Early in-person voting began on Tuesday in Wisconsin with steady turnout and long lines in some parts of the state, including Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay and Kenosha, reports CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster.
At the Midtown Center in Milwaukee, dozens of people were in line when the doors opened. "This is a blessing that so many people are out here," said Renee Townsend, 56. She was not deterred by the long wait. "If this line was down the street, around the corner, across the street, I'm still going to wait to get my vote in."
Several voters told CBS News that they came to early in-person voting because they trusted the process more and feared lines may be longer on Election Day. Robert Lewis, 69, of Milwaukee, said he didn't used to vote, but has become more engaged the past 10 years or so. "I'd rather be here in person to know I voted for real," Lewis said. "I want to make a change. My one little vote might make that change."
As early voting began, Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris held a virtual rally to encourage early voting, and Ivanka Trump came to Wisconsin to rally Republicans.
President Trump also tweeted to encourage his supporters to vote early. A group of local and national Black leaders, including Justin Blake, the uncle of Jacob Blake who was shot by Kenosha police in August, led a march from Kenosha to Milwaukee to mark the first day of early in-person voting. Wisconsinites can vote early in-person until November 1.
Ballots cast at early in-person locations are still considered absentee ballots and won't be opened until Election Day. More than 915,000 Wisconsinites have already turned in absentee ballots as of Tuesday morning, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission. That's about 30% of the total turnout in 2016.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
President Trump cut short an interview with CBS News' "60 Minutes" on Tuesday with correspondent Lesley Stahl. The interview, which was taped at the White House, is slated to run on Sunday.
Later Tuesday, Mr. Trump called the interview "biased" and threatened to release the interview before it aired.
"I am pleased to inform you that, for the sake of accuracy in reporting, I am considering posting my interview with Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes, PRIOR TO AIRTIME! This will be done so that everybody can get a glimpse of what a FAKE and BIASED interview is all about..Everyone should compare this terrible Electoral Intrusion with the recent interviews of Sleepy Joe Biden!" the president tweeted.
"60 Minutes" said the White House agreed only to record the interview for its archives and said it has a history of interviewing presidential candidates and asking important questions in the run-up to elections.
Mr. Trump, in another tweet, noted Stahl was not wearing a mask at the White House.
"Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes not wearing a mask in the White House after her interview with me. Much more to come," the president tweeted, with a video clip of Stahl not wearing a mask.
CBS News said Stahl wore a mask as she entered the White House and greeted the president. She removed her mask when socially distanced just before the interview began. The clip Mr. Trump tweeted occurred after the interview and shows Stahl speaking with her producers, all of whom had tested negative for COVID-19 on Tuesday, according to CBS News.
Two days before the final presidential debate, President Donald Trump heads to Erie, Pennsylvania for one of his signature airport hangar rally, reports CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga. First Lady Melania Trump was slated to travel with President Trump but decided to stay at the White House due to a lingering cough from her coronavirus spell. Her chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham, told CBS News in a statement the first lady continues to make strides. Mrs. Trump tested negative for the virus after contracting it along with the president and their son, Barron.
"Mrs. Trump continues to feel better every day following her recovery from COVID-19, but with a lingering cough, and out of an abundance of caution, she will not be traveling today," Grisham said.
CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak reports today marks President Trump's first trip this year to Erie, one of three counties in the state that flipped from voting for President Obama twice to President Trump in 2016, a shift caused part by the president's promises to bring back manufacturing jobs.
President Trump's visit comes days after Wabtec, a major locomotive manufacturer in the area, announced an additional 150 layoffs in addition to 300 announced earlier this year. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden receives just under half of the vote share (49%) among likely Pennsylvania voters, while President Donald Trump comes in at 45%, according to a poll released Monday by Ipsos/Reuters.
Polling has been showing a narrowing race in the Keystone state with Trump's approval rating 46% among Pennsylvanians hovering above the national average (40%). Yet as Biden continues to edge out Trump in statewide polling, Republicans see promise in Pennsylvania's voter registration numbers.
