I could have chosen just about any newspaper for this, but here's the Washington Post last night:

Drink this in: it's front-page news that the Republican candidate for president has endorsed the Republican Speaker of the House for reelection. Front. Page. News. The New York Times says Trump did it in an effort to "heal" a "party rift." If so, Trump sure was dragged kicking and screaming into it. He read off his endorsement with all the enthusiasm of a Cultural Revolution dissident reading a confession of his counter-revolutionary deviations to his fellow reeducation campmates.

Anyway, Hillary Clinton also got a tiny bit of press on Friday for once again bobbling her claim that James Comey kinda sorta exonerated her in Emailgate. But the operative word here is "tiny." It might have been a bigger deal if everyone hadn't been so busy writing about the latest episode of the Trump telenovela. And Paul Ryan is going to win regardless.

Bottom line: Trump says he's the guy who's going to win so much we'll all get tired of winning. But he lost the news cycle completely on Friday for no reason and no gain, just so he could indulge yet another trivial personal feud. Nice work.

Friday Cat Blogging - 5 August 2016

Hilbert, like all cats, likes to hunker down on any kind of flat object you might lay down somewhere: clothes, paper, books, iPads, you name it. But like all cats, he's also very hard to fool. He only wants to lie down on this stuff if it's somehow annoying to the humans. Here's the morning newspaper, for example. There's a bunch of sections I'm not reading at the moment. He ignores those. The only part he's interested in is the section I happen to be reading at the moment.

This seems to be universal behavior. How do they do it? Do they track our eyes, so they know what we're looking at? Is it feline telepathy? Whatever it is, the message is clear: You are paying attention to something other than me, and you need to knock it off. Capiche?

Excellent. Donald Trump has introduced his blue-chip economic advisory team:

The list includes strikingly few academic policy experts, usually the bread-and-butter of campaign policy teams. Instead, the advisory team of 13 men — and no women — consists largely of personal friends or longtime business associates of Trump. The median net worth of Trump's official economic advisers appears to be at least several hundred million dollars.

That wealthy group includes Harold Hamm, a self-made oil billionaire.... Dan DiMicco, a former chief executive of steelmaker Nucor.... Steven Mnuchin.... chief executive of the hedge fund Dune Capital Management.... Steve Roth.... Vornado Realty Trust; hedge fund billionaire John Paulson.... The only academic economist on the team — the only one who has a doctorate in economics — is Peter Navarro of the University of California at Irvine, who focuses on trade with China.

....Trump's outsider crew at times conflicts with his message of economic populism....His team is filled with hedge fund managers, bankers and real estate speculators.

A whole bunch of Wall Street billionaires plus Stephen Moore, an annual contender for stupidest man in the world. This fits Trump perfectly, especially since he's not going to listen to any of them anyway. Why should he, after all? He knows more about how the economy works than any of them, believe me.

Ed Kilgore points out that in the latest polls, Trump is not just behind, he's even losing ground with his most fervent supporters, the white working class:

He’s still leading in this demographic, to be sure. But every recent Republican has won it, by ever-increasing margins. Mitt Romney won non-college-educated white voters by an estimated 62-36 in 2012....That could be changing. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal survey showed his lead among non-college-educated white voters drooping to 49-36. Similarly, McClatchy/Marist pegs it at 46-31. These are not world-beating numbers. And you have to wonder: If Trump is losing his special appeal to the voting category that has long been his campaign’s signature “base,” where is he supposed to make that up?

In short, Romney won the WWC by 26 points. Trump is winning it by only about 15 points. This is devastating if it keeps up. Trump doesn't just need to match Romney's numbers, he needs to beat them. If he can't stay even with 2012 at a minimum, he's got no chance to win.

I would be very interested to see these numbers broken down by region. Unfortunately, this produces very small subgroups, which makes it hard to draw any firm statistical conclusions. Nonetheless, there's not much question that there are two fundamentally different varieties of the white working class: the Southern WWC and all the rest of them. If Trump is losing even the Southern WWC, he's doomed.

Chart of the Day: Net New Jobs in July

The American economy added 255,000 new jobs last month, 90,000 of which were needed to keep up with population growth. This means that net job growth clocked in at a very robust 165,000 jobs. The number of short-term unemployed dropped sharply, but the number of longer-term unemployed increased. Overall, the unemployment rate held steady at 4.9 percent.

