The Trump campaign said Thursday that the president would participate in the second and third debates, but that it does not support changing the format. Campaign officials also accused the leadership of the Commission on Presidential Debates of bias against President Trump.

Trump and Joe Biden are both focused Thursday on raising money for the final stretch of the race, with the Republican incumbent hosting an event at his golf club in New Jersey and the Democratic nominee holding a virtual fundraiser.

Meanwhile, both of their running mates are seeking to shore up support in the Midwest. Vice President Pence is in Iowa, while Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) is scheduled to virtually address a Democratic dinner in Minnesota.

The Biden campaign also said Thursday that in battleground states, it would resume some door-knocking and other direct contact with voters that it had avoided for months because of the pandemic.

With 33 days until the election …
  • Trump’s belligerent debate performance stoked fears among Republicans about November.
  • Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the Trump campaign should resist any changes in format that would make the presidential debates “softer and easier and nicer.”
  • Back in his comfort zone, Biden hit Amtrak and the campaign trail.
  • Trump plans big Wisconsin rallies this weekend despite calls by the White House coronavirus task force for “maximal” social distancing in the state.
  • Biden leads Trump by eight percentage points nationally, 51 percent to 43 percent, according to a Washington Post average of polls. Biden’s margin is the same in Pennsylvania and smaller in other key states: seven points in Wisconsin and Michigan, five in Arizona and one in Florida.
12:07 a.m.
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Trump says he’ll reverse Navy SEALs’ decision to make ethos gender-neutral

By Colby Itkowitz

The Navy SEALs changed their official ethos and creed statements to be gender-neutral, a move that Trump vowed to reverse.

“I will be overturning this ridiculous order immediately!” Trump tweeted.

American Military News first reported the decision by the Navy SEALs to replace male-centric terms with gender-neutral ones like “citizen,” “warrior” and “others" in its official ethos statement.

The Navy Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen also changed their official creed, removing the word “brotherhood” and replacing it with “group of maritime warriors.”

It’s unclear whether Trump can order the Navy to change it back. A spokesman told the American Military News that the change was made to reflect that women could now join the elite forces, though no woman has done so.

10:53 p.m.
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Manchin is first Democratic senator to meet with Barrett

By Seung Min Kim

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) met quietly with Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on Thursday evening, according to people familiar with the visit — becoming the first Democratic senator to sit down with President Trump’s high court pick.

Manchin’s office and the White House took pains to keep the meeting under wraps; it was not among the list of sit-downs advised by Republicans earlier Thursday, and officials did not confirm the meeting until after it occurred.

In normal circumstances, Manchin would be a prime Democratic vote for the White House to pluck off in a Supreme Court confirmation fight.

Considered the most conservative Democratic senator, he opposes access to abortion and has sided with the Trump administration on a number of policies and high-profile nomination fights, including both of Trump’s previous Supreme Court nominees — Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh.

But Manchin has been angry with the Senate Republicans’ efforts to speed Barrett’s nomination through the Senate before the Nov. 3 election, saying it only deepens the partisan rancor in an already toxic political environment.

He has said he would review Barrett’s record and qualifications but that he would oppose her if the confirmation vote were held before Election Day.

A handful of other Democratic senators have said they will not meet with Barrett, saying it legitimizes a process they oppose. But others, including Sens. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.) and Cory Booker (N.J.), have indicated they would.

10:40 p.m.
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McConnell-aligned super PAC to spend $10 million to help Lindsey Graham

By Colby Itkowitz

The Senate Leadership Fund, the super PAC associated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), is investing $10 million to prop up Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who has found himself in a surprisingly tight race in a reliably red state.

The high-dollar investment, first reported by McClatchy, will be spent on television and radio ads across the state as Graham trails in the money race behind challenger Jaime Harrison. Recent polling showing a tight race only helped propel Harrison’s fundraising against Graham. The gap is so great that Graham made a public plea for donations during an appearance on Fox News.

