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President Trump on Tuesday returned to the battleground state of Pennsylvania, where he told supporters that had it not been for the coronavirus pandemic upending the economy he would never have come back to Erie to campaign. Democratic nominee Joe Biden stayed off the trail as he focused on preparations for the crucial final debate in Nashville on Thursday.

With 14 days until Election Day …
  • Trump lashed out at “60 Minutes” host Lesley Stahl and threatened to release their interview after he cut off their conversation at the White House on Tuesday because he didn’t like the aggressive tone of her questions.
  • Former president Barack Obama heads out on the campaign trail Wednesday for the first time this year to hold a drive-in car rally in South Philadelphia on behalf of Biden.
  • Trump and Biden are running in a dead heat in North Carolina, with the economy buoying the president’s candidacy and the pandemic boosting his challenger in one of the key electoral targets, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
  • Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Senate Republicans that he has warned the White House not to make a big stimulus deal before the election, according to two people familiar with his remarks.
  • Early voting in Florida bucked the trend so far in other battlegrounds, where Democrats have logged a sizable advantage. The United States has hit nearly 70 percent of total early voting in 2016.
  • Biden leads Trump by 11 percentage points nationally, 54 percent to 43 percent, according to an average of national polls since Oct. 4. Biden’s margin is smaller in key states: eight points in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan; seven in Arizona; and five in Florida.
October 20, 2020 at 10:02 PM EDT
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Obama to make appeal to Black voters at first in-person campaign event for Biden

By Colby Itkowitz

Former president Barack Obama heads out on the campaign trail Wednesday for the first time this year to hold a drive-in car rally in South Philadelphia on behalf of his former running mate and friend.

This long-anticipated first in-person event for Obama is being held at the sports complex where Philadelphia’s professional sports teams play. Other details have yet to be disclosed.

High turnout in the populous city and its surrounding suburbs is crucial to winning Pennsylvania, which is considered a top target for the Biden and Trump campaigns.

Obama is expected to use the speech to make a direct appeal to Black voters and to encourage early voting, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Valerie Jarrett, a longtime Obama adviser, told the local CBS affiliate that the former president would be making a personal pitch based on his close relationship with Biden.

In 2016, Obama held a massive election eve rally in Philadelphia with Hillary Clinton. She lost the state narrowly to Trump in one of several surprise upsets that year.

October 20, 2020 at 9:54 PM EDT
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Trump laments having to visit Erie, blames covid-19 for forcing him to campaign there

By Colby Itkowitz

Trump told supporters in the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania that had it not been for the coronavirus pandemic upending the economy he would never have come back to Erie to campaign.

“Before the plague came in, I had it made. I wasn’t coming to Erie. I have to be honest. There was no way I was coming. I didn’t have to,” he told the crowd.

Trump blames the public health crisis for damaging his reelection bid, suggesting he would have won on the strong economy. There’s little evidence that Trump would have had an easy path to reelection even before the coronavirus; his job approval has hovered in the mid-to-low 40 percent range for most of his presidency.

We had this thing won, we were so far up, we had the greatest economy ever, greatest jobs, greatest everything,” Trump said. “And then we got hit with the plague and I had to go back to work. Hello, Erie, can I please have your vote?”

In 2016, Trump flipped Pennsylvania and the longtime Democratic stronghold Erie County in a stunning upset. His campaign believes if he can win the state again he’ll win the presidency.

The rally, shorter than most (which Trump blamed on it being cold), was an abbreviated version of Trump’s standard fare threatening a socialist, crime-ridden America if Biden wins.

To underscore the seriousness of what he says is at stake, Trump asked the crowd, You think I need to be standing out here in 50-degree weather?”

October 20, 2020 at 9:45 PM EDT
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Threatening emails to Democratic voters spark investigations in Florida and Alaska

By Isaac Stanley-Becker and Craig Timberg

Authorities in Florida and Alaska on Tuesday were investigating threatening emails sent to Democratic voters that claimed to be from the Proud Boys, a far-right group supportive of President Trump, but appeared instead to be a deceptive campaign making use of a vulnerability in the organization’s online network.

The emails, which appeared to target Democrats using data from digital databases known as “voter files,” told recipients the group was “in possession of all your information” and instructed voters to change their party registration and cast their ballots for Trump.

“You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you,” the emails warned.

October 20, 2020 at 9:06 PM EDT
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Trump and Biden gird for the final debate of a bitter campaign

By Amy B Wang and Sean Sullivan

Two days before their final televised faceoff, President Trump on Tuesday attacked the upcoming debate as yet another campaign event that would be “a stacked deck” against him, while Joe Biden’s camp hunkered down and strategized over Trump’s expected attacks on his family.

