President Trump's trip to Omaha on Tuesday is a direct play for the single electoral college vote in Nebraska's 2nd District. Nebraska is only one of two states, the other being Maine, to split electoral college votes among congressional districts. And while a Democrat hasn't won here since Barack Obama in 2008, Mr. Trump only won it by 2 points in 2016.
The competitive nature of the urban-suburban area could make the district decisive in the case of a 269-269 electoral college tie or with a tight 270-269 win; both are possible scenarios if Biden only flips a handful of states while President Trump keeps some combination of Florida and Pennsylvania or Wisconsin.
University of Nebraska Omaha Professor Jody Neathery-Castro told CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro that while a tie in the electoral college has "probably crossed everybody's minds as a possibility...it would have be a perfect kind of alignment of the rest of the country in terms of electoral votes." The scenario has crossed the mind of Republican Don Bacon, a sophomore Congressman who is facing his own tight re-election.
"The urban suburban districts have been more of a challenge for President Trump and the GOP, so this district is truly up for grabs," he told Navarro.
The latest Siena College/New York Times poll shows Joe Biden up by 7 points here, though both campaigns have been increasing their activity in the district. Kamala Harris appeared on Omaha's ABC station Wednesday night and called the Nebraska's 2nd "critical" to winning the White House.
Biden will be campaigning in nearby Iowa on Friday. Prior to the president's rally, Donald Trump Jr. and Lara Trump have also served as trail surrogates in recent weeks. The individual campaigns have spent more than a combined $3.2 million on ads in the state, with Biden's campaign making their highest purchases in the last two weeks according to Kantar/Campaign Media Analysis Group ad tracking data.
"I hope he talks about a lot of the results," Bacon said ahead of President Trump's speech. "I think that's what persuades Nebraskans. They want to hear about results, they're not into the name calling or the elbow throwing but they want to be persuaded by results."
Bacon's opponent, Democrat Kara Eastman, criticized the two for even holding a rally in the first place while the area sees a spike in coronavirus cases. "It just looks as if they are not taking this fight seriously and that they've abandoned fighting this pandemic and instead are furthering its spread with unsafe and an unfortunate rally happening today in Omaha," she said during a press conference Tuesday.
Their race is one of the most competitive House races in the country, with either Bacon or Eastman leading within the margin of error in recent polls and more than $11.2 million in outside spending. It's also a rematch of 2018, when Bacon beat Eastman by just two points.
When asked about what's changed since 2018 to give her an edge, Eastman pointed to a smaller party registration gap, demographic shifts as well as the president's record in office.
"People here have had four years to see both Donald J. Bacon and Donald J. Trump in action," she said. "Some people who voted for Trump thought they would see something different in Washington, D.C., that the swamp would be drained. I think they feel let down - the swamp is more populated than it's ever been."
Throughout the cycle, Eastman and Democrats have consistently looked to tie Bacon to Mr. Trump and Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Eastman, who is backed by Biden, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the progressive Justice Democrats group, has also portrayed herself as an independent Democrat voice in a potential Biden administration.
"Biden has my full support. We don't agree on everything but I believe that Nebraskans deserve an independent leader, somebody who's going to stand up and fight for them," she said.
Bacon and Republicans associate Eastman with "far left" progressives like Senator Bernie Sanders, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Ilhan Omar, who is participating in a phone bank with Eastman this Thursday. He cited his polling going up since their first debate and his endorsement from Blue Dog Democrats like former Congressman Brad Ashford, who Bacon unseated in 2016 and Eastman beat in the 2018 primary, as a reason he's the more moderate candidate.
"My opponent is a sort of unabashed Bernie-ite, if you will. And I don't think that plays well in the district," he said. "I feel like I have my own identity here as well. The national direction makes a difference. You can't avoid that. But I also have my own identity, my own set of accomplishments."
Both candidates point to the more than 110,000 registered independents as a crucial voting group for any path of victory in the district. Professor Neathery-Castro said a fluid suburban bloc will be impactful in that. "The rhetoric that you see here suggests that suburban voters are not being moved by the Trump appeal in this election. I'm really interested to see how that plays out," she said.
