- Melania Trump on Tuesday cancelled her first appearance on the campaign trail in over a year, citing a residual cough after recovering from COVID-19.
- With Tuesday marking two weeks until the November 3 election, the campaigns have entered the final stretch of the race.
- President Donald Trump campaigns in key battleground Pennsylvania, while opponent Joe Biden has no scheduled events before Thursday’s debate in Nashville.
- Trump’s campaign says he will participate in the debate, despite protest over topics and muted mics.
- Early voting begins in closely watched Wisconsin, as well as Hawaii, Louisiana and Utah.
- More than 31.6 million US voters have already cast ballots, according to the United States Elections Project tracker.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the United States elections. This is Joseph Stepansky.
Tuesday, October 20:
17:00 ET – Televangelist Pat Robertson says God has shown him Trump will win
Influential televangelist Pat Robertson has said that God has shown him Trump will win the election.
The conservative Christian media mogul also said that Trump’s win would be followed by “earth-shaking” events and widespread civil unrest, the Christian Broadcasting Network, which Robertson founded, reported on Tuesday.
Trump’s support among evangelical Christians helped his victory in 2016. That support was buoyed by endorsements from evangelical leaders, despite Trump’s admission of sexually assaulting women marring his campaign.
16:55 ET – Biden leads Trump in Michigan, race statistically even in North Carolina: Poll
Biden maintains a lead over Trump in Michigan and the two candidates remain statistically tied in North Carolina, new Reuters/Ipsos opinion polls show.
Biden had 51 percent support of likely voters in Michigan, compared to 44 percent support for Trump in the state.
In North Carolina, Biden had 49 percent support to Trump’s 46 percent, within the poll’s credibility interval, meaning the candidates are statistically tied.
16:30 ET – Republicans close in on Democrats in Michigan, North Carolina Senate races: Poll
Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina pulled even with his Democratic challenger, and in Michigan, the Republican candidate for a Senate seat cut into the Democratic incumbent’s lead, new Reuters/Ipsos polls show.
In North Carolina, Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham and Tillis both had 47 percent support of likely voters.
Meanwhile, in Michigan, Democratic incumbent Gary Peters had 50 percent support among likely voters, down from 52 percent the previous week, while Republican challenger John James had 45 percent support, up from 44 percent the previous week.
16:00 ET – Obama to hold ‘drive-in’ rally for Biden in Philadelphia
Former president Barack Obama’s first appearance on the campaign trail for Democratic nominee Joe Biden will be a “drive-in car rally” in Philadelphia on Wednesday, the Biden campaign said.
Philadelphia, with a population of 1.6 million, is the largest city in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state in the November 3 election between Biden and Trump. The 59-year-old Obama will “hold a drive-in car rally and encourage Pennsylvanians to make their plans to vote early,” the Biden campaign said in a statement.
Obama remained on the sidelines during the Democratic presidential primaries but he endorsed his former vice president after he won the party nomination. During the party convention in August, Obama urged voters to support Biden and said “our democracy” is at stake.
“(Biden) made me a better president,” Obama said. “He’s got the character and the experience to make us a better country.”
15:30 ET – Early voting begins in battleground state Wisconsin
Early voting has begun in a Wisconsin, a battleground that swung for Trump in 2016 but, if polls are correct, may go to Biden in 2020.
A combination of factors handed Trump victory in 2016: depressed turnout for Hillary Clinton, third-party candidates attracting ballots, plus white voters without college degrees and white suburban voters who streamed to the polls for Trump, turning the state red for the first time since Ronald Reagan won it in 1984.
The same combination of voters who handed Trump victory might be out of reach this time, according to Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. Miringoff cited an analysis by NBC News and the Cook Political Report that found if 2016’s turnout was applied to 2020’s new demographics, Trump would lose Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. As Trump attempts to energise his base, he is losing wider appeal. “He’s trying to run up the score of what is a shrinking group of people,” Miringoff said.
As Trump’s popularity wanes with white voters, they are turning to Biden. A Marquette Law School poll showed Biden five points up in Wisconsin while Marist had him leading by 10 points. Miringoff said Biden has a better favourability rating than Trump, attracting independents, white voters and voters over 65 – people who sided with Trump in 2016. Biden is winning among white men and especially white women.
Read more about the battle for Wisconsin here.
15:00 ET – Senate set to work through weekend to push Barrett vote
The Senate is on track to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court by next Monday, charging toward a rare weekend session as Republicans push past procedural steps to install Trump’s pick before Election Day.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he will begin the process as soon as the Senate Judiciary Committee wraps up its work Thursday. With a 53-47 Republican majority, and just two GOP senators opposed, Trump’s nominee is on a glide path to confirmation that will seal a conservative hold on the court for years to come.
