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It’s been a busy day on the campaign trail as the candidates and their surrogates fanned out across the country to make their final pitches to voters in battleground states.

President Trump voted Saturday morning in West Palm Beach and followed by a trio of appearances in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin. Vice President Pence is headlining two rallies in Florida.

Democratic candidate Joe Biden returned to his native Pennsylvania for events in Bucks County and Luzerne County, two areas crucial to winning the important state. Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) delivered a speech in Cleveland, former president Barack Obama held a drive-in rally in Miami and singer Cher is holding a nighttime Biden event in Las Vegas.

Back in Washington, the Senate debated the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court with a final vote expected on Monday.

With 10 days until Election Day …
  • Trump privately tells donors it would be ‘very tough’ for GOP to hold Senate
  • Biden has surged ahead of Trump in donors — including in the states that matter most
  • Senators engage in bitter floor feud over the Barrett nomination
  • As Obama stumps for Biden, he is also campaigning to protect his own legacy
  • Biden leads Trump by nine percentage points nationally, 52 percent to 43 percent, according to an average of national polls since Oct. 12. Biden’s margin in the battleground state of Michigan is 10 points. It’s eight points in Wisconsin, seven in Pennsylvania, five in Arizona and one in Florida.
October 24, 2020 at 5:38 PM EDT
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Bon Jovi sings a coronavirus song; Biden continues to hit Trump over pandemic response

By Colby Itkowitz

Biden’s return to northeastern Pennsylvania, to the county adjacent to the one where he was born, featured a three-song set by Jon Bon Jovi, beginning with the very-on-the-nose “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.”

Bon Jovi closed with a song written about the coronavirus with such lyrics as: “Although I keep my social distance, what the world needs is a hug. Until we find a vaccination, there’s no substitute for love.”

When Biden took the stage, he focused his message on his closing argument panning Trump’s handling of the months-long pandemic that has killed at least 224,000 Americans.

“Trump said, 'It is what it is. Well, it is what it is because he was who he is. That’s why it is what it is,” Biden said. “Yesterday was the worst day we’ve had.”

Biden reminded his supporters that in the early days of the pandemic, Trump assessed covid-19 deaths by blue states and red states when he said that the country was doing quite well if only red states were counted.

“Where does this guy come from?” Biden said, a slight rasp in his raised voice. “Look, folks, I don’t see the presidency that way. I don’t see America that way.”

October 24, 2020 at 4:22 PM EDT
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Obama reprises scathing criticism of Trump at Florida car rally: ‘It’s not normal behavior'

By Amy B Wang

Obama reprised his scathing criticism of Trump on Saturday at a car rally in Miami, his second in-person campaign event on behalf of Biden.

The former president’s remarks were similar to ones he delivered at his debut for the Biden campaign, another drive-in rally Wednesday in Philadelphia, where he homed in on Trump’s failed response to the coronavirus pandemic and said he lacked the character and the work ethic to be president. Trump’s amplification of conspiracy theories, his bullying tendencies, his angry and recriminating tweets and his corruption was “not normal behavior,” Obama said.

He told the crowd that they wouldn’t tolerate such behavior from a co-worker, a high school principal, a coach or a family member.

“‘Florida man’ wouldn’t even do this stuff,” Obama said, to some laughter to the reference to the Internet meme. By contrast, he said Biden would be “a normal president” who would care about American families and have the plans and experience to handle the challenges of the office.

Obama referred back to Trump’s remarks in the presidential debate Thursday, when he alleged the United States was “rounding the corner” on the pandemic and tried to convince people it was time to move on and reopen the country. Several states were in fact reaching record highs this week, Obama said.

“He doesn’t have a plan. He doesn’t even acknowledge the reality of what’s taking place all across the country,” Obama said of his successor.

Obama also recounted a “60 Minutes” interview that Trump walked out of this week after CBS News correspondent Lesley Stahl asked what Trump’s second-term priorities were.

