With just over 20 days to go until the election, Joe Biden and President Donald Trump are revving up the number of ads airing on TV. Biden continues to outspend the president on ads according to the latest tracking by Kantar/CMAG, a trend that has been playing out since the end of July with the former vice president outspending the president in some cases two to one on TV ads over the past few weeks.
CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice reports President Trump is currently spending more than $17 million on TV ads in 11 states this week. At the same time, Joe Biden is currently spending more than $24 million in 16 states. Just yesterday, Kantar/CMAG tracking also showed the Trump campaign cut more than $10M in TV ad reservations in 9 states while adding some spending in just 3 states.
Biden's ads have been focused on his plans regarding the economy and combatting COVID-19. On Tuesday a new ad aired taking aim at the president, directly mentioning his testing positive for COVID-19.
"He was warned but ignored the evidence, holding rallies indoors, turning the White House into a super spreader and contracting the virus himself," says the narrator. "Now he claims he's learned about COVID-19...But he hasn't learned a thing," it continues. At the same time, President Trump is also now running an ad on coronavirus and how he's recovering. It aired for the first time Saturday, the same day he had his White House event. In the ad he says they will live "carefully."
This past week, the Biden campaign has also started airing ads featuring Samuel L. Jackson and Cindy McCain while both Biden and Mr. Trump are taking aim at each other over Medicare and Social Security, a clear play toward seniors. Both candidates have also touted criminal justice plans. The president's latest ads have continued to include warnings about law and order and the "radical left's" plans. Images of Sen. Bernie Sanders have appeared numerous times in ads taking aim at Biden. In the president's latest TV ad to air Tuesday for the first time according to tracking, the My Pillow guy and Trump supporter Mike Lindell holds a roundtable with voters of "both parties" where they take aim at Biden.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
Tonight, President Trump heads to Johnstown, PA where he is expected to deliver remarks targeting democratic opponent Joe Biden during an airport hangar rally -- his second since contracting COVID-19, reports CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga.
According to released excerpts from the campaign, President Trump is expected to say, "For half a century, Biden twisted his blade into the heart of American Workers. He should not be asking for your votes, he should be begging for your forgiveness." The incendiary remark follows a call for civility today from Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney, who condemned the "vile" and "vituperative" nature of American politics, blaming President Donald Trump in large part. Mr. Trump will also call Joe Biden a "servant of the radical globalists, wealthy donors, and special interests," who shipped away American jobs, according to his prepared remarks. Under 8 years of the Obama administration, the economy gained a net 11.6 million jobs. Average weekly earnings for all workers were increased by 4.2% accounting for inflation. The President, campaigning for the second day in a row in a battleground state, will also attack Biden for his stance on fracking, law enforcement, and climate change.
CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak reports that Cambria County, where Johnstown is, was once reliably Democratic, but has gone to a Republican presidential candidate in three of the last four elections.
In 2016, Mr. Trump grew the Republican lead there from 18 to 27 points. It's surrounded on all sides by now reliably Republican counties, each of which Trump won in 2016 with at least 65% of the vote. Over 5,000 showed up for the Johnstown event, according to a Fire Department estimate. The majority of audience members were not wearing masks, and attendees with whom CBS spoke overwhelmingly said they had no concerns about catching the virus at this close-quarters outdoor event where the campaign administered temperature checks at the entrance.
"I take precautions if I'm in a crowded place indoors. But [today], the air's going to blow everything away," said Kathy Nagle of nearby Blair County. "I view it this way: If God wants me to get it, I'm going to get it," said Edward Young, who travelled to the event, his 41st Trump rally, from Brick, NJ. Young, who voted for Obama twice before Trump, said he sees Trump as a "superhero," and that the president's COVID recovery cemented that status. "The great plague that has leveled our country, a 74-year-old man gets over it in four days and now he's doing just fine," he said. "He's back doing rallies. It's like what Nietzsche said. That which does not destroy him makes him stronger."
Earlier today, the Trump campaign announced that Vice President Pence will return to Florida on Thursday after he held an event there on Saturday.
