President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden are converging on Minnesota on Friday, as both hold events in the Midwestern battleground state. Biden plans to visit a union training center in the afternoon, while Trump is set to hold an evening rally.

The dueling events coincide with the first day of in-person early voting in the state. It also began Friday in Virginia with long lines reported at some polling places.

On Thursday, Biden leaned heavily on his middle-class roots as he made his pitch at a town hall in Pennsylvania, while Trump staged a lengthy rally in Wisconsin, another key battleground state.

With 46 days until Election Day …
  • A former aide to Vice President Pence says she will vote for Biden because of Trump’s “flat-out disregard for human life” during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • A federal judge temporarily blocked U.S. Postal Service operational changes amid concerns about mail slowdowns and the November elections.
  • Trump alleges “left-wing indoctrination” in schools, says he will create national commission to push more “pro-American” history
  • Biden leads Trump by nine percentage points nationally, 51 percent to 42 percent, according to a Washington Post average of polls. Biden’s margin is smaller in key states: eight points in Michigan, seven points in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, five in Arizona, and one in Florida.
  • Election night 2020 could go on for weeks — just look at the primaries.
September 18, 2020 at 5:45 PM EDT
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Biden criticizes Trump’s view of economy in fiery speech in Minnesota

By Matt Viser

Biden on Friday delivered a fiery populist speech after touring a union training center near Duluth, Minn., continuing to contrast his record with Trump’s.

“Like a lot of you, I spent a lot of my life with guys like Donald Trump looking down on me. Looking down on people who make a living with their hands, people who take care of our kids, clean our streets,” Biden said. “These are the guys who always thought they were better than me, better than us, because they had a lot of money. Guys who inherited everything they got and still managed to squander it.”

Biden spent part of the afternoon touring the union training center in Hermantown, Minn., a suburb of Duluth. He examined a welding station — “I’ll be damned!” he exclaimed — and he toured the complex with men wearing jeans and open-collared shirts.

During a speech following the tour, Biden began by criticizing Trump for his handling of the coronavirus before quickly expanding into a broader indictment on his view of the economy.

“Trump says — by the way, I’m paraphrasing — everyone’s in the stock market. That’s why he cares about the stock market,” Biden said. “What the hell’s he talking about? People I grew up with in Scranton, Claymont, we don’t have money in stocks. Every penny we made is to pay the bills and take care of the families, put clothes on the back and a roof overhead.”

Biden also hit upon the populist strands that have energized parts of his party’s base. He noted how the rich have gotten richer, not only during Trump’s presidency but also during the global pandemic.

“My entire campaign is built upon a simple concept: It’s time to reward hard work in America, not wealth,” Biden said. “We don’t have to penalize wealth. But it’s the opposite now. We reward wealth and not work.”

“I’m not looking to punish anybody,” he added. “But dammit, it’s about time for the super wealthy and corporate America to start paying their fair share.”

September 18, 2020 at 3:52 PM EDT
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Trump, with no evidence, says vaccines will be available for all by April

By Colby Itkowitz

Earlier this week, Trump challenged CDC Director Robert Redfield when Redfield said a coronavirus vaccine likely wouldn’t be widely available to the public until the middle of next year. Trump claimed Redfield was “confused” by the question and misspoke.

“I think he made a mistake with that statement,” Trump said Wednesday. “When he said it, I believe he was confused. I’m just telling you we’re ready to go.”

Trump then said a vaccine would be ready in weeks and swiftly made available.

On Friday, Trump clarified his timeline, closely echoing Redfield by saying that all Americans will have the ability to be vaccinated by April of next year. Experts say setting a date for distribution is nearly impossible because no one knows yet if any vaccine in development is safe or effective.

Hundreds of millions of doses will be available every month," Trump said at his Friday briefing, "and we expect to have enough vaccines for every American by April.”

September 18, 2020 at 2:07 PM EDT
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No TV ads, no presidential visits: Virginia’s era as a swing state appears to be over

By Laura Vozzella

RICHMOND — Barack Obama held the very last rally of his 2008 campaign in Virginia, the longtime Republican stronghold he flipped on his way to the White House.

Four years later, Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney made more visits and aired more television ads here than nearly anywhere else. And in 2016, Donald Trump staged rally after rally in the Old Dominion while Hillary Clinton picked a Virginian as her running mate.