“Folks, If he can’t answer a tough question like, ‘What would you like to do in your second term?’ then it’s our job to make sure he doesn’t get a second term,” Obama said to car honks and cheers. Much later, he added: “If you have to walk out of a ’60 Minutes’ interview, then you’re never going to stand up to a dictator.”

The rest of Obama’s speech focused on the economy, the importance of voting and Biden’s efforts to preserve and expand the Affordable Care Act, which Trump has vowed to dismantle. He also knocked Trump for trying to remove health care away from Americans in the middle of a pandemic.

“He wants full credit for the economy he inherited and zero blame for the pandemic he ignored,” Obama said.

Like all of Biden’s pandemic-era campaign events, Obama’s rally had stringent rules for social distancing. Cars were spaced out in a parking lot of Florida International University campus in Biscayne Bay. Many were decked out with “Biden-Harris” signs and American flags. Some attendees, wearing face masks, sat on the roofs of their vehicles; a few waved Cuban flags, a nod to the sizable Cuban American population in South Florida.

Before the former president took the stage, an announcer told the crowd repeatedly to stay in their vehicles at all times.

“If you happen to venture out of your vehicle, please make sure you can touch your vehicle at all times. And if you can’t touch your vehicle, you are too far!” the announcer said.

October 24, 2020 at 4:11 PM EDT
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Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski will vote yes on Barrett’s confirmation

By Colby Itkowitz

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the moderate Alaska Republican who had opposed voting on a new Supreme Court justice so close to the election, said Saturday she would still vote yes on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation.

In a Senate floor speech, Murkowski began by lamenting that the chamber was voting on a weekend on a judicial nominee rather than a coronavirus relief bill mere days before the election. But she said she wouldn’t hold her opposition to the process against Barrett and would cast a vote based on the “merits of her qualifications.”

“I have no doubt about her intellect; I have no doubt about Judge Barrett’s judicial temperament,” Murkowski said. “I have no doubt about her capability to do the job and to do it well.”

Murkowski said she spoke privately to Barrett about issues such as Roe v. Wade and the Affordable Care Act, and while she didn’t reveal the specifics of those discussions, the senator said, “I do not believe Judge Barrett will take her seat on the bench with a predetermined agenda or with a goal of putting a torch to every volume of the United States Reports.”

Murkowski’s support for Barrett leaves Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who is in a tough reelection fight, as the lone Republican who plans to vote against Barrett’s nomination in protest over her party rushing it through so close to a presidential election.

Even if Murkowski had decided to vote no, the Republicans still would have had enough votes to confirm Barrett.

October 24, 2020 at 4:07 PM EDT
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Harris stumps in Ohio

By Chelsea Janes

Harris spent Saturday in Cleveland, her first in-person trip to Ohio since being named to the Democratic ticket in August. She stopped by a clothing boutique and visited Cuyahoga County’s early in-person voting site to thank voters.

“You are going to make the decision about your future, about your family’s future. It is through the voice of your vote,” Harris called across the street to a group of voters waiting in line. She traveled to Florida and North Carolina on the first days of early voting in those states earlier this week.

As has become routine for Harris’s campaign day trips, she also addressed a voter mobilization event, her only lengthy speech of the day. The Democratic vice-presidential nominee delivered her usual remarks, highlighting the crises the country is facing and criticizing Trump’s lack of action to mitigate them and his unwillingness to listen to scientists’ suggestions on how to solve them.

Harris added something she has been saying regularly in speeches over the past few weeks: that people ask her regularly whether she believes Trump is a racist.

“Yes,” she told a small crowd at Cuyahoga Community College on Saturday. “We are also not just looking at one-off comments. We’re looking at a pattern. This is the same dude who challenged the legitimacy of the first Black president of the United States.”

Earlier in the day, Harris was asked about that “dude’s” comments about her Friday night. Trump said she would be “a female socialist president.”

“Joe and I are proud American patriots,” she said. “And the reality is that the values that we have, I think, are shared by the majority of the American people.”