Steven Law, president of the Senate Leadership Fund, confirmed it was going in to financially boost Graham. In a statement to McClatchy, Law said, “Our investment is an insurance policy helping South Carolinians understand Harrison is not the candidate he portrays himself to be — he is a hardcore liberal bought and paid for by his out of state donors who support a radical agenda.”

10:03 p.m.
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Trump, Biden to appear virtually at annual Al Smith dinner

By John Wagner and Colby Itkowitz

Both Trump and Biden have pre-taped addresses to be shown at Thursday night’s Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, an annual event that raises money for Catholic Charities and is known for ribbing politicians of both parties.

According to excerpts of Trump’s remarks released by the White House, the president will speak of the values of the Catholic Church and suggest they are under attack.

“As President, one of my top priorities is to defend religious liberty and the cherished role of faith and faith-based organizations in our national life,” Trump will say. “Now more than ever, our nation needs a renewal of the values that this organization promotes and that the Catholic faithful live out each and every day in peace.”

Trump last attended the dinner — usually a white-tie affair in Manhattan, but altered this year because of the pandemic — in 2016. While sitting on the dais with his then-Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, Trump referred to her as “corrupt” and accused her of “pretending not to hate Catholics.”

The event, hosted by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, is named for former New York governor Alfred E. Smith (D), who in 1928 became the first Roman Catholic to be nominated for president by a major party.

Biden would become the second Catholic elected president if he defeats Trump. The first was John F. Kennedy in 1960.

9:51 p.m.
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Trump to headline two rallies in Arizona next week

By Felicia Sonmez

Trump is traveling next week to Arizona, a state that he won by a comfortable margin in 2016 but where Democrats have since been gaining ground.

On Monday night, Trump will headline a “Make America Great Again” rally at Tucson International Airport. Then on Tuesday night, he holds a rally at the airport in Flagstaff. Both Pima County, which includes Tucson, and Coconino County, which includes Flagstaff, voted heavily for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Trump’s visit also comes as most public polls show Democrat Mark Kelly leading Sen. Martha McSally (R) in the Senate race in Arizona. McSally’s seat is considering among those most likely to change party hands in November.

9:10 p.m.
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Democratic Senate candidate in North Carolina raises $23 million in third quarter

By Colby Itkowitz

Cal Cunningham, the Democratic candidate running to unseat incumbent GOP Sen. Thom Tillis in battleground North Carolina, raised an eye-popping $23 million in the third quarter, his campaign has reported.

Recent polls show Cunningham leading by five to 10 points in the state that Trump won by three in 2016.

Cunningham’s haul is massive for a single three-month period. By comparison, in the second quarter, he raised $7.4 million, which was seen as a huge amount then.

To underscore the importance of the North Carolina race to Democrats, after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) decided to start crowdfunding for Senate races and made Cunningham their first pick.

“NC is probably THE tipping point state, for the Senate and White House. AND there’s a ton of young voters & the registration deadline is weeks away. The $ we raise now matter. So, big goal - can we raise $100,000 for Cal Cunningham today?” Murphy tweeted.

In less than 24 hours, nearly 3,000 people had donated $102,000.

8:54 p.m.
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Chris Wallace says Trump ‘bears the primary responsibility’ for chaotic, interruption-laden presidential debate

By Jeremy Barr

In his first appearance on Fox News since moderating the first general election debate, anchor Chris Wallace said Trump “bears the primary responsibility for what happened on Tuesday.”

Trump repeatedly interrupted Biden and fought with Wallace, who tried in vain to “get the president to stop and let Biden finish his answer.”

Wallace said he was frustrated that his preparation for the debate was for naught.

“I was really hoping for the debate that I think America wanted to see,” he said, “which was a serious exchange of views."

Wallace then made a baking analogy. “I felt like I had gotten together all of the ingredients,” he said. “I had baked this beautiful, delicious cake. And then, frankly, the president put his foot in it. And that was frustrating — frustrating for me, because I tried hard to prepare for a serious debate. Much more frustrating — and importantly — for the American people, because they didn’t get the debate they wanted and that they deserved. And I think that’s a loss for the country.”

