Biden accuses Trump of trying to wish away Covid ahead of Wisconsin rally – live

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Biden accuses Trump of trying to wish away Covid ahead of Wisconsin rally – as it happened” was written by Bryan Armen Graham in New York (now) and Tom Lutz and Martin Pengelly (earlier), for theguardian.com on Saturday 17th October 2020 21.43 UTC

10.43pm BST

Summary

Here’s a summary of the latest events:

10.29pm BST

Mitch McConnell announced Saturday that the Senate will vote Tuesday on a Paycheck Protection Plan funding bill and Wednesday on the same 0bn Covid-19 aid package that Democrats blocked last month on the grounds that it didn’t go far enough.

“It is long past time for the two parties to agree where we can and get more money out the door,” the Senate majority leader said in a statement.

10.21pm BST

Amid a pandemic-induced economic meltdown that has seen thousands of businesses closed and millions put out of work, one industry in California appears to be booming: gun sales.

A study by the UC Davis violence prevention research program estimates that 110,000 Californians have purchased a firearm since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis. And for almost half of them – 47,000 – it was the first time they had bought a weapon.

The lead researcher of the study, assistant professor Nicole Kravitz-Wirtz, said while previous spikes in firearms sales could be linked at least partially to actual rising levels of violent crime, the coronavirus “surge” is related more to apprehension.

The UC Davis team found that respondents’ concerns about violence happening to them significantly increased during the pandemic compared with before, including robbery, assault, homicide, police violence, suicide and unintentional firearm injury. Significantly, the fears did not extend to mass shootings.

“Our findings add support to public health-oriented strategies designed to address the enduring psychological trauma associated with direct and indirect exposure to violence, as well as the underlying social and structural factors that contribute to violence-related harms,” Kravitz-Wirtz said.

“We wanted to capture individuals’ lived experiences of violence in the context of the pandemic, along with information on pandemic-induced firearm acquisition.”

Another finding was that “more than one in 10 respondents, representing an estimated four million California adults, were concerned that someone they know might physically harm themselves on purpose.”

For many, Kravitz-Wirtz noted, the concern was because the person they were worried about had suffered a major loss due to the pandemic, such as losing a loved one, their job or housing.

The California study mirrored a national study that tracked rising levels of gun crime and firearms sales through the early months of the pandemic.

9.53pm BST

Thousands of people gathered for the Women’s March in downtown Washington on Saturday to exhort voters to expel Donald Trump from the White House and protest his nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

The latest of rallies that began with a massive women’s march the day after Trump’s January 2017 inauguration was playing out during the coronavirus pandemic, and demonstrators were asked to wear face coverings and practice social distancing.

Rachel O’Leary Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March, opened the event by asking people to keep their distance from one another, saying that the only superspreader event would be the recent one at the White House.

“His presidency began with women marching and now it’s going to end with woman voting. Period,” she said.

Women's March
Women’s March activists participate in a nationwide protest against US president Donald Trump’s decision to fill the seat on the Supreme Court left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the 2020 election. Photograph: Michael McCoy/Reuters

Dozens of other rallies were planned from New York to San Francisco to signal opposition to Trump and his policies, including the push to fill the seat of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg before Election Day.

One march was being held at Cornell University in upstate New York outside the dormitory where Bader Ginsburg lived as an undergraduate student.

In Washington, Sonja Spoo, director of reproductive rights campaigns at Ultraviolet, said she has to chuckle when she hears reporters ask Trump whether he will accept a peaceful transfer of power if he loses his reelection bid, according to the Associated Press.

“When we vote him out, come November 3rrd, there is no choice,” said Spoo. “Donald Trump will not get to choose whether he stays in power.”

“That is not his power, that is our power. … We are the hell and high water,” she said.

9.12pm BST

Tensions are rising between Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis, a keen Donald Trump ally, and elections supervisors, two days before early in-person voting begins in the crucial swing state.

Brad McVay, general counsel for Florida’s department of state, emailed supervisors of elections in all 67 counties this week informing them of a requirement that all ballot drop-off boxes must be attended at all times by elections staff or an armed guard, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

While burdensome, McVay says the in-person measures are necessary to ensure the drop boxes are protected “from those who intend to do harm to the boxes (or the contents within them).”

