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2020 Daily Trail Markers: Campaigns learn to adjust to digital organizing

Democratic and Republican organizers would traditionally be using this time to train volunteers, onboard organizers and engage voters through face-to-face interactions. Campaign organizing involves personal connections but in the age of the coronavirusCBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell and political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice report that the Democratic and Republican National Committees, various state parties and political training organizations must rely on digital platforms to interact in new and creative ways. Conversations with more than a dozen Democratic and Republican state parties, digital organizers and training organizations reveal that Zoom training sessions, digital coffee meet-ups, and online volunteer onboarding have become essential tools in mobilizing voters. And while most of the groups that CBS News spoke with maintained that infrastructure was already in place to make the digital shift easier, there are still adjustments that have been made due to the pandemic.

"There's been a completely re-organization as to how you organize, but also how you go about doing the perfunctory business of running the state party," said South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson. "There's a portion of it that you anticipate doing as everything goes to a digital type of platform or campaign but I mean, the majority of this is a result of COVID-19."

"I wouldn't say the goals have changed, I would say the relevant topics have changed," said Ron Nehring, who has worked at the conservative Leadership Institute for five years. "We're still teaching political technology but we're teaching in subjects that we haven't had to cover before. We've never had to do a program on 'how do you keep your campaign alive during a pandemic."

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FROM THE CANDIDATES

JOE BIDEN

With travel halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, one element of campaigning for Joe Biden may be simpler than ever: fundraising. The presumptive Democratic nominee has held at least 20 big-money virtual fundraisers in the 42 days between March 20 and May 1, according to a tally by CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson. By the end of the week, he is scheduled to attend three more fundraising events. Read more here about what it's like to Zoom fundraise with Biden. 

As President Trump traveled to Arizona, Biden held no public events on Tuesday. He released another statement criticizing Mr. Trump's response to the pandemic: "President Trump will try to paper over his administration's failed response to the COVID-19 pandemic when he travels today to Arizona — but nothing can cover up how he failed to prepare our country for this pandemic and his slow response." Later Tuesday, Biden will attend a virtual fundraiser with Senator Amy Klobuchar. Erickson reported earlier that with the help of the Minnesota senator, Biden already raised $1.5 million, which appears to be the most raised at a fundraiser yet. The other recent highest grossing fundraisers were the LGBTQ+ event two weeks ago that brought in $1.1M million and last Friday's Obama-Biden alumni events that brought in $1M. 

PRESIDENT TRUMP

Mr. Trump traveled to the battleground state of Arizona on Tuesday to tour a Honeywell facility producing masks ahead of the state's economic reopening. CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga says Arizona remains on a statewide stay-at-home order.  The President wore protective glasses while on tour of an N95 face mask production line, but not a face mask.

Amid reports of a "winding down" of the White House coronavirus task force, Mr. Trump told reporters his administration is "looking at other phases" as the country begins to open up. The President later added, "Now we're different – sort of a combination of safety and reopening. So we'll have something in a different form." 

Also out west, California Trump Victory says they have reached over 1 million voter contacts since switching their operation to 100% virtual in mid-March, reports CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar. Last weekend, the campaign hosted a virtual National Weekend of Action and supporters participated in over 100 online Trump Victory Initiative training sessions. In California, the Trump campaign has also been helping Republican candidate for Congress Mike Garcia, who is running against Democrat Christy Smith in the 25th congressional district. That special election will be held next Tuesday but voters have been mailing in their ballots since April 13. "We are here to ensure Mike Garcia wins this May 12 and that President Trump and Republicans up and down the ballot win this November," said Trump Victory Spokesperson Samantha Zager.

Last night, Mr. Trump told the New York Post he believes Biden "owes" Senator Elizabeth Warren the position of Vice President. "I think Elizabeth Warren is responsible for Joe Biden's win because she didn't drop out and [Vermont Sen.] Bernie [Sanders] would have won every single state on Super Tuesday," Mr. Trump said. Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told CBSN anchor Reena Ninan on Tuesday that "Florida is not going to be an issue for the Trump campaign." In addition to projecting a win in Florida, Murtaugh added that the campaign hopes to "ad to the pile" in 2020. "States like New Hampshire, Minnesota, Nevada, and New Mexico are states that the President can actually scoop up and put in his column. We feel very strongly, very solidly about Florida," he said. "If you talk to Democrats who are being honest, they will agree that Florida is a Trump state."