Douglas County Republican Chair Theresa Thibodeau agreed that while she's seen shifts to left amongst the suburban women bloc during Mr. Trump's tenure, she's confident they'll vote Republican this cycle. "As far as the rhetoric goes, not all of us agree with how he delivers his message. However we do look at his effectiveness -- and he has delivered on his promises," she said about the president.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
Democrats sounded the alarm on mail-in voting Tuesday, urging their constituents to hand deliver ballots a week before Election Day in the wake of Wisconsin's Supreme Court decision Monday night.
The divided bench voted against reinstating an order by a Wisconsin federal court judge that said absentee ballots could be counted if received within six days after the election as long as they were postmarked by Election Day, CBS News reporter Adam Brewster reports.
"We're in full-court press for the final seven days, encouraging people to vote early, vote in person. If you have an absentee ballot, deliver it in person to a drop box or to your clerk. Don't rely on the Postal Service to get it there by 8 o'clock, next Tuesday," Congressman Ron Kind (WI-3) told CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga, Tuesday.
In Lansing, Michigan on Tuesday, President Trump predicted a "red wave" would descend on polling locations on Election Day.
"The red wave. Generally speaking, you go, if not Tuesday, Monday," Mr. Trump remarked, before taking an informal poll of supporters. "How many people have already voted? All right, good. You are sort of a late state. That's good."
Michigan has seen a record-breaking 2.2 million ballots returned so far, according to the U.S. Elections project. The same tracker shows nearly 1.3 million Democrats have returned absentee ballots in battleground Pennsylvania, while Republicans have returned just under 400,000. "We know that the vast majority of the president's voters will be voting on Election Day," Trump communications director Tim Murtaugh said Tuesday, adding, "The president's Election Day vote and his vote turnout will carry the day because the Democrats have not opened up a large enough lead. That holds in Pennsylvania, in North Carolina and Florida."
Rep. Mark Kelly (PA-16) told CBS News, "The assumption that every Democrat that mailed in an early ballot, it was a vote for Joe Biden, I think that is way off the mark." Murtaugh also claimed the Trump campaign's internal modeling shows the president ahead in "every single battleground state that allows early voting in person, across the board." But public data shows Democrats hold a slight edge against Republicans among in-person early voters in battleground North Carolina (37.5%-33.9%.)
Meanwhile, COVID-19 upticks have once again put the president on defense. "COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID," Trump remarked to supporters gathered in Lansing, MI. "We have a spike in cases. Do you ever notice they don't use the word death? They use the word cases."
The president reprised misleading claims that increased testing has led to increased case numbers. "We're testing everybody. In many ways, I hate it. In many ways, I hate it." While testing more people does identify more cases, rates of positive tests are rising even faster, CBS News digital editor Nicole Brown reports. Experts say the surging numbers being seen in many states are due to an actual increase in illnesses, and hospitals are filling up with COVID-19 patients. Days away from Election Day, CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman reports 82 out of Ohio's 88 counties are now high incidence counties, meaning that there are more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents in the last two weeks.
Vice President Pence also had three campaign rallies scheduled today, two in North Carolina and one in South Carolina. The vice president's team says he is taking extra precautions on the road after five of his close aides tested positive for the coronavirus last week. Pence is traveling with a smaller team, tested daily, and will only do outdoor events in the final few days. The VP has also cut out visiting the ropeline after speeches and will no longer do local interviews like he used to on a regular basis, reports CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar.
Today in Greensboro, Pence said North Carolina "always plays an outsized role in the choice of our national leadership," especially this year. He spent a good amount of his speech today talking about the economy. He focused on manufacturing jobs, support for farmers and ranchers, and lauded the USMCA as a great deal for North Carolina and America. He said Kamala Harris put her own climate agenda ahead of the workers of NC by voting against the USMCA. Pence also talked about the third-quarter GDP numbers that are expected to be released on Thursday.
