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President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden crisscrossed Midwestern battleground states on Friday, each staging multiple events across the critical region. In back-to-back rallies in Michigan and Wisconsin, states that helped deliver him the presidency in 2016, Trump continued to dismiss the rise of coronavirus cases and resurfaced a baseless allegation that doctors were profiting off the pandemic. In Minnesota, Biden was visibly annoyed by pro-Trump protesters who sought to disrupt his car rally here — at one point referring to them as the “ugly folks over there beeping the horns.”

Meanwhile, Vice President Pence sought to shore up support in Arizona, while the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), looked to expand the map in Texas, a state Trump easily won four years ago.

With four days until Election Day …

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November 2, 2020 at 12:27 PM EST
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Patent and Trademark Office rejects Trump Organization’s attempt to trademark ‘telerally’

By David Fahrenthold

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected an effort by Trump’s private company to trademark the term “telerally” — which the Trump Organization said it planned to use while organizing political events.

The problem, patent office staffer William D. Jackson wrote, is that the term isn’t distinctive enough.

If it is applied to rallies conducted by telephone or over the Internet, Jackson wrote, then “telerally” isn’t a unique name — it’s just a description. That would “not create a unique, incongruous, or nondescriptive meaning in relation to the goods and/or services.”

Jackson said that, if the Trump Organization wishes to reverse the decision, it must answer a set of detailed questions about the services it wants to provide under the “telerally” name.

The Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Trump’s company applied for the trademark in July, at a time when Trump had actually stopped holding in-person campaign rallies because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, his campaign held “telerallies” — events with the energy and pizazz of a man leaving a long answering machine message. Trump would speak uninterrupted for 20 minutes or so, focusing on a different swing state each time. The audience could not talk back.

It was not clear at the time if — or how — Trump’s private company had organized those “telerallies,” or if it made money from them. The application for the trademark said that the company was planning on “organizing events in the field of politics and political campaigning” but gave no other details.

Since then, of course, Trump has given up the “telerally” format and returned to holding in-person events, ignoring — and even mocking — some of the precautions that health authorities have urged to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

October 31, 2020 at 6:52 PM EDT
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CNN polls show Biden in strong position in four key states

By Scott Clement

CNN polls find the president trailing Biden by clear margins in Michigan and Wisconsin and trailing the Democrat by slight margins in North Carolina and Arizona, all four states Trump won in 2016.

Biden leads Trump by 53 percent to 41 percent in Michigan and by 52 percent to 44 percent in Wisconsin, both states Trump won by less than one percentage point four years ago. Biden’s advantage is within the range of sampling error in North Carolina, where he stands at 51 percent to Trump’s 45 percent, and Arizona in which 50 percent support Biden and 46 percent for Trump.

The CNN surveys, conducted Oct. 23 to 30, largely echo other independent surveys in these states and show little evidence that Trump is benefiting from a late surge in support as polls showed four years ago.

Biden appears to be winning the argument on which candidate can better handle the coronavirus pandemic. More voters in each state said they thought Biden would do a better job than Trump responding to the outbreak, by margins ranging from seven points in Arizona to 16 points in Michigan.

Trump has an 11-point advantage over Biden on handling the economy in Arizona and a five-point edge in North Carolina, though voters in Michigan and Wisconsin were split on this question.

The polls found Biden winning 55 percent or more of female voters in each state, peaking at 59 percent in Michigan and North Carolina. Men split about evenly in Michigan and Wisconsin, while they favor Trump by a narrow six points in Arizona and 11 points in North Carolina.

The CNN polls were conducted through random sampling of cellphones and landlines and interviewed between 865 and 907 likely voters in each state; the margin of sampling was 3.8 points in Michigan, 3.9 points in Wisconsin, 4 points in North Carolina and 4.1 points in Arizona.

October 30, 2020 at 10:02 PM EDT
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Biden invokes Hillary Clinton’s loss in Wisconsin, saying lessons were learned

By Meryl Kornfield

Arriving in Wisconsin for the third time during his campaign, Biden told a Milwaukee audience that it was three visits more than his predecessor: Hillary Clinton notoriously never made a stop in the battleground state in 2016 and narrowly lost.

“For a whole lot of reasons — not all of which were her fault — we ended up not taking it as seriously,” Biden admitted Friday night to about two dozen supporters at an airport hangar.

“We thought it was different,” said Biden, who visited the state in 2016 as a surrogate for Clinton’s campaign. She lost to Trump by less than 1 percent in Wisconsin, as critics argued her campaign did not allocate enough time and resources to the state and took the Midwest for granted.