He warns: “A person onsite can prevent foreign substances or small incendiary devices (like firecrackers) from being thrown into the drop box; video monitoring cannot do the same.”

But the supervisors’ representative body, the Florida Supervisors of Elections association, has effectively told them to ignore the directive, advising that no state law, statute or regulation compels them to comply.

Vote by mail ballot drop box
A vote by mail ballot drop box at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill, Florida. Photograph: Larry Marano/REX/Shutterstock

“Drop boxes that are at the main office, a branch office or early voting site are required to be secure, but I don’t see that there is any staffing requirement or hours of operation related to those drop boxes [in state law]” the association’s general counsel Ron Labasky wrote in his own memo.

“There is no definition of secure, so in my view that is within the discretion of the supervisor.”

In South Florida’s three most populous counties, the Sun-Sentinel reports, Palm Beach has four drop boxes that are monitored by 24-hour video surveillance, Broward County has two, and Miami-Dade has only daytime drop off facilities at 33 early-voting locations that will be guarded from Monday.

Florida is notorious for post-election finger pointing and lawsuits, and this latest wrangle sets the stage for another contentious and controversial voting season.

Already this year, DeSantis and the Republicans in control of the state legislature have successfully nullified a voter-approved ballot initiative from 2018 that would have restored voting rights to hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised former felons.

Almost 2.5m mail-in votes, a record for this stage of an election cycle, have already been submitted in Florida, with Democrats holding a sizable advantage. Trump needs Republican voters to turn out in person in massive numbers to capture the state and its 29 electoral college votes, which most analysts say the president must win to secure a second term.

8.45pm BST

A representative for Nebraska senator Ben Sasse has responded to Donald Trump’s Twitter broadside earlier Saturday, in which he called the conservative lawmaker “little”, “the least effective of our 53 Republican senators”, “rather stupid and obnoxious” and “an embarrassment”.

Sasse’s crime was to have criticized Trump in robust terms on a call with constituents first reported by the Washington Examiner, saying the president “kisses dictators’ butts” and “flirts with white supremacists”.

“I’m now looking at the possibility of a Republican bloodbath in the Senate, and that’s why I’ve never been on the Trump train,” Sasse said.

James Wegmann, a spokesman for Sasse, claimed:

Ben said the same thing to Nebraskans that he has repeatedly said to the president directly in the Oval Office. Ben is focused on defending the Republican Senate majority, and he’s not going to waste a single minute on tweets.

Sasse, 48, is considered a shoo-in for re-election against Democratic opponent Chris Janicek, who has faced criticism and calls to drop out after he sent sexually vulgar texts to a campaign staffer.

Updated at 8.45pm BST

8.23pm BST

Donald Trump’s presidential motorcade departed the White House at the top of the hour for today’s trips to Michigan, Wisconsin and an overnight in Las Vegas.

Ahead of departure, Jared Kushner could be seen walking back and forth next to waiting cars as he chatted on his cell phone and took a quick selfie. He was wearing in a light ski jacket.

Later Stephen Miller could be seen heading for the cars with a bag in each hand.

The reason for the motorcade instead of Marine One is the White House 2020 Fall Garden Tours. It is a beautiful fall day for it.

Trump is holding rallies around the country to try to secure key battleground states that he won four years ago. The former New York businessman prevailed in Michigan and Wisconsin in 2016 but surveys show him running behind Biden, the Democratic candidate, in those states this year.

The president’s advisers have long seen Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as Pennsylvania, as key to his chances of re-election. The president is also playing defense in traditional Republican strongholds, including Arizona, where he plans to campaign on Monday, and Georgia, where he campaigned on Friday night.

7.45pm BST

Thousands of travelers have already taken advantage of Hawaii’s new testing program that allows visitors to bypass the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine if they test negative for Covid-19 at least 72 hours before their arrival.

On Thursday, the program’s first day, about 8,300 passengers came through the state’s local airports. Over the last few months, about 100 visitors a day arrived in the islands.

Since March, travelers looking to experience their dream Hawaiian getaway were looking at a 14-day quarantine once they touched down in the Hawaiian islands. By July, nearly 200 people were arrested for breaking quarantine, which required people to shelter-in-place as soon as they left the airport. As a result, the number of visitors crashed down from nearly 862,572 in January to 22,344 visitors in August, bringing down with it the state’s economy that relied on the -billion tourism industry.

