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Wake Up To Politics - October 28, 2020

Wake Up To Politics: To campaign or to stay home
Wake Up To Politics - October 28, 2020

It’s Wednesday, October 28, 2020. Election Day is six days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Trump is barnstorming across the country. Biden is staying home. Which one’s right?

Donald Trump and Joe Biden’s schedules in the campaign’s final week are a study in contrasts.

By the end of the day, Trump will have held eight rallies in five key states — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district — this week.

Biden will have held two campaign events in just one state: Georgia. For the second day this week, with time quickly dwindling before the election of his lifetime comes to an end, Biden is not even leaving his home state of Delaware. (The former vice president is expected to win Delaware’s three electoral votes easily.)

As Politico noted on Monday, that imbalance represents “a jarring flip of the script for an incumbent president and his challenger,” as the sitting commander-in-chief races across the electoral map while the challenger mostly sits and waits.

With his final mad dash around the country, Trump is attempting to recreate his improbable 2016 victory, when he scraped out wins in a trio of battleground states (Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin) despite trailing polls in all three, just as he does now.

But four years later, with most of the country abstaining from large gatherings, those trademark rallies now serve as visceral reminders of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the very thing that could sink his presidency next week.

It now seems possible that Trump’s campaign swings could actually be hurting him. He arrived in Pennsylvania on Monday to calls from local medical professionals begging him to stay away. Then, he was on to the Midwest, where coronavirus cases are rising at some of the fastest rates across the country. A string of Trump’s campaign stops in recent weeks have left COVID-19 infections surging in his wake, including crops of cases tied to his rallies.

At each stop, Trump has taken to declaring that the United States is “rounding the turn” of the pandemic, even as the nation reported a record number of cases in the past week. And so far, polls show that Americans just... don’t believe him when it comes to the virus.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll released this morning found Biden leading by a stunning 17-point margin in Wisconsin and by five points in Michigan. According to the survey, Trump’s downfall in Wisconsin — which he won by 0.77% in 2016 — was fueled by coronavirus. 70% of voters in the state told the pollsters they were “very or somewhat worried about the virus,” while disapproval of the president's handling of the coronavirus pandemic stood at 59%.

And it’s likely no coincidence that Trump’s slip in Wisconsin coincides with a rise in cases there: the state reported a record 5,262 infections on Tuesday, the same day Trump was campaigning there. Deaths and hospitalizations are at an all-time high in the state as well, making it one of the nation’s top coronavirus hotspots, a status that can’t be helpful as the president urgently courts votes.

And while Trump is downplaying the virus at each rally, Biden has made it a centerpiece of his campaign: He won’t be visiting any battleground states today, but the former VP will be delivering a speech on the pandemic. As Trump would say, Biden is focusing on “Covid, Covid, Covid.” (But unfortunately for the president — at least according to polls — so are the voters.)

But Biden’s strategy is studded with risks as well. While Trump campaigns furiously to reverse the polling trends, Biden is mostly just staying home and hoping they don’t change — and trusting they are right in the first place, which is hairy territory for Democrats.

So far, the polls have remained consistently favorable for Biden since the final debate last week. But they have also tightened in Pennsylvania, which is as close to a must-win state for both candidates as there is. And, of course, the polls are not necessarily correct, as Hillary Clinton could attest to.

Although, as NBC News notes, the polls could also just as easily be wrong in Biden’s favor. He could be headed for a landslide, as today’s (outlier) Post/ABC poll suggests. In which case he’ll seem wise to have kept his head down, maintaining a pandemic-focused, slimmed-down schedule.  

Or, if Trump is able to once again disprove the polls and outwork his rival, perhaps the president’s frenetic rallies will be credited with boosting him to re-election.

In one week’s time — if the results are clear by then, that is — one of these strategies will look genius, the other foolish. History is written by the victors, after all.

The Rundown

IN THE COURTS: “A federal judge Tuesday rejected the Justice Department’s bid to make the U.S. government the defendant in a defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who says President Trump raped her decades ago, paving the way for the case to again proceed.”

In a 59-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan wrote that Trump did not qualify as a government ‘employee’ under federal law, nor was he acting ‘within the scope of his employment’ when he denied during interviews in 2019 that he had raped journalist E. Jean Carroll in a Manhattan department store during the 1990s.” (Washington Post)

PERSONNEL IS POLICY: “The Trump administration has recently removed the chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the nation’s premier scientific agency, installed new political staff who have questioned accepted facts about climate change and imposed stricter controls on communications at the agency.”

“The moves threaten to stifle a major source of objective United States government information about climate change that underpins federal rules on greenhouse gas emissions and offer an indication of the direction the agency will take if President Trump wins re-election.” (New York Times)

RECOMMENDED READ: Politico’s chief political correspondent (and previous WUTP podcast guest) Tim Alberta published a great piece Tuesday on the differences between the 2016 and 2020 elections.

Tim touches on some of the points I mentioned above, as well as a host of other factors that differentiate the two races, from the surge in early voting to demographic changes to the diminished support for third parties.

Read his piece here.

Today on the Trail

All times Eastern.

President Donald Trump will campaign in Arizona, holding campaign rallies in Bullhead City (2 pm) and Phoenix (4:30 pm).

  • Vice President Mike Pence will hold campaign rallies in Mosinee, Wisconsin (4 pm), and Flint, Michigan (7 pm).
  • Second Lady Karen Pence will hold a campaign event in Waterloo, Wisconsin (1:30 pm).
  • Ivanka Trump will hold campaign events in Charlotte, North Carolina (9:30 am), and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1 pm).
  • Donald Trump Jr. will campaign in Florida, holding events in Jacksonville (1:30 pm), Daytona Beach (4 pm), and Vero Beach (6:30 pm).
  • Eric Trump will campaign in Ohio, holding events in Tipp City (4:30 pm) and Columbus (6:30 pm).
  • Lara Trump will campaign in North Carolina, making stops in Greensboro (12:50 pm) and Selma (6:30 pm) as part of a “Women for Trump” bus tour.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will receive a briefing from public health experts and deliver remarks on “his plans to beat COVID-19, lower health care costs, and protect Americans with pre-existing conditions.” He will also attend a virtual fundraiser.

  • Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will campaign in Arizona, holding a meeting with Latina business owners (2:30 pm) and a drive-in “voter mobilization event” (3:25 pm) in Tucson and a meeting with Black leaders (5:50 pm) and a drive-in “voter mobilization event” with singer Alicia Keys (7:35 pm) in Phoenix.
  • Harris’ husband Doug Emhoff will campaign in Pennsylvania, holding a “canvass kickoff” in Allentown (12:30 pm) and a “voter mobilization event” in State College (3 pm).

Libertarian presidential nominee Jo Jorgenson will hold a “policy panel discussion” in Savannah, Georgia (6 pm).

Today in Washington

All times Eastern.

The Senate is not in session.

  • The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing at 10 am on “whether Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act has outlived its usefulness in today’s digital age.” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify.

The House is not in session.

The Supreme Court is not in session.

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