But, Biden added, his campaign has learned from that and prioritized the state — broaching the party’s oversight in an apparent effort to gain the support of Wisconsin voters. Biden is leading in the state by nine points.

“I’ve been here a lot,” he said. “And by the way, when I get elected, if I get elected, I’m coming back.”

Democrats had also planned to host their national convention in Milwaukee, which would have highlighted the state’s significance to the party, but the coronavirus pandemic caused the gathering to be held virtually.

October 30, 2020 at 9:16 PM EDT
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Trump needs to win back some female voters. He’s closing his campaign by insulting them.

By Amy B Wang

President Trump had a deal to offer the women at his rally in Lansing, Mich., this week. He loved women, he declared — “much more than the men” — and he needed their support. In exchange, he would help their husbands get back to work.

“They want to get back to work, right? They want to get back to work,” Trump said. “We’re getting your husbands back to work, and everybody wants it.”

The remark ignored a central reality of the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic: Women also work, and they have suffered greater professional and economic consequences during the crisis.

A yawning chasm has emerged between Trump’s support among women and their backing of Democratic nominee Joe Biden — but the president, in his public remarks, has seemed intent on exacerbating it.

October 30, 2020 at 9:12 PM EDT
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With eye on redistricting, liberal group puts $10 million more into state legislative races

By David Weigel

The Future Now Fund, a liberal nonprofit created to elect more Democrats to state legislatures, is putting $10 million into coordinated expenditures in the campaign’s final stretch, hoping to overwhelm last-minute GOP investments protecting their local majorities.

“After decades of special interest-fueled GOP dominance in state legislative races, we believe helping our candidates build effective campaigns and communicate their message focused on improving lives will be enough to achieve unprecedented gains,” said Simone Leiro, the group’s spokeswoman.

Capturing state legislatures or cutting down Republican majorities has been a priority of Democratic groups all cycle, as they work to reverse the GOP gains that locked in control of key states for the party from 2010 to now. Democrats have been particularly hopeful about Texas, where Republicans have controlled redistricting since a rare mid-decade gerrymander in 2003, and where Democratic control of the state’s House of Representatives would give them influence over new maps.

Republicans, aware of Democrats’ ambitions, have raised millions of dollars to protect their incumbents in places like Texas. The Future Now Fund’s spending, by coordinating with campaigns, is designed to go further than independent expenditures; the cost to put a coordinated ad on TV is half or less of a full third-party ad.

October 30, 2020 at 8:11 PM EDT
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Missouri officials cover noose display at voting site in local courthouse

By Eric Berger

In recent days, voters entering the courthouse in Galena, a town of 440 in the southwest part of Missouri, encountered tables to cast their ballots — and in a nearby display case, a rope used in 1937 to hang Rosco “Red” Jackson, a White man convicted of murdering a traveling salesman.

“It’s just part of our history here at the courthouse; it’s nothing to do with intimidating,” said Mark Maples, the presiding commissioner of Stone County.

But the hangman’s noose is often associated with the lynchings of Black people in the United States. Missouri had the second-highest number of lynchings in states outside of the Deep South, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based nonprofit that has worked to document such violence.

The sight of the noose rattled a 35-year-old stay-at-home mother, who said she saw the display when she went to cast a ballot at the courthouse earlier this month. “Someone is there to do their civic duty and they don’t need to think, ‘Why is the noose there? Is this intimidation?” said the voter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of concerns about her safety.

Her husband contacted Missouri State Rep. Crystal Quade (D), who reached out to the Missouri secretary of state, who then contacted the Stone County Clerk’s Office, according to the voter and officials.

On Friday, the office staff covered up the display case with a piece of paper, said Maples, a Republican in the county where nearly 80 percent of voters supported Donald Trump in 2016.

Missouri Democratic Party Acting Chairman Clem Smith released a statement describing the display as “clear intimidation targeting Black voters. This symbol’s purpose is to stoke the fires of racial prejudice and strike fear in the hearts of people of color. It is a painful reminder of the murders and lynchings of Black Americans. To see one next to a voting booth is offensive, inappropriate, and outrageous.”

Maples, the Stone County clerk, said the local government put up the display five years ago because “it’s part of our history.”

“It’s one of the last public hangings in Missouri, if not the United States. It’s not just the noose that’s in there. We have the shackles, all the newspaper articles,” Maples said, adding: “I wish people would learn the history. They just assume.”