Hawaii is just coming down from an influx of cases of Covid-19 that it saw in the summer. At its peak in August, the average number of new cases a day was 250. Recently, the number has climbed down to around 90 cases per day. Since the number of visitors flying into the islands was so low, community transmission played a major role in the spread of the virus.

Some have spoken out about the program leading to increased cases if travelers end up contracting the virus before they arrive in the islands and after they take a test. But local leaders are generally enthusiastic about the program, particularly its potential to get the state’s economy rolling again after a months-long halt. The state had a 12.5% unemployment rate in August, the fourth highest of any state, down from its peak of 13.9% in June.

7.16pm BST

US daily Covid cases at highest level since July

More than 68,000 new cases of Covid-19 were recorded in the US on Friday, the highest number in a single day since July, further confirmation the country is in the midst of a coronavirus resurgence.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project, the last time the US saw close to 68,000 new cases in a day was 31 July, when a summer peak was starting to recede.

“You can’t enter into the cool months of the fall and the cold months of the winter with a high community infection baseline,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, on Friday, while discussing the difficulties the virus will present in the coming weeks.

Fauci has said repeatedly that the US is still in its first wave of coronavirus, pointing out that case numbers have not dipped to a low enough point to constitute an end to that first phase. On Friday, the US hit a global record of total cases, 8 million since March, with a death toll close to 220,000.

6.30pm BST

Joe Biden has continued his attack on what his campaign see as a weak spot for Donald Trump: the Covid-19 pandemic. On Saturday, Biden tweeted out a video of Trump saying America is “rounding a corner” in the fight against the virus. Headlines are then displayed detailing the rise in cases of the coronavirus across America. The video ends with three words: “Clueless. Dangerous. Reckless”.

The US passed 8m Covid-19 cases on Friday as fatalities in America from the virus approach 220,000.

6.15pm BST

Black voters in North Carolina are disproportionately having their mail-in ballots flagged for potential rejection in the battleground state, setting off alarms about disenfranchisement.

North Carolina requires mail-in voters to get a witness for their ballots and at least 7,000 mail-in ballots have been flagged across the state because of a deficiency, according to data collected by Michael Bitzer, a professor at Catawba College who closely tracks voting data in the state. As of Wednesday, 40% of rejected ballots – 2,871 – were from Black voters, even though they comprised only 16% of the overall ballots returned. (A spokesman for the state board of elections cautioned some of the data may be outdated because local election offices have not been entering rejection data into the statewide system while legal challenges are pending.)

Postal voting will play a huge part in this year’s election
Postal voting will play a huge part in this year’s election. Photograph: Lynne Sladky/AP

The Rev Anthony Spearman, the head of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, attributed the higher rate at which Black voters’ ballots were being flagged to the fact that African Americans traditionally have not widely voted by mail in the state, instead opting for in-person voting. Many voters are getting tripped up by the state’s requirement that mail-in voters get a witness to sign their absentee ballot, he said.

“The African American community, many of them for the first time, are utilizing absentee ballots and have not been cultivated to the practices thereof. There is a level of them being not aware of the process and how it goes and so they’re not filling out their forms correctly,” he said.

Just 3% of the Black voters whose ballots were flagged for rejection voted by mail in 2016, according to data collected by Bitzer.

“Voting by mail is very different than voting in person,” Bitzer said. “Until I’m presented otherwise I have to think lack of familiarity with the vote method process is probably what is hanging up so much of these ballots.”

The North Carolina data underscores the conundrum Democrats are facing this year as they encourage supporters to cast their votes by mail amid concerns about Covid-19. A mail vote is more likely to be rejected than an in-person one and research has shown that first-time voters and minorities are all much more likely to have their ballots rejected.

You can read the full article below:

5.55pm BST

Cinemas in areas of New York with low Covid-19 positivity rates will be able to reopen from Friday, the state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, says.

Theatres will only be allowed to operate at 25% capacity, up to a maximum audience of 50, and the ruling only applies outside of New York City.

There were 1,784 new cases of Covid-19 reported in New York on Friday, and nine fatalities. Of the 159,972 tests reported, 1.11% came back positive.