Meanwhile Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday that there are "conversations about winding down the work" of the Coronavirus Task Force and a "Memorial Day window" is being looked at as a possible target. CBS News White House correspondent Ben Tracy reports Pence made the comments during an on-the-record conversation with 11 reporters in his ceremonial office inside the Executive Office Building, which lasted about an hour and included Dr. Deborah Birx and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Pence said the exact date of winding down the work of the task force that he's been leading since the outbreak will depend on "conditions on the ground." He added that the work of the task force will return to various agencies while keeping a focus on testing and filling the national stockpile. Pence and Birx mentioned Chicago and Des Moines as two cities of particular concern. "We are watching Chicago very carefully," Pence said. "It is top of mind," he added. The federal government is also sending crates of Personal Protective Equipment to 14,500 nursing homes across the country. The Vice President called them "care packages" that include gloves, masks, gowns, and goggles. As of now, 41 states have reopening plans that have been reviewed by the task force while nine other states are still working on their plans.

VEEPSTAKES

KAMALA HARRIS

Today the California Senator is joining Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, members of the House of Representatives and Chef José Andrés and World Central Kitchen in introducing the FEMA Empowering Essential Deliveries (FEED) Act. The bill would ensure the federal government pays all costs to states as they partner with restaurants and their food suppliers in providing food to vulnerable populations. These populations would include seniors and underprivileged children. The bill hopes to also support businesses and small farmers during the coronavirus pandemic, according to CBS News campaign reporter Tim Perry. "This legislation will help states feed people in need while supporting local restaurants and their suppliers. We need to ensure that states have maximum flexibility so that no one goes hungry during this pandemic." Harris said in a statement. The bill would waive the sections of the Stafford Act, which allows FEMA to cover the cost of emergency and disaster related expenses.  It would also ensure that the government pays 100% of the costs, instead of the normal 75% eliminating all state costs during the pandemic. Last week, another bill introduced by Harris, the Pandemic Disaster Assistance Act, was introduced in the House by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez. That bill would allow FEMA to provide financial assistance to individuals during a pandemic, as opposed to FEMA currently only being able to provide such assistance during a natural disaster. "By supporting both families in need and our struggling restaurants, small farms and their workers, the FEED Act is truly a win-win." Sen. Scott said in a statement. "This legislation will help our food producers and preparers partner with their states to feed families in need of a meal, and in turn ease some of the economic and personal anxiety they are all facing during this pandemic."

ELIZABETH WARREN

Mr. Trump's nominee to head oversight of a $500 billion COVID-19 recovery fund will investigate all potential conflicts of interest and cases of lobbying in Congress and the White House, he told Warren in a heated Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday. "I will investigate any situation that I consider an abuse of taxpayer funds," White House lawyer Brian Miller said. Warren, who pressed Miller repeatedly in the hearing, on Monday sent him an 11-page letter asking dozens of questions about his role in the White House, ability to serve as an independent watchdog, and beliefs on oversight, reports CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak. "Your time working as one of President Trump's impeachment attorneys should have disqualified you for being nominated to oversee the President's management of one of the largest corporate bailouts in American history," Warren said over video conference from her Washington apartment. Asked by Warren, Miller also said he hoped to make the results of investigations public unless they're turned over to the Justice Department. "My goal is to make all information public and to inform the taxpayer," he said. Despite their differences, Warren and Miller both said they would work together as long as the each did so in good faith. Warren publicly opposed Miller's nomination, but she said she is open to working with him. "If you stick to the commitments that you have made here and you are an aggressive watchdog, I am prepared to work with you." 

GRETCHEN WHITMER

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer weighed in on the Tara Reade allegations against Biden in an interview on NBC News. Whitmer said she has read about the current allegations against Biden and said that she believes Biden, who denies the allegation. "In this moment, I think under these circumstances and the conversations that I've had with the vice president, I am confident he is who he says he is and I believe him," Whitmer said in the interview. CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman says Whitmer also responded to a lawsuit filed by Congressman Paul Mitchell of Michigan, who in his individual capacity, argued that Whitmer's executive orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic violates the separation of powers. Whitmer said she will continue to listen to the experts on how to best address the coronavirus pandemic. "What we know is that COVID-19 does not respect party line or state line," Whitmer said. "That it is incumbent on all of us to do everything we can to save lives in this moment and to eschew all the partisan rhetoric that is out there, but listen not to pollsters, but to epidemiologists and health care professionals so that we are making the best-informed decisions based on data."

