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2020 Daily Trail Markers: Democrats plan for smaller convention in Milwaukee

Joe Biden clinches Democratic nomination
Joe Biden clinches Democratic nomination 10:26

Democrats will be going to Milwaukee for a convention this summer, but it will be greatly scaled down in size, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster, CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson and CBS News political correspondent Ed O'Keefe. Convention delegates who would normally fill an arena to cheer on Joe Biden as he accepts the Democratic presidential nomination are being instructed not to make plans to travel to Milwaukee and are being told they should conduct their business remotely, the Democratic National Convention Committee said. Some members of those delegations are still expected to make the trip to Wisconsin, but the details of who and how many delegates from each state are yet to be determined. 

The event is also moving from the Fiserv Forum, home of the Milwaukee Bucks, to the Wisconsin Center, a convention center in downtown Milwaukee. The Democrats are planning for their convention to feature four nights of programming, starting on August 17, which will be anchored from Milwaukee. Each night will feature live broadcasts from Milwaukee along with "curated content" from Milwaukee and other satellite cities, locations and landmarks around the country that will be announced at a later date. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden intends to accept the Democratic nomination in Milwaukee. "This will be a convention for all Americans who wish to join our mission to win the battle for the soul of this nation and build a fairer, more united country for us all," Jen O'Malley Dillon, Biden's campaign manager, said in a statement Wednesday. The DNCC says all large-scale gatherings around the convention, such as welcome events and fundraisers, are canceled. The standing committees of the convention including the platform, credentials, and rules committees will conduct their business virtually. 

In April, Democrats decided to postpone the convention from July to August to allow for more time to make contingency plans if the coronavirus still prevented mass gatherings. The committee has hired two experts in epidemiology and infectious diseases to advise the party about public health.

FROM THE CANDIDATES

JOE BIDEN

Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign is building out its operation in the key battleground state of Wisconsin. On Wednesday, the Biden campaign announced it has hired four senior staffers for its operation in the state, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. Scott Spector, who managed Senator Tammy Baldwin's 2018 re-election campaign, will serve as senior adviser. Danielle Melfi, another Baldwin 2018 alum who was working for Governor Tony Evers' administration, will be the state director. Baldwin won re-election in 2018 by a 10-point margin. Garren Randolph, who worked for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and was Evers' political director, will serve as the deputy state director and Shirley Ellis, a longtime political aide to Rep. Gwen Moore, will be the strategic adviser for Milwaukee. 

The Biden campaign's Wisconsin headquarters will be in Milwaukee, a city that saw decreased turnout in 2016 compared to 2012. During a strategy briefing last month, the Biden campaign said it would have staffers physically in the battleground states in June and announced staff hirings in Arizona last week. The news comes as a new Marquette University Law School poll released on Wednesday shows Biden leading President Trump in the state 49% to 41% among registered voters. The previous two Marquette polls, in May and March, showed Biden up 3 points, and the two were tied in February.  

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP

Following months without an overseas guest, President Trump greeted Poland's nationalist president Andrzej Duda just four days before his visitor's own competitive re-election contest. The return to a normalcy, or at least, a normal schedule of events, coincides with the White House's push to reopen the American economy amid a second surge of new coronavirus cases nationwide, reports CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga

In a Rose Garden briefing alongside President Duda, Mr. Trump touted the country's "record on crime," as the GOP's police reform bill stalled in the Senate Tuesday, following Democrats' vote to block debate on the JUSTICE Act. After weeks of protests against racial injustice and police brutality, Mr. Trump doubled down on his support of law enforcement and singled out Chicago and Detroit for high rates of crime. 

"We have one city — or two cities in particular, worse than Honduras," the president interjected. "Worse than Afghanistan. Worse than Afghanistan. And these are cities within the United States." In the wake of Monday night's attempts to topple a statue of President Andrew Jackson — a slave owner who forcefully relocated thousands of Native Americans during his presidency – Mr. Trump said the White House would put forth a "very, very, very powerful" executive order protecting monuments and statues by the end of the week.

The president's re-election campaign is expanding its legal footprint, filing a defamation lawsuit against Democratic super PAC Priorities USA Action for their advertisement alleging the president called the coronavirus outbreak a "new hoax." In the 30-second spot featuring spliced audio from the president's February 28 rally in North Charleston, South Carolina, Trump says, "The coronavirus—this is their new hoax." 

In his speech, the president criticized the Democratic response and media coverage surrounding his administration's pandemic response, not the virus itself. "The American people should be able to trust in the accuracy of the content aired, especially in reference to their president," Jenna Ellis, senior legal adviser the Trump campaign wrote in a statement. Today's legal challenge builds on a previous defamation lawsuit against Wisconsin television station WJFW-NBC, which ran the advertisement after a cease-and-desist letter from the Trump campaign. "We stand by the facts in our ad that uses Trump's own words," Guy Cecil, Chairman of Priorities USA said in a statement. "We won't back down from holding Trump accountable for failing America."