McConnell said Monday that Barrett demonstrated over several days of public hearings the “sheer intellectual horsepower that the American people deserve to have on the Supreme Court.”
Without the votes to stop Barrett’s ascent, Democrats have few options left. They are searching for two more GOP senators to break ranks and halt confirmation, but that seems unlikely. Never before as a court nominee been voted on so close to a presidential election.
14:30 ET – Melania Trump cancels first campaign appearance in over a year
First Lady Melania Trump canceled a rare joint appearance with her husband at a campaign rally Tuesday due to a “lingering cough” following her infection with the coronavirus, a spokeswoman said.
“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,” Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
The first lady’s appearance with Trump in Erie, Pennsylvania, was to have been her first at a campaign rally in more than a year.Trump, the first lady and their teenage son Barron all tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this month.
14:00 ET – Poll roundup: Biden virtually tied with Trump in North Carolina and Florida
Two new polls out today show the presidential race virtually tied in both Florida and North Carolina, two states Donald Trump won in 2016 and will likely need again for an Electoral College victory this year.
Biden leads Trump 48 percent to 47 percent in Florida among likely voters, according to a University of North Florida poll. Today’s poll is remarkably consistent with other recent polls of the state, as a RealClearPolitics average of Florida polls shows Biden with 48.3 support and Trump with 47.3 percent.
In North Carolina, Biden has a 49 percent to 48 percent lead over Trump among likely voters in a Washington Post/ABC News poll released today. Both the Florida and North Carolina results are within each poll’s margin of error.
A new national poll was released today showing Biden with a 9-point lead over Trump among likely voters, 50-41 percent.
Interestingly, the New York Times/Siena College poll shows that Trump’s latest strategy of attacking Biden and his son Hunter in an effort to bring down Biden’s favorability numbers doesn’t seem to be working. Fifty-three percent of voters said they viewed Biden very or somewhat favorably, compared with 43 percent who said the same of Trump.
13:30 ET – Florida breaks opening day record for early voting
At least 350,000 residents of Florida cast ballots on the first day of early voting on Monday, smashing the state’s opening day records, according to Politico.
About 291,000 residents went to the polls in the first day of early voting in 2016.
Meanwhile, ballots cast by mail totaled over 2.5 million in the state going into Monday, according to the news site. More than double the about 1.2 million submitted in the same timeframe in 2016.
13:00 ET – Trump calls on Barr to investigate Hunter Biden
Trump on Tuesday called on Attorney General William Barr to launch a corruption investigation into Hunter Biden.
“We’ve got to get the attorney general to act. He’s got to act and he’s got to act fast,” Trump said in a phone interview on Fox News, calling for the findings to be released before the November 3 election.
“He’s got to appoint somebody,” Trump said in response to a question about whether Barr should appoint a special counsel to investigate unsubstantiated allegations against Hunter Biden made in the New York Post last week, in a report based on a batch of emails it obtained from a laptop supposedly left by Hunter Biden at a repair shop.
The authenticity and provenance of the information, which the tabloid portrayed as a “smoking gun”, have attracted scrutiny, with the FBI reportedly investigating whether it is part of a foreign disinformation campaign.
12:30 ET – Poll shows trust issue for Trump on coronavirus
A new poll shows US citizens’ trust in the people and institutions giving them information about the coronavirus has fallen across the board.
Nearly two-thirds of US citizens say they don’t trust Trump much or at all for accurate coronavirus information, according to a poll by USAFacts and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
The poll finds that the percentage of people saying they trust COVID-19 information from their state or local governments, the news media, social media and their friends and family has dropped significantly compared to similar questions in April. After Trump, the poll shows only social media has higher distrust levels.
12:00 ET – Supreme Court allows extension of mail-in voting in Pennsylvania
The Supreme Court late Monday allowed an extension of the deadline for mail-in absentee ballots in Pennsylvania for the November 3 elections, declining a Republican request to block a lower court’s ruling that gave voters more time.
The justices, divided 4-4, left in place a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling in favor of state Democrats that had extended the deadline for state election officials to receive mail-in ballots postmarked by the evening of Election Day until three days later.
The brief court order noted that four of the court’s five conservative justices would have granted the request. There are currently only eight justices on the usually nine-member court following the death last month of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which left the court with a 5-3 conservative majority.
Chief Justice John Roberts joined the three liberal justices in denying the request, with five votes needed for it to be granted.