AD WARS

PAC ATTACK

An anti-Trump ad was trending online Tuesday, thanks in part to an overnight Twitter tirade by the president, CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice and campaign reporter Nicole Sganga report. The four-tweet rebuke targeted the The Lincoln Project, a political action committee launched last December by well-known political operatives including attorney George Conway, husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. The collection of dissenting and former Republicans aiming to upend the President's election released a minute-long advertisement titled "Mourning in America," an ominous spin on "Morning in America," the famous commercial spot and 1984 re-election mantra of President Ronald Reagan. Instead of touting American economic prosperity as Reagan's ad did more than 30 years ago,  "Mourning in America" focuses on the economic impact of the coronavirus. "There's mourning in America," the narrator of 1 minute long ad begins under an image of an empty street before listing the number of deaths due to COVID-19 and the number of people now unemployed. It accuses the president of "ignoring the virus" and having "bailed out Wall Street, but not Main Street." Mr. Trump attacked the PAC at length on Twitter shortly before 1 a.m., calling members "RINO Republicans," which stands for "Republican in name only." The president wrote in part "You see, these loser types don't care about 252 new Federal Judges, 2 great Supreme Court Justices, a rebuilt military, a protected 2nd Amendment, biggest EVER Tax & Regulation cuts, and much more." En route to Arizona on Tuesday morning, the president quipped the committee should be called "the Losers project," before turning his attention directly to George Conway. "Kellyanne must have done a big number on him," Mr. Trump wrote, referring to his White House counselor. 

According to Kantar/Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG), the Lincoln Project has spent just $115,000 in total on TV ads this cycle to date including in Wisconsin, Michigan and Washington, D.C. Its "Mourning in America" ad first aired on Fox News Monday morning. "The Lincoln Project video highlights the effects of President Trump's failure as a President and how he's left the nation weaker, sicker, and teetering on the verge of a new Great Depression," said The Lincoln Project co-founder and former New Hampshire Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Horn in a statement. "In a time of deep suffering and loss, Donald Trump continues with his failed leadership and his inability to put the country before himself. " 

DROP IT

A lawyer for WarnerMedia, CNN's parent company, has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Mr. Trump's reelection campaign over what it calls "false, misleading and deceptive" use of the network's programming in a nationwide television advertisement launched Sunday, CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga reports

The Trump ad titled "American comeback" touts the president's response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and features a discussion between CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and host of "The Situation Room" Wolf Blitzer, which aired on March 30.

Associate general counsel for WarnerMedia, Rick McMurty, authored the cease-and-desist letter, according to the network. During the CNN program, while Blitzer pressed Gupta about "stay-at-home orders," the Trump ad appears to reference to the resident's travel restrictions from China, while editing together interview footage. In the campaign's version, Blitzer asks, "Is it accurate that if these steps had not been put in place... it could've been 2 million people dead here in the United States?"  The ad jumps to Gupta, who responds with only, "yes."

In his letter to Trump campaign's communications director Tim Murtaugh, McMurty said the advertisement "purposely and deceptively edits the clip to imply that Mr. Blitzer and Dr. Gupta were crediting the President's travel ban policy issued in January for saving millions of American lives, when in fact Mr. Blitzer and Dr. Gupta were discussing recently implemented social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders issued by state and local governments," according to CNN. The attorney demanded in his letter that the campaign "discontinue airing the advertisement with the CNN clip that has been distorted in such a way as to mislead the public."

Murtaugh also said in a statement that the ad was accurate. "No discussion of efforts to prevent American deaths from the coronavirus can be had without the understanding that President Trump restricted travel from China in January," Murtaugh said. "Based on that alone, the ad is accurate." Gupta and Blitzer were not discussing the travel ban, however. "More importantly, CNN is once again the only outlet to reject a Trump campaign ad, and has now rejected multiple Trump ads that are demonstrably accurate. This is despite CNN's acceptance of a Democrat Super PAC ad that deceptively edited tape to make it appear that President Trump had called the virus a 'hoax' by electronically creating a sentence he never uttered," Murtaugh continued. "Now CNN is using its own rejection of this latest Trump ad to concoct a bogus news story in its continuing effort to campaign against President Trump." 

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE SENATE

The campaign of Senator Kelly Loeffler of Georgia debuted part of a $4 million ad campaign on TV on Tuesday morning, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson. The campaign has released three ads as a part of its buy. The ads are entitled "Georgia First," "Untrue," and "Strong," and they highlight the Senate's work to provide relief to citizens affected by coronavirus as well as her own personal contributions like using her private jet to fly Georgians home. Loeffler's campaign has spent the most in advertising reserves, almost $8 million, in that Senate race, according to data from Kantar/CMAG. Loeffler will face a number of challengers in the jungle primary in November. In the other Georgia Senate race, Democrat Jon Ossoff debuted an ad on Tuesday morning called "Calling You" featuring the support of Representative John Lewis. Ossoff is one of several Democratic candidates competing in the Democratic primary on June 9 to take on Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue in November.

