schools on the West Coast. SEC, the Big 12, the ACC include schools that cover the Southeast, Great Plains and East Coast with some of those schools presiding in swing states like Florida.
So should college football return? And will the return of a fractured college football season play a role in the election?
Joining me now to discuss is chief pollster at the Trafalgar Group, Robert Cahaly, who is one of the only pollsters to show Donald Trump winning the state of Michigan and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 2016. Robert, might this be a factor? Wherein lies the connection?
ROBERT CAHALY, CHIEF POLLSTER, THE TRAFALGAR GROUP: Absolutely, I believe there's a significant factor. Here, how people perceive the coronavirus is kind of defining their politics. I mean, if you believe it's a hoax or you think it's overblown, you're in the Trump corner. And if you believe that everything is being shut down to you, you won't leave your home until there's a vaccine, you're in the Biden corner.
But if you're in the middle and there's a growing group that says, hey, we're going to do what we can to be safe and protect our families but we're going to live our life. Well, that group is growing. And how that group moves and how they perceive the candidates absolutely is going to determine how they vote. And college football is on the front line of that.
SMERCONISH: So, if the SEC is playing, but I'm a fan of the Stanford Cardinal, I say, damn it, it's Biden's fault, if Trump had his way, they'd all be playing. Is that the logic?
CAHALY: I think that's part of the logic, it's that we're watching this divide grow. And there's this, you know, this American perception. And I see it growing almost every week is that we're going to not fear the virus. We're going to fight the virus.
And so, it's this movement toward we're going to try to live. And those that don't want people to live and to start to move back to normal life are going to be seen as in the way of that. And I think that if he's not careful, he can be drawn in that box.
And you can see the president has already started it with his tweets. And I expect if the campaigns are smart, there will be TV commercials on that focus that will air during these games. I mean, if you're a Midwest or if you're Michigan fan watching Alabama and Clemson playing football on TV, you've got to be wondering what in the world is going on. SMERCONISH: Do you think, I want to ask you a question relying on your expertise as a pollster, that the influence, if it exists, that the influence is more pronounced with a swing voter? Or is it an issue that energizes the base?
CAHALY: I think it's much more of a swing voter. I mean, you know, people talk about enthusiasm and they talk about enthusiasm gap. I (INAUDIBLE) about a little less because I think the enthusiasm is pro and anti-Trump. And there's not a gap there.
I mean, people are on side or the other. And what's in between is actually the swing voter. And that's why we focus our surveys on those people that are unenthusiastic about their candidate or those who are still undecided. And that's where we see this impact being more significant.
SMERCONISH: I know that you're in the midst of polling. And if it's too premature to release results, I will understand, but are you seeing any data, anything quantitative that backs up your hunch?
CAHALY: Absolutely. In the middle of two, in Michigan and Wisconsin, we see the effect much more in Michigan than Wisconsin. But we see a large majority in Michigan, over 65 percent who of those that are undecided, or unenthusiastic about their candidate, 65 percent are on the side of playing football.
And in Wisconsin, it's a little below that, it's 55 percent. But it's a significant percentage of those people that swing one way or the other. And both states, we show the numbers close enough that whoever wins those swings is going to be the winner of those states.
SMERCONISH: OK. I feel like I just buried the lead. Your preliminary data suggests that undecided voters in Michigan and Wisconsin, Michigan more so than Wisconsin, they want to see college football played?
CAHALY: Yes, sir. And in Michigan, it's a little higher number. It's like I said, 65, and it's closer to 55 in Wisconsin. They're definitely on the side of seeing it played. And when you break them down as to the fact that President Trump wants to play football does it make you more likely to vote for him, the numbers are higher it makes them more likely than less likely.
SMERCONISH: Fascinating. All right. Robert, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate it.
CAHALY: Good to be here, sir.
SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments. From Twitter, I think, what do we have?
Come on, Michael. Parents are fearful of sending their kids back to school because of COVID and you are seriously implying they should be huddled with each other playing football? You have lost it or is losing it or maybe both, Garth. Hold on, it's not me advocating for anything. It's me having just questioned a pollster with a pretty darn good track record who had a pretty fascinating finding. That when he looks at independent voters in battleground states they tend to be individuals who want to see football played. That's not me telling, you know, kick-off. That's him saying it could be something that sways them in the election. I think that's pretty good information.
Still to come, more of your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. And we'll give you the final result of the survey question. I know how that last Twitter responder is voting on this but how about the rest of you?
"Should college football be played in the fall?" Go vote.
SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question this hour at Smerconish.com.
"Should college football be played in the fall?"
Give me the result. Wow. Pretty decisive. More than 14,000 cast their ballots. And it's 89 percent who say no. Well, you're getting your -- you're getting your wish if you're a Pac-12 or in two of the five conferences. That's what I want to say.
What do we got, Catherine? Real quick because I know I'm limited on time.
Again, you are spewing Trump's unfounded propaganda regarding the Blue Shift.
Caroledee, how am I spewing the president's unfounded propaganda? I brought on the program a constitutional scholar who coined the words -- notice how I'm trying to stay calm, Blue Shift, to connote what he has seen for the last several elections a trend where after the polls have closed and the ballots are counted on an extended basis, they shift blue but not because of malfeasance. That was the take away and you missed it.
Thanks for watching. I'll see you next week.