The maneuvering came as both sides prepared for the last scheduled event that could change the trajectory of the campaign and wrestled with what it would mean that the debate will feature a mute button for the first time. Biden held no public appearances for a second straight day, while Trump tried out lines of attack and in essence held his debate prep in public.

In a phone interview broadcast on “Fox & Friends,” Trump lashed out at the moderator of Thursday’s event, NBC’s Kristen Welker, as “totally partisan” and sought to portray the debate topics and rules as unfair.

October 20, 2020 at 9:01 PM EDT
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Trump, unhappy with Lesley Stahl’s questions, threatens to release ’60 Minutes’ interview himself

By Josh Dawsey, Colby Itkowitz and Jeremy Barr

President Trump lashed out at “60 Minutes” host Lesley Stahl and threatened to release their interview after he cut off their conversation at the White House on Tuesday because he didn’t like the aggressive tone of her questions.

The president posted a short clip of a maskless Stahl speaking to two mask-wearing men and wrote, “Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes not wearing a mask in the White House after her interview with me. Much more to come.”

A little more than an hour later, Trump threatened to post their interview before the news program is scheduled to air it Sunday night on CBS.

October 20, 2020 at 8:19 PM EDT
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Supreme Court split in Pa. election case raises questions about how a Justice Barrett would rule

By Seung Min Kim and Robert Barnes

As Amy Coney Barrett prepares to become a Supreme Court justice in about a week, the judge is facing renewed scrutiny about the potentially decisive role she could play in election-related court challenges in the coming days and weeks.

The likely influence of the future Justice Barrett was highlighted late Monday when an evenly split Supreme Court, short one justice following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month, denied a Republican request from Pennsylvania that cleared the way for the state’s election officials to count mail-in ballots received up to three days after the Nov. 3 elections.

The order was a temporary reprieve for Democrats who fought to ensure those ballots would be tallied. But the justices had split 4-to-4 on the stay request, with all of the Republican appointees on the court except Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. saying they would have sided with the GOP in Pennsylvania to grant the delay.

October 20, 2020 at 5:51 PM EDT
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Barrett’s confirmation to Supreme Court will affect election ‘in a very positive way,’ White House spokeswoman says

By Felicia Sonmez

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany predicted Tuesday that the Senate’s expected confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court will boost Trump’s chances in the November election.

“I think it will affect the election in a very positive way,” McEnany said in an interview on Fox News when asked about Barrett’s likely confirmation.

“Look, the American people care deeply about Supreme Court justices. … People know that their liberties are affected by the decision-making on the Supreme Court,” she added. “Their First Amendment rights, their Second Amendment, certainly, are at stake, if we don’t put the right judges on the court to protect the words of the Constitution as written.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said earlier Tuesday that the Senate will vote on Barrett’s confirmation on Monday. McEnany said the date “falls in line with what we were anticipating.”

“I do see that happening. … Judge Barrett will become Justice Amy Coney Barrett,” McEnany said.

October 20, 2020 at 5:49 PM EDT
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Dispatch from Wisconsin: ‘I haven’t voted in a long time, but Trump brought me out’

By Dan Simmons

MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin voters headed to the polls in large numbers Tuesday for the start of early voting amid a spike in coronavirus cases that has turned the state into one of the country’s latest pandemic hot spots.

People began showing up at polling sites before sunrise, forming lines that stretched a block or more in some places. Pandemic precautions were on full display: Voters and election officials donned masks, workers wiped down booths with disinfectant, and those waiting kept roughly six feet apart as the lines crept forward.

“I haven’t voted in a long time, but Trump brought me out,” said Debra Mason, 66, who was one of two-dozen voters waiting outside a senior center before voting opened at 7 a.m. “He’s an embarrassment, period.”

The coronavirus pandemic made her more fired up to vote in person, not less, because of Trump’s response to it.

October 20, 2020 at 5:32 PM EDT
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In last-minute push, DeSantis administration urges Florida election officials to remove felons who owe fines from voting rolls

By Beth Reinhard and Lori Rozsa

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration delivered last-minute guidance to local election officials recommending measures that voting-rights advocates say could intimidate or confuse voters, the latest salvo in a pitched battle over who is able to cast ballots in a state crucial to President Trump’s reelection.

In a notice sent to local election officials last week, Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews urged them to remove from the voter rolls people with felony convictions who still owe court fines and fees, a move that local officials said is impossible to accomplish before Election Day.

A second memo from Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee’s general counsel recommended that election staff or law enforcement guard all mail ballot drop boxes, a step that local election officials say is not required under the law.

