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Former president Barack Obama on Wednesday unleashed a brutal takedown of President Trump in Philadelphia in his first in-person campaign appearance on behalf of Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Trump, keeping up a rally-a-day pace, returned to the battleground state of North Carolina.

Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), also campaigned in the Tar Heel State, while Vice President Pence stopped in New Hampshire and Ohio. Biden has advertised no events of his own as he prepares for Thursday’s final debate with Trump.

With 13 days until Election Day …
October 21, 2020 at 10:00 PM EDT
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Supreme Court grants Alabama’s request for ban on curbside voting

By Robert Barnes

The Supreme Court said Wednesday night that Alabama state officials can prohibit local counties from offering curbside voting to people with disabilities and others worried about the coronavirus pandemic.

The court’s conservative justices granted a request by Alabama’s secretary of state to put on hold decisions by lower courts allowing counties that wanted to provide the service to proceed.

The vote was 5 to 3, with the court’s liberals dissenting.

“We should not substitute the district court’s reasonable, record-based findings of fact with our own intuitions about the risks of traditional in-person voting during this pandemic or the ability of willing local officials to implement adequate curbside voting procedures,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan.

October 21, 2020 at 9:16 PM EDT
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Trump complains about inauguration crowd size, ‘60 Minutes’ interview in campaign’s final stretch

By Colby Itkowitz

Another night, another rally. This time, it was in battleground state North Carolina, as Trump keeps up a frenetic pace to the election finish line. The president’s speech was largely a regurgitation of his familiar grievances and attacks on Democrats, though there were a few distinctive moments.

At one point, Trump conflated the left-wing antifa movement with MS-13 gang members, saying that if Democrats win, they will “order you to stay at home while letting rioters and MS-13 killers roam free, without masks. Without masks. MS-13 doesn’t have to wear a mask.”

Trump revisited a gripe from his first day as president: the size of his inauguration crowd. He lamented that he is all by himself in fighting off the Democrats, fake news and the deep state — “It’s much deeper than I thought,” he said.

He complained at some length for the second night in a row about his “60 Minutes” interview with Lesley Stahl. He told his supporters that she had pressed him about “begging” suburban women to vote for him, which he said was sarcasm, though he added, “But I mean it.”

Trump’s rally came a little more than an hour after Obama’s blistering attacks against him on the campaign trail. Trump only briefly went after his predecessor, suggesting that he may not have heard all that Obama had said.

Trump said that based on Obama’s track record in 2016, his return to the campaign trail was welcome news.

“There was nobody that campaigned harder for crooked Hillary Clinton than Obama, right?” Trump said. “He was all over the place. … I think the only one more unhappy than crooked Hillary that night was Barack Hussein Obama.”

October 21, 2020 at 9:01 PM EDT
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Two polls show Biden leading Trump in Pennsylvania

By Felicia Sonmez

Biden continues to lead Trump in the key battleground state of Pennsylvania, according to two polls released Wednesday.

A Quinnipiac University poll shows 51 percent of likely voters in Pennsylvania back Biden, while 43 percent support Trump and 5 percent are undecided. The survey, which was conducted Oct. 16-19 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points, also shows that 56 percent of likely voters disapprove of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Biden’s support remains above 50 percent as President Trump tries to change the trajectory in a crucial state where he receives poor grades on his job performance and his handling of the coronavirus response,” Quinnipiac University polling analyst Mary Snow said in a statement.

A CNN poll released later Wednesday shows Biden leading in Pennsylvania as well, with the former vice president taking 53 percent to Trump’s 43 percent among likely voters. The survey was conducted Oct. 15-20 and has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

The CNN poll found a smaller advantage for Biden among the broader population of registered voters, with the former vice president leading Trump 50 percent to 45 percent.

Scott Clement contributed to this report.

October 21, 2020 at 8:05 PM EDT
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Democrats to boycott committee vote on Barrett nomination to the Supreme Court

By Donna Cassata

Democrats plan to boycott the Senate Judiciary Committee’s scheduled vote Thursday on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, protesting consideration of President Trump’s nominee within days of the election.