Meanwhile, President Trump is also going to make a return trip to the Sunshine State on Friday after having campaigned there yesterday. That's four trips from the Republican ticket to Florida in less than a week, according to CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar.
Pence campaigned in Wisconsin on Tuesday where he touted the Trump administration's record on trade. Pence said he was in the room when President Trump negotiated the US-Mexico-Canada trade deal and claimed that the USMCA is a much better deal for Wisconsin workers. Pence also attacked Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on other topics like law enforcement, climate change, and abortion.
"If you cherish faith and freedom and law and order and life, three weeks from today you need to do everything in your power to work, to voice, to vote to reelect President Trump for four more years," Pence said in Wisconsin.
Pence said Biden and Harris don't want to answer the question on court packing because they want to add liberal judges to the court. "We might have been born in the morning but we weren't born yesterday morning," Pence said. "I mean, the only explanation about why they aren't answering the question is because Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are planning to pack the court with liberal judges if they win this election, but we're not gonna let it happen," Pence added.
Last night during a local interview with WKRC in Cincinnati, Biden did say he's "not a fan of court packing." The Trump campaign also launched a new TV ad today to highlight the President's achievements for American seniors. The ad is part of this week's 8-figure buy and will run on national cable and specific local markets in Wisconsin, Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, Maine, Minnesota and Nevada.
President Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. is set to return Wednesday to Arizona and Nevada, the latest Trump campaign surrogate to stump through the two states rallying the president's supporters.
"My only disappointment is not being able to stay longer. But my father has me working quite hard these days," President Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump said Monday, capping her own swing through the two Western states with an outdoor event in Southern Nevada, says CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin.
President Trump himself had been scheduled to headline Arizona rallies in Tucson and Flagstaff in early October, before the events were cancelled over his COVID-19 diagnosis. His campaign has not announced any new visits to the battleground state as he returns to the campaign trail, though the president did phone in over the weekend to Arizona to rally supporters in a "tele-rally."
Former Vice President Biden appeared at a drive-in event in Miramar, Florida Tuesday evening which is part of Broward County, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice.
Because this was a drive-in event, instead of applause, viewers got to hear car horns where pauses were taken for applause. Biden had a lot of energy as he walked up without a mask (the podium was wiped down), but he did put a mask right back on after his remarks.
During a fired-up speech, the former vice president was practically shouting at times. Biden continued to slam Trump for his coronavirus response and downplaying the virus saying "the American people do not panic. Donald Trump panicked," and claiming, "three more weeks until we end this madness."
While Biden has long been criticizing Mr. Trump for his response, today he also took aim at the Trump campaign ad "Carefully" that quotes Dr. Anthony Fauci.
"The most respected doc in the country on this issue is Dr. Fauci. He referred to the president's announcement of the Supreme Court, at a political event in the Rose Garden, or in the backyard of the White House, he called it a 'super spreading event.' Look at all the people who became contagious and got ill," said Biden. "And how is he responding now - he, Trump, is running a national ad on television, you may have seen it, taking...Dr. Fauci out of context."
Biden also took aim at racial injustice during his speech but called for law enforcement to be able to do their jobs without "extremists and vigilantes."
He did not spend much time on the Supreme Court hearing but did slam the hearing in regards to the ACA. "We've got to protect your health care," he said. "In the middle of this pandemic, why do the Republicans have time to hold a hearing to pack the court instead of providing economic relief... for localities? I'll tell you why. It's about, it's about wiping out the Affordable Care Act, wipe it off the books. Because their nominee said in the past that the law should be struck down. That will take away health care for 20 million Americans."
At the very beginning of his speech, Biden called it "Go time," and noted "We win Florida and it's all over." At numerous times he reminded his audience to make sure they vote, by mail, by drop-box, or in person.
At his first campaign event earlier in the day, Biden appealed directly to the older community members in Pembroke Pines, Florida talking about Social Security, Medicaid and President Trump's temperament as it relates to the pandemic.