But Virginia isn’t getting the swing-state treatment this time around. As in-person early voting got underway Friday, Trump and Biden were dark on broadcast television. Super PACs were clogging somebody else’s airwaves. Even as Trump and Biden have resumed limited travel amid the coronavirus pandemic, neither has stumped in the Old Dominion.

September 18, 2020 at 1:24 PM EDT
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Democrats seek ‘emergency investigation’ into whether Justice officials are improperly influencing the election

By Karoun Demirjian

House Democrats are asking the Justice Department’s inspector general to open an “emergency investigation” into whether top officials are violating department policies that prohibit influencing upcoming elections, alleging that the attorney general and others may be using their official powers to put their thumb on the scale to advantage Trump.

“We are concerned by indications that Attorney General [William P.] Barr might depart from longstanding DOJ principles to take public action related to U.S. Attorney [John] Durham’s investigation that could impact the presidential election,” the four Democratic chairs of the House committees on intelligence, judiciary, oversight and administration wrote in a joint letter Friday to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

“Attorney General Barr and U.S. Attorney Durham have made several public comments that could violate this department policy and related guidelines,” they continued. “Such actions clearly appear intended to benefit President Trump politically.”

Democrats have long worried the probe being run by Durham, whom Barr tapped in the past year to investigate the origins of the federal government’s Russia investigation, will be used as a tool to substantiate Trump’s unfounded claims that the government spied on him. They are also concerned that Barr may release it just before the election to swing votes in Trump’s favor.

While Barr has defended the integrity of the probe, he has refused to rule out releasing it before the election, arguing that department policies restricting such matters do not apply, as Biden is not the target of the probe.

The department’s inspector general declined to comment.

September 18, 2020 at 1:19 PM EDT
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Biden maintains 9 percentage-point lead over Trump in new national poll

By John Wagner

Biden maintains a 9 percentage-point lead nationally over Trump, according to a NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist poll released Friday.

Among likely voters nationwide, Biden draws 52 percent support compared with 43 percent for Trump, the poll finds. That lead is consistent with a Washington Post average of other recent national polls.

But the new poll contains some warning signals for Biden, including lagging support among voters of color compared with Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Biden leads Trump among non-White voters, 60 percent to 34 percent, in the new poll. In 2016, Clinton won that group 74 percent to 21 percent, according to exit polls.

The polls also finds a shift in how Americans view the demonstrations that have emerged in the wake of police actions against George Floyd in Minneapolis and Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.

In the new poll, 48 percent say such demonstrations are “mostly legitimate protests” while 45 percent say they are “mostly people acting unlawfully.” When a similar question was asked in June, 62 percent said they consider the demonstrations “mostly legitimate protests” while 28 percent said they are “mostly people acting unlawfully.”

September 18, 2020 at 1:05 PM EDT
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Trump campaign manager didn’t vote for his boss in 2016 — or at all

By Colby Itkowitz

Trump’s campaign manager didn’t vote for his boss in the last presidential election. He didn’t vote at all.

The last time Bill Stepien voted, according to public records, was in 2015, when he lived in New Jersey and was registered there.

Stepien registered to vote in D.C., where he has been living since 2017, at the end of July — two weeks after he was tapped to take over Trump’s reelection bid.

Stepien, an aide to Republican Chris Christie when he was New Jersey’s governor, first joined Trump’s team in August 2016. A senior campaign official said Stepien requested an absentee ballot that never arrived, so he did not vote in 2016.

September 18, 2020 at 12:15 PM EDT
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Pelosi chastises Trump ‘enablers,' asks why they didn’t speak up sooner

By Colby Itkowitz

As more former Trump administration aides deflect and speak out about their experiences ahead of the election, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) expressed disapproval that they didn’t tell their stories sooner.

Pelosi was asked specifically about Olivia Troye, a former Pence aide who sat on the White House coronavirus task force and came out Thursday with a devastating attack on Trump’s response to the pandemic from her front-row vantage point.

“For months, the president was calling, early on, the virus a hoax, it was going to disappear magically, it was going to be a miracle,” Pelosi said. “Where were his people to say, ‘That is not right, Mr. President. We are going to leave if you continue to speak that way.’ That applies to so many other things, what he is saying about immigrants to our country, what he is saying about the economy ...”

Pelosi went on, saying “these enablers” will one day have to tell their children and grandchildren that they were responsible for the death of 200,000 Americans.

“That did not have to happen,” she said.