Recent figures from state elections officials show the GOP added about 174,000 voters since 2016, while Democrats lost approximately 31,000. Pennsylvania has seen a resurgence of coronavirus cases this month with 1,557 additional cases reported Monday, bringing the statewide total to 184,872. Pennsylvania's health department has seen significant increases in the number of COVID-19 cases among younger age groups. In Northwest Pennsylvania - home to Erie County - 19 to 24-year-olds make up 20% of cases so far in October, compared to just 7% in April.
Senator Kamala Harris made a virtual stop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin today to celebrate the state's first day of early in person voting according to CBS News campaign reporter Tim Perry. Harris, who is also celebrating her birthday today, participated in the early vote rally as her running mate, former vice president Joe Biden remains off the trail to prepare for this week's upcoming debate with President Donald Trump.
The California senator was introduced by her Democratic colleague Senator Tammy Baldwin who had a candle lit cupcake ready for Harris to "virtually" blow out. "I was so excited to hear about how at the very first hour of early voting this morning, people were lined up." Harris said, adding, "Now we got to see it through, but what a great beginning."
Additionally, the Biden for President campaign announced that both Harris and Biden tested negative for COVID-19 today. This marks the 12th negative COVID test result the Democratic campaign has released since President Trump was diagnosed with the virus according to CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson.
Also on Tuesday, the USA Today editorial board for the first time in its 40-year history endorsed a candidate for president, noting "This extraordinary moment in the history of our nation requires an extraordinary response. With his plans, his personnel picks, his experience and his humanity, Joe Biden can help lead the United States out of this morass and into the future. Your vote can help make that happen."
BATTLEGROUNDS IN THE BATTLEGROUNDS
FLORIDA - *MIAMI-DADE COUNTY*
By the numbers, Miami-Dade is a Democratic stronghold. The largest county in the state by population, it's one of three counties in metropolitan Miami that make up the Tri-county area --Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach County. Neighboring Broward and Palm Beach counties are also notably Democratic and are the second and third largest counties in the state by population, respectively.
CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that throughout the past two decades, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Broward counties have voted for the Democratic nominee for president in every general election. In 2016, Mr. Trump won the state by 1.2%, or 112,911 votes, but in Miami-Dade, Hillary Clinton received 63.6% of the 980,204 votes that were cast, winning the county by roughly 30 points. And in 2012, though President Obama won Florida by less than a point, he, too, dominated in Miami-Dade gaining more than 60% of the votes and edging out Republican challenger Mitt Romney by roughly 24 points.
As seen in other large, Democratic metropolitan areas across the country, Miami-Dade is diverse, too, with 69.4% of the county's population comprised of Hispanic or Latino residents according to census data. In Miami, the county seat of Miami-Dade, more than half of the residents are foreign-born residents.
Though the county is typically seen as heavily Democratic, Republican strategists point out that even if they don't win the area, they are working to cut into the Democrats' historical edge in the region. During the 2018 midterm election, Democrat Bill Nelson lost the Senate contest against then-Governor Rick Scott and won Miami-Dade by 21 points, 9 points less than Clinton won the county by in 2016.
In the past six weeks, both President Trump and Joe Biden have made at least two visits to South Florida respectively, and both Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris have also made a visit to the southern part of the state. University of Miami Political Science Department Chair Gregory Koger said the campaign presence in the area is a clear sign of their efforts to appeal to Latino voters in the region.
"Early polls found that Vice President Biden was doing worse than expected in Miami-Dade county, in part because President Trump was receiving above-expected support from Latinos in south Florida," said Koger. "This has led to a dramatic increase in campaigning by both campaigns, including visits from Biden, Trump, Senator Kamala Harris, and Vice President Pence...these efforts, combined with other major events, have led to improved poll results for Joe Biden."
CBS NEWS COVID CHRONICLES
NEW MEXICO - OIL & GAS FOLLOW-UP
One of President Trump's first moves back in the White House earlier this month was to rally supporters over the phone in New Mexico's Second Congressional District. In New Mexico, Hillary Clinton bested then-candidate Trump by more than 8 points in 2016. But Republicans hope the president's backing could boost turnout in the slice of New Mexico that elected first-term Democratic Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small in 2018. Torres Small's district counts among a select handful to have both backed President Trump by double-digit margins in 2016 and a Democratic House newcomer just two years later.