"To Donald Trump it's simple. Not a joke. You're expendable. You're forgettable. You're virtually nobody. That's how he sees seniors. That's how he sees you," Biden said, referencing comments the president made at a rally saying the virus affects "virtually nobody."
CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro says Biden also mentioned how he had prayed for Trump's recovery from COVID-19, but said "his reckless personal conduct since his diagnosis is unconscionable" and that "the longer Donald Trump is president the more reckless he seems to get. Thank god we only have three weeks left to go."
The former VP was particularly fiery when talking about Trump's 'losers' and 'suckers' comments about the military, as well as his acknowledgement to journalist Bob Woodward about how dangerous the virus is. "He knew it was a dangerous and highly communicable disease. But he did nothing. He didn't do a thing. He didn't tell you! He didn't tell any American!" Biden said.
Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who said she supported Biden's 1988 presidential run while in college, introduced him Tuesday and made note of the power of the senior vote in Florida.
BATTLEGROUNDS IN THE BATTLEGROUNDS
NORTH CAROLINA - *CUMBERLAND COUNTY*
When Donald Trump, Jr. visited Fayetteville, N.C. on Saturday, it was on the heels of a visit his father had made to the city just three weeks prior, and it was an appeal -- at least in part -- to the military veterans in the area. The stop also came just days after former Second Lady Jill Biden also visited Fayetteville, the county seat of Cumberland County, to speak with veterans and military families.
Dr. Ngozi Kamalu, a political science professor at Fayetteville State University, told CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell that Cumberland County, the 5th largest county in the battleground state of North Carolina, is politically significant for a variety of reasons, including being one of four North Carolina counties in which the Fort Bragg U.S. Army military base is located. With nearly 57,000 military personnel and 11,000 civilian employees, Fort Bragg is one of the largest military complexes in the world according to the U.S. Army website.
"Home of the Airborne and Special Operations Forces," Prof. Kamalu noted that the diversity of the military population of Fort Bragg "reverberates" throughout the county. "For anybody who wants to win the military vote, Fort Bragg is one of the places you need to win and Cumberland County is just very contiguous to it," said Prof. Kamalu, who added that it's going to be "very hard" for a candidate to win the state without winning Cumberland County.
However, Prof. Kamalu conceded that while North Carolina may be a toss-up state, Fayetteville's Democratic mayor, the composition of the city council, and the county's expanding racial diversity may make it an area that Democrats could win again. Still other political scientists believe Republicans like Mr. Trump could have a fair shot at winning over some of the county's 221,658 registered voters. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won Cumberland County, capturing 56% of the more than 127,506 votes cast in the county.
President Trump received 40% of the vote with just over 51,000 votes. In 2012, President Barack Obama beat out Republican challenger Mitt Romney by a slightly larger margin of 19.69%, winning 59% of the 127,641 votes cast in that presidential election.
CBS NEWS COVID CHRONICLES
FLORIDA - TECH & INTERNET ACCESS
In the latest edition of CBS News COVID Chronicles campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell explored how Florida educators are continuing to address the digital divide that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
When CBS News first spoke with Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hannah in July, the county had made an $11 million investment to purchase more than 32,000 laptops that his team planned to distribute to every student in the school district before the school year started. But due to back orders, the laptops did not arrive before classes began in August, so the county instead distributed 9,000 desktops to students who opted to work remotely.
As of this week, the shipment of laptops have started to arrive and Hannah's team plans to run a pilot program with three schools, where they will distribute laptops to the students at an elementary, middle and K-8 school before passing out to the other students in the district. And while Leon County Schools and partner organizations like the South City Foundation continue to look for ways to expand technological access and support to students, Hannah contends that the pandemic is far from over. "Let's be clear: this pandemic is not over and it's not going anywhere in the near future," said Hannah. "We're going to continue to monitor and work with our families daily and meet them again where they're comfortable." Read the full story here.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA & FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA
Former President Obama is urging Americans to make a plan to vote. In a new Democratic National Committee video, the former president walks voters through a tutorial on options, including vote by mail, early voting in-person and voting on Election Day, reports CBS News correspondent Nikole Killion.
