2020 Daily Trail Markers: Debate prep is in full swing for Trump and Biden

Debate preparation is in full swing for President Trump and Joe Biden ahead of their first debate matchup on Tuesday evening. Mr. Trump has dispensed with traditional formal rehearsals and scripted practices and now is using flash cards and videos to review, sources tell CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga and White House producer Fin Gomez. While some are concerned about the president’s lack of preparation, his advisers stress that he’s an “atypical candidate,” and they say his near-daily press availabilities and often “hostile” interactions with reporters are readying him. For Biden, debate prep has been taking place both in-person at his Delaware home and virtually, in huddles with long-time advisers and top campaign officials, according to a campaign source familiar with the strategy. CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports the Democrats are reviewing the president’s almost daily tweets about Biden, his record and his family as examples of the type of attacks they think the president will focus on. Top advisers are also trying to caution the former vice president from venturing “in the weeds” of complex policy as he was inclined to do on the campaign trail and in previous primary debates, the campaign source added. For more on what the candidates are expecting of one another, read this story from Sganga, Erickson and Gomez.

FROM THE CANDIDATES

TRUMP-PENCE CAMPAIGN

A New York Times report that Mr. Trump paid just $750 in federal income tax the year he entered the White House — and, thanks to colossal losses, no income tax at all in 11 of the 18 years that the Times reviewed — is raising doubts about Mr. Trump’s self-image as a shrewd and successful businessman, reports CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga. That Sunday’s report came just weeks before Election Day served to intensify the spotlight on Mr. Trump the businessman — an identity that he has spent decades cultivating and that helped him capture the presidency four years ago in his first run for political office. The Times’ report deepens the uncertainty surrounding a tumultuous presidential campaign set against the backdrop of a viral pandemic, racial unrest in American cities and a ferocious battle over the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “It’s fake news. It’s totally fake news. Made-up, fake. We went through the same stories, you could’ve asked me the same questions four years ago,” Mr. Trump said Sunday. He claimed that he could not release his tax returns due to an ongoing audit, although an audit does not stop him from releasing them publicly. “I mean the stories that I read are so fake. They’re so phony,” he added. The Trump Organization’s lawyer, Alan Garten, told CBS News in a statement “The New York Times’ story is riddled with gross inaccuracies. Over the past decade the President has paid tens of millions of dollars in personal taxes to the federal government.” Trump campaign aides and allies have come to the defense of President Trump – with some advising the president to “lean into” discussions of his tax returns during the debate. “Donald Trump has signed the front of paychecks. For the last 40 years, he’s created tens of thousands of jobs through his businesses. Joe Biden has never created one job. And I am certain that Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg and everybody else who has the financial resources attempts to pay the least amount of taxes as possible,” former Trump campaign manager and 2020 campaign senior advisor Corey Lewandowski told CBS News. Asked if The New York Times’ revelations undermine Mr. Trump’s credibility as a successful businessman, a former 2016 Trump campaign senior official told CBS News that financial reporting often “gets lost” on voters, particularly among the president’s most ardent supporters. “It’s not as clear a shot as the media has always thought it would be.”

Former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale was taken into police custody Sunday afternoon outside his Florida home after threatening to harm himself, according to the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department. Police body camera video showed responders tackling Parscale to the ground. Police seized 10 guns from his home. Parscale’s wife, Candice, told the responding officer she and her husband, now a senior advisor to the campaign, had had a physical altercation days earlier. Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told CBS News in a statement, “Brad Parscale is a member of our family and we all love him. We are ready to support him and his family in any way possible.” Parscale was transported to Broward Health Medical Center under the Baker Act, according to the FLPD. The Baker Act allows authorities to detain someone for mental health evaluation.

BIDEN-HARRIS CAMPAIGN

While Biden remained off the campaign trail on Monday, Senator Kamala Harris today made remarks at Shaw University, a HBCU in Raleigh, North Carolina, and kept the focus on the legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Harris outlined what she believed is at stake with the president’s proposed replacement, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. The Democratic vice presidential nominee kept the main criticism on Mr. Trump, but said Barrett has already made clear her positions against the Affordable Care Act and abortion. Harris addressed how a Republican lawsuit against the ACA will be heard by the Supreme Court after the election and said the ongoing effort to repeal it is “driven by blind range towards Obama.” Harris added, “Judge Barrett has a long record of opposing abortion and reproductive rights. There is no other issue that so disrespects and dishonors the work of Justice Ginsburg’s life, than undoing the seminal decision in the court’s history that made it clear a woman has the right to make decisions over her own body.” CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro reports Harris also called the attempt by Mr. Trump to nominate and confirm Barrett before election day “raw power.” Harris said, “We’re not even debating whether the Senate should hold hearings on a nominee in an election year. We’re not in the middle of an election year. We’re in the middle of an election. An ongoing election.”