But Wallace was skeptical of some of the format changes proposed for the next debates, including the possibility of allowing moderators to cut off the microphones of candidates. “I think that’s a pretty tough spot to put any moderator in,” he said.

Wallace said he doesn’t plan to watch any video of Tuesday night’s debate. “Oh God, no,” he said. “It wasn’t something that I want to revisit. … This is going to take a while before I watch this one again.”

8:26 p.m.
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Trump campaign hits at debate commission leaders

By Felicia Sonmez

In a conference call with reporters Thursday, the Trump campaign took aim at the leadership of the Commission on Presidential Debates, disputing the panel’s independence and insisting that no changes should be made to the way the second and third debates are conducted.

But Trump aides notably stopped short of threatening to pull out of the debates if the moderator is given the power to “mute” either of the candidates, a step that has been under consideration since Tuesday night’s faceoff between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

“Those are their words, their donations, their comments,” Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said after highlighting past comments made by some of the commission members about Trump, as well as donations some of the organization’s leaders have previously made to Democratic candidates.

Stepien said that in America everyone is free to support and donate to the candidate of their choosing, “but an organization that is not nonpartisan should not pretend to do so.”

On its website, the Commission on Presidential Debates notes that for the past 30 years, “no sitting officer of either major party has had any affiliation with the CPD, and the major parties have no role whatsoever in running the CPD or setting its policies.”

One of the commission’s co-chairs, Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., was chairman of the Republican National Committee in the 1980s.

On Thursday’s call, Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller also disparaged the commission, describing it as “not representative of America as a whole.”

“For the most part, these are permanent swamp monsters,” Miller said.

Asked whether Trump will show up to the next two debates if the commission makes changes such as the inclusion of a “mute button,” Miller did not respond directly, saying only that “there should not be any changes” to what has been decided upon by the campaigns.

“President Trump fully plans on participating in and winning the second and third debates in the presidential contest here,” Miller said. “And to that matter, Vice President Pence looks forward to participating in and winning the vice-presidential debate against Sen. Kamala Harris next week.”

7:40 p.m.
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Analysis: Democrats focus on cutting off path to victory for Trump if presidency is thrown to House to decide

By Paul Kane

Some House seats might count a lot more than others in this chaotic campaign season.

Take Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District, which Biden is expected to visit Friday. Though Biden’s trip to Grand Rapids will boost his bid to claim a state Trump narrowly won four years ago, Hillary Scholten hopes the former vice president can help her win a Western Michigan district that Democrats have not held in 28 years.

And, if successful in elevating Scholten, Biden’s trip could serve as a backstop for his own presidential bid.

A Scholten victory would likely give Democrats eight of Michigan’s 14 seats in the House, helping House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s newly stated goal of blocking Trump from a last-gasp effort to remain in the White House if he does not win the November election.

It’s all very complicated, but there is a remote chance that neither Trump nor Biden will be a clear winner in the electoral college.

7:19 p.m.
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South Carolina GOP asks Supreme Court to reinstate mail-in ballot witness requirement

By Ann Marimow

South Carolina Republicans asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to reinstate the witness signature requirement for mail ballots ahead of the November election, extending the legal turmoil over the rule even as tens of thousands of ballots have been sent to voters across the state.

The request to the high court comes after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit on Wednesday left in place an order blocking the requirement because of the risks associated with in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

The legal battle over the mechanics of absentee mail-in voting in South Carolina is one of two voting cases Republicans have appealed to the Supreme Court in the weeks before the Nov. 3 contest. Earlier this week, Pennsylvania’s Republican legislative leaders asked the justices to block a decision to count ballots received by mail up to three days after Election Day.

7:00 p.m.
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Kansas hasn’t sent a Democrat to the Senate in 88 years. Barbara Bollier could turn the tide.