"So much is at stake in this election -- from getting the pandemic under control to building a fairer economy to taking on climate change to protecting our health care," Mr. Obama says in the opening seconds. "And when it comes to voting this year, having a plan has never been more important."
The ad series, released Tuesday, includes specific voting instructions for 24 states. Obama also promotes the website, IWillVote.com, which allows voters to request and return ballots by mail and learn more about the voting process. His wife, former first lady Michelle Obama, is also trying to build momentum around early voting. Her non-partisan organization, When We All Vote, announced a new partnership with Lebron James' group, More Than A Vote.
Both entities will launch two weeks of action from October 18-31, dubbed "When We All Vote Together." Mrs. Obama said, "Millions of Americans have already cast their ballots and with only 21 days until Election Day, making your plan to vote early is critical. It's now up to us to do everything in our power to get our friends and family ready to vote early and safely together."
The groups will provide over $1 million in grants to local organizations that host voter activation events. They will also provide transportation, personal protective equipment (PPE) and offer voter protection support to individuals who live near early voting sites. In-person events are slated in Atlanta, Detroit, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Orlando and other cities. Additional partners include Black Entertainment Television, Comedy Central and MTV, which are divisions of ViacomCBS.
ISSUES THAT MATTER
In an unsigned order, the Supreme Court granted the Trump Administration's request to stop the census count immediately, instead of allowing the count to go until October 31, reports CBS News chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford.
Because of the coronavirus, the government had extended the original deadline for responses to the census questionnaire from July 31 to October 31. But in early August, it changed the deadlines again, announcing it would stop the counting on September 30 - leading to a dispute over another month of counting.
When the Census Bureau announced the original extension back in April, it also sought to extend the deadline for sending the count to the President for apportionment from Dec. 31 (as required under the Census Act) to April 30, 2021. Apportionment is when the latest Census data is used to allocate how many Congressional district each state gets. But in early August, before Congress could agree to extend the reporting deadline, the government switched course (a "Replan") and said it would end data collection on Sept. 30, with a report to the President on Dec. 31.
The administration said it needed to end the counting to be able to get the report to the President, as required by law. But that also happened to be a couple weeks after President Trump announced he would seek to exclude undocumented immigrants from being counted for congressional apportionment. Several advocacy groups then sued to block the "Replan," arguing it would result in a heavy undercount. A district court agreed to reinstate the original extensions. The appeals court split the difference and reinstated the Oct. 31 collection deadline while allowing the Dec. 31 reporting deadline to the President. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the dissent and said, "the harms associated with an inaccurate census are avoidable and intolerable."
Officials in Arizona's most populous county say they expect to have much of their ballots counted and ready to report by November 3rd, thanks to upgraded equipment and a new state law allowing counties to begin tabulating results two weeks ahead of Election Day, reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin.
"It's our goal to include nearly all ballots returned to the Elections Department by the end of the month in the first 8 p.m. results report on Election Night," Megan Gilbertson, communications director for the Maricopa County Elections Department, said in an email.
More than 80% of votes cast by Arizonans in 2018 were returned early in-person or by mail, according to federal data. And, amid the coronavirus pandemic, both campaigns have urged their Arizona supporters to cast their ballots early or by mail this cycle, with Joe Biden's team repeatedly touting its "first week voter" efforts in the state.
The California Republican Party said it has no plans to remove ballot collection boxes after state officials called them illegal yesterday and ordered Republicans to take them down immediately. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a cease and desist order yesterday and threatened further legal action if the state party doesn't remove ballot collection boxes that appeared in Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Fresno County over the weekend.
"When we got the cease and desist order yesterday, we were trying to go through it and trying to figure out what election code we're actually violating," CA GOP spokesman Hector Bajaras told CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar.
Barajas added that the boxes are legal and within the scope of the law. He said that his party's ballot harvesting operation is no different than Democrats collecting ballots at union halls.