October 24, 2020 at 3:16 PM EDT
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Massive turnout in New York as early voting begins there and expands in California

By Scott Wilson and Shayna Jacobs

The nation’s two largest Democratic states saw lines forming early Saturday as early voting began in New York and more counties opened early voting locations in California.

By the time polls opened at Central Park East High School Saturday morning in the largely Hispanic neighborhood of East Harlem, there were roughly 700 people wrapped around two blocks, with the line folded and doubling back to accommodate the volume of eager early voters.

Several people brought camping chairs and stools to make the wait in line more comfortable. One woman here carried a handheld speaker playing Latin music.

Rene Tabra, 64, was first on the line having arrived at 6 a.m. Tabra, who had asthma, was a babysitter before the pandemic swept the city but she is out of work due to her doctor’s concern for the risk of taking public transportation. Still, Tabra said she did not even consider mailing in her ballot in this election.

The naturalized citizen from Peru chose to vote in person “because I have the power.”

City Councilman Mark Levine tweeted video spanning a long line to vote in Upper Manhattan.

“For a ghost town there sure are a lot of people lining up for early voting today in New York City,” he wrote, an apparent reference to President Trump’s recent unfounded claim that the Big Apple is desolate as a result of a lengthy pandemic shutdown.

Some of California’s 21.5 million registered voters also began voting, the scattered problems that arose during the March primary still a fresh memory. In a sign on pent-up enthusiasm here in a state where Republicans have fallen to the third-largest registration category, more than 20 percent of eligible voters, about 20 percent of the total, have already cast ballots by mail.

The apparently large turnout in New York comes after the state experienced significant problems in the primary and in the mailing of absentee ballots late last month.

The elections board struggled to tally a flood of absentee ballots in June primaries, leaving some races undecided for weeks. And officials had to send out new absentee ballots for the general election after about 100,000 voters in Brooklyn received return envelopes with wrong information.

While most wore masks in East Harlem, the line was so long people were only a foot or two apart in some spots. Around 10 a.m. when the poll site opened, a poll worker made her way through the crowd with instructions to space out six feet.

“I’m not nervous,” said Denise Gardner, 54, who traveled from Carnegie Hill to her early voting site. She said that while “social distancing could be better, everyone seems to be respecting the masks.”

October 24, 2020 at 3:06 PM EDT
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Trump campaign seeks to block counting of early mail-in votes in Clark County, Nev.

By Derek Hawkins

The Trump campaign is asking a judge in Nevada to halt early mail-in ballot-counting in Nevada’s most populous county, alleging in a lawsuit filed Friday alongside state Republicans that election officials have not allowed “meaningful observation” of the process.

The lawsuit accuses the county registrar of voters, Joseph Gloria, of obstructing the observation process by failing to submit a plan for allowing outside observers to monitor the tallying of ballots in the Democratic-leaning county.

In addition to Gloria, the filing names Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, as a defendant. A volunteer poll watcher and Nevada voter, Fred Kraus, is listed among the plaintiffs.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, a state judge declined the Trump campaign’s request to immediately stop the count. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Wednesday, the Nevada Independent reported.

A spokesman for Clark County, Dan Kulin, issued a point-by-point response disputing the allegations, saying the lawsuit “contains many misleading or inaccurate claims.”

“In every situation, we have tried to accommodate observers while protecting voters’ personal information and the confidentiality of their ballots,” Kulin said in an email. He added that officials would work with representatives from both parties to address their concerns.

The Nevada secretary of state’s office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Saturday.

Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford, a Democrat, called the Trump campaign’s efforts “illegitimate” in a tweet Friday following the judge’s decision.

“A ‘proper procedure’ is in place,” Ford said. “Again I say, we will always protect the right to vote, and we won’t let it be suppressed.”

The Trump campaign and the Nevada GOP claim election officials have barred observers from accessing areas where ballots are reviewed to determine whether they will be counted. The lawsuit says observers have been stationed 25 feet from certain processes, where they can’t see computer screens or observe calls.

The plaintiffs also object to the manner in which election officials are matching signatures. The county reportedly relies on computers for signature-checking — equipment used in many jurisdictions around the country.