October 20, 2020 at 4:36 PM EDT
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McConnell warns White House against making stimulus deal before election, sources say

By Jeff Stein and Erica Werner

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Senate Republicans on Tuesday that he has warned the White House not to make a big stimulus deal before the election, according to two people familiar with his remarks.

McConnell suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is not negotiating in good faith with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and any deal they reach could disrupt the Senate’s plans to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court next week. In a Bloomberg interview on Tuesday, Pelosi adamantly denied that she was stringing the White House along and said she wouldn’t be negotiating with the White House if she didn’t want a deal.

But McConnell’s remarks, made in a closed-door lunch with Senate Republicans, show the raw political calculations that both parties are dealing with two weeks before the November 3 elections. McConnell’s comments were confirmed by two people familiar with them who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss them.

October 20, 2020 at 3:55 PM EDT
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Already facing grueling year, National Guard revs up for election and aftermath

By Paul Sonne

The National Guard, already facing one of its busiest years, is prepping for election-related missions that include cybersecurity for local electoral authorities, ballot counting in at least one state and backup for police if unrest erupts after the vote.

The preparations come as the United States heads into one of its most contentious presidential elections, taking place in the middle of a global pandemic and amid persistent suggestions by Trump that he might dispute the results if he loses.

Racial-justice protests throughout the country and environmental threats such as wildfires and hurricanes have further stretched a Guard already on the front lines responding to the pandemic.

October 20, 2020 at 2:57 PM EDT
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Ossoff, Perdue tied in Georgia Senate race, poll shows

By Paulina Firozi

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Democrat Jon Ossoff are deadlocked in the Senate race in Georgia, according to a New York Times-Siena College survey released Tuesday.

Both candidates in the regularly scheduled Senate election drew the support of 43 percent of likely Georgia voters.

Meanwhile, in the state’s crowded special Senate election, the poll found Democrat Raphael Warnock is supported by 32 percent of likely voters in Georgia, compared to 23 percent that support Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who currently holds the seat, and 17 percent for Republican Rep. Douglas A. Collins.

A Washington Post average of Georgia polls from mid-September finds Warnock drawing 27 percent of support, compared to Loeffler at 22 percent and Collins at 21 percent.

The latest New York Times-Siena survey has a 4.1 percent margin of error.

The poll also asked voters about a possible January runoff between the special-election candidates if no one breaks 50 percent in November.

In a potential runoff matchup against either Loeffler or Collins, Warnock drew 45 percent of support compared to 41 percent for both Republican Senate rivals.

October 20, 2020 at 2:49 PM EDT
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Miami Police Department condemns behavior of officer who wore Trump face mask at polling location

By Lori Rozsa

A Miami police officer in uniform entered an official polling place Tuesday wearing a “Trump 2020” face mask, alarming voters and drawing swift condemnation from city police officials.

The officer was observed where early voting is taking place at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in full uniform, including a gun, according to Steven Simeonidis, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party. Simeonidis was at the government building, which houses the county’s Supervisor of Elections office.

“I was shocked and appalled that a City of Miami employee would walk into a polling place with a badge and a gun and a uniform,” Simeonidis told The Washington Post. “There was a definite intent to intimidate voters. He was near people who were voting.”

Simeonidis said he took photos of the officer, who he said called him “sweetheart.”

“This is city funded voter intimidation,” Simeonidis said in a tweet.

The Miami Police Department confirmed the officer was an employee and condemned his attire. “We are aware of the photograph being circulated of a Miami Police officer wearing a political mask in uniform,” the department said in a tweet. “This behavior is unacceptable, a violation of departmental policy, and is being addressed immediately.”

Florida law prohibits anybody carrying a gun from being within 150 feet of a polling location, and also prohibits law enforcement officers from acting as poll watchers.

More than 1,200 people voted at the government building on the first day of early voting Monday.

“This is why many people are afraid of the police,” Miami City Commissioner Keon Hardemon said in a tweet. “It’s easy. No political speech in uniform. Whatsoever.”

October 20, 2020 at 2:40 PM EDT
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Even if they haven’t heard of QAnon, most Trump voters believe its wild allegations

By Philip Bump

To Trump, there is no higher compliment to be paid to someone than that they support him. When the hosts of “Fox and Friends” pressed him on the important issues of the campaign on Tuesday morning — how he felt about an endorsement from actress Kirstie Alley — Trump was effusive about how successful she’d been in Hollywood and how great her hair was.

I am not making this up.

So, when Trump has been occasionally asked to weigh in on QAnon — a sprawling, bizarre web of conspiracy theories centered dually on the existence of a massive sex-trafficking ring and on Trump as national savior — he has generally declined to be critical of its adherents.