11:30 ET – Trump continues to lash out at debate organisers
Trump has continued to lash out at plans of the debates commission to mute candidates’ microphones during portions of the final presidential debate.
The Commission on Presidential Debates announced late on Monday that Trump Biden will each have two minutes of uninterrupted time to initially answer the moderator’s questions when they face off on Thursday.
Organisers hope the rule change will prevent the debate from descending into chaos and frequent interruptions, as the first debate did last month.
In an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, Trump said the “whole thing is crazy”.
“These people are not good people,” he said of the organisers. He also attacked moderator Kristen Welker, accusing her of favouring Biden and saying there was “nothing fair” about the upcoming debate.
11:00 ET – Biden gets nod from prominent conservatives
Two prominent officials, the retired admiral who oversaw the killing of Osama bin Laden and the former chair of the Republican national convention, have supported Biden.
Retired Admiral William McRaven wrote in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that he had cast his ballot for Biden.
“Truth be told, I am a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, small-government, strong-defense and a national-anthem-standing conservative,” he wrote. “But, I also believe that black lives matter, that the Dreamers deserve a path to citizenship, that diversity and inclusion are essential to our national success, that education is the great equalizer, that climate change is real and that the First Amendment is the cornerstone of our democracy.”
Meanwhile, Michael Steele, the former chair of the Republican National Committee explained why he is supporting Biden in an op-ed for NBC News. He is the second former RNC chair to endorse Biden, following Marc Racicot. Steele wrote: “Rather than seeking to build on the legacy of the Republican Party’s founders, of which Trump is surely ignorant, Trump has posited a single purpose for the GOP – the celebration of him.”
10:30 ET – With lid on Tuesday events, Biden continues to lay low before debate
Biden’s campaign put a lid on public events early Tuesday, the second day in a row the candidate has stayed off the campaign trail before Thursday’s debate in Nashville, Tennessee.
The 77-year-old also was off the campaign trail Monday, only leaving his Delaware home to conduct a television interview.
Biden last held two events in battleground North Carolina on Sunday. The campaign has not announced any events for the former vice president on Wednesday, either, although the schedule had still not been made public.
However, former Pesident Barack Obama is set to campaign for Biden in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
10:00 ET – Trump has said he will participate in debate with Biden, but thinks it is unfair
Trump said on Monday that he will participate in a debate with former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday despite conditions that he considers unfair, including the candidates’ microphones being muted during segments of the face-off.
“I’ll participate, I just think it’s very unfair,” Trump told reporters. “I will participate but it’s very unfair that they changed the topics and it’s very unfair that again we have an anchor who’s totally biased.”
Trump’s campaign has written a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates challenging the list of topics selected by the moderator, NBC television host Kristen Welker.
The October 22 debate was supposed to focus on foreign policy, the Trump campaign alleged. But Welker’s announced topics are fighting COVID-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership. The lettered urged the commission to “rethink and reissue a set of topics … with an emphasis on foreign policy”.
Read more here.
09:30 ET – Republicans see bright spot in voter registration push
The Republican Party has cut into Democrats’ advantage in voter registration tallies across some critical presidential battleground states, a fact they point to as evidence of steady — and overlooked — enthusiasm for Trump and his party, according to the Associated Press.
Even though Trump trails in national polls and struggles with fundraising with just weeks before Election Day, Republicans see their progress in signing up voters in Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona and other states as a rare bright spot.
In Florida, Republicans netted 146,644 voters over Democrats since the pandemic hit in March, leaving Democrats with their smallest overall lead in party registrations since the state began tracking them in 1972, according to the news agency. In Pennsylvania, which Trump won with 44,000 votes in 2016, the GOP added 103,171 more voters since November than Democrats did.
Democrats have argued that Republican gains are partly illusory: Some of the GOP registrants are former Democratic voters who have been voting for Republicans, but who have not updated their registrations until now. They also note that young voters, who lean heavily Democratic, increasingly register as unaffiliated with either party, which helps pad the GOP’s advantage on paper but which might not help on Election Day.
Read more about not being fooled by high early voting numbers here.
09:00 ET – Trump campaigns in Pennsylvania
Trump will campaign in Erie, Pennsylvania Monday night.
Trump narrowly won the battleground state’s 20 electoral votes in the 2016 election, but polls have shown Biden leading in the state. However, a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday indicated that lead may be tightening.
Biden is originally from the state, a fact he has often referenced on the campaign trail.
Read more about the battle for Pennsylvania here.
Read all the updates from Monday, (October 19) here.
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