Ballotpedia’s Weekly Presidential News Briefing: May 16-22, 2020

Ballotpedia's Weekly Presidential News Briefing
Every weekday, Ballotpedia tracks the news, events, and results of the 2020 presidential election.

Here’s the latest from the campaign trail.        

Notable Quotes of the Week

“Teflon presidents, gangsters, candidates — we have had them all. What we have not experienced until now is a Teflon campaign.

Between March 11, when the coronavirus prompted the NBA to suspend its season, and May 14, some 84,000 Americans died of coronavirus, more than 36 million lost their jobs, and Congress appropriated $3.6 trillion in new spending. It is not foolish to suppose that these world-shaking events would affect the presidential election. On the contrary: One would expect a dramatic swing toward either the incumbent or the challenger. But look at the polls. Not only has there been no big shift. There has been no shift. …

Why? The incidents of this election cycle are not the reason. Epidemics, depressions, and sex scandals have happened before. What is distinct are the candidates. One in particular.

If this race has been the steadiest in memory, it is because public opinion of the incumbent has been the most consistent in memory. ‘Trump’s approval rating has the least variation of any post-World War II president,’ notes Geoffrey Skelley of FiveThirtyEight. Whatever is in the headlines matters less than one’s view of the president. And he is a subject on which most people’s views are ironclad.”

– Matthew ContinettiNational Review 

“I’d question a recurring theme of 2020 presidential campaign coverage: that the cash pile amassed by President Trump and the Republican National Committee is a major advantage. On the list of factors that will determine the outcome in November, I don’t think money will be in the top 10.

Former vice president Joe Biden and the Democrats finished the first quarter nearly $200 million behind the GOP, a deficit that the New York Times chalked up to ‘the advantage of incumbency and the ability to fund-raise for the past three years.’ The best that could be said for Biden’s April cash haul was that he managed not to fall much further behind.

But while money can be decisive in down-ballot races, where candidates are buying every bit of exposure and interest in their campaigns, there is little evidence that those dollars pick presidents. Consider Mike Bloomberg. The former New York mayor essentially fired greenbacks from confetti cannons in pursuit of the Democratic nomination. …

In the battle of Biden vs. Trump, money may be less important than ever. Biden’s task of defining and attacking Trump is already done; much of it, the president has done to himself. It’s difficult to imagine a voter in America who is not thoroughly familiar with the subject, and data suggest that most people settled on their conclusions some time ago and aren’t budging. Biden is less familiar but only by comparison to the most-watched person in the world. He will have plenty of money to do all the advertising he needs.”

– David Von DrehleThe Washington Post

Week in Review

Amash will not run for Libertarian presidential nomination

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (L-Mich.), who announced on April 28 that he was launching an exploratory committee for the Libertarian presidential nominationtweeted on May 16, “Thanks for your support as I’ve been exploring a run for president as the potential nominee of the Libertarian Party. … After much reflection, I’ve concluded that circumstances don’t lend themselves to my success as a candidate for president this year, and therefore I will not be a candidate.” The Libertarian Party will select its presidential nominee during its national convention, which is being held online May 22-24.

Trump campaign launches anti-Biden website called ‘Truth over Facts’

On Monday, Donald Trump’s campaign launched a website called “Truth Over Facts,” which it described as “an investigative website aimed at uncovering the truth behind Joe Biden’s never-ending, seemingly incomprehensible statements during his third, plodding campaign for president.” The title of the website references an earlier quote from Biden.

Biden campaigns virtually in Wisconsin 

Joe Biden participated in a virtual roundtable on rural issues with U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) Wednesday morning and hosted a virtual rally in Milwaukee in the afternoon. He said of Trump during the rally, “Why would anybody trust this man to bring back the economy now? He thinks he’s a builder, but he’s a destroyer of everything he touches.”

Trump visits Ypsilanti, Michigan

On Thursday, Trump visited Ypsilanti, Michigan, to tour a Ford plant that has been manufacturing ventilators and to meet with a group of black leaders. He was joined by U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson. Trump said, “This country is poised for an epic comeback. Within the next year, we’re going to be exceeding any expectation. And I’ve had a good gut feeling about a lot of things – including running for president. … By the way, I think we’re going to do better the second time, and it’s very important that we win the second time.”

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Natalie Quillian is a Democratic staffer with experience in national security. Quillian graduated from Princeton University with a master’s degree in international relations and received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Middlebury College.


  • 2017-2020: Boston Consulting Group
    • 2019-2020: Partner
    • 2017-2019: Principal
  • 2017-2020: J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, board member
  • 2013-2017: The White House, deputy assistant to the president and advisor to the White House chief of staff
  • 2011-2013: National Security Council
    • 2012-2013: Senior advisor to the deputy national security advisor
    • 2011-2012: Director for defense policy
  • 2007-2011: U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy
    • 2009-2011: Special assistant to principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy
    • 2007-2009: Presidential management fellow
  • 2003-2005: SAIC, analyst​​

What we read this week

Flashback: May 18-22, 2016

  • May 22, 2016: Hillary Clinton said of Bernie Sanders during an interview on “Meet the Press,” “Let me say that I don’t think he’s had a single negative ad ever run against him. … And that’s fine. But we know what we’re going into, and we understand what it’s going to take to win in the fall.”  She said of herself, “It’s also fair to say that I have been vetted and tested, and I think that that puts me in a very strong position.”
  • May 21, 2016: Sanders said in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, “We need a campaign, an election, coming up which does not have two candidates who are really very, very strongly disliked. I don’t want to see the American people voting for the lesser of two evils. … I want the American people to be voting for a vision of economic justice, of social justice, of environmental justice, of racial justice.”
  • May 20, 2016: The National Rifle Association endorsed Trump. Trump said to the group, “Crooked Hillary is the most anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment candidate. … She wants to take your guns away from you, just remember that.”
  • May 19, 2016: Trump spoke at a fundraiser to help pay off Chris Christie’s presidential campaign debt. He said of Hillary Clinton, “You talk about bad judgment. How bad a judgment is the email scandal? … For her to be able to continue to run is an absolute disgrace, in my opinion, to this country.”
  • May 18, 2016: Trump announced a list of possible Supreme Court nominees. He said the list was “representative of the kind of constitutional principles I value and, as president, I plan to use this list as a guide to nominate our next United States Supreme Court justices.”

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