“We will not grant this process any further legitimacy by participating in a committee markup of this nomination just 12 days before the culmination of an election that is already underway,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Wednesday.

The 22-member committee is slated to vote on Barrett’s nomination Thursday afternoon, and she was widely expected to win support on a party-line vote. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said Wednesday night that the panel will proceed as planned.

“The political system is broken. I get that [there is] plenty of blame to go around, but she’s one of the best people anybody could ever nominate to the court, and she deserves a vote and she’s going to get one,” Graham told reporters.

October 21, 2020 at 8:00 PM EDT
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Md. election officials say video’s allegation of ballot fraud is untrue. But it’s already gone viral.

By Rebecca Tan

Election officials in Maryland’s most populous jurisdiction held an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss a viral video alleging that an election worker attempted to tamper with a mailed-in ballot.

A thorough investigation revealed no evidence of fraud or misconduct, Montgomery County officials said, but they’re concerned that the video may have spread some damaging misinformation.

“Something like this just feeds into people who believe mail-in voting is fraudulent,” said the county’s elections board chair, Jim Shalleck, a Republican appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R). “It’s very unfortunate.”

Election officials in the liberal suburb of 1 million were alerted Tuesday afternoon to the video, which was posted on YouTube by a user who says they took it off 4chan, an online message board often used by provocative trolls.

October 21, 2020 at 7:45 PM EDT
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Analysis: Funding for Planned Parenthood went up – yes, up – during the Trump administration

By Paige Winfield Cunningham

There is one antiabortion pledge Trump hasn’t kept: his promise to defund Planned Parenthood.

Instead, federal funds to the women’s health-care and abortion provider grew during the first two and a half years of his administration.

Government reimbursements and grants to Planned Parenthood hit record levels in the group’s fiscal years starting in 2017 and 2018, according to its most recent financial disclosure, even as the administration and Republicans in Congress and around the country endeavored — mostly unsuccessfully — to cut the provider out of government revenue streams wherever possible. Planned Parenthood won’t release its next fiscal report until the end of the year.

October 21, 2020 at 6:49 PM EDT
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Obama unleashes brutal takedown of Trump

By Colby Itkowitz

For Democrats who have complained that Obama hasn’t spoken out enough against Trump over the past four years, the former president made up for lost time Wednesday night, delivering the fiery condemnation of Trump they’ve been yearning to hear.

In his first appearance on the campaign trail on behalf of Biden and Harris, Obama unleashed a brutal takedown of Trump on topics ranging from the president’s handling of the coronavirus to his character.

“Eight months into this pandemic, cases are rising again across this country,” Obama said. “Donald Trump isn’t suddenly going to protect all of us. He can’t even take the basic steps to protect himself.”

Obama mocked Trump’s preoccupation with television ratings and Twitter, saying the president cannot appreciate the gravity of the job because he only cares about himself.

“This is not a reality show. This is reality. And the rest of us have had to live with the consequences of him proving himself incapable of taking the job seriously,” Obama said.

Obama, who has largely kept his opinions about Trump to himself, making only guarded or veiled criticisms, held little back, but he also urged voters not to become numb to Trump’s rhetoric and behavior.

“With Joe and Kamala at the helm, you’re not going to have to think about the crazy things they said every day,” Obama said. “You’ll be able to go about your lives knowing that the president is not going to retweet conspiracy theories about secret cabals running the world or that Navy SEALs didn’t actually kill [Osama] bin Laden.”

Trump’s words and actions matter, Obama continued. “They embolden other people to be cruel and divisive and racist,” he said, “and it frays the fabric of our society and it affects how our children see things and it affects the ways that our families get along. That behavior matters, character matters.”

October 21, 2020 at 5:49 PM EDT
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Obama says he’s been mad, frustrated over last four years but never lost hope

By Colby Itkowitz

At a roundtable conversation with Black male elected officials in Philadelphia, Obama explained why he has maintained hope over the past four years of Trump’s presidency.