"I don't know what they are but buckle up," Pence said of the GDP numbers. "You're going to see American resilience like you have never seen before." Though Pence mentioned the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank estimated a 35% increase in the GDP for this quarter, economists are warning that the flash numbers could be misleading in the middle of the pandemic.
"This economy, you're going to see it this week, it is coming back," Pence said. "But the choice is between a Trump recovery or a Biden depression," he added.
Pence also invoked the courts and law and order. He said those like the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and now Justice Amy Coney Barrett are "paving the way for opportunities for women in the law." He also called Barrett "a brilliant jurist" who is "reflective of all the men and women that this president appointed."
He also attacked Biden for not giving a clear answer on court packing. Pence said Biden needs to tell the American people if he respects the highest court in the land. He said Democrats will pack the court with activist judges if they win the election.
Pence briefly talked about the coronavirus towards the end of his speech. He argued that despite the pandemic, the foundation President Trump poured in the first three years is leading to an economic comeback. Pence told supporters that the president "led us with decisiveness through one of the most challenging years of my life time." He urged everyone to go vote and tell their friends and family the "freedom is really on the line."
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made his first trip to Georgia since becoming the Democratic nominee Tuesday, giving remarks in Warm Springs about hope and healing for the country that he said he will help usher in if elected.
His message of unity and being the candidate to bring the country together is one that could resonate with his supporters in the Peach State. CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that in a recent CBS News Battleground Tracker poll, 61% of Georgia voters said the candidates' personal character is a major factor in their vote for president.
Later in the day, Biden spoke at a drive-in rally in the capital city of Atlanta, where running mate Kamala Harris visited last week. Recent visits by both campaigns to Atlanta indicate that the traditionally conservative state is more a toss-up than in recent years. The latest CBS News Battleground tracker poll shows the presidential contest is dead even in a state that also has competitive Senate races this year.
Ahead of the former VP's appearance in Georgia, Stacey Abrams told CBS News correspondent Nikole Killion she feels "bullish" about his chances to flip the Peach State. She discussed her own historic candidacy for governor and pointed to increasing diversity in the state, noting Georgia has the single highest percentage of Black eligible voters (33%) out of any battleground state.
"My candidacy in 2018 was a watershed for us because we were able to pour $40 million into activating voters across the state, engaging communities that had long not been reached," Abrams explained. "We were able to put together a playbook for what could happen and we have watched the Biden campaign, lift up that playbook and follow up. They have followed through not only by saying that they believe in Georgia, but by investing in Georgia."
The Biden campaign also released a batch of new ads as part of its closing argument to voters. The series features several direct-to-camera appeals by Biden and Harris. The campaign says the robust messaging will continue nationally and in key battlegrounds through Election Day to mobilize Black voters.
"We saw what happened in 2016, so we're encouraging people to keep going, get out there and vote," said Kamau Marshall, the campaign's director of strategic communications.
The current president, Mr. Obama said, "hasn't shown any interest in doing the work or helping anybody but himself and his friends or treating the presidency as anything more than a reality show that can give him the attention that he craves."
"The presidency doesn't change who you are. It reveals who you are," Mr. Obama said. "And Joe time and time again has shown himself to be a man of principle and character, and he's going to be a great president."
BATTLEGROUNDS IN THE BATTLEGROUNDS
NORTH CAROLINA - *UNION COUNTY*
In 2016, President Trump won Union County by more than 32,000 votes with 63% of the vote in the county.
Union is one of a handful of counties surrounding Democratic-leaning Mecklenburg county (home to Charlotte) that supported the president in 2016. In Union, 71% of its 239,000 residents are White making it demographically quite different from its more racially-diverse and much larger neighbor Mecklenburg county. Still, one North Carolina-based political scientist told CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell that Union is one of four bellwether counties that could be an indicator of how the rest of the state will vote.
In a state where Mr. Trump won 76 of its 100 counties in 2016, the latest CBS News Battleground Tracker poll shows the race is tight, with Biden leading by 4 points, which is within the poll's margin of error.
