No matter what happens on debate night, one effort is for certain: fundraising. Both Joe Biden and President Trump sent out fundraising appeals ahead of their much-anticipated appearance in Ohio. While this is the first presidential debate of the general election, during the primary season, CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice reports presidential hopefuls used the debates to raise millions of dollars.
Since this morning, the Trump campaign has sent out at least a handful of fundraising emails mentioning the debate. "TONIGHT is the FIRST Presidential Debate, and to help us CRUSH our End-of-Quarter goal, I want TODAY to be our BEST fundraising day EVER," read one appeal. Biden's campaign also referenced the debate. "So before Joe hits the stage for the first debate tonight, before he takes on Donald Trump himself, let's show him we have his back," read an email to Biden supporters from President Obama. The Biden campaign also send out text appeals about raising funds before going "toe-to-toe" with the president. The debate comes just one day before the last day of the month, which is a major fundraising deadline for both candidates.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
In the run up to the first head-to-head presidential debate, CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga reports the Trump campaign has called dibs on YouTube's homepage, commandeering prime real estate atop the world's second largest search engine for a full 24 hours. Part of a 7-figure digital ad blitz, the Trump campaign will spotlight a 2-minute clip from a viral YouTube video testimonial praising the president on the site's own masthead. The new campaign ad, entitled "I See A Way Out," features Gary Lamb, a Black truck driver who credits the president with granting him a "second chance" after struggling with depression and financial hardship. The Trump campaign has secured YouTube's massive banner on over 20 occasions according to a campaign official, with plans to purchase the coveted ad space for a 72-hour run up to Election Day.
CBS News White House digital reporter Kathryn Watson reports that as protests and deadly violence have erupted in American cities, the president's campaign has sought to tap into powerful human emotions -- fear and anxiety. Pointing to the fires set in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the storefronts with smashed windows in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the shooting of police officers in Los Angeles and Louisville, Kentucky, Mr. Trump's message is clear, that it will not only continue, but will spread to the suburbs if he's not reelected. It's not a new strategy, but it's also no sure bet that what worked for Mr. Trump in 2016, when he was an outsider who had never held office, will work in 2020 when he's the incumbent. The president, who is struggling in the suburbs, particularly among women and college-educated voters, is pressing the argument that Biden can't keep them safe, even though the scenes on television are unfolding during his presidency.
Ahead of the first presidential debate, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden released his 2019 tax returns, a swipe after The New York Times report on Mr. Trump's taxes. The former vice president has now released 22 years of his tax returns during his campaign, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. Biden's tax records show he and former second lady Jill Biden continued to earn significantly more money than they earned at any time before the vice presidency. The couple's income for 2019 was $944,737 from book royalties, positions at colleges and other income. The two earned millions in 2017 and 2018 from book deals and speaking fees after leaving the White House. CBS News calculated the Bidens for the past three years have paid an effective federal tax rate between 30% to 33%. Ahead of the debate, the Biden campaign hit back at the Trump campaign for floating supposed debate planning details. Deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield on a pre-debate press call said it is "completely absurd," "pathetic" and "weak" for the Trump campaign to insinuate Biden may try to wear an ear piece during the debate. Bedingfield said Trump staffers are getting nervous the president will not have a good debate performance and are trying to distract from his record. For their part, the Biden campaign also accused the Trump campaign of requesting that debate moderator Chris Wallace refrain from mentioning the total of more than 200,000 Americans dead from coronavirus. "He doesn't have a plan for the crises facing our country so instead of focusing on the things that matter to the millions of people watching at home tonight, they're trying to get everyone to dangle a shiny object in front of the press," Bedingfield added. Senior adviser Symone Sanders also said on the call it is the moderator's job -- not Biden's -- to fact check the president if necessary. Expecting attacks on the Biden family, Sanders argued, "Frankly, voters don't want to hear President Trump rehash false attacks about Vice President Biden and his family."
BATTLEGROUNDS IN THE BATTLEGROUNDS
NORTH CAROLINA- *GRANVILLE COUNTY*
From an outsider's perspective, North Carolina may be synonymous with the burgeoning city of Charlotte -- the site of the official business of this year's Republican National Convention. For others, the state is synonymous with University of North Carolina Chapel Hill's Tar Heels. Whatever the affiliation, political scientists tell CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell that the impact of this election could be seen outside of the state's metro areas. Take Granville County. Just 40 or so miles outside of Wake county -- home to the capital city of Raleigh -- Granville County is one of 6 North Carolina counties that voted for Mr. Trump after having voted for President Obama in 2012. Having only seen about an 8.7% increase in population -- roughly 500 residents -- Granville has a population of about 60,000. And though the county's population isn't even a full percentage point of the state's 7.1 million registered voters, Meredith College political science professor David McLennan tells Mitchell that it's one of four bellwether counties that he suspects will determine how the state will play out. In 2016, Mr. Trump won the state of North Carolina by 3.66%, a gap that the Trump campaign is looking to expand in North Carolina. With eight visits to the state this year, the president has made five trips to the Tar Heel State in the past month and pro-Trump organizations are set to spend more than $4 million in the state before Election Day.
