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2020 Daily Trail Markers: Ohio Democrats see opportunity on the horizon

Ohio Democrats see opportunity on the horizon for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, given the coronavirus pandemic that the Trump administration is still struggling to control and the economic fallout that has ensued. Ad money is flowing into the state's media markets, according to CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman and political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. The Trump campaign has reserved nearly $22 million on the airwaves since June 1 through Election Day, according to Kantar/CMAG, despite a spending freeze last week. And on Thursday, the president is planning an in-person visit to raise money in Cleveland and to tour a Whirlpool manufacturing plant in Clyde.

The Biden campaign has two ads running in the state, part of a seven-figure ad buy that will run through the Democratic convention. The ads, playing in the Toledo and Youngstown media markets, highlight the presumptive nominee's economic recovery plan. While prominent Democratic super PACS have held off advertising so far, Biden is boosted by anti-Trump Republican groups who have invested in the state.

Democrats are hoping to rebuild past stronghold coalitions -- including blue-collar workers -- boost city turnout and compete in the suburbs, with messages on the struggling economy and the shortcomings of the coronavirus response. The party knows it also needs to engage young voters and address systemic inequalities. But Republicans in the state are confident in Mr. Trump's appeal, claiming enthusiasm for him remains high in a state that he won by 8 points after Barack Obama carried the state twice. Recent polling suggests the race in Ohio is tightening. A recent CBS News Battleground Tracker poll showed the president with 46% support, compared to Biden's 45% support among likely Ohio voters. Read more on the battle for the Buckeye state from Turman and Ewall-Wice here.

FROM THE CANDIDATES

JOE BIDEN

According to Dr. Jill Biden, the decision is almost in place for who will join her husband Joe Biden on his Democratic presidential ticket, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. "Yup we're close - he's close, he's close!" Jill Biden told Fox News' Dana Perino this afternoon. Biden spoke about how their 43-year marriage has made them each other's closest counsel. She also spoke fondly about their relationship with the Obamas -- calling it a "beautiful relationship" -- a sign they are possibly looking for another take on that type of bond in their own White House. CBS News was told by sources with insight into the VP vetting process that one-on-one interviews are expected between Biden's top picks and the nominee. But this morning, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is 1/4th of Biden's vetting committee, said the interviews will take place "in this next week, week and a half" so that "Mr. Biden can spend some time with them." Sources told CBS News an announcement of the pick is expected next week. Also on Tuesday, Biden pledged if elected to build a new Smithsonian National American Latino Museum, which the House recently voted to establish.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP

Over the past month, President Trump has disparaged vote-by-mail 10 times on twitter. But today, Mr. Trump seemingly changed his tune after months of bashing the practice as ripe for potential fraud, CBS News reporters Kathryn Watson and Nicole Sganga report.

"Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True," Mr. Trump wrote in a tweet. "Florida's Voting system has been cleaned up (we defeated Democrats attempts at change), so in Florida I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail! #MAGA"

"Florida has a great Republican governor, and it had a great Republican governor - Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott. Two great governors,"Mr. Trump said Tuesday, later adding that he trusts the U.S. postal system there. "Florida is a very well-run state. Low taxes, low everything. They've done a great job."

But Florida is one of 35states permitting voters to request mail-in ballots without an excuse ahead of November's election. And eight states plus Washington D.C. will vote entirely by mail in this year's presidential contest.

The Sunshine State is also one of four states targeted in his re-election bid's new ad campaign. In the 2016 election, over 2.7 million registered voters in Florida -- 28.7% of the state's turnout -- cast their ballot by mail. Rubio, former 2016 presidential candidate, recently said he's "not concerned about mail-in voting in Florida" on a call sponsored by the Trump campaign.

Mr. Trump has railed against voting by mail in tweets and in press conferences in the last several months, insisting without evidence that such a practice opened the door for widespread fraud. Only days ago, the president tweeted the election will be "totally rigged" if mail-in voting is allowed. But legal experts and a database of election fraud cases compiled by the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, cite few instances of absentee voter fraud in battleground states.