BIDEN V. TRUMP
Joe Biden is the biggest spender in the 2020 election across the board on advertising, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. With one week to go before Election Day, he's now spent more than $600 million on TV, radio and digital ads according to Kantar/Campaign Media Analysis Group. That includes more than $450 on television, nearly $130 million on digital ads, and $23 million on radio. By comparison, President Trump has spent nearly $425 million including $174 million on digital ads. This week alone, Biden is slated to spend at least $35 million on TV and radio. He's been mostly focused on 16 battleground states. Meanwhile, the president is only spending about $8.5 million this week on TV according to Kantar/CMAG. The RNC is also teaming up with the campaign with another $15 million. Between the two entities, they're focused in 12 states as of Tuesday.
Biden has focused much of his final TV pitch on unity. Two ads released Tuesday are direct-to-camera pitches from the former vice president and his wife Jill Biden.
"This is our opportunity to leave the dark, angry politics of the past four years behind us, to choose hope over fear, unity over division, science over fiction," says Biden in the 60 second spot called Rising. "I believe it's time to unite the country."
Jill Biden has a similar message. "I know in my heart that if we entrust this nation to Joe, he will do for these families what he did for ours. Bring us together, help us find light in the darkness, keep hope for the future alive in all of us," she says in an ad titled In the Dark.
In another spot aired this past week, a narrator says, "America is a place for everyone, those who chose this country, those who fought for it, some Republicans, some Democrats and most just somewhere in between." It ends with the narrator saying America is looking for someone to "work just as hard for the people who voted for him, as those who didn't. To be a president for all Americans." Other ads focus on voting, health care and combating the coronavirus.
While the president has aired far fewer new ads in the past seven days, one of his latest ads titled Uphold the Law accuses Biden of refusing to strongly condemn violence amid protests this year, something he has publicly done. In it the narrator says, "President Trump will keep America safe."
Another ad from the Trump campaign first airing nationally this week features clips of Biden talking about banning new fracking and recent comments about transitioning from the oil industry. It features a woman who works in fracking and warned it would be the end of her livelihood. And just in time for Halloween, the Trump campaign aired a new ad nationally that begins with, "Here's how you can spot a zombie," before showing a number of clips of Joe Biden, and ending "with your help, we can prevent the zombie uprising."
The president and RNC also continue targeting seniors with ads about protecting Medicare.
Looking at Facebook spending, Biden is also outspending President Trump on ads here over the past week, with $8.4 million to $5.75 million from October 19 to 25. It's a trend that has continued since the summer. Both campaigns are using Facebook to encourage people to get the polls and vote this week.
This comes as Facebook's new policy of not allowing any new political ads to be placed within a week of Election Day is about to take effect. Ads already running will continue, but there won't be new ones over the next week. Facebook also has a ban on all political ads after the election in an effort it claims will help combat abuse.
DID YOU HEAR THAT?
America is voting. And it's doing it in record numbers. With a week to go before Election Day, early voting totals have eclipsed 2016 levels. Turn out in Texas is already 82% of overall participation four years ago.
In Georgia, Nevada and North Carolina, it's 66%. Experts predict turnout will only accelerate the closer we get to November 3. In the debut episode of "The Debrief" with CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett, the challenges of voting in a pandemic were examined.
Would there be enough poll workers? How about enough funding? Could states adopt new laws to accommodate voting procedures with expanded absentee access? Would those changes lead to widespread fraud? In this episode, thirteen weeks later, we answer those questions with CBS News campaign reporters Adam Brewster, Zak Hudak, Cara Korte, LaCrai Mitchell, Alex Tin and Jack Turman. We've come a long way since July, but have we come far enough?
A Michigan Court of Claims judge on Tuesday struck down Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's order that banned openly carrying firearms within 100 feet of polling locations, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster.
Benson's order was challenged by gun rights groups and open carry advocates, along with one serial litigant in Michigan. The Detroit News reports that the judge said the order "smacks of an attempt at legislation" during the hearing.