GOVERNOR'S MANSION

HELP WANTED

Governors continue to watch the conversation in Congress over sending aid to state and local governments to curb any budget impacts from the pandemic, according to CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. In the New York Post interview, Mr. Trump called further aid "blue state" bailouts. "I think Congress is inclined to do a lot of things but I don't think they're inclined to do bailouts. A bailout is different than, you know, reimbursing for the plague," Mr. Trump said, taking a more concrete tone than in prior comments where he was more open to the idea. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was one of the first to coin the term "blue state bailout," and on Tuesday, he said there "isn't any particular sentiment among Senate Republicans for a vast new rescue package among state and local" before seeing how prior aid money pans out. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, announced $775 million in budget cuts on Tuesday, including reduced Medicaid and education spending. While he had the rainy day fund available to help balance the immediate budget, DeWine said "we are going to need the rainy day fund for next year, and possibly the next."

MONTANA

Montana Democratic gubernatorial candidate Whitney Williams was endorsed by Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, with less than a month to go until the state's primaries, reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. Clinton's endorsement came after Williams premiered an ad, focusing on her pro-choice stance and calling out Republican candidate Greg Gianforte and Mr. Trump for wanting to take away "our right to choose." Williams says in the ad, "I'll stop any law that comes between a woman and her doctor." Current Democrat Governor Steve Bullock has held the seat since January 2013, and Williams and Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney are vying for the Democratic nomination. Attorney General Tom Fox, State Senator Albert Olszewski and Gianforte, the 2016 Republican candidate, are aiming for the Republican nod, in hopes of potentially creating a GOP "Trifecta" if the state's legislative chambers can stay red. All candidates got the chance to debate this past weekend, and primary mail ballots start to go out this Friday. 

TEXAS

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has acknowledged that reopening the state "will lead to an increase" in COVID-19 cases, according to audio obtained by CBS News and first reported by Quorum Report.  In a private conference call with lawmakers, Abbott was asked "how do we know reopening businesses won't result in faster spread of more cases of COVID-19?" Abbott responded that the increase in cases is "almost ipso facto." "Listen, the fact of the matter is pretty much every scientific and medical report shows that whenever you have a reopening—whether you want to call it a reopening of businesses or of just a reopening of society—in the aftermath of something like this, it actually will lead to an increase and spread," he said, adding that the goal was not zero transmission but to rather use "strategies that can continue to contain the spread." CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro says Abbott's public comments had previously pushed the thought that an increase in testing would result in an increase in the number of people that test positive. "So just because there may be an increase in the number of people that test positive, that alone is not a decisive criteria," he said last week. In a statement, Texas Democrats blasted Abbott's comments and Texas Democrats Executive Director Manny Garcia said "Republicans are putting our families' lives at risk so their billionaire donors can get richer. What Texas Republicans say in public yet again doesn't match what they say in private... He knew people would die after reopening Texas and now he needs to own it." On Tuesday, Governor Abbott modified his stay-at-home order to allow salons, barber shops and tanning salons to open Friday, May 8, and not his previously slated May 18 date. He addressed the audio leak at the end of his presser, and said, "We know that as we begin reopening, there could be flare-ups… I want you to know, we are ready for that," adding that there will be "Surge Response Teams" to deal with surges.

STATE-BY-STATE

WISCONSIN

The fate of Wisconsin's "safer at home" order is in the hands of the state's Supreme Court, reports CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. The court heard arguments Tuesday in a case where the legislature challenged whether Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm acted lawfully in extending the stay home order until May 26. It keeps schools closed for the rest of the school year and puts restrictions on some businesses and public gatherings. "Isn't it the very definition of tyranny for one person to order people to be imprisoned for going to work, among other ordinarily lawful activities? Where does the Constitution say that's permissible?" Justice Rebecca Kelly said during the hearing. An attorney representing the Evers administration, Assistant Attorney General Colin Roth, defended the order, saying Wisconsin law gives DHS broad authority to take actions during a pandemic. If the court strikes down the order, the Evers administration would have to work with the GOP-controlled legislature on a replacement plan. The Legislature's attorneys have asked for the court to give them six days to work on a negotiated plan. Roth argued if the order is struck down and nothing is passed to replace it in time, people's lives would be at risk. "People will die if this order is enjoined with nothing to replace it," Roth said. "That is exactly why the legislature asked for a six day stay of any order. It understands that if safer at home is enjoined with nothing to replace it, and people pour out into the streets, that the disease will spread like wildfire. And we'll be back into a terrible situation of an out of control virus with no weapon to fight it." A separate challenge to the stay home order was filed Monday by two people arguing it violated their constitutional rights.

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