2020 Daily Trail Markers: Trump takes aim at three states with Democratic governors
After saying Thursday to state governors that "you're gonna call your own shots" when it comes to reopening the country amid the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump took a different tone on Friday, reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. "LIBERATE MINNESOTA!" Mr. Trump tweeted, taking a similar format in tweets about Michigan and Virginia, bolstering the cause of protests in these states, all with Democratic governors, against their stay-at-home orders. Mr. Trump previously mentioned the protests in a Thursday call with the governors, and framed it as another reason to push for reopening the economy. "They want to get going with their lives. Because keeping closed is causing problems too. You've been seeing the same studies as I have, and you've been seeing the same news," he said on the call, according to audio obtained by CBS News.
The pressure to "LIBERATE" comes as many regional pacts and individual state governors are building up plans and timelines to modify or lift their "stay-at-home" restrictions. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz took one step in this direction Friday, and announced the reopening golf courses and expansion of outdoor recreation activities, albeit with social distancing requirements. When asked about the tweets and protests, Walz said he tried to call Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence about it, but got no return. "I called to ask, what are we doing differently about moving towards getting as many people back into the workforce without compromising the health of Minnesotans or the providers? And that will probably take longer than a two word Tweet, but I think there's responsibility to tell us that," he said at a press conference on Friday, "I'd like to know what they think we could have done differently." Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer was asked about Mr. Trump's tweet about liberating Michigan in a press briefing on Friday, reports CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman. She responded that "there's a lot of anxiety. I think, you know, the most important thing that anyone with a platform can do is to try to use that platform to tell people we're going to get through this. And we will re-engage our economy when it's safe."
In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, announced Friday that in the next week, state parks will be reopened, restrictions will be lifted on surgeries at medical facilities, and retailers can allow pickups. He also announced a "statewide strike force" to develop a path to reopen the economy, and set the date for additional announcements on April 27. National Democrats have prodded Mr. Trump on testing capabilities, and Texas Democrats took a similar approach in criticizing Abbott. "We want everybody to be able to go back to work, but we don't know whether they have coronavirus or not. We don't have enough testing. I doubt we have done 1% of the testing here in Houston, the best we can do is 500 people a day," state representative Senfronia Thompson said on a call.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
After days of both President Trump and his re-election campaign ridiculing Joe Biden as soft on China, Biden responded on Friday in a two-minute video, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. With ominous music edited underneath his remarks, Biden says the Trump administration stood by as the COVID-19 pandemic spread. "The uncomfortable truth is that this president left America exposed and vulnerable to this pandemic," Biden says. "He ignored the warnings of health experts and intelligence agencies, and put his trust in China's leaders instead." By getting rid of prediction tools and cutting CDC experts in China, Biden says America was left without accurate information. Biden said Mr. Trump "applauded" Chinese President XI Jinping's response "because he was more worried about protecting his trade deal with China than he was about the virus that had already come to America." Voters can likely expect more debate over China to come throughout the campaign as Biden on the trail was criticized for sometimes downplaying competition from China.
The Trump campaign is signaling a return to rallies, CBS News White House producer Sara Cook and campaign reporter Nicole Sganga report. "This coronavirus will pass and the president is looking forward to getting back out on the campaign trail and holding rallies. We will get back to those rallies. Never fear, the president is certain that we're going to be back out there speaking directly to the American people," Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told CBS News. Campaign surrogates have assured Mr. Trump's supporters of a return to rallies on digital livestreams that have replaced the president's signature physical, arena-sized gatherings. Describing the atmosphere inside "Make America Great Again" rallies, Donald Trump Jr. said last week, "It's absolutely awesome…I look forward to getting back and doing that when it makes sense to do it. Right now that's not the case."
Senator Elizabeth Warren continues to push for the next coronavirus relief package to require the government to collect and report demographic data about testing, treatment and fatality rates of the virus. "Generations of structural racism have left people of color more vulnerable to this virus. You can't fix what you can't see," she said on a call with reporters on Friday. "Without full information about whose being tested and the results of those tests, we cannot be sure that everyone is receiving appropriate care." Earlier this week, CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak says Warren introduced the Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure on COVID-19 Act, which has a sister bill in the House and would require reporting of coronavirus data by race, ethnicity, sex, age, socioeconomic status, disability status, and county.