September 18, 2020 at 12:11 PM EDT
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Trump administration announces $13 billion in grants for Puerto Rico ahead of the election

By John Wagner

The Trump administration on Friday announced $13 billion in grants to help rebuild Puerto Rico’s electrical grid system and aid recovery of the U.S. territory’s education system.

Trump’s initial response to Hurricane Maria in 2017, which devastated the island, was widely panned by local officials, and he sparred publicly with several of them. Trump has previously resisted sending additional money to the territory, including in 2018, when White House officials told congressional leaders that he did want to appropriate additional relief funding.

Word of the anticipated announcement earlier this week prompted speculation that Trump is trying to win favor ahead of the election with former residents of Puerto Rico who moved to the battleground state of Florida following the storm, as well as with Floridians who have family on the island.

Florida is considered key to Trump’s prospects of prevailing this year in the electoral college.

The White House said Friday that the $13 billion in grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency includes $11.6 billion in federal funding.

The White House said federal funding of $9.6 billion will allow the Puerto Rico Electrical Power Authority to repair and replace thousands of miles of transmission and distribution lines, electrical substations, power generation systems, office buildings and make other grid improvements.

Another $2 billion grant for the Puerto Rico Department of Education will focus on restoring school buildings and educational facilities across the island, the White House said.

It was not immediately clear how the Trump administration was freeing up the funding.

September 18, 2020 at 11:49 AM EDT
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Michigan judge rules ballots received up to 14 days after Election Day will count

By Elise Viebeck

Michigan election officials must count mail ballots postmarked no later than Nov. 2 that are received up to 14 days after Election Day, a state judge ruled Friday in a decision that could protect thousands of ballots from being tossed in a state that Trump won by less than 11,000 votes in 2016.

Before the ruling, mail ballots in Michigan would not have counted if they were received after 8 p.m. on Election Day.

In issuing a preliminary injunction, Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens of the Michigan Court of Claims wrote that the statutory deadline for mail ballots was unconstitutional in light of the coronavirus pandemic and operational changes within the U.S. Postal Service, which she said threaten voters’ ability to cast mail ballots in a timely way.

“Where the current state of affairs has riddled that option with uncertainty after uncertainty, the Court concludes that the 8:00 p.m. ballot receipt deadline unnecessarily curtails the self-executing right to vote by absent voter ballot and to return that ballot by mail,” Stephens wrote in a 21-page order.

The decision, cheered by Democrats and voting-rights advocates, concluded that the threat of voter disenfranchisement outweighed concerns about placing a new administrative burden on election administrators in the aftermath of Nov. 3.

“Applying the strict, 8:00 p.m. ballot receipt deadline on absent voter ballots imposes too great a restriction for the upcoming general election. Some flexibility must be built into the deadline in order to account for the significant inability of mail to arrive on what would typically be a reliable, predictable schedule,” the judge wrote.

Concerns about rejected ballots in Michigan are not hypothetical, according to the secretary of state’s office, which reported last month that more than 10,000 mail ballots were tossed during the Aug. 4 primary, many due to late arrival.

The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee oppose extending received-by deadlines for mail ballots, arguing that doing so improperly lengthens the election and opens the door for voter fraud.

Stephens rejected this notion, writing: “The documentary evidence in this case reveals that the incidences of voter fraud and absentee ballot fraud are minimal and that the fears of the same are largely exaggerated.”

September 18, 2020 at 11:38 AM EDT
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On the first day of early voting, Virginians line up for hours to cast ballots

By Meagan Flynn, Laura Vozzella and Antonio Olivo

Voters stood in line for hours in the Northern Virginia suburbs Friday morning to cast ballots in a bitterly contested presidential election, turning out on the first day of early voting to take advantage of a new state law making it easier to cast absentee ballots.

In Loudoun County, a line of about 200 people had formed outside the county Office of Elections by 8:30 a.m.

“Who’s ready to vote?” Ricky Keech, the county’s deputy registrar, shouted as the doors swung open.

People in the crowd, all wearing masks, responded with just a murmur of excitement. But the tension surrounding the deeply polarizing contest between Trump and Biden was clear.

September 18, 2020 at 11:06 AM EDT
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Pro-Trump super PAC drops $25 million into attacks on Biden’s foreign policy record

By Michael Scherer

Preserve America, an outside group supporting Trump’s reelection, announced Thursday another $25 million in spending in seven states, with a new suite of ads that feature direct-to-camera testimonials from military veterans denouncing Biden’s foreign policy record.