5.39pm BST

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, arguably the most powerful person in the Republican party and a ruthless political operator, is up for reelection this November and holds a 12-point lead over his challenger, Amy McGrath.

However, one of the largest newspapers in his home state of Kentucky has endorsed McGrath’s candidacy.

“During his 36 years in office, McConnell has made it perfectly clear that his only passion is the pursuit of power, his own and that of the Republican Party,” the Lexington Herald-Leader wrote in its editorial. “For that reason alone, we would endorse his opponent.

“Luckily for voters, McGrath, a former fighter pilot and public servant, would make an excellent senator who would actually put the needs and interests of Kentuckians above her own.”

5.21pm BST

In 1994, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware stood proudly behind Bill Clinton as he signed into law a reform bill that touched nearly every aspect of the US criminal justice system.

More than 25 years later, amid national protests against racial injustice in law enforcement, the Democratic presidential nominee is grappling anew with the implications of legislation he helped author and which experts say opened the door to an era of mass incarceration that devastated African American communities.

At a town hall in Philadelphia on Thursday night, Biden was asked by a voter about the legacy of the 1994 bill, which she said included “prejudice against minorities”, and what his view of the legislation was now.

Biden sought to defend the bill as a product of a different era, while arguing that elements of it were wrongly implemented.

Pressed by the moderator, George Stephanopoulos, to say if his support for the bill had been a mistake, Biden replied: “Yes, it was.

“But here’s where the mistake came,” he said. “The mistake came in terms of what the states did locally.”

In an eight-minute response, Biden said the bill passed with the support of the Congressional Black Caucus and Black mayors around the country. He noted that it contained the landmark Violence Against Women Act and an assault weapons ban.

Conditions were different now, he said, as activists demand an overhaul of policing and incarceration policies in response to police killings of Black Americans.

“Things have changed drastically,” Biden said.

You can read the full article below:

5.04pm BST

A little over a week since, six men were charged over a plot to kidnap Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, a man in Wichita, Kansas, has been arrested over allegations he threatened to kidnap and kill the city’s mayor, Brandon Whipple. In both cases, the motive appears to have been discontent over the handling of the pandemic.

According to the Wichita Eagle, 59-year-old Meredith Dowty had asked for Whipple’s address after becoming frustrated with the city’s mask mandates. “He said he was going to kidnap me and slash my throat and he needed my address because I needed to see the hangman – me and everyone who, something about tyranny,” Whipple told the Eagle.

“It sounded like the person was very upset about pretty much mask mandates and he said something about not being able to see his mother because of Covid restrictions on elderly homes.”

Whipple has received pushback in Wichita due to a mandate requiring people to wear masks in most public settings.

4.45pm BST

Kamala Harris will return to the campaign trail on Monday, according to the Biden campaign. Harris cancelled her in-person appearances on Thursday after it emerged she had flown with someone who had later tested positive for Covid-19. Harris tested negative for the virus on Friday, and she will appear at an event in Florida on Monday.

Kamala Harris will return to the campaign trail on Monday
Kamala Harris will return to the campaign trail on Monday. Photograph: Ronda Churchill/AFP/Getty Images

Meanwhile David Perdue, a Republican senator from Georgia, has been criticized for mocking Harris’s name. During an event in Macon, Georgia, Perdue mentioned: “Kah-mah-la or Kah-ma-la or Kamala-mala-mala, I don’t know, whatever.”

Harris’s late mother was Indian and her father is black, and Democrats accused Perdue of using racially-charged language.

“Senator David Perdue has served in the Senate alongside Vice Presidential nominee and Senator Kamala Harris since 2017. He knows her name and he knows how to say it. His disgusting performance today is nothing more than a desperate dog whistle from a losing politician … Perdue has shown he lacks the dignity and respect that Georgians deserve from their US senator, and he must immediately apologize,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Helen Kalla said in a statement.

4.18pm BST

Stimulus talks between House speaker Nancy Pelosi and the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, are due to take place later today on a new stimulus package. But, as Politico points out, don’t expect agreement on a subject that has been dragging on for months: Mnuchin is due to leave the country for talks in Israel and the UAE, perhaps showing how much importance he places on the talks.