Outside groups have also poured millions into New Mexico's Second Congressional District, ballooning the race into one America's most expensive, according to a Wesleyan Media Project analysis of Kantar/CMAG television ad spending data. Few issues have dominated this toss-up race like oil and gas, according to CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin, which had fueled much of New Mexico's growth before the COVID-19 pandemic crippled the industry. After plummeting earlier this year when oil prices collapsed, oil production in New Mexico has gradually ticked up across the state. But a long road to recovery remains for the industry. Just 45 rigs were active in New Mexico, down from 112 rigs at this time last year, according to a tally by oilfield services firm Baker Hughes.
DID YOU HEAR THAT?
In this week's episode of "The Debrief with Major Garrett," CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett takes a look at Robert Bork's failed nomination and how its legacy endures some thirty years later as Senate Republicans inch closer to confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett days before the 2020 election.
President Ronald Reagan's nominee to the Supreme Court, Bork faced a bruising confirmation process in 1987. By all accounts, Bork was a qualified jurist, but Senate Democrats, then in the majority, feared his conservative ideology would swing the court to the far right. The result? A 42-58 vote to reject Bork's nomination divided mostly along party lines. Bork's failed nomination foreshadowed partisan nomination battles for decades to come.
No better example can be found than Barack Obama's pick to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, Judge Merrick Garland, who was denied even a hearing, much less a vote. "That was the nomination where the rules were changed in a very violent, hostile, ugly way," Robert Bork Jr. said of his father's nomination to the Supreme Court. "And it's taken thirty-three years, maybe a little less, to bring some balance and support back."
The two competing gubernatorial candidates for Utah's open seat released a joint PSA video calling for a bit of civility in the political dialogue.
"We can debate issues without degrading each other's character," Democrat candidate Chris Peterson says in the video. "We can disagree without hating each other... let's show the country that there's a better way," Republican Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox replies.
Cook Political Report rates the race as "Solid Republican." Another moment of bipartisanship appeared Monday in Virginia's 5th, when a picture was posted of Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman and Democrat candidate Cameron Webb, who is hoping to flip Riggleman's old seat. Riggleman was beaten by Republican Bob Good during a testy GOP convention in June.
Webb, a doctor at the University of Virginia Medical Center, was out campaigning and visited one of Riggleman's distilleries Monday to thank his wife for her work in shifting their production to create hand sanitizer. "I literally ran into [Denver] in the parking lot," Webb told CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro, adding that they talked about the distillery and how small businesses have adapted to the pandemic.
"We also talked about the fact that I really, really wanted to be debating him right now if I was running against him," Riggleman added. "My distillery is the continental for Virginia politics, no company business happens on the distillery... Everybody is treated the same."
Webb, who is in a competitive race for the open seat, said an endorsement from Riggleman wasn't discussed during the chat. "I hope I'm able to earn his vote just like anybody else, but no, it wasn't a political conversation for us," Webb said. When asked if he was an undecided voter for the district, Riggleman said, "Oh goodness, I'm not going to answer that question anymore. Thanks for trying."
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a petition today requesting the Sacramento Superior Court to order the California Republican Party to comply with the state's investigation regarding the state GOP's use of ballot drop boxes.
Last week, after the California Republican Party refused to comply with a cease and desist order asking them to stop the use of ballot drop boxes, Becerra said he had issued a subpoena for more information. Becerra and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla want the state Republican Party to disclose more information regarding the deployment what they call "unauthorized ballot drop boxes" and voters who may have used them from September 1, 2020 to October 16, 2020, reports CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar.
"We issued subpoenas and interrogatories to determine the extent to which the deployment of unauthorized ballot drop boxes may have impacted Californians," Becerra said in a statement on Tuesday. "Our investigation is ongoing and we will act where necessary," he added. Last week a spokesperson for the California Republican Party said Becerra and Padilla requested information about their program and to turn over records, including names of voters but the state GOP declined to provide that information.