“Hope is not blind optimism, it’s not ignoring problems. Hope is believing in the face of difficulty that we can overcome and get a better world,” Obama said. “And so, I’ve never lost hope over these last four years. I’ve been mad. I’ve been frustrated, but I haven’t lost hope, and the reason is because I never expected progress to move directly in a straight line.”

The conversation with local Black leaders in an area of Philadelphia still facing deep racial injustices was the former president’s first in-person campaign event of the 2020 election. Obama spoke to the men about the importance of engaging young people in voting and government.

“If you don’t vote, then you are not at the table and then stuff is done to you,” Obama said.

He urged them not to allow the setbacks of the past four years to discourage them but warned that the country can’t afford another four years like these.

“What we’ve seen over the last four years — with my election, we probably got over-optimistic about how much change had happened in the country,” Obama said, “but that change was real, and there was pushback — and that was real, too.”

“The test of our strength as a people is to push through that onto the next stage. We are resilient and strong enough to push through what we’ve seen these past four years,” Obama said. “We can’t afford another four years of this … you go so far backward that it becomes really hard to dig yourself out of that hole.”

Obama did not mention Trump by name and took only one direct swing at his successor’s handling of the coronavirus.

“The pandemic would have been tough for any president,” Obama acknowledged. But he also stressed “the degree of incompetence and misinformation, the number of people who might not have died if we’d have done the basics.”

October 21, 2020 at 5:47 PM EDT
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West Virginia voters bustle to the polls on the first day of in-person early voting

By Derek Hawkins and Molly Born

West Virginia voters scurried to the polls Wednesday with thousands of people lining up in towns and cities for the start of early voting in a state where President Trump enjoys one of his biggest leads over Democrat Joe Biden.

Mail-in voting has been relatively sluggish in West Virginia so far, but in-person turnout appeared strong throughout the day in the Mountain State’s population hubs. Lines stretched more than a city block in Charleston, the capital, and the northeastern town of Martinsburg, where voters queued up beginning in the early morning hours. Rural areas such as Preston County, near the Pennsylvania border, also saw steady streams of voters throughout the afternoon.

The West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office isn’t expected to release official turnout figures until Wednesday evening or Thursday, but election officials said polls were packed in many places.

October 21, 2020 at 5:19 PM EDT
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Making no mention of pandemic, Trump campaign offers supporters a chance to meet the president

By Felicia Sonmez

The coronavirus pandemic continues its deadly sweep across the United States, taking the lives of at least 221,000 people and infecting more than 8.2 million.

But Trump’s reelection campaign made no mention of the public health crisis Wednesday as it sent a fundraising email to supporters offering them a chance to meet the president.

“We’ve never seen a more high-energy candidate for President than Donald J. Trump. He’s traveling the Country hosting MASSIVE rallies — often more than one a day — with THOUSANDS of Patriots in attendance,” the email reads.

In the message, the campaign states that “if we keep this enthusiasm up through Election Day, there’s NO WAY we can lose.”

“President Trump wants to make sure ALL of his BEST supporters have a chance to see him in action at one of our EPIC rallies, so he’s inviting YOU to win VIP PASSES to one,” the email continues. “He’s even promised to set aside some time so the two of you can meet and take a picture together. … Please contribute ANY AMOUNT by 11:59 PM TONIGHT and win a trip to meet your favorite President at an upcoming Make America Great Again Rally.”

The fundraising pitch comes as Biden’s campaign entered October with nearly triple the cash haul of Trump’s campaign, according to records released Tuesday night.

Earlier Wednesday, the Trump campaign offered supporters the chance to win a part of the GOP national convention stage — signed by the president himself — if they make a donation before the end of the day.

October 21, 2020 at 4:06 PM EDT
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Trump, Biden tied in Texas, new Quinnipiac poll shows

By Felicia Sonmez

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday shows the presidential race in a dead heat in Texas.

The survey shows Trump and Biden tied at 47 percent support each among likely voters in the Lone Star State. That represents a slight shift from late September, when 50 percent of likely voters backed Trump, and 45 percent supported Biden.