"The Legislature has said: Here are the places you cannot carry a weapon," Judge Christopher Murray said during the hearing, according to the Detroit News. "The secretary has expanded that. And so how is that in accordance with state law?"
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel plans to appeal the decision.
"We intend to immediately appeal the judge's decision as this issue is of significant public interest and importance to our election process," press secretary Ryan Jarvi said in a statement. Some local law enforcement officials said they were not planning to enforce the order. Nessel and Benson said Michigan State Police would be stepping in to help with enforcement if needed.
Following Ohio Senator Rob Portman's vote to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Ohio Democrats are launching a fundraising effort for his eventual Democratic challenger in 2022, when he's up for re-election. Organizers -- all young Democrats in the state -- include: Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, Hamilton County clerk of courts Aftab Pureval, Columbus city attorney Zach Klein, Franklin County recorder Danny O'Connor, Portage County commissioner Kathleen Clyde and Columbus city councilwoman Liz Brown.
The fundraising effort is similar to Democratic efforts in 2018 to raise money for the Democrat in Maine challenging Senator Susan Collins, reports CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman. Collins, who is up for re-election in 2020, is in a tough race against Democratic candidate Sara Gideon.
In terms of voting, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced that more than 2.2 million Ohioans have already cast their ballot. That number surpasses the 1.9 million Ohioans who voted early in person or by mail throughout the entire 2016 general election.
The secretary's office also noted that more than 1.4 million absentee ballots have been returned and more than 743,000 Ohioans have already voted early in-person with a week until Election Day. In addition, Ohio's county boards of elections have received 3,173,586 absentee ballot requests.
"Each week it's a new record -- and that's because enthusiastic voters are taking advantage of Ohio's convenient voting opportunities which are some of the best in the nation," LaRose said in a statement.
In Franklin County, Ohio, which includes Columbus, the county board of elections announced that more than 244,000 voters have returned their mail-in ballot or voted early in-person at the county board of elections. In addition, the board announced that more than 5,600 poll workers will work at the county's 324 voting locations on Election Day.
Today was the last day you could apply for a general election mail-in ballot in Pennsylvania -- over 3 million have already done so, reports CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak.
As a result, early voting as it exists in Pennsylvania stops today, too. While there's no official early in-person voting in the state, voters have been able to go to their county elections office, apply for a mail ballot, fill it out there and return it on the spot. That's the closest thing the state has to early, in-person voting.
Some counties across the state, including massive Philadelphia and Allegheny, have opened multiple satellite elections offices to allow more of this kind of voting. And those who have received or will receive ballots in the mail but have not turned them in yet will still be able to submit them in person or mail them in. Assuming the U.S. Supreme Court doesn't rule differently, mail ballots received up to 3 days after the Election Day will be counted, so long as they are not clearly postmarked after Nov. 3.
A local Pennsylvania board of elections today filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court requesting that Judge Amy Coney Barrett recuse herself from consideration in a case over that 3-day mail ballot extension, Hudak also reports.
The Board of Elections in Luzerne County, a key battleground within the battleground state, argued in a motion that President Trump's latest confirmed Supreme Court justice is required by the Judicial Code to recuse herself from the case because her, "impartiality might reasonably be questioned."
They also argue that no one may choose their own judge. The Supreme Court last week voted 4-4 on a request from Pennsylvania Republicans for it to halt an order from the state's high court creating a 3-day mail ballot receipt extension. The split vote meant the lower court's decision stood.
The Pennsylvania GOP responded later that week by going back to the U.S. Supreme Court, which they were able to do by asking for a hasty ruling on whether the state court's ruling was constitutional; previously they had asked only for it to be stopped until they ruled. Both parties care deeply about this issue because more than twice as many Democrats as Republicans have applied to vote by mail in the state. In the state's primary, over 100,000 mail ballots came in after Election Day, and that number is expected to be multiplied in the general election. In 2016, Donald Trump won the state by far less, about 44,000 votes.