“Transparency is paramount to ensure Nevadans the right to a free and fair election,” Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael J. McDonald said in a statement. “Clark County’s refusal to allow people to observe the handling of ballots and their low standards for matching signatures should disturb all voters.”

October 24, 2020 at 2:53 PM EDT
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Trump dismisses coronavirus cases, mocks media for covering it

By Colby Itkowitz

Trump ridiculed television news for covering the coronavirus and claimed baselessly that the media would ignore hundreds dead in a plane crash to keep focus on the pandemic.

“Turn on television: ‘covid, covid, covid, covid, covid.’ A plane goes down, 500 people dead, they don’t talk about it — ‘covid, covid, covid, covid,'" Trump said in North Carolina. “By the way, on November 4th, you won’t hear about it anymore.”

Trump’s riff about the imaginary plane crash with 500 dead ignores that nearly double that many Americans are dying every day from covid-19-related complications.

The president also repeated his unsubstantiated complaint that cases in the United States only appear so high because the country tests more than others and accused the news media for wanting that.

“What it does is it gives the fake news media something to talk about. So they say, ‘Cases are up in the United States.’ That’s because we test,” Trump said. “They want us to test, test, test. And part of the reason is that we’re dealing with some very bad people.”

Trump’s months-long dismissal of the severity of the coronavirus, even after having contracting it himself, has been roundly debunked. While more tests have been administered, it is the percentage of positive results that is concerning. The United States on Friday hit its highest daily number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, recording at least 82,900 new infections.

The speech in North Carolina, Trump’s first of three today, was billed by the White House as a non-campaign event.

“This isn’t a traditional rally. These are short, concentrated remarks that will generally focus on his vision for Native American communities and the forgotten men and women of North Carolina,” a senior administration official said.

But there was no distinction between Trump’s remarks there and those he makes at his Make America Great Again rallies, which he even acknowledged.

“We’re giving you the big rally version as opposed to a little get together with Indian Nation,” Trump said. “But we’re giving you the big deal.”

October 24, 2020 at 1:33 PM EDT
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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s reelection bid is second most expensive House race in the country

By Colby Itkowitz

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is expected to handily win reelection, but that hasn’t stopped donors on both sides from pouring millions into the race.

The New York liberal became an overnight sensation two years ago when she burst onto the political scene after beating an establishment Democrat in the primary. She has since become an icon for the left and a punching bag for the right.

Her stardom has allowed her to raise $17.3 million, while her Republican opponent John Cummings, a former high school teacher and former police officer, has raised $9.6 million. The total raised this cycle in the race is $30.8 million, making the noncompetitive contest the second most expensive in the country, according to Opensecrets.org data.

Ocasio-Cortez, who is incredibly popular in her district — she won 75 percent of the vote in the primary against a well-financed challenger — retweeted the New York Times story that first reported on her challenger’s fundraising.

“One perk about a GOP motivated by hatred is that it’s irrational and unstrategic. All these millions Republicans are hate-pouring into my race (just for shady DC consultants to scoop up & burn) is less money channeled for them in tight swing races. Please keep it up!” she tweeted.

Ocasio-Cortez also wrote that while her GOP challenger is spending the money on television ads and expensive mailers, she has directed her campaign funds to census outreach efforts and a coronavirus relief operation for her constituents.

“So when people donate on my side, it yields real benefits for people & the party,” she wrote. “When GOP hate-donate, they just set money on fire. ”

October 24, 2020 at 12:53 PM EDT
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Biden says his first-term priorities would be the coronavirus, climate change, green infrastructure

By Amy B Wang

Biden said his first-term priorities would include tackling climate change, investing in infrastructure and curing cancer. But his “number one” focus would be controlling the coronavirus, which has killed more than 220,000 Americans.

“Get control of coronavirus. Without that, nothing else is going to work very well,” Biden said on “Pod Save America,” a podcast hosted by former Obama administration aides.

In a 30-minute interview released Saturday morning, Biden drew more contrasts with Trump, whose priorities for a second term include establishing a permanent manned presence on the moon and sending the first manned mission to Mars, according to the Republican Party.