4.03pm BST

When Vernon Jones, a black Democratic state representative from Georgia, crossed party lines to deliver a passionate endorsement of the president’s re-election bid at the Republican convention, the GOP greeted him like a rock star. Now there’s evidence the label has gone to his head.

In arguably the most ill-advised and dangerous crowdsurf since electro dance legend Steve Aoki broke a concert goer’s neck in a dinghy, a maskless Jones launched himself into a mostly maskless audience at Trump’s rally in Macon, Georgia, on Friday night.

Riding a sea of red Maga hats packed tightly together in contravention of CDC guidelines, the grinning 59-year-old lawmaker, in suit and tie and with thumbs raised, was passed overhead from deplorable to deplorable, to use a term for Trump supporters Jones used in a tweet defending the stunt.

“Yes, I surfed that crowd!” Jones said in a follow-up message. “To the haters – stay mad! You’ll be even more mad come 3 November.”

Vernon Jones crowdsurfs.
Vernon Jones crowdsurfs during an event in Georgia on Friday night. Photograph: John Bazemore/AP

On social media, reaction was swift and brutal. One Twitter user dubbed Jones “Captain Covid” alongside a photograph of him in superhero pose. Others denounced him as an idiot and a loser, living in fairytale land.

Republicans hope Jones, who was first elected to the Georgia state house in 1992, can help shore up the black Republican vote in his state. Trump won Georgia from Hillary Clinton by more than five points in 2016, but recent polls show the president trailing Democratic challenger Joe Biden by almost one and a half points.

At the Republican convention in August, Jones tore into Democrats’ handling of race issues, as one of a number of first-night speakers of color to deliver a similar message.

“Why is a lifelong Democrat speaking at the Republican National Convention? The Democratic party does not want black people to leave their mental plantation. We’ve been forced to be there for decades and generations,” Jones said, in a controversial speech he later said he intended to be “a culture shock”.

Jones resigned his Georgia House seat in April, after first endorsing Trump. But he rescinded his decision days later, claiming he had received “overwhelming support”.

Updated at 4.29pm BST

3.49pm BST

Donald Trump has responded on (where else) Twitter to criticism from Ben Sasse, a Republican senator for Nebraska. During a town hall of Wednesday, Sasse said the president “flirted with white supremacists”, “kisses dictators’ butts” and lambasted Trump for the “way he treats women and spends like a drunken sailor.”

“The least effective of our 53 Republican Senators, and a person who truly doesn’t have what it takes to be great, is Little Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a State which I have gladly done so much to help,” wrote the president on Saturday morning. He added: “Little Ben is a liability to the Republican Party, and an embarrassment to the Great State of Nebraska. Other than that, he’s just a wonderful guy!”

Ben Sasse is considering a run for the presidency in 2024
Ben Sasse is considering a run for the presidency in 2024. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Sasse is one of an increasing number of Republicans critical of Trump as the election approaches – and the president trails in the polls. In an article for the Washington Post this week, Maryland’s Republican governor Larry Hogan said he had written in the name of Ronald Reagan on his mail-in ballot. “It’s not going to change the outcome in my state. But I thought it was important to just cast a vote that showed the kind of person I’d like to see in office,” said Hogan.

Both Sasse and Hogan are believed to be considering runs for the presidency in 2024. Their comments this week will allow them to claim they had always opposed Trump when they start their campaigns (of course, if Trump wins, that’s another story…)

3.28pm BST

There is something worse than Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican party.

Yes, even worse than a party that doesn’t take seriously a pandemic that has killed more than 217,000 Americans. Worse than a party that doesn’t care about locking up children in cages at the border or separating them permanently from their parents. Worse than a party that celebrates a leader who was impeached for abusing overseas military aid as a tool to smear his political opponent.

What could be worse than Trump’s version of Republican politics? It’s the Trump-driven conversion of the Grand Old Party into a cult of unhinged conspiracy wingnuts.

Donald Trump has refused to distance himself from QAnon
Donald Trump has refused to distance himself from QAnon. Photograph: Kyle Grillot/AFP/Getty Images

The QAnon cult is a bizarre world where everything makes sense of nonsense: where Trump is a savior of the nation’s children from a secret pedophile ring of satanic Democrats and deep state officials, who will be overthrown in some great awakening. And that’s the sane, simplified version of the story.

