In between campaign stops on Monday in Arizona, President Trump tore into the nation's leading infectious diseases expert and coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci. Mr. Trump said Fauci is a "very nice man" but "loves being on TV" and that he has "made a lot of bad calls," according to CBS News White House producer Sara Cook. Earlier in the day during an all-hands call with Trump campaign and Republican field staff, Mr. Trump said people have become tired of "Fauci and all these idiots" warning about the risks of. "People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots, these people, these people that have gotten it wrong," the president told his staff Monday during a call on the state-of-play of the race. "Fauci's a nice guy. He's been here for 500 years. He called every one of them wrong. And he's like this wonderful guy, a wonderful sage, telling us how he said, 'do not wear face masks' -- that's a number of months ago." CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga, producer Kristin Brown and CBS News digital White House reporter Kathryn Watson report Mr. Trump said if the White House had listened to Fauci, the U.S. would have "500,000 deaths." The president went on to declare, "We saved 2.2 million people. If we didn't do what we did, and close it and do just -- now we're opening it. But we'd never close it again. It would never close, it'll never close again. Because we know the disease," an apparent reference to his partial ban on travel to the U.S. from China early this year. Since the pandemic began, have tested positive for and more than 219,000 have died.
At the beginning of the outbreak, Fauci recommended against routinely wearing masks, but that was in part because he was concerned there would be a shortage of surgical masks for healthcare workers. A month later, he reversed course after scientists were finding that people without symptoms were a significant source of spread, and masks, even homemade ones, could help stop transmission. "It became clear that cloth coverings — ... and not necessarily a surgical mask or an N95 — cloth coverings, work. So, now there's no longer a shortage of masks," Fauci said in an interview with CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jonathan LaPook on "60 Minutes." He added that "meta-analysis studies show that, contrary to what we thought, masks really do work in preventing infection."
While Fauci has been consistently calling for the use of masks for months, the White House messaging on mask wearing has been less consistent. Mr. Trump and White House officials do not always wear masks, even at crowded events like Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination, which Fauci has called. He told LaPook that the president contracted coronavirus given his participation at crowded events where few people wore masks. The president also noted that he's holding big rallies, even as COVID-19 continues to ravage the country. "People are tired of COVID. I have the biggest rallies I've ever had, and we have COVID. People are saying, 'Whatever, just leave us alone.' They're tired of it," the president said.
In a radio interview with CBS News affiliate KNX, Fauci responded to Mr. Trump's recent criticism saying he didn't want to distract people with "me against the president" but added that he tries to ignore the criticism and focus on his job. Fauci acknowledged the public's fatigue with the pandemic but pledged that "this will end", according to CBS News radio correspondent and Washington executive editor Steve Dorsey.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was not on the campaign trail on Monday but released a statement saying in part, "Mr. President, you're right about one thing: the American people are tired. They're tired of your lies about this virus. They're tired of watching more Americans die and more people lose their jobs because you refuse to take this pandemic seriously. Now, more than ever, we need a leader to bring us together, put a plan in place, and beat this virus -- but you have proven yourself yet again to be incapable of doing that."
On Monday, the president also predicted he's going to win and seemed to suggest he has greater confidence now than he did two or three weeks ago, which was when he contracted the coronavirus and was subsequently hospitalized. "We're going to win. I wouldn't have said that three weeks ago," the president told campaign staff. "Three weeks ago, two weeks ago, I don't know, I wouldn't have said it. It was tougher for me. But when we're leading in Michigan in the early vote, that's unheard of." CBS News polling shows the president trailing former Vice President Joe Biden nationally, as well as in key swing states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien objected to the topics announced for the second and final presidential debate in a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates. Stepien said the topics stray away from the usual devotion of the final debate to foreign policy. He also protested the possibility that an "unnamed" person might have the power to cut the mics, something under discussion after Mr. Trump frequently interrupted Biden in the first debate. "As is long standing custom, and as had been promised by the Commission on Presidential Debates, we had expected that foreign policy would be the central focus of the October 22 debate," Stepien said in the letter. "We urge you to recalibrate the topics and return to subjects which had already been confirmed." According to the commission, moderator NBC News' Kristen Welker has chosen the following topics for the upcoming debate: fighting COVID-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership. In a statement, the Biden campaign said in a statement to CBS News that the Trump camp is "lying about that now because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous COVID response. As usual, the president is more concerned with the rules of a debate than he is getting a nation in crisis the help it needs."
