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The presidential campaigns converged on Florida on Thursday, with both candidates holding rallies in Tampa within hours of one another. President Trump railed against a Supreme Court decision on Pennsylvania ballots as the state emerges as a likely hot spot for post-Election Day disputes. Democratic nominee Joe Biden continued to hammer Trump on his response to the coronavirus, accusing the president of not only failing to stop it, but being responsible for spreading it.

Trump’s campaign postponed Thursday night’s planned rally in Fayetteville, N.C., because of high winds.

With five days until Election Day …
  • Vice President Pence held rallies in Iowa and Nevada, while the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), held virtual events aimed at Black and working-class voters.
  • A federal appeals court panel ruled that Minnesota must reject ballots received after polls close on Election Day, the second time this week that federal courts have clamped down on swing states that sought to extend counting to give voters extra time to cast ballots amid the pandemic.
  • Younger Americans are on track to turn out to vote in record numbers this election and could play a pivotal role in some key battleground states.
  • Biden leads Trump by 10 percentage points nationally, 53 percent to 43 percent, according to an average of national polls since Oct. 12. Biden’s margin in the battleground states of Wisconsin and Michigan is nine points. It is seven points in Pennsylvania, five in Arizona and one in Florida.

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1:57 a.m.
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Biden campaign hits Facebook over pausing its ads

By Isaac Stanley-Becker

The Biden campaign on Thursday excoriated Facebook for technical errors that the former vice president’s team said had led to the interruption of thousands of its ads less than a week before the election and cost them $500,000 in projected revenue.

“It is currently unclear to us whether or not Facebook is giving Donald Trump an unfair electoral advantage in this particular instance, but it is abundantly clear that Facebook was wholly unprepared to handle this election despite having four years to prepare,” said the campaign’s digital director, Rob Flaherty. “Facebook must take steps today to clearly rectify and explain the depth of this fiasco. We are barely more than 100 hours away from election day. There is no time to waste.”

The criticism capped a year of deepening animosity toward Facebook within the Democrat’s campaign, marked in particular by complaints over the company’s alleged failures to control misinformation and hate speech.

The latest flare-up arose over one of the central changes introduced by the technology giant in an effort to police election-related content more rigorously than it had four years ago. Facebook restricted new political and issue ads a week before Election Day, in a bid, the company said, to “ensure maximum transparency.”

But “technical flaws in our systems’ ability to detect that an ad has been properly recorded” led to a number of ads being paused improperly, Facebook said in a blog post Thursday night.

The blog post stressed that political considerations were not a factor in the errors.

“No ad was paused or rejected by a person, or because of any partisan consideration,” the post said. “The technical problems were automated and impacted ads from across the political spectrum and both Presidential campaigns.”

1:56 a.m.
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Minnesota secretary of state warns voters not to mail ballots as state mulls options after deadline extension struck down

By David Weigel

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said Thursday that his office “would seek other avenues,” including a possible appeal to the Supreme Court, after a lower court voided a plan to count ballots postmarked by Nov. 3, but received after Election Day.

“We’re huddling, as you might imagine, with our attorneys to figure out precisely what the course of action is,” Simon said at a news conference shortly after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit issued its decision. “There are intervenors who have standing to do the same thing,” he added, saying his office would need to find out what they were planning.

Simon, a Democrat, began his remarks by urging voters not to drop off ballots in the mail, saying it was “functionally too late” to ensure that they would make it before the deadline. Until a three-judge panel weighed in, Simon’s office had created a grace period of seven days for ballots that were clearly sent before the end of the election.

“We have to make sure that every legally cast ballot is counted,” Simon said, adding that 399,000 ballots had been requested by voters but not yet returned. Four years ago, 2,944,813 ballots were counted in the state’s presidential election.

The 2-to-1 decision that voided part of a consent decree came after both Republicans and Democrats had agreed to the grace period. The lawsuit against it was brought independently by electors for the president, though the Trump campaign has filed a separate lawsuit in a lower court asking for what the 8th Circuitjust ordered: that the state separate ballots received after the polls close, before a final determination on whether they would be counted. The state would do so, Simon said, as his office considered its next move.

“I think they got the law wrong, respectfully,” Simon said of the 8th Circuit panel. “Like so much that has happened this year, in all of our lives, this was unexpected.”