In Granville, the county's margin of victory in presidential races has continued to shrink since 2008. In 2016, Mr. Trump won Granville County with 682 votes, or 2.58%. However, eight years earlier, the county first elected President Obama with a 6.58% margin of victory. In neighboring Wake County, Kathy Martin is an independent voter who tends to lean Democratic but likes to leave her choices open. She said that Mr. Trump may have trouble winning over independents like her, and in Granville County, there were more than 85,000 unaffiliated voters who participated in the 2016 general election. "There's a lot of independents like me who might have voted for Trump last time, who are going to vote Biden this time because of what Trump has done, his political motivations, and the way he tears things up," she said.
For the Trump campaign, outside spending by Pro-Trump super PACs cannot come fast enough -- the president's re-election bid has been outspent by Biden 2-1 on TV advertisements in September alone, according to Kantar/CMAG data. "America First" PAC announced Tuesday it will invest $40 million more on a mix of television, digital and direct mail advertisements in the battleground states of Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Georgia in the remaining days before November 3, reports CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga. A new economic ad - "Day One" - begins airing in the Philadelphia market on Wednesday. But Team Trump's most loyal super PAC is not the only outside GOP group spending big this fall. A new Republican super PAC - "Preserve America" - has sprung up in recent weeks. Steered by Chris LaCivita, a veteran Republican strategist who devised the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth takedown of John Kerry in 2004, the outside group is poised to spend $80 million in September, providing a sorely needed boost to the presidential and Senate races amid the Trump campaign's cash crunch.
In the latest episode of "The Debrief with Major Garrett," CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett explores presidential power and its limits, uses and abuses. In interviews with legal experts, he asks, "Can the president do that?" The bounds of presidential power have been defined and redefined since the nation's founding. During his convention speech in 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump proclaimed, "Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it." Not Congress, nor the courts, nor the states or any other institution we vest with power. When Congress failed to act on immigration, President Obama's executive action created the DACA program for children brought to the United States illegally by their parents. Mr. Trump unilaterally redirected military funds to build a wall on the southern border, after congress declined to fund it.
"It's not even about Donald Trump personally in this moment," Kim Wehle, a professor of law at the University of Baltimore and a CBS News contributor, said. "It's about the job description of the presidency turning into something that can easily be abused, which is exactly what the framers were worried about, the psychology that is human to abuse power if you have too much of it."
Arizona Republican party chair Kelli Ward late Monday dismissed the news of Cindy McCain's growing role supporting Joe Biden, following the announcement that the widow of the late Arizona senator would be joining the former vice president's transition team as a member of its advisory board. "There is no blue wave in this state and we are firmly, firmly in the camp of conservative Republican values that President Trump embodies," Ward said Monday in a press call, touting "over 43,000 trained volunteers on the ground" in the battleground state. CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin says the former vice president's campaign has often touted its voter contact efforts in "traditionally Republican areas" in Arizona, showcasing a growing roster of "Arizona Republicans for Biden." As of last count, Republicans had edged out Democrats by nearly 100,000 registered voters in the state.
Michigan's previous two Secretaries of State filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday over a recent decision by a court of claims judge to extend the deadline for absentee ballots to be received, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. Republican state Senator Ruth Johnson and former Republican Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land are challenging the decision from a state judge that said absentee ballots should count if they arrive by November 17 as long as they are postmarked by November 2. Michigan normally requires absentee ballots to be turned in by 8:00pm local time (there's a slice of Michigan in the central time zone but polls always close at 8:00p local). "The Michigan Legislature has established a bright-line deadline of 8:00 p.m. on November 3, 2020 -- the Election Day Congress set by law -- for mail-in ballots to arrive at polling places. Ballots that fail to meet this deadline are not to be counted," the complaint says. According to the Michigan Secretary of State's office, a record 2.55 million Michiganders have requested absentee ballots for the general election. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has estimated more than 3 million people may vote absentee in Michigan. In 2018, voters amended the state constitution to allow for no-excuse absentee voting.
Local health authorities in northern Nevada say that the case disclosed by state health authorities this week among attendees "to a political rally," as reported by the Las Vegas Review Journal, has been determined not to be connected to the event. "It was determined during the case investigation that the individual, due to timing of symptom onset, did not get COVID-19 at the political rally so there is no connection between this case and a political rally," Jessica Rapp, public information officer for Carson City Health and Human Services, said in a statement Tuesday. CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin reports authorities in southern Nevada last week acknowledged a recent uptick in cases following the president's events throughout the state earlier this month in defiance of rules against large gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the agency also said it had not "identified a link to any specific gathering."
