Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden addressed voters near his native Scranton, Pa., expressing disgust with President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus and his comments about the military. It was the first ever drive-in town hall event, with socially distanced voters asking questions at a minor league baseball field.

In what at times seemed to be a test run for the first presidential debate in a week and a half, Biden leaned heavily on his middle-class roots as he touted policies that would help frontline workers, took pride in not having an Ivy League degree, and argued for fracking to continue.

The former vice president also threatened to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin if his country does not stop attempting to interfere in the 2020 presidential election.

“There will be a price to pay,” Biden said. "And Putin knows – the reason he doesn’t want me as president, he knows me, and he knows I mean it. I don’t mean war. But they’ll pay a price. … There’ll be an economic price.”

In a Wisconsin campaign speech that started before Biden’s town hall ended, Trump jumped between timelines and repeated many of his familiar untruths as he spoke for more than an hour and 35 minutes, one of the longest addresses of his reelection campaign. He bemoaned the loss of his friends since he became president, basked in a chant of “Lock her up,” referring to 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton, and made factually inaccurate claims about Biden, his poll numbers, his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and more.

With 47 days until Election Day …
September 17, 2020 at 10:07 PM EDT
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Trump attacks Biden for using teleprompters while using teleprompters

By Colby Itkowitz

At a campaign rally in Wisconsin, Trump took a shot at Biden for using teleprompters even as Trump’s teleprompters were visible.

The throwaway line came during a meandering riff about his victory in 2016 and how all the debate moderators were against him.

“And I’m watching what they’re doing with Biden where he’s using teleprompters,” Trump said. Then, in a mocking tone that was supposed to be Biden, the president said, “Move it up, move it up, I can’t see.”

This comes less than two weeks before the two candidates are scheduled to meet in their first debate.

Trump has long ridiculed his opponents for their reliance on teleprompters, although he uses them for speeches as well. But during campaign events, Trump rarely stays on script.

September 17, 2020 at 9:36 PM EDT
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Biden says Russia would ‘pay a price’ for election interference

By Matt Viser

Biden said that Russian election interference in 2020 “appears to be being done” and threatened Vladimir Putin with some kind of economic blowback if the Democratic nominee wins.

“There will be a price to pay,” Biden said. “And Putin knows — the reason he doesn’t want me as president, he knows me, and he knows I mean it. I don’t mean war. But they’ll pay a price … there’ll be an economic price.”

Biden declined to be more specific about what kind of price Russia would pay.

“It wouldn’t be prudent for me to be more specific,” Biden said. “But I assure you, they will pay a price.”

On Thursday, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray told the House Homeland Security Committee that “the intelligence community consensus is that Russia continues to try to influence our elections” and “trying “to denigrate Vice President Biden and what the Russians see as a kind of anti-Russian establishment.”

When asked if he viewed Russia as an enemy, Biden said Thursday evening: “I believe Russia’s an opponent. I really do.”

When asked if he viewed China similarly, as an opponent, he had a different answer.

“I view China as a competitor,” Biden said. “A serious competitor.”

September 17, 2020 at 9:30 PM EDT
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Trump team works to spin Biden town hall on Twitter

By Michael Scherer

The Trump campaign reacted with fury on Twitter to the questions for Biden at Thursday’s CNN town hall, arguing that the questions and questioners were too friendly.

“This town hall is an in-kind contribution to the Biden campaign,” tweeted Jason Miller, a senior campaign official.

The comment was one of many that came from Trump’s operation, which manned all its battle stations on Twitter, aiming to spin in real time the events taking place on cable television that they did not control.

The campaign even put out a quick-turn gag video, just over an hour after the broadcast began, that made it appear as though car alarms had gone off to disrupt the proceedings. Car alarms did not disrupt the proceedings.

A regular theme was the friendly tone of the questioners. Steve Guest, the rapid response director for the Republican Party, cut and circulated a video of one woman who acknowledged having a Biden sign in her front yard. On Tuesday, during an ABC News town hall, Trump took questions from voters who seemed generally more skeptical of him.

At one point, Biden said that he would not end fracking now because the country would transition by 2050 to a zero-emissions country that would not need fracking. That provided an opportunity for Trump campaign spokesman to land a quip. “Biden wants fracking to continue so we can then end it, apparently,” wrote Tim Murtaugh, communications director for Trump’s reelection campaign.

The Trump team also continued to lay the groundwork for a fight over the legitimacy of the election. When Biden said that he wanted to “count every vote,” Miller accused Biden of using “weasel words.”

“We need to count every LEGAL vote. Not unpostmarked ballots mailed AFTER Election Day,” Miller wrote. “Not fraudulent ballots. This will be how the media gives Biden an excuse to not concede.”

September 17, 2020 at 9:24 PM EDT
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Biden says fracking needs to continue and that he has his ‘own deal’ on the environment

By Annie Linskey

Quizzed on the environment, Biden said the country needs to keep using fracking and didn’t reiterate his prior stated policy that he would not allow any new fracking on federal lands.

“Fracking has to continue because we need a transition,” Biden said, focusing on the importance of those jobs in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. “There’s no rationale right now to eliminate fracking.”

Later, when asked by a pro-environment voter if he supports the Green New Deal, Biden said: “I don’t think it’s too much” and added, “I have my own deal.” The answer will delight Republican ad makers.

The proposal, introduced by liberal Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and intended as a road map to curtail climate change by weaning the country from fossil fuels, has been heavily criticized by conservatives for requiring massive changes to society. But liberal groups and young voters have embraced the ideas.

Later, when a woman in the agriculture business asserted that his plan has embraced the Green New Deal, Biden interrupted her to object. “No it doesn’t,” he said.

