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Wake Up To Politics - May 26, 2020

I’m Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, May 26, 2020. 161 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Coronavirus: Latest updates

As the United States approaches 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus, the pandemic is now spreading fastest in rural counties. "The disease caused by the virus has made a fundamental shift in who it touches and where it reaches in America," the Washington Post reports, adding: "The pandemic that first struck in major metropolises is now increasingly finding its front line in the country’s rural areas."

According to the Post's analysis of case data, "rural counties now have some of the highest rates of covid-19 cases and deaths in the country, topping even the hardest-hit New York City boroughs and signaling a new phase of the pandemic — one of halting, scattered outbreaks that could devastate still more of America’s most vulnerable towns as states lift stay-at-home orders."

The increasing caseloads in many rural counties can be traced back to meatpacking plants or prisons: "Of the 25 rural counties with the highest per capita case rates, 20 have a meatpacking plant or prison where the virus took hold and spread with abandon, then leaped into the community when workers took it home," according to the Post.

But even as the toll of coronavirus rises in rural counties (which generally lean Republican), the vast majority of cases deaths in the U.S. from the pandemic have been in Democratic-leaning locales along the coasts, a New York Times analysis found. "Counties won by President Trump in 2016 have reported just 27 percent of the virus infections and 21 percent of the deaths — even though 45 percent of Americans live in these communities," according to the Times.

The pandemic is already reshaping the face of the 2020 election. Coronavirus has put in-person campaigning on hold for months, as candidates replace rallies with virtual events, and shifted the political conversation significantly as the elections approach.

But it has also altered the face of the electorate itself: according to NPR, new voter registrations have been falling across the country since the coronavirus hit, making it likely that the pandemic could have an effect on who ends up casting ballots in November.

The virus has also led to a flood of changes to America's voting laws: "nearly 30 states have changed rules or practices for this year’s primaries or the general election in response to the public health threat posed by COVID-19," the Washington Post recently reported.

According to the Post, these new policies affect roughly 86.6 million registered voters, "including more than 40 million people who now have the temporary right to cast an absentee ballot because of the virus."

While red and blue states alike have adopted new rules expanding mail-in voting, these changes have not come without controversy. President Donald Trump has been a frequent critic of such practices: "The United States cannot have all Mail In Ballots," he tweeted Sunday. "It will be the greatest Rigged Election in history."

According to Politico, Trump's recent comments — including his threats to withhold federal funding to two battleground states preparing to expand vote by mail — "have served to put critics of the president on edge," warning of a potential "constitutional crisis" in which he rejects the legitimacy of the results in November.

Despite Trump's claims, there is no evidence that mail-in voting leads to widespread fraud or even to an advantage for Democrats: studies cited by a New York Times report on Monday found that "both parties benefited more or less equally" from the slight surge in voter turnout experienced in states that have utilized mail balloting.

2020 Central

President Trump threatened to pull the 2020 Republican National Convention out of North Carolina due to restrictions put in place by the state's Democratic governor. "I love the Great State of North Carolina, so much so that I insisted on having the Republican National Convention in Charlotte at the end of August," he tweeted on Monday. "Unfortunately, Democrat Governor, @RoyCooperNC is still in Shutdown mood & unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed full attendance in the Arena."

Trump called on Cooper to "immediately" give an answer as to whether the convention would be able to move forward in Charlotte to its full capacity, saying the GOP would otherwise be "reluctantly forced" to find another convention site. (Cooper's spokeswoman did not give a definitive response in a statement following the president's tweets.)

Republicans are publicly pushing forward with plans for their late August convention, although the New York Times reported last week that the party is "quietly looking at the likelihood of a pared-down convention." Democrats have already postponed their nominating fête from mid-July to mid-August; according to the Washington Post, they are considering holding "multiple satellite events" across the country instead of one large convention.


*All times Eastern

President Donald Trump will participate in the ceremonial swearing-in of former Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) as Director of National Intelligence at 12:45 p.m., meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at 3 p.m., and driver remarks on protecting seniors with diabetes at 4 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence will attend the Ratcliffe swearing-in at 12:45 p.m. and lead a video teleconference with governors on coronavirus response and economic revival at 1 p.m.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany will hold a press briefing at 2 p.m.

The House and Senate will both meet for brief pro forma sessions at 9:30 a.m.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee will hold a video briefing with Health and Human Services Department Acting Inspector General Christi Grimm at 11 a.m. President Trump sought to replace Grimm earlier this month after she released a report identifying shortages of supplies at hospitals across the country during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Supreme Court will release orders at 9:30 a.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will attend a virtual fundraiser.

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