In Los Angeles County, officials are investigating the burning of a ballot drop box outside Baldwin Park Library as arson. If confirmed, it would be the first case of a ballot box being burned on purpose in LA County. The county registrar reported the incident to both the FBI and the Attorney General for investigation. The registrar is also reviewing all the evidence collected and trying to identify the voters whose ballot may have been burned. Affected voters will be contacted and allowed the chance to complete a replacement ballot. Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis said this has "all the signs of an attempt to disenfranchise voters and call into question the security of our elections."
Two weeks out from the general election, CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that four Florida-based progressive groups launched a joint "Coalition for Black and Brown Ballot Access" along with a six-figure program that will include digital and mobilizing advertising in an effort to increase voter turnout in "historically low turnout precincts" throughout the state.
In a press release Tuesday, PoderLatinx, Equal Ground Education Fund, Black Voters Matter Florida, and Hispanic Federation Florida announced that their coalition aims to reach nearly 200,000 Floridians, with a focus on minority voters in the state. "Florida is...a state that regularly sees attempts at voter suppression in Black and Brown communities," said Phillip Jerez, campaign manager for the Coalition for Black and Brown Ballot Access.
"Especially during this pandemic, it is imperative that we work to ensure that folks are confident about their ability to cast their vote." The coalition is set to directly connect with voters to ensure they have information about curing their ballots in the event they aren't initially accepted. To date, nearly 3 million votes have already been cast in the state by mail and early voting in-person, which began in the state on Monday.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is defending her decision to ban people from openly carrying guns at voting locations after facing criticism from gun rights activists and some law enforcement officials according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster.
On Friday, Benson issued an order that said people can't openly carry a firearm "in a polling place, in any hallway used by voters to enter or exit, or within 100 feet of any entrance to a building in which a polling place is located." People can leave firearms in their cars within 100 feet of a building if they are otherwise legally allowed to do so.
"This is not a ban on firearms. This is an effort to protect our voters from intimidation, threats and harassment on Election Day itself," Benson said. "We just want to keep people safe." Benson said there weren't specific threats, but she wanted there to be uniform guidance for local election officials about the issue. Some local law enforcement officials in Michigan have said they won't enforce the ban. According to the Detroit News, the director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police said "there's nothing in the law that gives police the authority to enforce the Secretary of State's edict."
Benson said her understanding is that Michigan State Police will enforce the ban anywhere where local law enforcement don't do that. Benson also announced today that more than 3 million Michiganders have requested absentee ballots and more than 1.5 million people have already returned ballots.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced in a press release that 1.1 million Ohioans have cast their ballot in November's general election with two weeks until Election Day. That number is a 119% increase compared to the 2016 general election, according to LaRose's office. CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman says LaRose's office also noted that Ohio's county boards of elections have received 2,745,403 absentee ballot applications. "Inspiring. There's no other word for it," LaRose said in a statement. "With two weeks until election day, our record-breaking turnout is sending a message - it's easy to vote in Ohio."
IN THE HOUSE
House committees and PACs are launching tons of ads across the battlefield. The Democrat-backed House Majority PAC launched ads in 23 districts Tuesday, 11 of which in competitive seats where Democrats are playing defense.
The National Republican Congressional Committee put up 15 ads, about half of them being in seats Mr. Trump won in 2016 that Democrats flipped in 2018. Their Democratic counterparts at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched eight ads through independent expenditures.
With only two weeks left, CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro reports virtually all of the committee ads are on the attack. Ads released by the NRCC aim to portray incumbents as Washington insiders, through using the issue of dark money and campaign finance or tying them to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "McAdams votes with Nancy Pelosi nine out of ten times. Liberals are spending millions to elect McAdams. Why? Democrat Ben McAdams votes with them," says one NRCC ad about the Democrat incumbent in Utah's 4th.