The questions were fairly soft: Biden was introduced as “the first person to ever win three presidential debates in only two attempts” and asked why he had not brought up the activities of Trump’s adult children.

“I just think it’s crass,” Biden responded. Trump tried to make the business dealings of Biden’s son Hunter an issue during Thursday night’s debate.

Biden discussed in some detail his desire to invest in green, renewable energy such as wind and solar, and to turn chicken manure into pellets of reusable fertilizer.

Biden urged people to make a plan to vote and to persuade others to do so as well. Young people in particular, he said, could “own the outcome” of the election.

“For those who’ve already voted, it’s not enough, God love ya, it’s not enough that you voted,” Biden said. “You got to go out and get your friends. You’ve got to go out and get your family. You’ve got to go out and get people.”

October 24, 2020 at 12:47 PM EDT
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Security company that sought ex-Special Forces to guard Minnesota polls agrees to stay out of state, attorney general says

By Derek Hawkins

A private security company that tried to recruit former U.S. military Special Operations personnel to guard polling sites in Minnesota on Election Day agreed Friday to cancel its plans following an investigation by Attorney General Keith Ellison (D), who warned that the effort would amount to voter intimidation.

In a settlement announced by Ellison, the company, Atlas Aegis, said it would not provide security services in the state from now through Jan. 1, 2022. The Tennessee-based company also pledged that it would not seek to intimidate voters in connection with the election.

“Minnesota and federal law are clear: it is strictly illegal to intimidate or interfere with voters," Ellison said in a statement. “I want to make it crystal clear to anyone who is even thinking about intimidating voters that I will not hesitate to enforce the laws against it to the fullest extent."

October 24, 2020 at 12:35 PM EDT
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Biden holds car rally in Bucks County, says election ‘may come down to Pennsylvania’

By Amy B Wang

Biden had harsh words for Trump at his first campaign stop Saturday, a car rally in Bucks County, Pa., saying the president continues to botch his response to the coronavirus crisis and is uninterested in providing economic relief to families suffering during the crisis.

Biden criticized Trump for saying the country is “rounding the corner” in the pandemic, when the United States had more than 85,000 new coronavirus cases on Friday, a new daily record since the outbreak began.

“I told him at the debate, we’re not learning how to live with it. We’re learning how to die with it. And it’s wrong,” Biden said.

As he had at the debate, Biden warned of a “a dark winter ahead … all because this president cares more about the stock market than he does about you.”

He accused Trump of spending time on the golf course or in his bunker rather than trying to work on another stimulus package. He also knocked Republicans for saying they had no time to work on such legislation, but they did have time to expedite confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

“If they get their away, over 100 million Americans, including 5.3 million Pennsylvanians, will lose their coverage for preexisting conditions that we worked so hard to provide,” said Biden, who vowed to expand the Affordable Care Act if elected.

He also emphasized that he would not ban fracking in Pennsylvania “or anywhere else.” The issue of fracking came up in Thursday night’s debate, when Trump accused the former vice president of saying he would ban the process in which liquids are injected at high pressure into the ground to widen fissures, allowing the extraction of oil and natural gas. Biden has said that he would prohibit new leases for fracking on federal land.

The rally had all the hallmarks of a Biden event during the pandemic. Cars lined up in the parking lot of Bucks County Community College so that attendees could remain distanced. Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, took the stage wearing face masks but removed them to speak.

“I don’t like the idea of all this distance, but it’s necessary,” Biden said to a cacophony of honks. “What we don’t want to do is become superspreaders.”

Both campaigns have been focused in recent weeks on Pennsylvania, a key battleground state with 20 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump narrowly lost Bucks County, just outside Philadelphia. During the rally Saturday, some Trump supporters waving large Trump banners drove their cars around the lot and honked as Biden was speaking.

“We have 10 days left. And it may come down to Pennsylvania,” said Biden, who was born in Scranton, Pa. “And I believe in you; I believe in my state!”