BATTLEGROUNDS IN THE BATTLEGROUNDS

NEVADA – *WASHOE COUNTY*

A new survey released Monday is the latest to show Biden leading by some 5 points over Mr. Trump in Nevada, a key battleground state Hillary Clinton won by more than 2 points in 2016. But crosstabs from the poll by BUSR and the University of Nevada Las Vegas has the two candidates separated by less than 1 point in Washoe County, the state’s second-most populous, where Clinton had won by little more than 1 point. Political observers have often cited a number of years-long trends driving the once reliably-red county’s leftward swing, including a growing influx of residents from neighboring Northern California, reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. Democrats have shrunk the GOP’s voter registration advantage in Washoe County from several thousand in 2016 to just 630 voters, as of August. An analysis by the Reno Gazette Journal of then-Senator Dean Heller’s rout in 2018 showed the Republican was defeated by “massive Democratic turnout in urban areas and the loss of 25 swing districts that voted for Trump in 2016.” Clark County, which spans Las Vegas in Southern Nevada and makes up nearly three-fourths of the state’s population, remains the grand prize for candidates looking to score a win in Nevada. But Democrats say their operation has devoted “dozens of organizers” to the once reliably-red Washoe County in Northern Nevada. Shelby Wiltz – Democrats’ coordinated campaign director in Nevada – touted to reporters on a recent press call that Biden’s campaign and the state party have recruited “hundreds of volunteers” in the Reno area. Meanwhile, the GOP has repeatedly signaled Washoe County remains a key frontline for the Trump campaign, from the president recently attempting to hold a Reno rally in defiance of the state’s coronavirus caps on large gatherings to dispatching Donald Trump Jr. to host an event there on Wednesday.

ISSUES THAT MATTER

IMMIGRATION

The 2020 presidential election will pit two drastically different visions on immigration against each other, with the victor retaining or assuming broad executive authorities that have dominated policy-making on the issue for decades in the absence of congressional action. Mr. Trump’s reelection would allow his administration to continue cracking down on unauthorized immigrants, limiting legal immigration and curtailing humanitarian protections for foreigners. During a second term, Mr. Trump could also see through major policy changes to the U.S. immigration system that have so far been stalled by federal courts. If victorious, Biden will inherit an immigration system transformed by hundreds of changes made by the Trump administration, including a series of restrictive asylum policies, sweeping green card rules, broader deportation priorities, a decimated refugee program and pandemic-era border restrictions.

Current and former senior Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials and people close to the Biden campaign said the process of unwinding the Trump administration’s immigration policies could be an arduous and long effort. “There has been such a demolition of our traditional immigration system under this administration, that the biggest challenge will be deciding where to begin rebuilding first,” León Rodríguez, who led U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during President Obama’s second term, told CBS News digital immigration reporter Camilo Montoya-Galvez. Cristóbal Alex, a senior Biden adviser, said the former vice president would take “immediate actions to undo Trump’s horrific immigration policies,” but conceded some “will take longer than others.” Rescinding Mr. Trump’s presidential edicts, such as his travel ban on a group of mostly African and Asian countries, will be easier than scrapping the “public charge” wealth test on green cards and visas instituted through federal regulations, officials said. Other changes will require appointing an attorney general committed to overturning precedent-setting decisions, such as one issued by Jeff Sessions in 2018 to restrict asylum for victims of gang and domestic violence. “Stated policies are fairly easy to reverse, from a practical perspective,” Rodríguez said. “Regulations present a bit more complicated case. Most of the regulations that would be of concern to a Biden administration are the subject of legal challenges. And so, the status of those legal challenges will play a big role in what strategy a Biden administration would choose.” Ken Cuccinelli, the second in command at DHS, said he expects the Trump administration’s legacy on immigration to endure — even if the president loses reelection. Changing regulations, he added, is “very slow.” Cuccinelli told CBS News, “It’s not like someone shows up on day one and can stop doing regulation A, B or C.” He added, “Anyone looking to undo all that is going to have a lot of work to do.”

