Just because Democrats are paranoid about the election doesn’t mean there aren’t problems

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Democrats, in a commanding position for the November election, are searching for what could go wrong: Trump could ride an economic rebound to outperform his polls; some of the slime Republicans throw at the gaffe-prone Biden could stick; the incumbent could fabricate an October surprise.

The economy won’t rebound by Nov. 3; the polls accurately reflect Trump’s low standing; the public will continue to brush off falsehoods about the former vice president who they’ve known for three decades — and any Trump-orchestrated October surprise won’t be credible.

There are, however, other causes for concern.

Voting chaos in a pandemic leads the list.

Facing defeat, Trump will likely try to further stir the chaos pot.

The beleaguered U.S. Postal Service is running out of money. The president and his treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, are holding up more support, initially to punish Amazon whose CEO Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post. If the Postal Service jacked up rates for Amazon deliveries, the company would just find a cheaper way.

But playing games with the Postal Service could severely complicate voting by mail, which may be the prime motive now for Trump and Mnuchin. It’s a dicey game that could hurt Republican candidates as well. The charge that mail voting invites widespread fraud — spread by Trump and renewed by his always accommodating Attorney General William Barr — is a canard, as most every study shows.

If pressures force Trump to relent, and Congress sufficiently funds the Postal Service, states still need more federal funds to conduct robust vote by mail operations. With the pandemic, many state budgets are squeezed, and assistance is essential in the next stimulus package.

Today many states and localities aren’t equipped to publicize the procedures, assemble all the requests, mail out the ballots, get them back and then check and process them.

A minimum of $2 billion is needed, which will include assistance for in-person voting which — despite a surge in vote by mail — still will be utilized by tens of millions of Americans this November; this is especially important to many lower income citizens and voters of color.

With COVID-19, in person voting has been a nightmare for some citizens in Wisconsin, Georgia and Kentucky, with fewer polling places, interminably long lines causing waits of six hours or more and flawed machines.

Election personnel could be a huge problem. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission reported this was a challenge even in the last presidential contest. The majority of these workers are over 60 years old, the demographic most threatened by the pandemic.

Big concern number two: The Russians are coming.

The U.S. Intelligence agencies warned that the Russians will try to interfere with this election just as they did four years ago. As Putin knows, he can play Trump “like a fiddle,” in the words of former Trump national security adviser John Bolton. Their intent is to help him again — as well as to discredit democracy.

If you have any doubt, read Franklin Foer’s frightening piece in Atlantic, “Putin is Well On His Way to Stealing the next Election.” He cites a brilliant Stanford student, Jack Cable, who found how ill-prepared some election boards still are to combat or prevent Russian military intelligence, the GRU, from hacking into systems and voters. The GRU today is even shrewder and, having gotten away with it before, emboldened this year. He writes: “Russia’s interference in 2016 might be remembered as the experimental prelude that foreshadowed the attack of 2020.”

University of Pennsylvania scholar Kathleen Hall Jamieson, who wrote a book on the Russian success last time, sees it coming again and told me it will be more sophisticated: “I’m worried about manipulation of voter registration data and voter rolls and about malware that shuts down and then reboots commuters thereby creating longer lines and risking in the loss of vote totals.”

They will use social media and trolls to inflame and disrupt as they did four years ago. Jamieson fears the rising racial tensions and COVID-19 are appetizing targets for the Russians to spread conspiracy theories.

Trump can be expected to try any means to manipulate the vote and contest the legitimacy of the outcome. Unlike the past, the Democrats have ample warning and should be prepared.

The bottom line though is this election is about the incumbent; Biden is more the remainderman.

A solid majority of voters have decided Trump is a loser.

Al Hunt is the former executive editor of Bloomberg News. He previously served as reporter, bureau chief and Washington editor for the Wall Street Journal. For almost a quarter century he wrote a column on politics for The Wall Street Journal, then the International New York Times and Bloomberg View. He hosts 2020 Politics War Room with James Carville. Follow him on Twitter @AlHuntDC.

Tags 2020 election 2020 polls Donald Trump Jeff Bezos Joe Biden John Bolton Postal voting Presidential polls Russian interference in elections Russian meddling Steve Mnuchin Vladimir Putin Vote by Mail William Barr

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