There are 15 days until the election and 56 days until the Electoral College meets.
A court ruled that Texas could reject mail-in ballots without notifying voters when signatures don’t match what’s on file. And an Indian-American political action committee will spend $10 million to get the vote out for Biden, the Democratic nominee, and his running mate Kamala Harris.
Trump and Biden will be muted for parts of the final presidential debate on Thursday, the Commission on Presidential Debates said Monday night.
Each candidate will have an uninterrupted two minutes to speak at the beginning of each of the six 15-minute segments of the debate at Belmont University in Nashville. Both candidates’ mics will then be turned on for “a period of open discussion” in the segment’s remaining time, the commission said in a statement.
The commission said both campaigns “this week again reaffirmed their agreement to the two-minute, uninterrupted rule,” adding that the measures weren’t a change of the rules, but were intended to make sure the existing rules were enforced.
The decision comes after the commission said it was examining changes in response to the chaotic first debate, on Sept. 29, when Trump repeatedly interrupted Biden and both candidates talked over the moderator, Chris Wallace.
“We realize, after discussions with both campaigns, that neither campaign may be totally satisfied with the measures announced today,” the commission said. “We are comfortable that these actions strike the right balance and that they are in the interest of the American people, for whom these debates are held.”
The Trump campaign had objected to any change of the rules. The president withdrew from the scheduled second debate on Oct. 15 after the nonpartisan panel announced that it would be virtual as a precaution against Covid-19. -- Jennifer Epstein
A federal appeals court ruled that the state doesn’t have to notify voters when local election officials reject mail-in ballots, in a setback for voting-rights activists.
The decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked a trial judge’s order requiring Texas to give all voters the chance to confirm their identities if their ballot is rejected because their signatures don’t match what’s on file.
Activists complained that voters who don’t sign their names the same way every time, as many don’t, risk disenfranchisement by election officials who have no training in signature matching.
The 5th Circuit said that Texas’s interest in protecting against election fraud outweighed the voting advocates’ concern. It also said the trial judge’s September change in Texas’s procedures came too close to the election.
Texas Republicans have pushed hard to limit voting by mail in the state, a historic GOP stronghold that has become a battleground. Texas is leading the country in ballots cast in the 2020 presidential election so far, with more than 4 million as of Sunday, the Houston Chronicle reported. -- Laurel Brubaker Calkins
A political action committee focused on engaging Indian-Americans is spending $10 million in the final weeks of the election, aiming to turn out a small but critical voting bloc in swing states to support the Democratic ticket and Indian Americans running for office.
IMPACT is investing the money in established organizations including House Majority PAC to support paid media campaigns and turnout efforts in Arizona, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas.
The group, which only spent $350,000 during the 2018 midterms, has seen a surge of fundraising, in large part because of Harris’s selection as Biden’s running mate. Harris is the first Black and Indian-American woman on a major presidential party ticket.
“With an Indian American on the presidential ticket for the first time in history, and a record number of Indian-American candidates running for office, Indian-American voters are poised to exert a considerable amount of influence in this year’s election,” the group’s executive director Neil Makhija said in a statement.
Indian Americans overwhelmingly support Biden, with 72% planning to vote for him compared to 22% planning to vote for Trump, according to a survey by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Yet research has shown Indian Americans are among the least likely to be contacted by campaigns.
There are projected to be 1.4 million Indian Americans voting in November and nearly 500,000 in the key battleground states of Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan. “Indian-American political engagement was thought of cute but relegated to the kids’ table,” Hari Sevugan, a senior adviser to the PAC, said. “This is the kind of investment and mobilization that gets you a seat at the adults’ table.”
Trump keeps saying that he might win states such as California and New York where he’s down by double-digits in the polls.
On Monday, it was New Hampshire and New Mexico.
On a phone call with reporters, the president argued that he will win the battleground states of Arizona, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, though he didn’t mention Florida or Michigan. He also said he would win Georgia, Ohio and Iowa, typically Republican states that are unexpectedly competitive.
And he added that he had good feelings about New Hampshire, where he is down 11 points in the RealClearPolitics average of polls, and New Mexico, where he is down 14.5 points.
“I think we have a really good shot in New Hampshire,” he said. Later he added, “I think we can win” in New Mexico. -- Mario Parker
Trump has long mused about expanding the battlegrounds to include states like New Hampshire or even California and New York.
But there’s only one expansion state that the campaign remains focused on: Minnesota.
Two recent emails to supporters swap Minnesota for Michigan in the list of battlegrounds, saying the election is “going to come down to a few swing states like North Carolina, Minnesota, Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.”
Trump held rallies in the Minnesota cities of Duluth and Bemidji in September. In a call Monday, Vice President Mike Pence aide Marc Short said the vice president would likely campaign there, too.
”I do believe that Wisconsin is on our agenda for next week and I think Minnesota will be as well,” he said.