October 24, 2020 at 11:58 AM EDT
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Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner threaten lawsuit over Times Square billboard

By Colby Itkowitz

In the middle of Times Square are two massive billboards, one of a smiling Ivanka Trump next to the number of U.S. and New York coronavirus-related deaths, and the other of Jared Kushner, also grinning, next to a quote sounding cavalier about New Yorkers suffering from the pandemic.

The larger-than-life signs were placed by the Lincoln Project, a group of anti-Trump Republicans who have made it their mission to produce ads intended to get under Trump’s skin.

This one did.

Marc E. Kasowitz, a lawyer for the president’s daughter and her husband, sent a letter to the organization threatening to sue if the billboards aren’t taken down, which the Lincoln Project posted on Twitter.

“Of course, Mr. Kushner never made any such statement. Ms. Trump never made any such gesture, and the Lincoln Project’s representation that they did are an outrageous and shameful libel,” Kasowitz wrote. “If these billboards are not immediately removed, we will sue you for what will doubtless be enormous compensatory and punitive damages.”

The image of Ivanka Trump gesturing toward the tally of the dead is lifted from a photo she took promoting Goya beans, which government watchdog groups said broke ethics laws. The quote attributed to Kushner that New Yorkers “are going to suffer and that’s their problem” is from a September Vanity Fair article. The article claims Kushner, in criticizing New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said, “His people are going to suffer and that’s their problem.”

The Lincoln Project released a statement that the billboards will remain up, saying it intends to make this “civics lesson” in the First Amendment “as painful as possible.”

“Jared and Ivanka have always been entitled, out-of-touch bullies who have never given the slightest indication they have any regard for the American people,” the statement read. “We plan on showing them the same level of respect.”

October 24, 2020 at 10:41 AM EDT
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Trump casts ballot in Florida for a ‘guy named Trump’

By Colby Itkowitz

Trump cast a paper ballot in Florida at the West Palm Beach Main Library, using the moment to attack voting by mail as he has for months to sow doubt that the election results will be fair.

“It was a very secure vote, much more secure than when you send in a ballot, I can tell you that,” Trump said. “Everything was perfect, very strict, right by the rules; when you send in your ballot, it could never be like that.”

Trump has voted by absentee ballot in the past, including in the Florida primary in August. Defending his own use of mail-in voting, he often claimed there was a distinction between voting absentee due to not being in the state on Election Day and the widespread vote-by-mail effort occurring this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump told reporters it was “an honor to be voting.” When asked who he voted for, he said, “I voted for a guy named Trump.”

October 24, 2020 at 10:23 AM EDT
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Lou Dobbs urges South Carolina to vote out Lindsey Graham

By Colby Itkowitz

Fox Business host and Trump ally Lou Dobbs lashed out at Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) on Friday and said South Carolina voters shouldn’t reelect him.

Dobbs’s shocking rebuke of one of Trump’s closest allies in the Senate was over Graham’s decision as chairman of the Judiciary Committee to delay sending subpoenas to the chief executives of Facebook and Twitter over alleged censorship on those sites until after the election.

“Graham has betrayed President Trump at almost every turn,” Dobbs said on his show. “He has betrayed the American people and his oath of office. He’s done absolutely nothing to investigate Obamagate except to tell everyone stay tuned, time and time again. Stay tuned. Senator Graham needs to be tuned out in South Carolina.”

Dobbs brought up Trump’s disdain for Graham when the two were at odds during the 2016 election, saying the president’s contention then that Graham was “one of the dumbest human beings I’ve ever seen” and “a nut job” still “apply today.”

An eagerness to bring the heads of the social media sites before the Senate panel intensified this week after they limited the distribution of a questionable New York Post article about Hunter Biden. Conservatives have long alleged the platforms have an anti-conservative bias.

Senators, however, are anxious to get back out on the campaign trail with just over a week left before Election Day. They remain in Washington over the weekend to debate the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. A vote is expected Monday.

Graham himself is in a closer-than-expected race with Democrat Jaime Harrison, who has outraised the senator.