VEEPSTAKES


SUSAN RICE

Susan Rice told "CBS This Morning" that she will not divulge the details of the vice presidential vetting process, but that she is "honored" to be among some of the women reportedly considered for the job. Asked on what her pitch is to be Biden's running mate, CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman says Rice mentioned her knowledge and her experience working in the executive branch. "I think what I would bring is almost 20 years of deep experience at the senior most ranks of the executive branch," Rice said. "Getting things done for the American people, wrestling with crises and dealing with the solutions we need." Rice also acknowledged that some critics may view the fact that she has not run for political office as a "weakness." But, Rice countered that she has advised multiple presidential campaigns. "In my judgment, I have had the opportunity to work at three presidential campaigns. I've campaigned on behalf of others just not on behalf of myself," Rice said. "But I do think this is going to be quite a different election given the pandemic and much of the interaction unfortunately with the American people will take place remotely."

ELIZABETH WARREN

Senator Elizabeth Warren is calling on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to investigate whether the Kodak Eastman stock trades ahead of the announcement the company would receive a massive federal government loan amount to insider trading. In a letter to SEC Chairman Jay Clayton dated Monday, CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak reports Warren pointed to a nearly 7-fold influx of trading volume in Kodak the day before the July 28 announcement that the company had secured a $765 million Defense Production Act (DPA) loan to produce pharmaceutical drugs. The trading surge came after Kodak shared with reporters that the that the announcement would come the following day, but then asked them to delete tweets reporting it, the Wall Street Journal reported. The company's executive chairman, James Continenza, and a board member also acquired shares the week prior. "There were several instances of unusual trading activity prior to the announcement, raising questions about whether one or more individuals may have engaged in insider trading or in the unauthorized disclosure of material, nonpublic information," Warren wrote. The Wall Street Journal since reported that the SEC had moved to investigate the situation. In response, Warren tweeted: "Good. If investors or @Kodak employees were trading based on the unauthorized disclosure or discussion of nonpublic information, then it would appear to be a clear violation of securities law. The SEC should hold them accountable." An SEC spokesperson declined to comment. A spokesperson for Kodak told CBS News, "The company intends to fully cooperate with any potential inquiries," and noted that Continenza's stock options had been approved by shareholders in May. Regarding the early release of the announcement about Kodak's DPA loan, an external spokesperson for Kodak maintained that it was unintentional, saying, "The Company's internal communications team did not intend for the news to be published by the outlet in question."

HORSE RACE

ANALYZE THIS

One of the Trump campaign's main attack lines portrays Biden as a puppet of the radical left and stokes fears of socialism. Is this messaging resonating with voters, and conversely, how extreme or moderate do voters think President Trump is? CBS News' Kabir Khanna says in political campaigns, opponents often try to portray each other as too extreme or out of touch with regular citizens.

CBS News took a look at registered voters in two battleground states that are critical for Trump's path to reelection: Georgia and North Carolina. In both states, 4 in 10 registered voters identify as conservative themselves, outnumbering both self-identified moderates (about three in 10) and liberals (about a quarter). A majority of Georgia voters -- 55% -- view Biden as liberal, while 24% call him moderate. Voters are twice as likely to say he's very liberal (36%) than somewhat liberal (19%); however, most in the former group are self-described conservatives and Trump voters, indicating they view Biden as out of step with their own views. Self-described moderates see the presumptive Democratic nominee quite differently: a 45% plurality call him moderate, with another 16% saying he's somewhat liberal and just 20% saying very liberal. In fact, moderates are even more likely to call Biden moderate than self-described liberals are. Among the latter, half call him liberal (31% somewhat and 19% very). Biden's numbers in North Carolina are very similar, including the differences by voters' own ideology. Conservative voters tend to call Biden very liberal, while moderates and liberals tend to put him somewhere between moderate and somewhat liberal. Beyond the Republican base, few voters see Biden as being on the far left at this point in the campaign.