And there was more good news: hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees increased at an annual rate of about 4 percent compared to last month. That's not bad at all. We're now in the silly season when all of these numbers will be politicized, but there's really no way to make the July jobs numbers look bad. This is a very solid report.

Sean Hannity Tells Us How He Really Feels

Bret Stephens, the Wall Street Journal's deputy editorial page editor, was unimpressed with Sean Hannity's latest meltdown:

Hannity was not amused:

As Donald Trump says, the Republican Party has never been so united. It's heartwarming, isn't it?

Donald Trump Roundup For Thursday Evening

By the standards of earlier this week, today was surprisingly quiet on the Trump front. I think his supporters were all taking a deep breath and steeling themselves for whatever he does next. Still, there were a few tidbits.

We can start with last January, when the US government announced that (a) it had finally reached an agreement to pay Iran $1.7 billion to settle claims that had been in litigation since 1979, and (b) Iran would release four US prisoners. Was this timing just a coincidence, or was this actually a ransom payment? Republicans all insisted it was ransom, of course, and Obama insisted it wasn't. It was a story for a couple of days and then disappeared.

Until yesterday, when the Wall Street Journal reported that the initial payment of $400 million was made in cash. That is, pallets stacked with euro notes and Swiss francs. This was kind of juicy, though it wasn't really news. The agreement is still for $1.7 billion, the same as always. But then Trump stepped in to say that he'd seen a really high-quality "military" video of Iran unloading the stacks of cash. Everyone was bewildered. No such video exists, as far as anyone knows. So what did Trump really see?

The Washington Post asked Trump's staff to explain what Trump was talking about and emailed a link to a Fox News clip that showed the January footage from Geneva, asking if that was the video the nominee saw. "Yes," spokeswoman Hope Hicks responded in an email. "Merely the b-roll footage included in every broadcast."

The January footage from Geneva? What's that? According to the Post, it's "dark, grainy footage of shadowy figures walking off a small private plane with bags in hand," taken in Geneva where three of the American prisoners first landed after being released. Not Iran. Not military. Not top secret. No stacks of cash. The Trump campaign has explicitly admitted this. So what did Trump do today? Do I even have to tell you?

Despite Donald Trump’s claim of having seen video footage of the $400 million cash delivery to Iran having been acknowledged as false by his own campaign, the Manhattan billionaire kicked off a rally Thursday afternoon by repeating the tall tale.

....Trump once again spoke of the nonexistent footage at his rally Thursday in Portland, Maine....He suggested that the payment was made in a combination of euros, Swiss francs and other currencies because “they probably don’t want our currency.”

For the record, the deal was done in euros and francs because US law prohibits the transfer of dollars to Iran. But whatever. In that same rally, Trump:

  • Repeated a false claim that neighbors of the San Bernardino shooters saw bombs in their apartment.
  • Lied yet again about opposing the Iraq War.
  • Once more claimed falsely that shootings of police officers were at "record levels."

In other words, just another day on the ranch for Trump. Here's another slice of life from that same rally:

See? Tea partiers will literally boo at anything if it happens to be associated with Democrats. In the upper echelons of the Republican Party, things are no better: Trump's supporters are getting nervous and starting to turn on each other. Remember the "intervention" that was supposed to happen yesterday? Rudy Giuliani blamed the whole fiasco on Newt Gingrich:

"That word, I think, honestly I love him dearly, but I think that word was used by Newt in a memo that got around," Giuliani said. "What a ridiculous word. An intervention is for a drug addict and it's for someone who's an alcoholic and I've had to do them with people at times. There's nothing wrong with them, if that's the case. Donald Trump doesn't drink or smoke, by the way. We don't have that problem."

Well, no, not that problem. But we do have another problem: Trump is looking increasingly deranged, hardly the kind of person you want near the nuclear codes. What do you think of that, John McCain?

QUESTION: Are you comfortable with Donald Trump possibly having control of the nuclear arsenal?

McCAIN: [Silence, followed by unintelligible stammering.] Anyone that the people of this country choose to be the commander in chief....Anyone who is elected president fairly in this country....The American people select the next president of the United States....I have the utmost respect for the verdict of the people.

Hmmm. Perhaps you noticed that McCain never actually answered the question? So did a lot of other people. In other news, there's a kerfuffle going on about whether Melania Trump is an illegal immigrant. Paul Ryan made it clear that he doesn't think much of Trump and is pretty sure he's going to lose in a landslide. Indeed, multiple polls now show Hillary Clinton with a huge lead over Trump. Her lead is so big that she's even "paused" her advertising in Virginia because it's not clear if she needs it anymore. Who knows? Maybe this will turn out to be the cheapest presidential campaign in recent memory.