Trump is behind Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 6.6 points in Minnesota in the RealClearPolitics average of polls, roughly on par with Michigan and Wisconsin’s averages. With 10 electors, though, it gives Trump more ways to get to 270 if he loses Michigan. -- Mario Parker
Pence is heading out on the campaign trail to urge Republicans to come home, again.
As he did in the waning weeks of the 2016 campaign, the former congressman and governor is boosting his travel and the number of campaign rallies with 15 days left until the election, his chief of staff Marc Short said Monday.
Pence will focus heavily on Midwest battleground states. Pence also will travel to Maine’s second congressional district on Monday and then to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, his 10th trip this year to that crucial swing state. He’ll visit Pennsylvania again on Friday, Short said.
Next week, Pence and Trump may begin to appear at rallies together, likely starting at an event in Pennsylvania on Oct. 26, Short said. The campaign is relying on Pence’s background as the former governor of Indiana in a push to court Midwest voters. Pence, in those places, has been touting the Trump administration’s agenda on trade and manufacturing.
“It’s a message that resonates in the Midwest. The primary focus will be the economy and trade on those trips,” Short said.
In Pennsylvania, Pence has attacked Biden and his running mate Senator Kamala Harris, on previous comments they’ve made about not supporting fracking, which has prompted a natural gas boom. Biden has said he won’t ban fracking, but won’t support new fracking operations. -- Mario Parker
One Republican senator won’t vote for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. Another says he disagreed with Trump on key issues, privately. And a third said Trump has “flirted with White supremacists” and “kisses dictators’ butts.”
The remarks from three Republican senators from very different states show the president’s polling woes are starting to hurt his otherwise lock-tight standing among GOP senators.
At a debate Thursday night, Senator Susan Collins of Maine again said she would not vote for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett because of the timing. Trump tweeted that winning over Collins was “not worth the work!”
In a recent interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas Senator John Cornyn said he’s disagreed with Trump on China, the deficit and coronavirus stimulus, but kept his concerns private. Trump has not tweeted about him.
And Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse lashed out at Trump in a telephone town hall last week, saying he “spends like a drunken sailor,” “mocks evangelicals behind closed doors” and refused to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously. In response, Trump called him “stupid and obnoxious” and “an embarrassment to the Great State of Nebraska.”
All three senators are on the ballot in November, with Collins considered endangered, Cornyn still the favorite but facing an unexpectedly strong opponent, and Sasse cruising to re-election.
Trump did an impression of Biden saying he would “listen to the scientists” as he mocked his opponent’s approach to the pandemic.
During a rally Sunday in Carson City, Nevada, Trump argued that cities and states should “open up” and have fewer restrictions designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus and claimed Biden would restrict them further.
“He’s going to want us to lock down,” he said, straightening his spine and putting his hands at his side as he affected a serious demeanor. “He’ll ‘listen to the scientists.’”
Biden has repeatedly said he would “listen to the scientists” on how to handle the pandemic and criticized Trump for denouncing public health measures like restrictions on shops and restaurants and mask-wearing requirements.
Trump went on to say that if he had listened to the scientists the country “would be in a massive depression.”
But Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said that Trump’s attacks on science made the economic situation worse.
“Donald Trump tanked the strong economy he inherited from the Obama-Biden administration by continually discounting and attacking warnings from the scientific and medical experts working around the clock to save lives,” he said.
The unemployment rate in September was 7.9%, down from a high of 14.7% shortly after the pandemic began in April, but still above the 4.7% it was when Trump took office in January of 2017. -- Josh Wingrove
Trump keeps joking he won’t come back to states that don’t vote for him. The Biden campaign’s latest ad encourages him to do so.
The minute-long ad features Trump saying at recent rallies in Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, Florida and North Carolina that he won’t return.
“I may never have to come back here again if I don’t get Iowa,” Trump said last week in Des Moines. “I’ll never be back.”
The ad ends with Trump’s remarks on Friday that if he doesn’t win “maybe I’ll have to leave the country, I don’t know.”
After a beat, the ad shows text on the screen: “What he said.”
Third-party candidate Bill Bledsoe dropped out of the South Carolina Senate race earlier this month and endorsed Senator Lindsey Graham.
But he’s the star of a new ad -- from Graham’s Democratic challenger.
An ad from former state Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison warns voters to be wary of Bledsoe, who it says is “too conservative for South Carolina.” It then notes that he opposes all abortions and gun control laws and supported Trump “from day one.”
All of those things, of course, would be a draw for some of the state’s most conservative voters, who have long been skeptical of Graham.
Bledsoe also ran as a third-party candidate against Senator Tim Scott in 2016, receiving 2% of the vote. A New York Times/Siena College poll last week showed Graham up 6 percentage points over Harrison, with a 4.5-point margin of error.
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