AD WARS

PAC ATTACK

The pro-Biden Super PAC Unite the Country released three new ads highlighting the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee's economic accomplishments as the country faces new hardship stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice says the television and digital ads are part of a $10 million pre-convention campaign by the PAC and will target swing voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. 

The 30-second television spot titled "Through this Before" focuses on the recovery from the Great Recession. "Then-Vice President Joe Biden oversaw the 2009 Recovery Act," says the narrator in the ad that first aired Wednesday morning in Michigan. It goes on to tout 14 million jobs created, the auto industry rescued, and the longest sustained job growth in U.S. history. The ad says at the end, "He's done it before, he'll do it again." 

Another digital ad titled "Never Quit" features Biden speaking about his father, who would say, "Champ, when you get knocked down, get up." It goes on to Biden saying, "You never quit on America, and you deserve a president who will never quit on you." The other digital ad, called "Recovery," focuses on the "top five things you need to know" about the recovery in 2009 and Biden's role in it.  While other groups have gone negative on President Trump, Unite the Country takes a positive approach highlighting Biden's record and has been advocating for Biden since before the first primaries took place in October 2019.

Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee's latest ad "Played" aired for the first time in Washington, D.C., according to Kantar/CMAG tracking. In it, the narrator says, "Trump said he'd get tough on China." It goes on to claim "he didn't get tough, he got played" and that Mr. Trump lost the trade war. 

The DNC Wednesday will also be releasing a Pennsylvania-specific version of the ad which will highlight the impact of the president's trade policies on workers and farmers in the battleground state. It's part of a new push to highlight the President's record on trade and China nationally and in key states. The DNC says the ad will run in Pittsburgh as part of their six-figure campaign over five weeks to hold Mr. Trump accountable.

ISSUES THAT MATTER

ELECTION FRAUD CLAIMS

As election officials from both parties are scaling up their vote by mail operations ahead of November's election, the president and the attorney general are making unverified claims that foreign actors could tamper with those ballots, CBSN political reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns and CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster report

Election officials and experts say a complicated and detailed set of safeguards in place are expressly designed to detect and prevent such interference. "You would have to reproduce the entire election administration apparatus somewhere in the middle of Siberia," says Charles Stewart, the founding director of the Election Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  

Tina Barton, a Republican who serves as the clerk in Rochester Hills, Michigan, said her city's ballots are printed by one company, have a unique ballot number for each voter, include a barcode that can bring up a voter's record and are programmed to be compatible with the city's counting machines. Beyond those steps, the envelopes for mailing the ballot, the secrecy sleeve and ballot instructions are all standardized, making it even more difficult to mimic the mailing. Cases of fraud are very rare and have consequences. According to the Heritage Foundation's database of fraud cases, there have been only about 200 cases from absentee fraud in all states in their database with various penalties for perpetrators.

VOTE-BY-MAIL

Both state and national Republicans, including President Trump's campaign, are asking a federal court to intervene as defendants in the lawsuit brought by state and national Democrats challenging Arizona's policy of rejecting unsigned mail ballots without a "cure period."  Both Republicans and Democrats have boasted of swelling litigation budgets this year, waging court battles over election changes in several swing states, according to CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin.  

"This filing represents yet another instance where the Trump campaign is directly fighting to stop Democrat attempts to undermine election integrity and to protect the sanctity of the vote for citizens of Arizona and all Americans," Jenna Ellis, senior legal adviser to the president's campaign, said in a statement.  In neighboring Nevada, where a shift to an all-mail primary triggered legal fights from both sides of the aisle, Deputy Secretary of State Wayne Thorley said roughly half of the 12,366 mail ballots rejected statewide over signature issues – 5,617 ballots, or a little more than one percent of all votes – were "cured" by voters and counted.

POLLING THE ROOM

GOP VS. DEMS

An internal poll by the National Republican Congressional Committee in battleground districts showed that a generic Republican has a one-point advantage over a generic Democratic candidate. The poll, fielded among 1,014 swing voters, found that the top concern was the economy, with 23%. Followed by that is "corruption in Washington" at 20% and healthcare (a top issue that House Democrats are running on) at 11%. On the recent protests, CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro says the poll found that 51% of swing voters support the protests, though 59% do not support the movement of defunding police departments. About 10% of voters said the coronavirus was a top concern, and the poll found that eight out of 10 voters agreed China "deserves at least some of the blame" in the coronavirus outbreak.

RINGING ENDORSEMENTS

FARM TO VOTE

With the unanimous support of their elected member leadership, the executive board of the United Farm Workers voted Tuesday to formally endorse Joe Biden. The labor group had first backed California Sen. Kamala Harris in November, during the primaries, according to CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin.

While federal law excludes agricultural workers from the National Labor Relations Act, the union counts thousands among its supporters across some of the key swing states. Among them, the union says some 2,000 "farm workers and activists" are active with them in the battleground state of Arizona, where the union traces its earliest days: co-founder Cesar Chavez was born in the Arizona town of Yuma, a border community which today counts the highest concentration of agricultural workers of all metropolitan areas outside of California. 