While House Democrats have consistently anchored their ads in drawing contrasts on healthcare, some of these new ads have more specific attacks on Republican incumbents. In New Jersey's 2nd, the DCCC's ad attacks Congressman Jeff Van Drew for his notable party switch during the impeachment process. "South Jersey, Jeff Van Drew switched on you. Looking out for himself is what he'll always do," the ad concludes.
STATE HOUSE RACES
Forward Majority, a Democrat organization working to flip state legislatures ahead of redistricting, announced a $16 million investment for its efforts in Texas, Florida Arizona and North Carolina, bringing its total to $32 million for those states.
CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro reports that Texas and Florida are seeing the highest investments (about $12 million each) due to their outsized importance in redistricting.
During a press briefing Tuesday, Forward Majority Co-Founder and co-CEO Vicky Hausman pointed to Democratic candidates in their targeted Texas state House seats raising, on average, close to $588,000 by the latest quarter. By comparison, they say $99,000 was the average number for candidates in 2018. Democrats are nine seats away from flipping the state house there.
In Florida, the organization is honing in on flipping the state House, spending its money across 23 districts. David Cohen, the group's Co-Founder and co-CEO said a lot of its target districts overlap with areas Biden is doing well in.
"It's these suburban districts in rings around major metros. And the kind of Republican collapse in those suburban areas, which maybe was underway, but certainly has accelerated under trump, we think there's an opportunity there," said Cohen.
Campaign finance law is the topic of the day in Montana's gubernatorial race. The state's Commissioner of Political Practices found on Tuesday that GOP Congressman Greg Gianforte's campaign violated campaign finance laws by transferring $180,729 in funds meant for the primary to his general election account while he still had leftover primary debts, reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro.
The commission's investigation found that Gianforte owed $1,574,830 in primary obligations, though $1.55 million of that is from personal loans. It also found Gianforte's campaign reported raising money for the primary during the designated general election period, which would exceed limits set for primary and general elections.
In response to the complaint that launched the investigation, Gianforte's campaign wrote that the only transfer occurred when it had "no further expenses to pay related to the primary" and that it does not "view the candidate loans as a primary obligation."
Commissioner Jeffrey Mangan wrote that Montana law says a candidate cannot transfer leftover fund designated for a primary if there is outstanding debt, nor can he or she raise money meant for a primary after the election, unless it's used to pay the debt.
"Either the campaign corrects the error and applies the $182,624.84 to its Primary election obligations, or the campaign will have to refund all primary election contributions received after the primary election to the contributors who made them," Mangan wrote.
Gianforte's campaign spokesperson Travis Hall said the campaign would respond to the commissioner by the two-week deadline "and amend any reports as needed, but our single reporting issue pales in comparison to career politician Mike Cooney's repeated violations for willfully breaking our state's ethics and campaign finance laws."
Meanwhile, the newest radio and digital ad from the Republican Governors Association, called "Dishonest," brings up past incidents by Cooney related to campaign election and ethics violations. It points to three incidents from 2002 to 2007, one involving having campaign files on government computers, as well as two findings this year by the COPP against Cooney.
"These are traits we have come to expect from career politicians. They game the system to further their own careers. Mike Cooney is one of Montana's worst offenders," the ad says,
More recently, it uses a finding from COPP that Cooney failed to report an in-kind contribution from the Democratic Governors Association, resulting in a campaign finance violation.
The contribution in dispute is related to a website paid by the DGA, which argues that the $35 hosting fee was too small to be reported. Mangan said that the parties are working on a settlement. In July, Mangan's office fined the Cooney campaign $1,000 for taking a DGA-related call in his capitol office.
Cooney's communications director Ronja Abel labeled COPP's latest finding a "clerical error in the process of being resolved" and said that Cooney "remains laser-focused on winning the election and protecting our health and economic livelihoods from people like our opponent, who refuses to take COVID-19 seriously and supports ripping health care away from Montanans during a global pandemic."
Polls have shown Gianforte with a single-digit lead in recent months -- five points according to an early October poll conducted by Montana State University-Bozeman. Cooney's campaign said Tuesday that it raised more than $910,000 between September 15 and October 14, bringing the total to $2.5 million raised since the June primary.