It should be easier to condemn these fringe-heads than the white supremacists who form such a loyal base for this white supremacist president. But it isn’t. Because to the spiritual leader of the cult of Trump – Donald himself – there are no fringe-heads who think he’s a savior. They are all just very fine people.

You can read the full article below:

3.07pm BST

Biden: Trump has panicked and tried to wish away Covid-19

With Covid-19 cases hitting record levels in the battleground state of Wisconsin on Friday (see the entry below for more), Joe Biden has attacked Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic. The president is due to hold a rally in the state later today.

“Wisconsin is in the grips of one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the country,” said Biden after a record daily total of 3,861 cases were recorded in the state on Friday. “Jill and I are praying for the health of those who’ve contracted the virus, and for the families who are mourning the loss of a loved one. We have lost far too many lives to this pandemic – and the sad fact is, it didn’t have to be this way.

“President Trump is knowingly downplaying the severity of the virus. At virtually every turn, he has panicked and tried to wish it away, rather than doing the hard work to get it under control. And today, 150,000 fewer Wisconsin workers are employed than when President Trump took office and his failed response to the pandemic has crushed Wisconsin’s economy.

“If you send me to the White House, I’ll be ready to tackle this crisis on day one. My administration will trust the science, lead by example, speak the truth to the American people, and help Wisconsin families and small businesses build back better than before.”

Trump had planned to hold Saturday’s rally in La Crosse, but was forced to move the event to Janesville, about 175 miles away, where there are fewer cases of the virus, after objections from the local officials.

You can read about the spread of Covid-19 across the midwest below:

2.48pm BST

According to a CNN analysis of Johns Hopkins University data, 10 US states recorded their highest-ever daily total of Covid-19 cases on Friday. Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming all had their highest daily totals since the start of the pandemic.

Wisconsin had the highest total of those 10 states, with 3,861 new cases on Friday. Wisconsin is considered a battleground state in the presidential election, with Joe Biden holding a lead of 7.5% over Donald Trump in the most recent poll. Trump is holding a rally in Janesville, Wisconsin, on Saturday night.

“I want you all to be aware that Wisconsin is currently one of our red states,” the US surgeon general, Jerome Adams, said on Friday. “Meaning, your positivity rates are over 10% and going in the wrong direction. Cases are in the red, going in the wrong direction.”

2.28pm BST

NBC’s Noah Pransky reports that mail-in voting in the swing state of Florida is very high, with 2.4m votes cast already and 19 days to go with the option still open.

During a campaign appearance on Friday, Trump joked he would fire Florida governor Ron DeSantis if he loses the state in the election.

“He’s done a great job and he’s been my friend. Hey, Ron, are we going to win this state, please? You know if we don’t win it, I’m blaming the governor. I’ll fire him somehow. I’m going to fire him. I will find a way, anyway,” Trump said.

You can keep up-to-date with which candidate is leading in all the battleground states with our poll tracker:

Updated at 2.35pm BST

2.13pm BST

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has announced the six topics that will be covered in the debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden in Tennessee next Thursday: “fighting Covid-19”, “American families”, “race in America”, “climate change”, “national security” and “leadership”.

The debate will take place at 9pm ET and will be moderated by NBC’s Kristen Welker. CPD has not announced any modifications to the format of the event, even though it said after the last debate that it would announce “additional structure … to the format of the remaining debates, to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues”.

The first debate, which took place on 29 September, was largely seen as a chaotic rumble between Trump and Biden, criticized for its lack of substance.

Of course the debate line-up itself changed after Trump contracted Covid-19 and refused to participate in a virtual debate. The two opted for town halls instead.

Of which:

1.50pm BST

Senate hug symbolizes California’s Dianne Feinstein fatigue

It was a hug that would have shocked many, even in a year without social distancing: Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate judiciary committee, ending a contentious week of supreme court confirmation hearings with a full-body embrace of Lindsey Graham, the committee’s Republican chair.

The act and her remarks about the hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett – “This has been one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in” – sparked calls among progressives for her retirement, and outcry that she had been in office for too long. Many of the California senator’s constituents and her more progressive Democratic colleagues have been arguing that for years.