By Caroline Kitchener

GREAT BEND, Kan. — The first honk comes just after someone asks a question about wind power. One pickup truck pulls into the parking lot, then another — until eight floats flying Trump flags have joined the parade. Men in “Make America Great Again” hats slam their fists against their horns. When a police officer tells them to lay off, they begin shouting from rolled-down windows.

“Honk. Honk, honk, honk, honk.”

The caravan has convened with a clear goal: If Kansas Democratic Senate candidate Barbara Bollier wants to bring her message to Great Bend — the rural hometown of her opponent, where President Trump won with 77 percent of the vote — then she is going to have to yell.

Instead, Bollier smiles, rising onto her toes in her orthopedic sandals to edge a little closer to the microphone.

6:39 p.m.
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Texas governor issues order limiting each county to one mail-in ballot drop-off site

By Felicia Sonmez

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Thursday issued a proclamation limiting each of the state’s counties to only one mail-in ballot drop-off location for the November election.

The move follows a similar step in Ohio, where Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) limited each county to one ballot drop box. A judge last month blocked that order, and LaRose and the Ohio Republican Party have appealed.

According to Abbott’s proclamation, beginning Oct. 2, voters may deliver their marked mail-in ballots in person “at a single early voting clerk’s office location that is publicly designated by the early voting clerk for the return of marked mail ballots.”

Several Texas counties have a population of more than 1 million. Harris County, which includes Houston and is the state’s largest county, has more than 4.6 million residents. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Harris County has 12 ballot drop-off sites; Travis County, which includes Austin and has a population of 1.2 million, has four sites.

By contrast, Kenosha County, Wis., has 17 mail-in ballot drop boxes for a population of about 170,000, according to the Kenosha News.

Texas Democrats immediately criticized Abbott’s move as “a blatant voter suppression tactic.”

“Republicans are on the verge of losing, so Governor Abbott is trying to adjust the rules last minute. … Make no mistake, Democracy itself is on the ballot. Every Texan must get out and vote these cowards out!” state party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement. “Governor Abbott and Texas Republicans are scared. We are creating a movement that will beat them at the ballot box on November 3, and there’s nothing these cheaters can do about it.”

Texas Democrats have not indicated whether they will challenge the order in court.

6:28 p.m.
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Trump signals resistance to debate format changes

By John Wagner

Trump signaled Thursday that he would resist changes to the format of his remaining debates with Biden that are being considered by the commission that hosts them.

“Why would I allow the Debate Commission to change the rules for the second and third Debates when I easily won last time?” the president wrote in a tweet.

His comments came a day after the Commission on Presidential Debates said it was exploring changes following Tuesday’s debate in Cleveland — an exchange that was widely panned as an embarrassing debacle and filled with constant interruptions and name-calling.

The commission has not said what specific measures it is considering but indicated it would take swift action to help “maintain order” going forward.

6:04 p.m.
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Biden campaign to resume some door-knocking and other direct voter contacts

By John Wagner and Matt Viser

The Biden campaign said Thursday that it would resume some door-knocking and other direct contact with voters in battleground states that it had avoided for months amid the pandemic, as concerns mount that Republicans have gained an advantage from their relatively undeterred canvassing efforts.

In a statement, Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon touted efforts to date to reach voters through “innovative and technologically advanced” methods in “this unprecedented environment.”

But, she said, “we’re now expanding on our strategy in a targeted way that puts the safety of communities first and foremost and helps us mobilize voters who are harder to reach by phone now that we’re in the final stretch and now that Americans are fully dialed-in and ready to make their voices heard."

The campaign said that starting this week, volunteers will knock on doors in targeted communities after being trained on covid-19 safety measures. Other precautions will also be taken, including the use of protective gear and temperature checks, it said.

In recent months, the campaign’s outreach to voters has centered on texts, phone calls, mail and social media.

Democrats have become increasingly worried that more-aggressive efforts by Trump and his Republican allies have yielded better results.

NBC News reported Thursday that Republicans have been more effective than Democrats in adding new voters to the rolls in battleground states.

Campaigns generally regard door-to-door canvassing as among the most effective ways to boost turnout.