The controversy over the ballot boxes flared up over the weekend when a regional field director with the California Republican Party in Orange County tweeted a photo of himself holding a vote-by-mail ballot, standing next to a black cabinet with a taped sign that read "official ballot drop off box." The staffer, Jordan Tygh, encouraged voters to message him for "convenient locations" to drop off their ballots. Barajas acknowledged mistakes were made with how signage on the ballot boxes and said the wording on them was fixed on Sunday.
"We'll eat some crow here. We could've used better wording on it and we made that correction on Monday," Barajas said. The GOP spokesman said staffers are assigned to collect ballots from those boxes every three days, in accordance with the law, and the ones that were collected over the weekend have been turned into the local counties.
One of several options California voters have to return their mail-in ballot is choosing someone they trust to drop the completed ballot at a county elections office. In 2016, the law was expanded to allow volunteers, campaign operatives, and private organizations, in addition to close family members, to return a ballot. The ballot must be signed by both the voter and the person collecting it and dropped off at a local election office within 72 hours.
Barajas argued that state assembly bill 306, signed into law in 2018, does not disqualify a ballot solely because a person returning it did not provide on the identification envelope his or her name and relationship to the voter or a signature.
"We want to make sure that the California secretary of state can catch up to the laws on voting and dealing with ballots as opposed to continuing to go out there and give some untruths," Barajas said.
Padilla's deadline for the California Republican Party to remove the ballot collection boxes is for Thursday but Barajas said they're pushing ahead and even looking to add more boxes.
"We've gotten requests for more (boxes) and so you know we're going to look and maybe we'll double or triple our efforts," Barajas said.
Nearly one million Michiganders have voted in the general election, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. As of Monday morning, 977,694 people had returned their absentee ballots in Michigan, the Michigan Secretary of State's office told reporters on Tuesday. 2.85 million Michiganders have requested absentee ballots for the election, meaning a little over a third of requested ballots have been returned. At the same point in 2016, about 916,000 people had requested absentee ballots and nearly a quarter million had returned them.
Michigan voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2018 to allow for no-excuse absentee voting. In August, a record 1.6 million people voted absentee in Michigan.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has projected 3 million people or more may vote absentee during the general election.
Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske confirmed reports of misprints in two rural counties in a statement late Monday, after a local NBC station said some voters were confused by an error on materials for their mail ballots, according to CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin.
In one county, return envelopes had asked voters to sign "under penalty of perjury" that they were registered voters of a different county in the state hours away. Nevada, which this year mailed ballots to all voters due to the coronavirus pandemic, had faced an earlier snafu over the all-mail contest: several of the state's counties postponed mailing out ballots last month citing delays with their ballot printing vendor.
"In both counties, the county clerk is reprinting the materials that contain incorrect statements and will send the corrected materials, along with a letter explaining the issue," Cegavske said, adding that the issues will have "no effect on whether their mail ballot will be accepted and counted."
Texas saw long lines in some cities during its first day of early voting and record-breaking turnout in at least one major area, reports CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. There are an extra six days of early voting in Texas for the general election to give voters more options due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 68,000 people cast votes by early afternoon in Harris County, home to Houston and the state's most populated county, which broke the county's record for the first day of early voting, according to the county clerk. There were reports of some problems around the state. In Fort Bend County, which borders Harris County and is home to the Houston suburbs, there were issues with some voting machines. The Fort Bend County Judge, the county executive, tweeted that "those who are responsible will be held accountable" and later said that the machines had been fixed at the county's largest voting center. In Tarrant County, which is home to Fort Worth, one site opened two hours late after an election worker reported testing positive for COVID-19 on Monday night and officials had to find replacement staff.
Hours before early voting began, a panel of federal appeals court judges on Monday night sided with Texas Governor Greg Abbott on his order allowing only one drop-off site per county where voters may hand-deliver their mail ballots.
Abbott issued an order in late July that would enable Texans to hand-deliver their ballots before Election Day. Normally, absentee ballots in the state must be returned through the mail, except on Election Day, when voters can deliver their ballots in person.