“Biden and Trump find themselves in a Texas stand-off, setting the stage for a bare knuckle battle for 38 electoral votes,” Quinnipiac University polling analyst Tim Malloy said in a statement.

In the Senate race, Sen. John Cornyn (R) is maintaining his lead over Democratic challenger M.J. Hegar, taking 49 percent to Hegar’s 43 percent among likely voters. Seven percent are undecided. Hegar’s favorability rating has increased in recent weeks, but she still remains unknown among a plurality of likely voters; 39 percent said they haven’t heard enough about her to form an opinion, while 33 percent view her favorably, and 26 percent view her unfavorably.

Cornyn, by contrast, is viewed favorably by 42 percent of likely voters in Texas. Thirty percent view him unfavorably, while 26 percent said they haven’t heard enough to form an opinion.

The poll was conducted Oct. 16-19 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

October 21, 2020 at 3:16 PM EDT
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Harris says Biden doesn’t ‘talk about other people’s kids,' amid GOP attacks on former vice president’s son

By Felicia Sonmez

In an exchange with reporters in Asheville, N.C., before heading to an event in Charlotte, Harris drew a contrast between Trump’s and Biden’s campaign strategies, saying that the former vice president doesn’t “talk about other people’s kids.”

Harris’s remark comes as the Trump campaign has made the foreign business ties of Biden’s son Hunter Biden a centerpiece of its closing argument.

“Listen, Joe Biden knows that what America needs to hear is, they need to hear a conversation about how we’re going to put food on America’s tables when people are standing in food lines,” Harris said when asked about Biden’s preparations for Thursday night’s debate.

“He knows that people want to hear about how we’re going to help working families get through the end of the month and pay the rent,” she added. “That’s what people care about, and one of the things I love about Joe Biden — he doesn’t take on or talk about other people’s kids.”

October 21, 2020 at 3:14 PM EDT
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How ballot tracking works — and can help

By Geoffrey Fowler

Some early-voting advice: Track your ballot online to make sure it counts.

In September, I wrote a tech column about how to track your ballot online like a UPS package. In part because of the coronavirus pandemic, local officials in a patchwork of all but about seven states have invested in some form of ballot-tracking tech.

It’s pretty simple. Many states or counties have websites where you can enter a bit of personal information and check on the status of your ballot. Or you can even sign up to get text messages as your ballot makes its way through the system. (Note, these sites track unique codes on your envelope, not the details of how you voted.)

This week, the importance of using these systems hit close to home. My parents, who live in Massachusetts, dropped off their ballots at an official drop box at their town clerk’s office. The next day, they checked the state’s website to see if they had been counted. To their surprise: Mom’s ballot was marked “accepted” — while Dad’s was shown “not returned.”

They checked a few more times in the days that followed, but the status of Dad’s ballot never changed. So they called their town clerk, who also couldn’t locate the ballot. His town is now sending him a new ballot so he can try voting again.

“Really glad I voted early,” my father said.

The lesson: Because my father checked, he has enough time to fix the problem. In some states, you can’t fix mail-in ballot problems after Election Day.

It’s also a reminder that the Internet, for all the troubles it has brought this election cycle, can play a role in helping make us more confident in our democracy.

To find if election tracking available where you live and how to access it, check out The Washington Post’s handy interactive guide to voting in 2020.

October 21, 2020 at 2:32 PM EDT
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Sen. Mitt Romney says he didn’t vote for Trump, declines to disclose his choice

By Donna Cassata

Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), the only Republican senator to vote to convict Trump on an impeachment charge, said Tuesday that he didn’t vote for the president for reelection.

“I did not vote for President Trump,” Romney said.

In a conversation with CNN’s Manu Raju, Romney declined to say whether he voted for Biden or wrote in the name of someone else. Romney’s office confirmed the details. In 2016, Romney wrote the name of his wife, Ann, for president.

Romney, the party’s presidential nominee in 2012, has criticized Trump on some issues, drawing the president’s wrath on Twitter and in public venues. Most notably, the day after the Senate vote to acquit Trump on two impeachment charges, the president took a swipe at Romney at the National Prayer Breakfast.