Biden will be under pressure from progressives to quickly reverse Mr. Trump’s changes, while also separating himself from some Obama administration practices unpopular with the immigrants’ rights community. Returning to Obama-era policies, especially when it comes to deportations and the detention of migrant families, will not be sufficient, progressive activists warn. “Biden needs to undo the harm, make advancements to decrease the level of enforcement and create other opportunities for people to get status,” said Javier Valdés, the co-executive director of Make the Road New York and a member of a task force of Biden and Bernie Sanders supporters who created a unified immigration platform. “When I say undo the harm created by the U.S. government towards immigrant communities, I’m not just saying what happened under Trump. Yes, it was on steroids, but this has been a historical issue.”

Read more about the critical juncture for U.S. immigration policy this November here.

VOTING RIGHTS

More Than A Vote released the first miniseries documentary video aimed at educating citizens about voting rights and voter registration. The first video featured former NFL quarterback Michael Vick and his voting rights restoration process in Florida, according to CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman. Vick was convicted in 2007 for his involvement in a dogfighting operation. A More Than A Vote spokesperson said there are plans for several similar videos over the next month. The spokesperson added that the goal of this video is to educate returning citizens about voting rights and voter registration in Florida ahead of the state’s voter registration deadline on October 5. “You know it’s not an easy process to you know have voting rights restored or retained,” Vick said in the video. In 2018, Florida voters approved a measure to restore the voting rights to citizens with a felony conviction who completed their sentence as long as those convictions were not murder or sexual assault. But in 2019, the Florida legislature passed legislation that required returning citizens with felony convictions to “complete all the terms” of their conviction, which included paying all fees associated with their case in order to get their voting rights restored. In May 2020, a federal judge called the 2019 law a “pay to vote system” and deemed the law unconstitutional. Almost a couple months later, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of letting of temporary halt on the order stand. Earlier this month, an appeals court decided that the 2019 law requiring formerly incarcerated people with prior felony convictions to pay their court fees and fines before their voting rights are restored is constitutional. “Being blessed and having an opportunity to live a different life, it wasn’t a big concern for me as far as the finances and being able to pay fines,” Vick said in the video. “And some of these fines are like just thousands and thousands of dollars and you know, money that people don’t have or can’t generate. It’s unfortunate that if you don’t have it, then you don’t get it. You know, you don’t get a chance to be a part of chance.” The video, titled “Vick Votes: A More Than A Vote VLOG,” also featured Desmond Meade, the executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, an organization that helps returning citizens pay their court fines and fees.

STATE-BY-STATE

ARIZONA

In a decision late Friday, a federal court turned down an attempt by a handful of Navajo Nation residents to carve out an exception in Arizona’s mail ballot deadline. “This lawsuit is about whether a deadline for receiving ballots is unlawful. Many of the issues Navajo voters face in accessing the postal service are not a result of the Receipt Deadline and will not be remedied no matter when the deadline to receive ballots is,” Chief U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow wrote in his ruling denying their motion for a preliminary injunction that would have forced county election officials to count ballots cast by Navajo Nation residents postmarked by Election Day but received in the days after, reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. A coalition of Republicans, including the Trump campaign, had unsuccessfully moved to intervene as defendants in the case. The court has yet to dismiss the case, with a status conference now set for early October.

PENNSYLVANIA

Lawyers for the top Republicans in the Pennsylvania Senate on Monday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop an order from the state’s highest court to count mail ballots received three days after the election so long as they aren’t postmarked after it. CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak reports the Supreme Court’s response could decide whether a significant number of ballots are either counted or not in a key battleground state that was decided in 2016 by razor-thin margins. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court laid out its decision on late ballots and several other election issues in mid-September. State Senate Republicans on Monday asked the country’s highest court to halt only the state court’s order on counting late ballots with a nearly 300-page application to stay the order. They argued that the state court’s ruling was a violation of federal law that mandates holding elections on a single day and a violation of the Elections Clause because it was a decision from a court, not the state legislature.

WISCONSIN

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Tuesday in a case that could remove more than 100,000 people from the state’s voter rolls. CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster reports a state court first ruled in favor of removing the voters, but the state Court of Appeals ruled in February that people should not be removed. The case stems from a letter sent by the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) in October 2019 to about 230,000 voters indicating officials believed those people had moved from their current address. Since the letter was sent more than 60,000 people verified their address or registered at a new address. More than 40,000 were deemed to be ineligible to vote for another reason. As of June, the WEC estimated about 130,000 people could be removed from the rolls. It’s not clear if the court will rule before the November election. The Wisconsin Supreme Court will also hear arguments on Tuesday in a case about when a voter is considered indefinitely confined. Voters who meet that criteria do not have to provide a photo ID when requesting an absentee ballot.

