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Wake Up To Politics - May 21, 2020

I’m Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, May 21, 2020. 166 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Listen now: The latest episode of the Wake Up To Politics Podcast explores the past and future of the two-party system in America, featuring interviews with political scientist Lee Drutman and Politico’s chief political correspondent Tim Alberta. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, or Stitcher

Coronavirus updates

Economic fallout: An additional 2.4 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department announced this morning, bringing the total to more than 38.6 million Americans who have filed jobless claims in the nine weeks since the coronavirus outbreak began. One leading economist told the New York Times that he expects the official unemployment rate for May to approach 20%, up from 14.7% in April.

The price of waiting: If most U.S. states had begun imposing lockdowns and social distancing measures one week earlier than it did — on March 8, instead of March 15 — about 36,000 fewer people would have died from the coronavirus, a Columbia University study found. If the U.S. had taken such measures two weeks earlier than it did, on March 1, about 54,000 fewer Americans would have lost their lives, the researchers said. As of this morning, upwards of 93,000 people have died from coronavirus in the U.S., meaning lockdowns one week earlier would have avoided about one-third of the nation's total deaths from the pandemic.  

Where Americans stand: Most Americans remain concerned about a second wave of coronavirus infections as all 50 states begin to reopen their economies, according to a pair of polls released Wednesday. “83% of Americans are at least somewhat concerned that lifting restrictions in their area will lead to additional infections, with 54% saying they are very or extremely concerned that such steps will result in a spike of COVID-19 cases,” an Associated Press-NORC poll found.

Meanwhile, according to a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, 77% of Americans are “concerned or very concerned” about a second outbreak, while 65% of Americans said they don't expect their “daily life will return to a sense of normal” for another six months or longer.

Inside Congress: Republican senators are publicly and privately urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to move forward with another coronavirus recovery package, according to CNN. Some of the senators are also pushing for an “infrastructure package to pump money into roads, bridges and transportation projects,” an idea that has gotten an “icy reception” from McConnell so far but has received support from President Donald Trump in the past.

“I want to do infrastructure,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told CNN, adding: “This is the time to go big. ... It really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give a facelift to the country.”

According to Politico, McConnell told House Republicans in a phone call Wednesday that “he is comfortable waiting to see how the nearly $3 trillion in coronavirus spending previously approved plays out before moving forward on the next relief legislation.” The Senate GOP leader also reportedly promised that the $600 boost in weekly unemployment benefits would not be extended when they expire in July, echoing President Trump.

2020 Central

Trump threatens funding for two battleground states: “President Trump on Wednesday escalated his campaign to discredit the integrity of mail balloting, threatening to ‘hold up’ federal funding to Michigan and Nevada in response to the states’ plans to increase voting by mail to reduce the public’s exposure to the coronavirus,” the Washington Post reported.

“Without evidence, Trump called the two states’ plans ‘illegal,’ and he incorrectly claimed that Michigan’s ‘rogue’ secretary of state is planning to mail ballots to all voters. The state is planning to send applications for mail-in ballots to all voters — not ballots themselves.”

Polling roundup: A new Quinnipiac poll found presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden leading President Donald Trump by 11 points nationally, 50% to 39%. The poll also found President Trump's approval rating (42%, from 45% in April) and approval of his response to the coronavirus (41%, from 46%) in decline. Voters were split when asked which candidate would do a better job handling the economy, with 48% saying Biden and 47% saying Trump.

Biden trails Trump in cash on hand: “Biden and the DNC took in more than $60 million in April, nearly as much as the $61.7 million the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee said it raised over the month,” CNN reported after both campaigns released their April fundraising reports on Wednesday.

But Biden remains far behind Trump in terms of total cash on hand: “Biden and the Democrats started May with about $100 million in cash reserves, according to filings Wednesday night with the Federal Election Commission,“ CNN reported. “That's less than half the $255 million that Team Trump said it had remaining in the bank, the result of a massive fundraising operation the President has cultivated since entering the White House.”


*All times Eastern

President Donald Trump will travel to Ypsilanti, Michigan, his latest swing state visit. At 2:15 p.m., he will participate in a listening session with African-American leaders. At 3 p.m., he will tour Ford Motor Co.'s Rawsonville manufacturing plant. At 3:20 p.m., he will deliver remarks at the plant. He will then return to Washington, D.C.

  • Trump's visit to the plant comes despite an executive order by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) this week banning nonessential visits to manufacturing facilities in the state, the Detroit News reported. “Ford plans to ask Trump to wear a mask, despite the fact that he has been reluctant to appear in public with his face covered since he began resuming official travel,” the report added.

First Lady Melania Trump will participate in a CNN town hall on coronavirus at 8 p.m. She is expected to gear her pre-recorded remarks towards the nation's students, according to the network.

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. and hold two roll call votes: on confirmation of Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) as Director of National Intelligence at 12 p.m. and on advancing the nomination of John Leonard Badalamenti to be a U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Florida at 1:30 p.m.

The House is not in session.

The Supreme Court justices will meet for their weekly conference.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will attend a virtual fundraiser

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