“There have been a number of us in San Francisco that for a long time felt that, without taking away from what she has accomplished, it has gotten to a point where she is out of touch with where San Francisco is and where California is,” said David Campos, chair of the San Francisco Democratic party, not speaking on behalf of the organization.

“She represents the past of San Francisco and California,” Campos continued. “It’s not surprising that at a time when we’re facing a crisis, when we have a rightwing supremacist being rushed through the supreme court, she’s not up to the task. And it’s not because of her age. It’s just because of who she is.”

1.35pm BST

Some highlights of the Associated Press’s reporting of some of the lowlights of Trump’s campaigning on Friday, in Florida, forever a key battleground state, and Georgia, until now a state any Republican candidate would have had a hard time imagining losing:

Backed into a corner and facing financial strains, President Donald Trump went after his opponent’s family and defended his own struggle to contain the pandemic as he fought to energize his sagging reelection bid.

Trump campaigned Friday in Florida and Georgia, neighboring states he carried four years ago and must win again to extend his presidency. His decision to devote Friday evening’s prime-time slot to Georgia in particular highlighted the serious nature of his challenge: far from his original plan to expand into Democratic-leaning states, he is laboring to stave off a defeat of major proportions.

In Macon, he cited support from former University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker to win favor from his rally crowd. “How good was Herschel Walker?” Trump said as the Georgia crowd roared. “He’s on our side, and he’s an incredible guy.”

Trump had tried the same strategy Wednesday in Iowa, bringing wrestling legend Dan Gable onstage.

Earlier, in Florida, the president derided the Bidens as “an organized crime family”, renewing his daily claims about the candidate’s son, Hunter, and his business dealings in Ukraine and China.

Of that accusation – as the Washington Post literary critic Carlos Lozada has so adroitly pointed out, Trump tends to project. The AP again, on a group with whom Trump needs to succeed, and which polling suggests is not buying what he’s selling:

More to the point for Trump’s Florida audience, he spoke directly to seniors who have increasingly soured on his handling of the pandemic.

“I am moving heaven and earth to safeguard our seniors from the China virus,” Trump said, using his usual blame-shifting term to describe the coronavirus. “We are prevailing,” the president said, promising to deliver the first doses of a vaccine to seniors when it’s ready.

… Meanwhile, the president’s campaign released new numbers suggesting he’s likely the first incumbent to face a fundraising disadvantage in the modern era.

Trump’s campaign, along with the Republican national committee and associated groups, raised 7.8m in September, well short of the 3m raised by Biden and the Democratic National Committee.

Here, meanwhile, is Georgia senator David Perdue shamelessly bating a Trump crowd by pretending not to be able to pronounce Kamala Harris’s name, thereby upholding the august dignity of the matchless deliberative body in which they both serve with the sort of effortless gravitas which even Charles Sumner could never have hoped to match. Yes, you can’t type sarcasm, I know:

And here’s David Smith’s survey of the state of the race, again:

1.13pm BST

Good morning …

… and welcome to another day of coverage of electoral politics and Covid crisis in America. The election is two weeks and two days away, and Joe Biden holds a decent lead over Donald Trump in most national polls and many polls in battleground states.

Trump is heading to no fewer than three such states today: Michigan, to deliver “remarks on Supporting the American Way of Life”; Wisconsin, for an evening rally in a Covid “red zone”; and then on to Nevada.

Here’s Jo Walters on the Wisconsin trip:

On Sunday, Biden will head for North Carolina, a state many think Trump has to win if he is to find a path to victory in the electoral college. Fivethirtyeight.com puts Biden up there, but only by 3.1%. Here’s David Smith’s survey of the situation:

In Covid news, on Friday the Johns Hopkins case count in the US passed 8m, with nearly 220,000 deaths, even as Dr Anthony Fauci, the most recognised public health expert in the country, said the White House task force is hardly meeting anymore – and while, as mentioned, Trump charges about the country, disregarding public health measures at campaign events though making sure attendees sign disclaimers lest they catch the bloody thing.

Here’s Lloyd Green’s review of Andrew Cuomo’s new book on the early days of the crisis, when the New York governor battled both virus and a hostile White House:

More follows…

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