LIFE AFTER 2020
On the campaign trail, Bernie Sanders would often roil the crowd by saying "We're taking on Donald Trump, we're taking on the Republican establishment, and we're taking on the Democratic establishment!" The line crescendoed with each beat,and as Sanders closed with the "Democratic establishment" his supporters roared louder than for any other foe. The opposition to the very party Sanders was vying to be the nominee of epitomized his revolutionary platform. But on Friday, CBS News campaign reporter Cara Korte reports the DNC sent a fundraising email to supporters Friday written by Sanders. It's no surprise that Sanders is following through on his promise to support the nominee, but it is something to see given Sanders' unabashed opposition to the party establishment. The subject line reads "I will do everything in my power to defeat Donald Trump this year. I need you to join me by making a donation to the Democratic Party today." The senator told CBS This Morning's Tony Dokoupil on Thursday that he had not yet decided if or how he would fundraise for Biden. The Friday email was a request for donations to the Democratic Unity Fund. One question still lingers: Will Sanders use his famous email list to reach out to supporters and ask them to donate to Biden?
It's been nearly two months since states first started grappling with the coronavirus outbreak that has permeated throughout the United States. In South Carolina, there are more than 3,000 positive cases of COVID-19 and more than 100 people have died from COVID-19. The small town of Irmo is located in Richland and Lexington Counties, which respectively have currently the highest and fourth-highest number of COVID-19 cases of any county in the state. CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that it's in this small town of 12,000 that a local Sleep Number factory is working to reinforce tens of thousands of surgical masks amid the pandemic. "Typically, improving lives for us is improving people's sleep," said Hunter Mottel, Sleep Number director of manufacturing at the Irmo facility. "We saw this and I saw the pandemic going on, and said you know this is — talking about improving lives — this is a different way now for improving the health and safety of our frontline health care workers." To complete the task, Sleep Number has partnered with Phenix Engineered Textiles, which provided elastic bands, and South Carolina Hospital Association member Prisma Health, which provided tens of thousands of surgical masks that had previously been held in long-term storage. "What we wanted to do was ensure with any type of pandemic stocks that we have the opportunity to provide our team members the safest PPE so they're always 100% protected, so they can care for these COVID patients," said Christopher Powell, Prisma Health Director of Engineering. "When the coalition...[was] offering to do this for us at a very, very economical price, we wanted to take advantage of ensuring the safety of the PPE."
Democrats filed a lawsuit on Thursday in Nevada demanding that the state amend plans for an all-mail primary election in June, according to CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. Democratic leaders, including the state's governor, had initially saluted Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske for moving to expand vote-by-mail in the upcoming contest. But without a number of changes, like mailing ballots to all registered voters instead of just "active" voters, the party now claims some voters will have to "choose between casting a ballot and safeguarding their health. Republicans have criticized some of the requests, decrying Democrats' demands to undo a "voter assistance ban" as "ballot harvesting" and increasing in-person voting amid the pandemic as "hypocrisy." The state party has accused Cegavske -- the lone Republican elected statewide in Nevada -- of turning the "right to vote into a partisan issue by invoking GOP talking points." In a statement, Wayne Thorley, head of elections under Cegavske, told CBS News, "The Secretary of State has not been served yet. We learned about the existence of the lawsuit from the media…The office has no comment on this pending litigation."
ISSUES THAT MATTER
Amid the coronavirus outbreak, there are new signs that Americans are losing confidence in the economy. CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice says Gallup reported Friday that its Economic Confidence Index dropped 54 points in March. That's the largest one-month change dating back to 1992. Just two months ago, economic confidence, according to Gallup, was at a 20-year high. While the decline has been shown across all parties, the steepest drop has been among Republicans who had been more positive in March. At the same time, despite the record short-term drop amid coronavirus concerns, Gallup noted that economic confidence is higher than it did during the Great Recession.
CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that during a press call on Friday, DNC chair Tom Perez joined California's Secretary of State and the state Democratic Party chairs for Colorado, Oregon and Washington in a conversation about vote-by-mail options ahead of the general election, which is just 200 days away. The Democratic leaders discussed vote-by-mail systems that have worked in their states and offered to help other states across the country replicate similar practices to maximize participation and ensure people have voting options amid the COVID-19 outbreak. "We cannot allow our democracy to be a casualty of this pandemic," said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. "What we saw play out in Wisconsin should serve as a warning — not a preview — of what we will see in November." DNC chair Tom Perez added that "this shouldn't be a right versus left issue, this is a right versus wrong issue … It is wrong to force people to put their own safety at risk to exercise their right to vote. It is right to ensure that people have options on how they vote."
The State Democratic Party leaders on the call outlined vote-by-mail success stories in their states pointing to data showing voter turnout increase, decreased voter administration costs and decreased in-person wait times. Others spoke on the importance of prepaid postage on ballots or ballot applications that are sent via mail and the impact of automatic registration for eligible voters. Perez insisted that before this pandemic, voter turnout was already increasing in various states and that even amid the public health crisis, voters are still energized. "The story of 2020 if we weren't in the midst of a global pandemic would be the story of lights-out turnout," said Perez, highlighting states like New Hampshire and South Carolina, where voter turnout in primary contests exceeded turnout in 2008. "People are energized across the country to make sure that this president is a one-term president and we are more united than ever."
Two super PACs are set to go head-to-head in an ad war featuring China amid the coronavirus outbreak. On Friday, CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice reports the Democratic Super PAC American Bridge announced it will begin the first wave of a $15 million campaign to counter the pro-Trump America First Action PAC. American Bridge's new ad features a clip of Mr. Trump praising China and addresses shipments of medical supplies there. The PAC said it will be the first in a series of efforts focused on the president and his children's record related to China. It will begin airing next week with an initial $2 million investment in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. According to American Bridge, it will match America First's current TV market buy for the next two weeks.
This comes on the same day as America First Action's ads slamming Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, started airing in battleground states. The ads feature some of Biden's comments about China while claiming he's been wrong about the country for 40 or more years. The ads also slam China over the coronavirus as well as U.S. job losses. The ads are part of the $10 million investment announced at the beginning of April in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. America First Action also has a separate previously announced $26 million investment in the works in North Carolina and Florida with ad reservation plans underway for Labor Day through the election.
Demand Justice, a progressive judicial advocacy group, is launching a six-figure ad buy centered around the Supreme Court's decision to curtail absentee voting in Wisconsin as it seeks to mobilize progressives around the importance of the high court ahead of the November election, CBSNews.com political reporter Melissa Quinn has learned. The $500,000-ad campaign, which will run online and on podcasts, features Jennifer Taff, a social worker from Wisconsin who voted in-person in the April 7 election. Wisconsin is the only state to hold in-person voting this month despite the coronavirus pandemic that has left nearly all Americans subject to mandatory stay-at-home orders. Taff was photographed waiting in line to cast her ballot holding a sign that read "This is ridiculous" and wearing a mask. "The Supreme Court made us go in the middle of a pandemic to exercise our right to vote. It was ridiculous," Taff says in the 30-second spot. "You have now proven to me that you will choose politics over the well-being, health and safety — the very lives — of people in Wisconsin." Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, said the ad campaign is the first of a "major investment" the group will make in the months ahead. "We believe 2020 is the year that the Supreme Court goes so far overboard with partisan rulings that it makes the future of the court a mobilizing issue for progressives," Fallon said in a statement. The Republican-appointed justices, he added, "have attacked voting rights before, but this time, they crossed a new line when they forced people to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote."
IN THE HOUSE
House Democrats facing competitive races this fall continued their cash haul with a combined $31.3 million raised in the first fundraising quarter of 2020. Of the 42 designated "Frontline" members, 36 raised at least $500,000. CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro says some races have been able to filter down their Republican challengers with primaries, causing some candidates like Wesley Hunt in Texas' 7th District to post personal record fundraising numbers. Despite this, all Frontline members outraised their Republican challengers, and more than 26 members have over $2 million in their war chest for the election year. The first quarter numbers also showed slight signs of the impact of coronavirus on fundraising. In the quarter prior, 36 Democrat "Frontline" members raised at least $1 million. This quarter so far, only seven have. In California's 25th district, where the special election for Katie Hill's former seat is less than a month away, both the Democrat and Republican candidates brought in at least $1 million. Democrat Christy Smith holds the cash on hand advantage by about $50,000.
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