Vice President Mike Pence held a Make America Great Again rally in Pennsylvania on Monday. It was Pence's second visit in three days to that state and he plans to return this Friday. CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar reports that Vice President Pence will focus on Midwestern battleground states and ramp up his travel schedule in the final two weeks. Pence's chief of staff Marc Short told reporters Monday morning that the VP will maintain an "aggressive" travel schedule with five to six days on the road and two to three rallies each day. "Voters saw in 2016 when the President and Vice President were traveling all over the country and working really hard and I think voters can appreciate the energy and excitement that they brought to the trail," Short said. "So that's what we're going to be doing again these last couple of weeks," he added. Pence, who held a rally in Maine on Monday morning before dashing to Pennsylvania, will travel to New Hampshire, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Florida the rest of the week. Short said Pence's closing argument will focus on trade, economy, and the confirmation hearings of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Pence previewed that closing argument in Maine on Monday, where his attacks on Biden focused heavily on contrasting economic policies. "You gotta ask yourself, you gotta ask your neighbors and friends, who do you think is going to bring this economy back and then some?" Pence said. He went on to describe Biden as a career politician who supported a policy of "economic surrender" to China while framing Trump as a "proven job creator." Pence said, "It's a choice between a Trump recovery and Biden depression." He added, "There's a booming recovery that's already begun," he added. Pence also attacked Biden on court packing and claimed the Democratic ticket wants to pack the courts with liberal activist judges. While talking about the Administration's success in confirming more than 200 judges to the federal bench, Pence said "Donald Trump and I are not gonna let big tech block the truth, we aren't going to let big tech censor what Americans read or see or say in this election or ever." Pence said for three years Democrats have throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Trump, but he was fought back every day. He urged supporters to go fight for Trump now by encouraging them to vote. Pence was in Maine partly because the campaign believes it can win the second congressional district and earn one of Maine's four electoral votes. "Congressional district number two, as you know, there's a couple of different scenarios where that individual elector vote could become important," Short told reporters.
Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris returned to the campaign trail Monday, her first venture back on the road since a member of her campaign staff tested positive for COVID-19 on October 14. CBS News campaign reporter Tim Perry reports that Harris campaigned in Florida as the state begins early voting Monday and began her day in Orlando at an early vote launch drive- in rally. Harris appeared energized while speaking to the crowd of supporters, many of whom watched her speak from the insides of their cars. The crowd erupted in cheers and honked their car horns when Harris said, "We know we need a change, and a change is coming!" During her remarks Harris spoke about the Trump administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Harris claimed that the president "lied to the American people," about the deadliness of the virus and failed to disclose as soon as he knew that the virus was airborne. She also previewed this week's upcoming debate between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden saying, "As, per usual, you can rely on Donald Trump to engage distortions and basically lie to the American people. So let's be clear about this: Joe Biden will not increase taxes on anyone who makes less than $400,000 a year, period."