Monday night's ruling reverses the lower court decision that blocked Abbott's order on Friday night. The district court judge had concluded that allowing only one site per county imposed a "burden on an already vulnerable voting population." But the three-judge appeals court panel -- all appointees of President Trump -- agreed with the Texas secretary of state's argument that Abbott had already sufficiently expanded absentee voting options during the 2020 election by allowing people to return ballots before Election Day.
"Leaving the Governor's October 1 Proclamation in place still gives Texas absentee voters many ways to cast their ballots in the November 3 election," Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan wrote. "These methods for remote voting outstrip what Texas law previously permitted in a pre-COVID world. The October 1 Proclamation abridges no one's right to vote."
Texas has seen one of the highest upticks in newly registered voters in the nation reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro, with over 3 million people who registered after the 2016 election.
That means just about 1 in every 5 voters in Texas in 2020 were not registered in 2016. Democrats are betting the surge has changed the electorate and could help flip Texas this year. As of Monday, Texas' secretary of state lists more than 16.9 million registered voters in its database, a state record and a net gain of 1.8 million since 2016. This gain is more than the gap in 2016 (Mr. Trump won by 807,179 votes) and 2018 (Senator Ted Cruz won his re-election against Democrat Beto O'Rourke by 214,921 votes).
The uptick comes as polls have consistently shown the race as tied or Mr. Trump with a slight lead. Dr. Jill Biden visited Houston, Dallas and El Paso on Tuesday. Democrats say at least 60% of these added voters lean Democrat, because so many of them are young and from communities of color.
"We always say 2020 is the year that demographics meets destiny in Texas," said Luke Warford, the Texas Democrats' voter expansion director. The state's GOP state party says they've registered at least 160,000 likely Republican voters and that they're confident in their outreach to other newly registered voters, particularly those who moved from blue states, will dispel any Democrat dreams.
"They don't want to see Texas become like the San Francisco or Manhattan they fled," said Texas GOP communications director Luke Twombly. Read more about the most-populated battleground state here.
The deadline to register to vote in Virginia is midnight Tuesday but for most of the day, the commonwealth's online registration portal was down, CBS News campaign reporter Cara Korte notes.
Officials told CBS News that early Tuesday morning a fiber was cut near one of Virginia's state technology centers which impacted data circuits used to run the Department of Elections' registration portal.
A spokesperson for the Department of Elections told CBS News that technicians were on site and working to repair the cut -- which ended up needing work for most of the day. It wasn't until approximately 3:30p Tuesday that the portal was back online. State officials explained that a Verizon crew working on a ongoing utilities project inadvertently cut the fiber early Tuesday morning, cutting off access for Virginia voters.
The problem was reminiscent of issues out of Florida last week when the state's online registration portal crashed hours before the registration deadline. Consequently Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said their registration website was overwhelmed with traffic as more than 1 million voters per hour attempted to register in time. The registration deadline was pushed one day in Florida, but a large extension was rejected in federal court.Late Tuesday the Lawyers' Committee sued the Virginia Depart of Elections and the State Board of Elections to extend the deadline by 48 hours.
IN THE SENATE
A new Monmouth poll released on Tuesday focusing on North Carolina found Democratic candidate Cal Cunningham's admission of extramarital flirtatious texts has not severely impacted the race.
In the poll, Cunningham is leading Republican incumbent Thom Tillis in a high turnout situation by 49 % to 44% compared to 47% to 45% in September. A model based on low turnout has the race closer at 48% to 47%.
Though Cunningham's unfavorable number has grown from 22% to 33%, just 14% of voters feel the sexting relationship disqualifies Cunningham, and a majority (51%) believe this should just be an issue for Cunningham and his family.
Incumbent Republican Senator Thom Tillis tested positive for COVID-19 at the beginning of October, but more North Carolina voters know about Cunningham's sexting (80%) than about Tillis' positive test (69%.) Half of the voters (50%) said Tillis did not take the pandemic seriously enough before he came down with it himself. CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson and campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell spoke to voters in North Carolina last week who did not feel the recent events surrounding either candidate would cause them to switch their votes.