If voters' views of Biden's ideology are mixed, their views of Mr. Trump are much more consistent. Again, the states tell a similar story, so let's focus on Georgia. Here, a 55% majority call Trump conservative -- identical to the percentage calling Biden liberal -- with similar numbers saying very conservative (30%) and somewhat conservative (25%). And it's conservative voters who are most likely to say Mr. Trump is conservative -- more so than both liberal and moderate voters, though most liberals agree. In Georgia, about four in ten White evangelicals call Mr. Trump very conservative, and so do four in ten liberals. So, unlike Biden, Mr. Trump elicits similar views from his base and the other side. The president's "moderate" number is only 13% in both Georgia and North Carolina, noticeably lower than Biden's number in each state. This stands in contrast to national polling four years ago that showed people tended to view Mr. Trump as more moderate than the Democratic candidate. Back then, Republicans were more likely to describe him as moderate than conservative. Nearly four years into Mr. Trump's presidency, many have changed their minds. However, there's another important difference between the candidates: Mr. Trump continues to defy labels for many voters. In both states, 22% say they're not sure which label applies to him or don't think in those terms -- about double the percentage saying so about Biden. This sentiment is most common among self-described moderates (31% in each state), who tend to hold a mix of liberal and conservative views and often don't fit neatly into ideological buckets themselves. Avoiding easy categorization worked in Mr. Trump's favor in 2016. Now he has the added advantage that many conservative voters now see him as ideologically akin to them. Nevertheless, if his goal is to convince swing voters that Biden is the extreme one, then the Trump campaign has its work cut out for them.


LISTEN UP


"THE DEBRIEF"

In this week's episode of "The Debrief with Major Garrett," CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett explores what this year's Republican and Democratic National Conventions will look like and showcases historic moments in conventions' past like Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the 1924 Democratic convention, Barack Obama at the 2004 Democratic convention, and Ronald Reagan at the 1976 GOP Convention. Unlike those events, this year's conventions will be much more scaled down. Instead of balloon drops, back slapping, and ladder climbing, the convention space will have social distancing, masks, and handwashing. "I would be lying if I didn't say that I would have preferred to have 50,000 visitors and $200 million in spending in my community because this is actually the first time in the history of the state of Wisconsin that we are hosting a major political party convention," Milwaukee's Mayor Tom Barrett said, adding "We've been dealt a different set of cards here, and so now it's going to be a much smaller convention."


STATE-BY-STATE


MICHIGAN

The Michigan Secretary of State's office had to send more than 50 election workers to communities around the state because some dropped out at the last minute or showed up late, reports CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. The Secretary of State's office sent more than 50 election workers to locations in Detroit and about 10 to Flint on Tuesday, according to Jake Rollow, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of State. A few workers each were also sent to locations in Jackson, Commerce, Lake County and Benzie County. Rollow said the election workers came from a database of 6,500 people that the Secretary of State's office recruited over the past few months in anticipation of some difficulties finding poll workers or people not showing up on Election Day. In Detroit, at least three locations opened late due to the issue with workers, including one polling site that opened about 2 hours after it was supposed to. One location opened late in Flint. "I would say this is in direct relation to the pandemic and in direct relation to the high number of AV (absentee voter) ballots," Rollow told reporters. "These are unprecedented times and they had folks drop out today. And, you know, we were prepared for that." More than 1.5 million Michigan voters returned absentee ballots as of 2:30 p.m. Tuesday of the more than 2 million ballots that had been requested. That's a record number of absentee ballot returns for any election. More people have returned absentee ballots in this election than have voted in any presidential year primary dating back to 1980. Election officials have said it could take at least a day or two to count all of the votes in Michigan, due to the surge in absentee voting. Michigan does not allow clerks to process absentee ballots until Election Day.


WISCONSIN

Wisconsin election officials are sounding the alarm about a shortage of poll workers one week out from the August primary, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. The Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) said in a press release on Tuesday that there is a shortage of 938 poll workers in 153 municipalities around Wisconsin. WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe said the commission is working with the Wisconsin National Guard to have members serve as poll workers in communities with severe shortages. Governor Tony Evers has not officially activated the National Guard to serve as poll workers. "We know and appreciate that the National Guard is working on our request, but there is no guarantee they will be able to provide all or even some the personnel clerks need," Wolfe said in the release. In April, more than 2,400 Wisconsin National Guard members were available to fill the shortage of poll workers around the state.

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