BATTLEGROUNDS IN THE BATTLEGROUNDS
ARIZONA - *SENIORS*
Home to some of America's biggest and longest-running retirement communities in the Phoenix area, there are few other battleground states where seniors could play a larger role in determining the outcome of 2020 than in Arizona, according to CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. In 2016, exit polls reported one-in-four voters in the battleground state were 65 and over, the biggest share of all the states now considered toss-ups this year. This year, early voting data analyzed by Arizona data firm OH Predictive Insights ranks 65 and older voters as by far the largest return rate of all age groups in Maricopa County since early voting kicked off in Arizona nearly two weeks ago. Precincts spanning "active retired adult" neighborhoods of the county have long voted Republican by wide margins. These older voters broke in the president's favor by double digits four years ago, supporting then-candidate Trump 55% to Hillary Clinton's 42% in exit polls. Now a CBS News Battleground Tracker released Sunday shows Joe Biden trailing President Trump by just 6 points among these Arizona voters, far narrower than his double digit lead in our Battleground Tracker one month ago of the state. For months polls have shown the president both leading and losing among older voters in Arizona, even over just the past week. But our Battleground Tracker showed 0% of Arizona voters over 65 said they might or probably would change their vote, setting up a battle for turnout in these final weeks of the election among this coveted demographic.
BIDEN V. TRUMP
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien announced Monday in a call with reporters that the campaign and Republican National Committee will be spending a combined $55 million in paid advertising in the final two weeks of the race. RNC-created TV ads messaging senior citizens in statewide markets will be launched across Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin. But the Biden campaign last month grossly out-fundraised the president's reelection bid, raking in $383 million to the Republicans' $248 million, according to CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga. "Joe Biden is putting it all on TV," Stepien said on a call with reporters, Thursday. "That's his choice, that's his strategy." He later added, "We have lots of TV ads in the president's favor. But in addition to that, we're actually running a real campaign, a national campaign - a campaign with voter contacts, a campaign with events, a campaign with surrogates, a campaign with voter registration drives. We like our plan better." And while Trump campaign operatives concede the president is largely defending the 2016 map, Sganga reports that aides also aim to flip Minnesota and Nevada. "Minnesota hasn't been won [by Republicans] since 1972. But we're getting good numbers. We'll give it a shot," Mr. Trump declared to his campaign staff on a conference call on Thursday. "You know, we're gonna give it a shot. I think we have a real chance," Stepien told staffers on the same call, "If election were held today, the President would win Nevada," Stepien told staffers on the same call. Campaign operatives say they're targeting blue collar workers in the state, second amendment voters and Hispanic men, particularly around the Reno market. CBS News' Elections Unit rates both Minnesota and Nevada as "lean Democrat" states.
Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, a Democrat and frequent Biden campaign surrogate, pleaded with the Trump campaign in a letter late last week to do "everything in its capability to ensure that our local ordinances are respected and followed during your event" and reminding the president that his campaign has "$80,000 in outstanding expenses owed to the city from a 2016 rally," reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. Mr. Trump's planned visit to Arizona earlier this month was upended after he contracted COVID-19. Local authorities said before that trip that "constitutionally protected activities" are exempted from COVID-19 restrictions in the battleground state under Arizona's health order.
Monday is the last day to register to vote online or by mail in California, reports CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar. After Monday, voters in the state can still register but have to do so at an in-person voting location. California also offers same-day registration, so voters can still register and vote on Election Day if they visit a voting center or county elections office. Nearly 85% of all eligible voters in California were registered to vote as of early September. That's the highest percentage of voters in the state registered for a general election in 68 years. More than 21 million have signed up to vote and as of Monday morning and more than 3.7 million have already returned their vote-by-mail ballots, according to the secretary of state's office.
CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that on the first day of early voting in Florida, poll watchers say long lines at one early voting site in Leon County is an indicator that people want to ensure their votes are counted. The capital city, Tallahassee, is the county seat of Leon County, where 31,857 voters have already voted by mail. Neil Mooney, an attorney in Tallahassee, said he decided to vote on the first day of early voting in the state to ensure his vote was counted. "I could have voted by mail because I had a ballot but I decided not to because I was concerned about it being rejected, mainly matching signatures and things like that," said Mooney. "So I thought I should just come in person and see it counted which I did do, I saw it counted." Lesa Crosby-Harley, a retired seasoned poll worker, said that because she normally helps manage polls, this year is the first time she's been able to vote in person in 25 years. "It feels strange really because I feel like I should be working, but it's a privilege. It's an honor. I don't take it lightly," said Crosby-Harley. "It's something that people died for, some people don't have rights and I thank God that I do have rights, and I do want my voice heard, and I want to make sure that my ballot is counted." CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez reported on "CBS This Morning" that in North Miami, voters stood in line for hours in unpleasant weather to cast their ballots Monday morning. A spokesperson for the Florida Department of State said that county supervisors of elections provide vote-by-mail and early voting activity report files to the Florida Division of Elections once a day reflecting activity up through the previous day and that early voting estimates aren't available from their office at this time.
Iowa state auditor Rob Sand, a Democrat, issued a report with the Treasury Department's Inspector General on Monday that advised Republican Governor Kim Reynolds that she misused millions of dollars of CARES Act money, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. The report said Reynolds' decision to use "millions of CARES Act dollars to help implement a new software system for state government was not an allowable use of the funds. They directed her to return those dollars to the Coronavirus Relief Fund, and then redeploy them for allowable uses." This deals with the decision to spend $21 million on Workday, an HR/accounting computer system. Sand said that the expenditures were not "due to the public health emergency" since Iowa signed the contract in 2019, "prior to the emergence of COVID-19." According to the report, Reynolds' office has justified the expense by saying, "with Workday, the State of Iowa will be able to act quickly to assist essential government employees, giving them flexibility in a number of ways, such as requesting COVID-related hardship help, easier ways to request Family and Medical Leave Act leave types, and automate processes for donating leave, and borrowing leave." Sand also advised that it was "questionable" to use CARES Act money for her personal staff and could lead to repayments being required. This covered $448,449 worth of payments. The report said that salaries can qualify for funding "only when certain conditions are met" and "the work the governor's staff are doing that is directly related to the pandemic must be tracked separately from their ordinary work, and supported with appropriate documentation." CBS News has reached out to Reynolds' office for a response.
Counties in Nevada kicked off counting votes on Monday, with nearly half of mail ballots already returned by both Democrats and Republicans in the state and a rush of early in-person voting drawing long lines at some polling locations in the battleground state over the weekend, according to CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. Nevada is among the states counting ballots earlier this year, a move that could mitigate delays in reporting results on Election Night. Neighboring Arizona allows counties to begin counting ballots Tuesday, where a CBS News Battleground Tracker poll the vast majority of Biden's supporters have already voted by mail. "Early voting is underway. So get out and vote," Mr. Trump urged supporters in Northern Nevada on Sunday, rallying in the state's capital Carson City. "And they're getting a little worried because certain areas, we know we're going to have a big red wave."
In a video clip posted by NBC affiliate WRAL of North Carolina Democratic Governor Roy Cooper greeting Biden during his visit to North Carolina Sunday, Cooper is heard telling the Democratic presidential candidate that he believes Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham will "get across the line" despite recent revelations of Cunningham having an extramarital affair. "And I think we're going to all get across the line," Cooper said to Biden in the clip. "I think Cal's going to get across the line too. I know that's frustrating but we'll get it, we'll get it across." CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell and political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson earlier this month that the North Carolina Senate race had been upended in part because Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham admitted to exchanging sexually suggestive texts with a political strategists that is not his wife. CBS News reached out to Governor Roy Cooper's campaign for a response to the revelation of his remarks to Biden on Sunday. In a statement Monday, North Carolina Republican Party press secretary Tim Wigginton said Cunningham's scandal reflects negatively on Democrats in the battleground state. "Cal Cunningham's sex scandal is dragging down Democrats statewide and it's no wonder that Roy Cooper called Cunningham's misconduct 'frustrating' and that Biden wasn't campaigning with him," said Wigginton in a statement. "Members of Cunningham's own party are distancing themselves from him because they know his affair has exposed his campaign as one big lie."