The funds for digital and television ads, following a $30 million ad campaign over the past two weeks in the same states, make clear that deep pocketed Republicans are putting up serious money in the final months of the presidential campaign. The $25 million will be spent over the next two weeks, suggesting that the group will announce more spending as Election Day approaches.

The group, helmed by veteran Republican strategists John Ashbrook and Chris LaCivita, has not disclosed its donors, but they are expected to include well-known names in Republican fundraising, including Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. The ads will run in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Iowa and Georgia.

Like the first slate of ads, the new campaign is focused on direct-to-camera testimonials. One of the new ads features a retired Army captain and double amputee who denounces Biden’s skepticism of Trump’s order to kill Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani. Biden said in January that he would not have ordered the strike without clear evidence that Soleimani was planning an imminent attack on U.S. interests.

Another spot features the parents of Kayla Mueller, a former American hostage of the Islamic State, who was captured in Syria and later killed. The parents, who played a role in the Republican convention, blame President Barack Obama and Biden for refusing negotiations to free Mueller and delaying a raid to free her.

Obama said after Mueller’s death that the U.S. government had done “everything we could” to free her, including launching a military rescue mission that was unsuccessful. Obama did not depart from U.S. policy against paying ransom money for American hostages. In 2015, Biden tweeted a tribute to Mueller, after her death was confirmed: “Deeply moved by the life of Kayla Mueller,” it read. “Our nation is stronger than any enemy can understand.”

A third spot features a Medal of Honor winner and former army ranger, who lost a hand in combat in Afghanistan, who criticizes Biden for being “too silent” on recent riots against police misconduct and for opposing the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the former leader of al-Qaeda. Biden has opposed violence during protests against police misconduct.

During a 2011 national security strategy meeting, Biden recommended that Obama wait for further confirmation before launching a raid against bin Laden, he has said. Biden said he later told Obama to follow his instincts.

Leroy Petry, who addresses the camera directly, was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2011 from Obama for picking up a grenade and throwing it away from other U.S. soldiers during a battle in Paktia Province.

September 18, 2020 at 9:57 AM EDT
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New Biden ad features former Air Force casualty notification officer critical of Trump

By John Wagner

The Biden campaign debuted a new television ad Friday in battleground states with large numbers of military veterans as it continued to seek advantage from a report in the Atlantic that Trump had referred to injured soldiers as “losers” and “suckers.” The president has disputed the report.

The new spot features Brig. Gen. John Douglass, a former Air Force casualty notification officer, who talks about his experiences knocking on the doors of military families letting them know their loved ones had died.

“These military families suffer, and those spouses are not suckers,” he says. “And those children are not losers. It’s obvious that this president has no real empathy just shows he doesn’t get it.”

The Biden campaign said the ad is airing on television and digital platforms in Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

September 18, 2020 at 9:37 AM EDT
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Jill Biden to focus on impact of covid-19 in virtual events aimed at Western states

By John Wagner

Jill Biden, the wife of the Democratic presidential nominee, is maintaining an active campaign schedule Friday, with virtual events focused on the impact of the coronavirus in a pair of Western states.

Biden is scheduled to hold a roundtable discussion with a group of mothers in Colorado about “the challenges presented by the pandemic for their children, their workplaces and businesses, and their communities,” according to the campaign.

Later, she’ll turn her focus to Nevada, with a virtual conversation with members of Culinary Workers Union Local 226 about the impact of the coronavirus on the state’s tourism and hospitality industries.

Joe Biden has made Trump’s handling of the coronavirus central to argument that the Republican incumbent needs to be replaced.

In 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton carried Colorado over Trump by nearly five percentage points. Clinton prevailed in Nevada by about two percentage points.

September 18, 2020 at 8:46 AM EDT
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Analysis: How to track your ballot like a UPS package

By Geoffrey Fowler

Want to make sure your ballot counts? Track it online like a UPS delivery.

That’s now possible across much of America, in part because of the coronavirus pandemic.

I don’t often get emails from my state government, so I was curious about one recently asking me to check out California’s new election website, Where’s My Ballot. There, I typed in my name, birthday and Zip code — and a minute later, I had signed up for personalized voting updates. Now I’ll get a text when my ballot is in the mail, as it’s on its way back to election officials and, eventually, counted.