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Wake Up To Politics - October 15, 2020

It’s Thursday, October 15, 2020. Election Day is 19 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

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Trump, Biden to offer closing pitches in dueling town halls

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden were supposed to face off tonight in a town hall-style presidential debate. And in a normal election year, that almost certainly would have happened as scheduled. But this is no normal election year.

The debate was slated to be held virtually after Trump’s COVID-19 infection. But the president, and then Biden, rebuffed the plan and the debate was canceled. Instead, the two candidates will make their pitches to voters from two different TV networks and 1,000 miles apart: Trump will participate in an NBC News town hall from Miami, while Biden will take part in an ABC News town hall from Philadelphia. Both will air at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

The dueling town halls come at a critical stage in the 2020 race: there are less than 20 days to go until polls close, but more than 16 million Americans have already cast their ballots through mail-in voting or early in-person voting, a number that is expected to multiply each day until November 3. According to the Washington Post, the record level of early voting “could result in the majority of voters casting ballots before Election Day for the first time in U.S. history.”

According to the Post, in six states that provide partisan breakdowns — Florida, Iowa, Maine, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania — “registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by roughly 2 to 1” among the 3.5 million voters who have already cast their ballots.

Biden also maintains a lopsided advantage in public polling as Election Day nears: he now leads the FiveThirtyEight polling average by 10.3%, a noticeable uptick since the first presidential debate and Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis. For most of the summer, Biden led by seven to nine percentage points.

The former vice president has also expanded his fundraising advantage recently: Biden announced Wednesday night that his campaign raised $383 million in September, his second consecutive month breaking the record for largest monthly haul for a presidential campaign. And he remains the leader in most battleground state polls: surveys released on Wednesday showed Biden ahead in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, and Ohio.

Facing this torrent of discouraging statistics, Trump has done little to change his strategy, returning to the campaign trail to deliver his familiar monologues at a series of rallies across the country the week. Politico termed it “a frenzied comeback tour”; according to the Washington Post, Trump’s “lack of a consistent and coherent closing argument is alarming some Republicans, raising fears among his allies that his undisciplined approach to campaigning could render him a one-term president.”

Throughout the tour, he has engaged in a series of questionable gambits to regain support from demographics that have drifted from him since 2016. During a Pennsylvania rally on Tuesday, he resorted to pleading for votes: “Suburban women, will you please like me?” he asked. The next day, he tweeted a meme that mocked his rival’s age (“Biden for Resident”), a move unlikely to regain his support among seniors. He has also been sparring with Dr. Anthony Fauci, arguably his administration’s most popular official.

However, according to Axios, “some top Democrats remain nervous about the presidential race,” scarred by their 2016 loss and watching a surge in voter registrations among non-college-educated white voters in recent weeks. “This race is a lot closer than folks on this website think,” Biden’s campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon tweeted on Wednesday. “Like a lot closer.”

The Rundown

An unverified report claiming that Joe Biden met with a representative of a Ukrainian energy company linked to his son Hunter was met with resistance by the Biden campaign and social media networks. The New York Post claimed to have obtained a “smoking-gun email” showing an executive at Burisma, the Ukrainian company, thanking Hunter Biden for “giving an opportunity to meet your father.” Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma while his father oversaw Ukraine policy for the Obama administration, an arrangement that President Trump criticized in the events leading to his impeachment.

The Biden campaign denied that such a “meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place”; no news outlets have verified the authenticity of the emails, which were obtained by the New York Post through Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon and personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. Facebook and Twitter both blocked users from sharing the story on Wednesday, citing policies on fact-checking and hacked materials, respectively. Trump highlighted the report at a rally in Iowa on Wednesday, leveling a series of unproven claims against Biden and calling him a “corrupt politician.”

Prospects appear to be dimming for the passage of another coronavirus relief package before Election Day. “At this point, getting something done before the election and executing on that will be difficult,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the Trump administration’s top negotiation, acknowledged at the Milken Institute Global Conference on Wednesday.

Mnuchin’s latest offering had a price tag of $1.8 trillion, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has refused to move from her proposed $2.2 trillion package. According to Roll Call, Mnuchin is seeking “liability protection from pandemic-related lawsuits for small businesses and schools that reopen,” while Pelosi is calling for more funding for COVID-19 testing. Pelosi, who defended her stance in a testy interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday, is facing growing pressure from Democratic lawmakers to accept Mnuchin’s bill but has indicated no plans to change her position.

Coronavirus cases are spiking across the country as temperatures drop. “In 46 states and the nation’s capital, the case trend has worsened from a month ago, based on the trailing seven-day average of new infections, according to Covid Tracking Project data,” Bloomberg reports. “At the end of September, that was true of 32 states; at the end of August, just 15 were trending up.”

A similar surge is taking place in Europe: France declared a public health state of emergency on Wednesday while the United Kingdom is considering a second lockdown.


All times Eastern.

President Donald Trump will deliver remarks at a campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina, at 1 p.m. He will then travel to Miami, Florida, to speak at a fundraiser at 4:45 p.m. and participate in an NBC News town hall at 8 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence will also travel to Miami, to speak at a campaign event at 12:55 p.m. and participate in a “Faith in America” roundtable at 3 p.m.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will attend a virtual fundraiser and then participate in an ABC News town hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at 8 p.m.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will travel to North Carolina, to speak at an “early vote mobilization event” in Asheville at 11:30 a.m., a “campaign hub grand opening event” in Charlotte at 2:40 p.m., and a “voter mobilization event” in Charlotte at 6:35 p.m. She will also participate in virtual fundraisers.

The House and Senate are not in session.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will kick off Day 4 of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings at 9 a.m. The committee will begin debate on the nomination, before hearing testimony from two panels of witnesses.

The first panel will consist of two members of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which rated Barrett as “well qualified”: Tennesse attorney Randall Noel and South Carolina attorney Pamela Roberts.

The second panel will consist of eight witnesses, four from each party. The Republican witnesses will be:

  • Thomas Griffith, a retired D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals judge who has praised Barrett.
  • Saikrishna Prakash, a University of Virginia School of Law professor who clerked with Barrett on the D.C. Circuit.
  • Amanda Rauh-Bieri, a Michigan attorney who formerly clerked for Barrett.
  • Laura Wolk, a Washington, D.C., attorney and one of Barrett’s former law students.

The Democratic witnesses will be:

  • Farhan Bhatti, a family physician and CEO of Care Free Medical who will testify about the Affordable Care Act.
  • Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, who will testify about voting and civil rights.
  • Crystal Good, a West Virginia small business owner who fought in court for an abortion at age 16 and will testify about abortion rights.
  • Stacy Staggs, a North Carolina mother of twins with pre-existing conditions who will testify about the Affordable Care Act.

Each witness and each senator will give five-minute opening statements, and then each senator will have five minutes to question the witnesses during each panel.

The Supreme Court is not in session.

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