BREAKING NEWS! Trump pal and New York State campaign co-chairman Carl Paladino went a little off the reservation tonight:

Speaking over the phone for an unrelated story, Carl Paladino—the 2010 GOP candidate for governor of New York—abruptly changed subjects and assailed the sitting president and his policies. The Buffalo-based real estate developer and Tea Party activist maintained that Obama, a practicing Christian, has sought to mislead the public about his religious affiliation, but that the citizenry has not fallen for his falsehoods.

“In the mind of the average American, there is no doubt he is a Muslim,” Paladino said. “He is not a Christian.”

Just to make this perfect, it appeared in the New York Observer, owned by Ivanka Trump's husband, Jared Kushner.

Trump Support Is Collapsing Nationwide

A new McClatchy-Marist poll shows Hillary Clinton with a stunning 15-point lead over Donald Trump. Is that an outlier? Normally I'd say yes, but who knows? It's tulip season, folks.

The poll's demographic breakdowns are pretty devastating too:

Men had been the bedrock of Trump support. Last month, he was up by 14 percentage points among men; he's now down 8. Clinton remains strong with women, as she's up 20.

Trump collapsed almost everywhere that he'd built decent support. Even among white voters, which favored Republican White House candidates in recent elections, Trump was lagging, ahead of Clinton, but only just barely, 41-39.

…Clinton wins moderates, 50-27 percent. She is far ahead with black voters, 93-2 percent, and with Latinos, 55-26 percent.

…On issue after issue, Clinton ranked ahead of Trump. She's up by 8 when asked who can best handle the war on terror. She's ahead 21 on immigration, 14 on gun violence, 14 on trade and 4 on creating jobs, which had been one of Trump's strengths.

I used to think that Barack Obama was one of the luckiest politicians alive. I still think that. But Hillary Clinton is giving him a run for his money.

I wonder if Trump has any idea how bad this is going to get for him. He's basically a B-list celebrity laughingstock, and the only thing that's made people take him seriously over the past year is his poll numbers. Once those tank, and there's no longer any fear of going after him, he's going to become the target of more mockery and derision than he can bear. Literally the entire world will be laughing at him. After November I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up retreating permanently to his gilded apartment to become this era's Howard Hughes.

As long as I'm showing you charts of Donald Trump's falling popularity, here's another one. It comes via FourSquare, which tracks the mobile phones of millions of its users:

Poor Donald. Ever since he began his presidential campaign, people have been staying away from his properties. Here's the FourSquare analysis:

Since Donald Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015, foot traffic to Trump-branded hotels, casinos and golf courses in the U.S. has been down....After he entered the race, his branded properties failed to get their usual summertime traffic gains. In August 2015, the share of people coming to all Trump-branded properties was down 17% from the year before.

....Breaking out Blue States, the loss in foot traffic runs deeper than the national average. For the past five months, Trump’s blue state properties — spread between New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Hawaii — have taken a real dip, with diminishing visits starting in March and a widening gap that continues straight through July, when share fell 20% versus July 2015.

When we dissect this traffic further, we see that the market share losses have been driven by a fall-off among women. Trump properties have seen a double-digit decrease in visits from women this year, with a gap that widened starting in March 2016.

....Like pollsters and data scientists have been doing for decades, we normalize our data against U.S. census data, ensuring that our panel of millions accurately matches the U.S. population to remove any age or gender bias (though urban geographies are slightly over-represented in our panel).

Sad!

I've made this point before, but it's interesting enough to make it again. Despite all of Trump's endless controversies, idiotic feuds, assorted ups and downs, and even taking into account his convention bounce and recent meltdown, his overall trajectory has been surprisingly stable over the past year: down. His support in a matchup with Hillary Clinton has declined steadily by about a point every few months, and the fact that it's down to about 40 percent right now is roughly what you could have predicted back in May.

Trump may have won over the Republican base—helped along by the fact that the rest of the Republican field couldn't really criticize him wholeheartedly—but among non-true-believers, the more they see of Trump the less they like him. His current descent into madness may hurt him even more than usual, or it may blow over and do him no more than the usual damage. But that's enough. At this rate, he'll be lucky to break 43 percent in the popular vote in November once you give him a share of the currently undecided voters.