Mr. Trump pledged late last week to return "soon" to New Mexico, where his campaign has poured resources into a longshot bid to flip a state he lost by some eight points in 2016. Now a spokesperson for the state's Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, is warning the president against holding any events in violation of the state's caps on large gatherings, according to CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. "Gatherings of more than 10 people are currently prohibited in New Mexico and political events are not exempt. Should the president continue to display his reckless disregard for public health and safety by violating the state's public health order, the state will pursue consequences for him and his campaign," Nora Meyers Sackett, Lujan Grisham's press secretary, said Tuesday in an email. In his post, the president touted progress on barriers along New Mexico's southern border Mexico, 69 miles of which have so far been completed in the state according to a Customs and Border Patrol official. In some recent trips to neighboring Arizona, the president has repeatedly returned to mark progress in the wall's construction. Mr. Trump last visited New Mexico little more than a year ago, hosting a rally near Albuquerque.
The Ohio Secretary of State announced in a press release that the state's county boards of elections have received 2,000,489 absentee ballot applications as of September 25. At the same point during the 2016 election cycle, 957,260 absentee ballots were requested, according to CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman. While absentee ballots for military and overseas voters started being mailed out two weeks ago, other absentee ballots will begin to be mailed to voters who requested an absentee ballot on October 6. "Every voter choosing to cast their ballot from the comfort of their own home makes for an even smoother voting experience for those choosing to vote in-person on election day," LaRose said in a statement. "It's a win-win for everyone."
IN THE SENATE
UP FOR DEBATE
In a sort of pre-game to Tuesday's presidential debate, three battleground state hosted Senate debates on Monday where candidates sparred over the coronavirus response, the Supreme Court, and Mr. Trump's tax returns. CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson reports that in Iowa, Republican Senator Joni Ernst said in response to a question on the story on Mr. Trump's tax returns that the president should release his tax returns, but she questioned where The New York Times got access to the financial data. On the Supreme Court, Ernst said she is pro-life but does not believe the Supreme Court would overturn Roe vs. Wade. Her opponent, Democratic candidate Theresa Greenfield, told the moderators she opposed packing the Supreme Court, and Maine Democratic Senate candidate Sara Gideon did not endorse specific reforms but said the court should be less political. In Montana, Democratic Governor Steve Bullock has said the next president should nominate the next Supreme Court justice, and in the debate, he, like Gideon and Greenfield, reminded viewers that the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on the Affordable Care Act a week after the election. All three Republican senators touted their work in the Senate on passing the CARES act that provided needed relief to Americans suffering through the impacts of the coronavirus.
IN THE HOUSE
In an internal Democrat poll first shared with CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro, the race in North Carolina's 8th Congressional district is remaining steady for House candidates and shifting for the presidential. A July internal poll for this seat in central North Carolina showed Biden leading Mr. Trump by one point. A late September poll of 614 likely voters shows Trump leading by 3%. For the House toplines, Democrat challenger Pat Timmons-Goodson is still down two points to incumbent Republican Richard Hudson, though her campaign's poll did show her up 6% with swing voters and up in name identification. This seat was redrawn in 2019 to include more of the Democrat leaning Cumberland County. Congressman Hudson has held the seat since 2013, but when asked who voters would vote for if the race was held today, Hudson got 39% compared to Timmons-Goodson's 47%. About 13% were still undecided or refused to answer.
South Carolina's 1st Congressional district had their first debate Monday night, as freshman Democrat Joe Cunningham looks to retain his Lowcountry seat against Republican Nancy Mace. Navarro reports that for a good amount of the debate, Cunningham and Mace went back and forth over each other's vote attendance and record. Cunningham criticized Mace's missed votes as a state lawmaker, saying it shows how effective she'd be in Congress. "Now imagine this, you're at home, one of your employees calls in sick 30% of the time. Then they come to you and ask you for a promotion...that's how ridiculous this is," Cunningham said. Mace consistently brought up her role as a single mother to justify missed votes, as well as when she was diagnosed with COVID-19. "I think it's reprehensible and shameful that you would attack a single working mom for making the decision to be with her children," Mace responded. "I have to make some tough decisions... this is an unprecedented time for single parents." The two also debated climate change, a relevant topic for the district due to flooding in Charleston and off-shore drilling. When asked if she believes in climate change, Mace argued the science isn't "settled" and that scientists have changed their minds before. "Scientists once said the earth is flat. It is not," she said. Cunningham brought up the rising sea levels for Parris Island and its Marine Corps training site. "If you don't believe in climate change or you're a flat earther, then you probably love my opponent Representative Mace," he said. Mace repeatedly hit Cunningham on a vote he had on a bill that would affect funding to the area, and on Tuesday, she spoke at the boot camp. From the beginning of this cycle, this district was seen as one of the marquee opportunities for Republicans to flip, as Mr. Trump won the area by 12.7 points. On Tuesday, the Cook Political Report recently moved their rating for this race from "Toss Up" to "Lean Democrat," pointing to internal polls showing a tied presidential race.