In 2016, Donald Trump narrowly won Yuma County by one point. "Elections matter. There are 132 days before the next election. The UFW will spend every one of those days making sure people vote," Teresa Romero, president of the union, said Wednesday in a statement.

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE HOUSE

NEW YORK

It was a big night for minority progressive candidates in New York on Tuesday. Jamaal Bowman and Suraj Patel could topple two long-time House Democrat incumbents that chair committees. And in two open seats, Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones are set to make history and become the first LGBTQ black men to serve in Congress. 

"When you put these wins together with other wins, what you come up with is a requirement for the Democratic leadership to concede some of their power and to make significant and specific commitments to the new progressives. Why? Because if they want to win and need a turnout, they need to. They can't just rely on the same groups of people to win elections," New York political consultant Hank Sheinkopf told CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro

However, full results are still pending. According to a state mandate, absentee ballots will start being counted one week after election day. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this is a larger number than usual with about 1.92 million absentee ballots requested according to the State Board of Elections. Navarro has more on where things stand so far in the competitive primaries below:

NY-16 (North Bronx, parts of Westchester County): Jamaal Bowman is leading big against 31-year incumbent Eliot Engel, and his campaign claimed victory Wednesday morning. In a release, they pointed to the 62% to 35% lead Bowman has, and said it's a gap that "would be nearly impossible" for Engel to overcome. Engel's camp said Tuesday night they'd be waiting for the absentee ballot count before calling the race, and campaign manager Tom Watson said Wednesday "any declarative statement on the outcome"  is "premature and undermines the democratic process." Regardless, Bowman's showing is a strong sign for progressive groups like the Working Families Party and the Justice Democrats, who recruited and backed him. And if Bowman's lead holds after the absentee ballots are counted, Engel would be the second House Democrat to lose his or her primary this cycle (the first being Dan Lipinski in Illinois' 3rd district). 

NY-12 (East Manhattan, parts of Queens & Brooklyn): House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney is winning by less than 2 percent against Attorney Suraj Patel. In 2018, Maloney beat Patel by 20 points but this cycle, she's losing to him in Queens & Brooklyn and winning by less than 10 points in Manhattan. In an election night statement, Patel was confident the absentee count would bring him to victory. But one thing to watch is how many absentee ballots come out of the wealthier parts of Manhattan, as this could benefit Maloney, since many of these residents leaving town at the beginning of the pandemic. According to the city board of elections, there are at least 78,919 distributed absentee ballots in the Manhattan part of the district. Patel is currently down 648 votes. 

NY-15 (South Bronx) & NY-17 (Lower Hudson Valley, parts of Rockland and Westchester County): In Congressman Jose Serrano's open seat in the South Bronx, City Councilman Ritchie Torres is handily winning the Democratic primary. He is beating Ruben Diaz Sr., a controversial pastor that previously invited Trump to his church. Torres was endorsed by the New York Times and benefitted from outside interest in this race from groups like the Voter Protection Project. In the 17th, lawyer Mondaire Jones is leading by more than 20% in the race for Congresswoman Nita Lowey's old seat. With both of their districts being safely Democratic, Torres and Jones are poised to become the first two openly gay black men to serve in Congress. 

NY-27 (Between Buffalo & Rochester): Republican State Senator Chris Jacobs won both the primary and special election to fill Chris Collins' seat. Collins resigned and was sentenced for insider training earlier this year. Jacobs bested Democrat Nate McMurray, who lost narrowly to Collins in 2018. The AP called this race late Tuesday, though McMurray has been vocal about waiting for the absentee count first. He's down by more than 30 points. 

NORTH CAROLINA

24-year-old Republican Madison Cawthorn has won the Republican runoff in Mark Meadows' old North Carolina seat, beating Lynda Bennett. Bennett was backed by Trump and Meadows, and is friends with Meadow's wife, Debbie. Despite recently redrawn maps, the 11th District is expected to stay Republican, according to CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. If Cawthorn is elected, he would be 25 years old when he enters Congress and would be the youngest member of Congress. In a victory statement posted on Facebook Tuesday, Cawthorn said the election's outcome wasn't a rebuke of the president. 

"I want to make something clear: I support our great president," Cawthorn wrote. "I do not believe this election has been a referendum on the president's influence. The people of western North Carolina are wise and discerning. You observed both candidates and simply made the choice you believed is best for our district." 

IN THE SENATE

ARKANSAS

Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas launched an attack ad against Joe Biden on Wednesday, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson. The ad criticizes Biden for not speaking out against those who want to tear down statues and government buildings. Cotton's political action committee is running the ad digitally in Minnesota because Minnesota is where a police precinct was burned down in the wake of George Floyd's death. Cotton also launched an ad in March criticizing Biden as soft on China. Cotton is running for reelection in Arkansas, but he does not have a Democratic opponent, since the sole candidate withdrew after the filing deadline. Cotton is considered a potential Republican candidate for president in 2024.  

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