12:59 a.m.
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In campaign’s waning days, both candidates seek to shore up support from Latino voters

By Jose Del Real, Amy Gardner and Jenna Johnson

In the closing days of the 2020 election, the Trump campaign is seeking to seize on a perceived opening with conservative-leaning Latinos, hoping to chip away at margins that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden needs to win in tight battleground races like Pennsylvania and Texas.

On Thursday, the Trump campaign unveiled a television ad targeting Latinos in South and Central Florida, Arizona and Nevada that drew a connection between the hopes of immigrant communities and the president’s pandemic response.

“Why did we come here? Why did we sacrifice everything to start over? Because here, we all have the opportunity to live our dreams and to give our families a better future. Today we decide if we will save the American Dream or if we will allow the pandemic to threaten our destiny,” the ad’s narrator says in Spanish. “And like President Trump, we will win this war against coronavirus and continue fighting for our people.”

12:31 a.m.
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Coronavirus cases are on the rise in every swing state

By Harry Stevens

Coronavirus cases are surging in every competitive state before Election Day, offering irrefutable evidence against President Trump’s closing argument that the pandemic is nearly over and restrictions are no longer necessary.

In the 13 states deemed competitive by the Cook Political Report, the weekly average of new cases reported daily has jumped 45 percent over the past two weeks, from fewer than 21,000 on Oct. 14 to more than 30,000 on Oct. 28.

Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania have all hit new weekly average highs in recent days, and in Florida and Georgia, case counts are growing again after having fallen from summer highs.

12:18 a.m.
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Biden accuses Trump of spreading coronavirus and division

By Colby Itkowitz

Biden continued to hammer Trump on his response to the coronavirus, accusing the president of not only failing to stop it, but being responsible for spreading it.

“Donald Trump just held a superspreader event here again,” Biden said in Tampa, where Trump had held a rally a few hours earlier. “He’s spreading more than just the virus, he’s spreading division and discord.”

As cases spike again in the United States, Biden slammed Trump for not advocating that all people wear masks, which Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, has said would save tens of thousands of lives between now and the end of the year.

“That is not a political statement. It is a patriotic duty, for God’s sake,” Biden said. “But still, Donald Trump refuses to listen to science.”

Being Florida, a sudden downpour forced Biden to cut his remarks short.

12:02 a.m.
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Minnesota court rules all ballots must be received by Election Day

By Aaron Davis

A federal appeals court ruled Thursday evening that Minnesota must reject ballots received after polls close on Election Day, upending the state’s plan to count absentee ballots received up to seven days after the election, so long as they were postmarked on Election Day.

The decision marks the second time this week that federal courts have clamped down on states that sought to extend counting to give voters extra time to cast ballots during the covid-19 pandemic.

On Monday, the Supreme Court prevented Wisconsin from continuing to count mailed ballots received after Election Day. But it has also declined so far to roll back extended deadlines in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit in Missouri said lower courts had gone too far in assessing that Minnesota’s legislature had delegated authority to the secretary of state to change election laws to deal with emergencies.

“Simply put, the Secretary has no power to override the Minnesota Legislature,” the opinion states. “However well-intentioned and appropriate from a policy perspective in the context of a pandemic during a presidential election … there is not pandemic exception to the Constitution.”

Under the court ruling, Minnesota can only accept absentee ballots received by mail by 8 p.m. on Election Day — or before 3 p.m., if voters deliver them in person.

In an interview earlier Thursday, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said if the court was to rule against the state, he hoped it would have come immediately after a hearing on Tuesday. He suggested that if the state lost it would seek a stay and appeal to the Supreme Court.

11:29 p.m.
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Michigan courts continue to reject state efforts to ban guns at polling places

By Tom Hamburger

The Michigan Court of Appeals on Thursday rejected an appeal from state officials seeking to enforce a ban on the open carry of firearms at polling places on Election Day.

The ruling by a three-judge panel was the latest setback for Michigan’s secretary of state, who earlier this month issued an order banning guns at or around polling places.

On Wednesday, a Michigan Court of Claims judge ruled that the secretary of state had not followed state rules in issuing the order. The appeals court rejected her appeal Thursday. State officials vowed they will appeal again.