September 17, 2020 at 8:54 PM EDT
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Biden says he’s benefited from White privilege, then laments classism

By Colby Itkowitz

Unlike Trump, who told Bob Woodward that he didn’t believe he’d benefited from White privilege, Biden said he has because “I don’t have to go through what my Black brothers and sisters go through.”

Biden then pivoted away from race to relate his own experience coming from a working-class family and not attending an Ivy League school.

“We’re used to guys who look down their nose at us, or people who look at us and think that we’re suckers, look at us and they think that we don’t, that we’re not equivalent to that,” Biden said. “You didn’t have a college degree, you must be stupid, if in fact you didn’t get to go to an Ivy school.”

He then accused Trump of squandering his inherited privilege.

“It’s guys like Trump … are the people that I’ve always had a problem with, not the people busting their necks,” Biden said.

September 17, 2020 at 8:53 PM EDT
Annie Linskey: Biden turned one of the president’s favorite attacks against him: “He may be really losing it,” Biden said of the president, suggesting Trump has lost a step mentally because he recently seemed to indicate Biden could mandate masks but had not. Trump, too, has been driving a narrative that Biden doesn’t have the mental capacity for the job, retweeting memes and leveling baseless attacks that he’s using some kind of medication to be mentally sharp.
Annie Linskey, National political reporter focused on the 2020 presidential campaign
September 17, 2020 at 8:49 PM EDT
Amber Phillips: Biden’s proposals to make mail voting go more smoothly in the next few elections will be uphill climbs, judging by today’s election landscape — and the fact that each state runs its elections. In particular, he wants to have states open up ballots as they arrive, rather than after Election Day, which key states like Michigan and Pennsylvania don’t do now. And despite high-profile pushes in each state to change that, so far there is resistance to doing that, especially among Republicans.
Amber Phillips, Reporter for The Fix analyzing Congress
September 17, 2020 at 8:42 PM EDT
Michael Scherer: Biden let slip his confidence in his current edge in the election by arguing that Trump doubts his own chances. “If the president had even remote confidence that he would win the election, he wouldn’t be doing any of this,” Biden said of Trump’s decision to raise questions about the legitimacy of the election.
Michael Scherer, National political reporter covering campaigns, Congress and the White House
September 17, 2020 at 8:41 PM EDT
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Biden highlights plans for health-care workers

By Matt Viser

Biden several times reiterated his plans for health-care workers, saying they needed to be paid more and outlining the risks they are taking as front-line workers.

“If there’s any angels in Heaven, they’re all nurses — male and female,” Biden said to a nurse who had voted for Trump in 2016. “Docs let you live, nurses make you want to live.”

A man who works at a cancer center said he was struggling to make ends meet, making less than $15 an hour and taking out a credit card with 25 percent interest. Biden shook his head.

“No one should have to work two jobs to be able to get out of poverty,” he said.

Without changes, Biden said tens of thousands will lose apartments, unable to pay rent. He said the minimum wage needs to be raised. But most of all, he said, the pandemic needs to be stopped.

“Yesterday there were 1,200 deaths in the United States — all of Canada had nine,” Biden said. “Last Friday we had 1,000 — all of Canada had zero deaths. This president is doing it all wrong. We need to make a fundamental change.”

September 17, 2020 at 8:36 PM EDT
Michael Scherer: For a politician who doesn’t shy away from emotion on the stump, Biden is not holding back. In just 30 minutes, he has ranged from disgust with Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic (“It’s close to criminal”) to despondency (“I never ever thought I would see such a thoroughly totally irresponsible administration”) to rage at Trump’s reported comments about troops being losers (“Talk about losers!“). The debates could be quite a study of contrasts with Trump, who rarely betrays personal feelings.
Michael Scherer, National political reporter covering campaigns, Congress and the White House
September 17, 2020 at 8:27 PM EDT
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Biden addresses coronavirus vaccine and schools

By Annie Linskey

Biden said that he would not mandate a vaccine for students and teachers in the foreseeable future.

Biden said that he is being briefed regularly by seven top experts on the development of vaccines and noted that the current versions of coronavirus inoculations are not even being tested yet on children.

“There’s no vaccine that’s going to be guaranteed 100 percent,” Biden said to a teacher who is immunocompromised and weighing whether to get the vaccine if drug companies are able to quickly develop one.

Trump has said that he believes a vaccine will be approved by the Nov. 3 election, which experts say is highly unlikely.

“I don’t trust the president on vaccines,” Biden said. “I trust Dr. Fauci.”

September 17, 2020 at 8:22 PM EDT
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Biden says he’d never downplay a threat to the American people

By Colby Itkowitz

Biden said he couldn’t imagine keeping critical information from Americans as Trump is accused of doing with the coronavirus threat, and said it’s cause for the president to step down.

“This is all about one thing, the stock market … and his reelection,” Biden said. “It should be about the American people, and they’re in trouble.”

In times of crisis, Biden said, you have to “level” with the American people.

“They’re tough,” he said. “There’s never been a time they have not been able to step up. This president should step down.”

September 17, 2020 at 8:06 PM EDT
Matt Viser: Biden until recently had not been tested for the novel coronavirus, but in recent weeks he and his running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris, have been tested regularly. The campaign says it will release any adverse results but has not said when exactly Biden will be tested, but Biden revealed it tonight. “I got tested, too!” he said after coming onstage with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
Matt Viser, National political reporter
September 17, 2020 at 8:05 PM EDT
Annie Linskey: Biden’s team was pleased with how the “car rally” in Delaware looked at the end of the Democratic convention, and CNN has mimicked that setting for its town hall.
Annie Linskey, National political reporter focused on the 2020 presidential campaign