A 5th Circuit Court of Appeals panel on Monday reinstated Texas' laws for when voters have to be notified that their ballot is rejected due to a mismatched signature, reports CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. Texas law requires voters to be notified that their absentee ballot was rejected because of a signature mismatch within 10 days after an election and the law does not require giving voters a chance to challenge the rejection. A district court judge issued an injunction last month, saying Texas couldn't discard ballots because of mismatching signatures unless there was a faster timeline for notifying voters about that rejection. Monday's decision from the 5th Circuit puts a hold on that decision from the lower court. "In a well-intentioned but sweeping order issued less than two months before the election, however, the district court minimizes Texas' interest in preserving the integrity of its elections and takes it upon itself to rewrite the Legislature's mail-in ballot signature-verification and voter-notification procedures," Judge Jerry Smith wrote. "Because Texas's strong interest in safeguarding the integrity of its elections from voter fraud far outweighs any burden the state's voting procedures place on the right to vote, we stay the injunction pending appeal."
Officials in Outagamie County, Wisconsin, in the northeastern part of the state, are warning that an issue with ballots could delay how long it takes to count votes, reports CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. In a letter to the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC), Outagamie County's Deputy Corporation Counsel said machines have failed to record votes on affected ballots due to an issue on the ballots' margins. There is not an issue with any of the candidates on the ballots, but a mark near the edge of the ballot is causing the error. The issue was not discovered when officials initially tested ballots and only arose after ballots were distributed for absentee voting. Officials believe there are at least 5,500 ballots affected by this issue and "likely many more." Ballots are being replaced before early in-person voting starts tomorrow. The letter warns that if election officials have to duplicate the affected ballot, they may not be able to count all affected ballots by 4:00pm the day after the election. Officials asked the Wisconsin Elections Commission to extend the deadline for local clerks to report results to county clerks and to hand count "only the rejectable absentee ballots rather than duplicating the ballots," unless a county believes that that would be more efficient. The WEC meets Tuesday and will discuss the issue.
IN THE HOUSE
The suburban shift away from Mr. Trump is showing in internal Democrat polls released Monday, while notable Republican challengers are beginning to close their own gaps reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. A New York Times/Siena College poll from October 15 showed Mr. Trump up 8 points in the state overall. In Houston, an internal poll for Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni shows him leading Republican Troy Nehls by 5 points for the open race in Texas' 22nd district. It also has Biden leading Mr. Trump by 9 points in a district the president won by 8 points. Another dramatic swing is shown in an internal Democrat poll for Minnesota's 2nd district, which includes suburbs of the Twin Cities. The internal poll shows a 16 point lead for Biden in a seat Mr. Trump won by 1 point. The poll was mainly conducted to gauge how voters feel about a postponed special election due to the death of Legal Marijuana Now candidate Adam Weeks. State law requires a special election to be called after the death of a major party candidate, but a federal judge ruled in October against a special election (set in February) and that votes should be counted on November 3. The ruling has been appealed. The poll found that while very few (14%) have been keeping up with the legal challenges, when asked, 72% preferred to have the election results in November count rather than have a special election. The poll also finds Democratic incumbent Angie Craig leading by 18 points against Republican challenger Tyler Kistner for a seat she flipped the seat by 5 points in 2018.
In South Carolina's 1st district, Republican Nancy Mace is shown up 2 points in a poll conducted by her campaign. It also shows Mr. Trump leading Biden by 3 points in the Charleston-area district he won by 13 points in 2016. Lastly, an independent Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll shows Utah's 4th district race at a virtual tie, with Republican Burgess Owens leading Congressman Ben McAdams 46% to 45%. In September, the same pollster had McAdams up 4 but the latest fundraising quarter did have Owens out raising the incumbent and with more cash on hand.