After receiving the appeals court ruling Thursday, the Michigan attorney general’s office issued a statement promising to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

10:58 p.m.
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Jon Ossoff says Sen. Perdue called off their final debate in Georgia Senate race

By Colby Itkowitz

Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in the close Georgia Senate race, announced on Twitter that his opponent, GOP Sen. David Perdue, pulled out of their final debate scheduled for Sunday.

“BREAKING: Senator Perdue just cancelled our final debate,” Ossoff tweeted. “At last night’s debate, millions saw that Perdue had no answers when I called him out on his record of blatant corruption, widespread disease, and economic devastation. Shame on you, Senator.”

Ossoff unleased on Perdue during Wednesday night’s debate, calling him a “crook" in a bruising moment for the incumbent senator that went viral on social media.

In a statement released by his campaign, Ossoff said, “Senator Perdue’s cowardly withdrawal from our final debate says it all: David Perdue feels entitled to his office, and he’ll do anything to avoid accountability for his blatant corruption and his total failure during this unprecedented health crisis."

The senator’s campaign said Perdue canceled the final debate so he could instead campaign with Trump who is coming to Georgia on Sunday.

10:38 p.m.
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The strange tale of a Chris Christie video, the Montana governor’s race and a cured meat product

By Travis Andrews

As we barrel ever closer to one of the most heated elections in modern history, politics can’t help but seem dark. Luckily, we have former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, the Montana gubernatorial race and an app called Cameo. If this sounds like the setup for a good dad joke, that’s because it essentially is.

A few days ago, Christie joined Cameo, where users hire celebrities to create short personalized videos. He joined the ranks of political personalities such as former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandoski and former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Christie — a Republican — soon received a message from someone named Brad Ley, and it read: “Governor — huge fan (and so glad you’re doing better)! My buddy Greg (who is also a big fan!) has been working out of state the last few years & me and his family have been trying to get him to come home to N.J. Could you give him some encouragement?”

10:08 p.m.
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Walmart removes guns and ammunition displays, citing concerns of ‘civil unrest’

By Abha Bhattarai

Walmart has removed gun and ammunition displays from thousands of U.S. stores, citing concerns of “civil unrest.”

The world’s largest retailer said Thursday that customers can continue to purchase guns and ammunition by request. Walmart currently sells firearms at about half of its 4,700 U.S. stores.

“We have seen some isolated civil unrest and as we have done on several occasions over the last few years, we have moved our firearms and ammunition off the sales floor as a precaution for the safety of our associates and customers,” spokesman Kory Lundberg said in a statement on Thursday.

9:20 p.m.
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Trump postpones N.C. campaign rally Thursday night because of wind advisory

By Felicia Sonmez

Trump’s campaign announced that it is postponing Thursday night’s planned rally in Fayetteville, N.C., because of high winds.

“Because of a wind advisory issued with gusts reaching 50 miles per hour and other weather conditions, the outdoor Fayetteville, NC rally has been postponed until Monday,” the campaign said in a statement.

A wind advisory is in effect for Cumberland County, which includes Fayetteville, and six other counties until 7 p.m. Thursday night.

According to White House spokesman Judd Deere, Trump will still head to North Carolina Thursday night for a planned troop engagement at Fort Bragg.

Trump tweeted about the postponement of the rally Thursday night.

“Forced to move our Rally tonight in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to Monday, due to high speed winds and bad weather,” he said. “I love you North Carolina. Stay safe, see you on Monday!!!”

8:44 p.m.
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Kavanaugh, Vermont secretary of state joust over mail-in ballot extension

By Robert Barnes

The back-and-forth between Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and the Vermont secretary of state continues to go, well, back and forth.

It started with Kavanaugh’s opinion Tuesday night explaining why he would not vote to reinstate a judicially imposed extension on receiving mail-in ballots in Wisconsin. Kavanaugh argued that state legislatures have primary responsibility to set election rules and to make exceptions to those rules because of the coronavirus pandemic. And, he said, inaction is up to the states, as well.

“A few states such as Mississippi no longer require that absentee ballots be received before election day,” Kavanaugh wrote. “Other states such as Vermont, by contrast, have decided not to make changes to their ordinary rules, including to the election-day deadline for receipt of absentee ballots.”

Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos said that was wrong, and sent a letter to Supreme Court Clerk Scott Harris seeking a correction.

Condos, a Democrat, said the state had been active in making pandemic-related accommodations. In September it began sending every active registered voter a ballot and prepaid return envelope, to facilitate voting by mail. Additionally, he said, he authorized election officials to confidentially begin processing the returned ballots, so that there could be quick release of results on election night. That is why the state did not need to change its deadline for returning mail-in ballots, he said.

Wednesday night, Harris informed lawyers in the case that Kavanaugh’s opinion had been amended. It now read: “Other States such as Vermont, by contrast, have decided not to make changes to their ordinary election-deadline [emphasis added] rules, including to the election-day deadline for receipt of absentee ballots.”

It’s pretty slight and reminiscent of, well, the kinds of corrections reporters might make when challenged about something in a story.

Condos is not satisfied. “I’m glad he admitted a mistake and modified his opinion, but a one-word addition doesn’t go far enough,” Condos said in a news release. “I will not sit idly by while Justice Kavanaugh uses factually incorrect information about the Green Mountain State as cover to erode voting rights in the middle of a pandemic-distressed election.”

If that sounds as if Condos has a more fundamental critique of the court’s work, that would be correct. “Let me be clear: The larger problem with the justice’s concurring opinion, and the majority opinion largely, is not the absence of the word ‘deadline,’ it is the total lack of regard for the voting rights of American citizens.”

No word back from Kavanaugh.

8:44 p.m.
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Some support staff to Doug Emhoff to quarantine after exposure to the coronavirus

By Chelsea Janes

Doug Emhoff has been an enthusiastic surrogate for the Biden-Harris campaign since his wife was named to the ticket in August. Emhoff has been so willing to raise his hand for travel, fundraisers and other events that he has often impressed campaign staff with his vigor, according to people familiar with the campaign and its plans.

But the campaign announced that several members of Emhoff’s support staff were forced into quarantine after a flight crew member serving on a plane for him tested positive for the novel coronavirus Thursday, according to Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon.

“As part of our routine COVID-19 testing program, we learned that a non-staff flight crew member that travelled on a support plane for Doug Emhoff tested positive for COVID-19,” O’Malley Dillon wrote in a statement. “As part of our contact tracing investigation, we learned that other members of the flight crew as well as two members of Mr. Emhoff’s support staff had been in close contact with this individual, as defined by the CDC. We have asked all of these individuals to quarantine for 14 days from the last date of contact in accordance with CDC guidelines.”

Her statement added that Emhoff was not on the same plane as the person who had tested positive and was never in close contact with them, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As currently defined by the CDC, “close contact” includes 15 minutes within six feet of someone who has tested positive over a 24-hour period. The statement said that Emhoff had not even had “passing contact” with the affected individual.

As a result, the campaign decided to allow Emhoff to continue with his regularly scheduled travel to northeast Ohio on Friday and does not believe he needs to quarantine. Emhoff underwent coronavirus testing Thursday and tested negative, according to the campaign. He is scheduled to travel to Nevada on Friday while his wife makes three stops in Texas.

7:47 p.m.
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Biden: ‘If Florida goes blue, it’s over’

By Sean Sullivan

Biden campaigned in Broward County, where he predicted that if he wins Florida, he would definitely win the national election.

“If Florida goes blue, it’s over,” Biden said at a car rally on the campus of Broward College, a format that has become a staple of his campaign in the closing weeks. Attendees watch from their cars to stay safe and socially distant during the pandemic; to cheer, many honked their horns.

Biden told the crowd he missed the days when he could “wander in and shake hands with all of you, but we decided a while ago that we’re going to try to be responsible and not be a — just, I won’t get into it. But just be responsible.”

He thanked the crowd for exercising safety measures.

Biden hit on the themes he normally touches on, taking Trump to task over his handling of the coronavirus, race and other issues.

Echoing his comments in the final debate, Biden said, “I’m not going to shut down the economy, I’m not going to shut down the country, but I am going to shut down the virus.”

In August, Biden told ABC News he would shut down the economy if scientists said it was necessary. Trump has accused Biden of taking an unnecessarily cautious stance.

Biden plans to campaign later in the day in Tampa, where Trump held a rally this afternoon.