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE HOUSE

DEBATES

While all eyes will be on Cleveland for Tuesday’s presidential debate, several House races in battleground states like MinnesotaMichigan and Pennsylvania, have had their own debates in recent days. For many of them, it was a race to the middle, reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. Democratic Congressman Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania’s 17th district began his opening statement touting the bipartisan bills he’s worked on. His opponent, Republican Sean Parnell, said he will “always stand with the people of Western Pennsylvania and not that of a political party.” Republican opponents overall looked to portray Democrat incumbents as not staying true to their 2018 promises of being moderate politicians, pointing to their impeachment votes or their ties to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The topic of healthcare and pre-existing conditions also gave candidates an opportunity to draw contrasts with their opponent. Most Democrats pointed to the Trump administration’s ongoing lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act during a pandemic, and pressed Republicans over whether they support protecting those with pre-existing conditions. Republican incumbent Fred Upton of Michigan’s 6th district said in his Monday debate he supports protecting pre-existing conditions, but if the lawsuit deems the ACA unconstitutional, Congress would need to come together and pass elements that has those protections. “The story that is being told now is not reflective of the reality that we’ve seen,” said Upton’s Democrat opponent Jon Hoadley, pointing to Upton’s votes to repeal the ACA. One notable moment came during Michigan’s 8th district debate, when freshman Democrat Elissa Slotkin criticized her GOP opponent, Paul Junge, for not having a clear plan to protect those with pre-existing conditions, and for bringing up her late mother’s case with healthcare bills and premiums. “Please don’t speak about my mother as if you understand what made her healthcare unaffordable to her,” she said. “I think it’s crazy that every time we ask you about specific details about the thing that really helps people know that they’re going to be protected…you deflect, and start attacking me, and raising my mother? Come on Paul.” Slotkin’s campaign said the moment led to a record amount of single online donations on Sunday with 1,004 people donating.

Republican candidates often looked to draw contrasts with their opponents on the issue of looting and civil unrest, saying they haven’t done enough to support law enforcement. “In 2018, you gratefully accepted the endorsement of FOP 1, and you said that you always would defend the police. And now, just two short years later, you’re out marching with ‘Defund the Police’ radicals…I find that reprehensible,” Parnell said. In response, Lamb pointed to his work as a federal prosecutor and votes for police funding, and said, “I’ve denounced violence across the board, that’s my actual record. So you can say what you want, you can call the names you want, make all the statements you want, my votes are my votes.”

And in New Mexico, Democratic Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small squared off Sunday in a debate with Republican Yvette Herrell, the first such rematch between the two this year for one of the nation’s most competitive House races, according to CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. Among the issues the two candidates found common ground on: both voiced their strong backing for New Mexico’s sweeping oil and gas industry, which claims to drive more than $11 million into the state’s economy and has repeatedly denounced Joe Biden over his push to end new drilling on federal land. Asked whether she planned to vote for the former vice president, Torres Small conceded she would back Biden in spite of “his oil and gas approach.” The Democrat said Sunday, “I stood up to my party to say that we should not ban fracking. I stood up to my party to make sure that we are investing in responsible solutions when it comes to climate change. And I stood up to my party when they tried to exclude oil and gas from coronavirus relief.”

269-269

Pelosi has been looking at the contingency plans if an electoral college tie happens and sent a letter to Democrat colleagues urging them to support the House Majority PAC. Navarro reports that in the case there is a 269-269 tie in the electoral college, which hasn’t happened since 1824, the U.S. House would vote for president as state delegations. Republicans currently control 26 delegations, meaning there are more Republican U.S. House members in a state than Democrats. Pennsylvania is tied at nine each and Democrats hold 23 delegations. Pennsylvania’s 10th district could be a tipping point for Democrats to tip that state in their favor, though they’d have to retain their other vulnerable representatives in the 7th, 8th and 17th districts. An internal poll of the 10th district, by the House Majority PAC, showed Democrat Eugene DePasquale up 7 points on incumbent Republican Scott Perry. House Democrats are also propping up their candidates in Alaska and Montana, which only hold one Congressional district a piece. In her letter, Pelosi said, “Because we cannot leave anything to chance, House Majority PAC is doing everything it can to win more delegations for Democrats. It’s sad we have to have to plan this way, but it’s what we must do to ensure the election is not stolen.”

Leave a Reply