October 30, 2020 at 7:31 PM EDT
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Biden slams pro-Trump protesters in Minnesota

By Annie Linskey and Sean Sullivan

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Biden was visibly annoyed by pro-Trump protesters who sought to disrupt his car rally here — at one point referring to them as the “ugly folks over there beeping the horns.”

“They are not very polite, but they’re like Trump,” Biden said in his remarks. Trump supporters with flags stood about 100 yards from the stage where he spoke at the Minnesota state fairgrounds. They blew air horns and chanted “four more years” as Biden spoke.

Biden referenced them several time in his remarks.

The Trump campaign quickly promoted a clip of Biden referring to the protesters. “WATCH: Joe Biden gets angry, calls Minnesota Trump supporters ‘ugly,’ ” said one of their tweets.

The clip showed part of a longer quote from Biden talking about the importance of wearing protective face masks.

“This isn’t a political statement, like those ugly folks over there, beeping the horns,” Biden said, gesturing in their direction. “This is a patriotic duty, for God’s sake.”

Biden supporters honked in approval.

Sullivan reported from Washington.

October 30, 2020 at 7:28 PM EDT
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Louisiana voting advocates rebuffed in effort to extend absentee-ballot deadlines in wake of Hurricane Zeta

By Katy Reckdahl

In Louisiana, where 325,000 homes remained without electricity Friday in the wake of Hurricane Zeta, voting advocates were rebuffed in their effort to have absentee-ballot deadlines extended by a day.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Anti-Defamation League Southern Region and statewide group the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice had written Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin and asked that he act “to prevent the disenfranchisement” of voters without power who couldn’t get online by 4:30 p.m. Friday to request an absentee ballot or who might face difficulties returning their absentee ballots by the Monday afternoon deadline. (In Louisiana, ballots must be in the possession of voting registrars by the deadline.)

The advocates asked the secretary to extend the Monday general absentee-voter deadline to 8 p.m. Tuesday — the deadline for absentee voters who are overseas, hospitalized or in the military.

Impossible, his office replied. “We have no authority under the law to extend absentee ballot request or return deadlines,” said spokesman Tyler Brey, citing state elections statutes. Those laws require that after a gubernatorially declared disaster like Zeta, the secretary of state would have to propose an emergency plan to two legislative committees, then have it approved by the full Senate and House as well as the governor.

Power Coalition executive director Ashley Shelton said those statutes may be outdated given the increased frequency of tropical storms. “As climate change and its impacts become more real, we have to have a more effective way to deal with election issues in real time … If we continue to see these late-season storms, we have to be able to move more effectively to make sure we’re not disenfranchising voters.”

A state elections task force is working with utilities to prioritize restoration of power at election-related sites before Tuesday. But power was still out Friday at St. Dominic’s Catholic School in New Orleans, one of the city’s biggest polling places. Voters for 13 precincts cast ballots there.

October 30, 2020 at 6:16 PM EDT
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As Trump again accuses doctors of inflating covid deaths, crowd chants ‘Superman’ because he recovered

By Colby Itkowitz

In back-to-back rallies in the Midwest states that helped deliver him the presidency in 2016, Trump continued to dismiss the rise of coronavirus cases as a media construct and resurfaced a baseless allegation that doctors were profiting off the pandemic.

At his first rally in Michigan, Trump said U.S. doctors were overcounting covid-19 fatalities, claiming that they make more money that way.

“You know our doctors get more money if somebody dies from covid,” Trump said. Then he said mockingly, “With us, when in doubt, choose covid.”

Now they’ll say, ‘Oh, it’s terrible what he said,’ but that’s true,” Trump said.

Attacking Biden for wanting stricter safety restrictions to reduce the virus’s spread, Trump said, “Joe Biden wants to keep everyone locked up, even young Americans who are at extremely low risk from the virus. He wants to steal the dreams and the futures of our youngest citizens.”

He then chided Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who was in the crowd, for wearing a mask.

“I can’t recognize you. Is that a mask? No way, are you wearing a mask? I’ve never seen her in a mask,” Trump said. “Look at you. Laura, she’s being very politically correct. Whoa.”

At his next rally in Wisconsin, Trump continued the same theme suggesting the coronavirus is under control and that rising cases are just the result of increased testing. He pointed to himself as an example of how even if someone contracts it, they can recover with advanced therapeutics, without mentioning that the drugs he was given are not widely available.

“The lethality is much less than what this was, and is, was, and sort of, was. because we have therapeutics now that are incredible. In fact, here I am. I’m here,” Trump said to loud cheers that erupted into chants of “Superman, superman.”

A bit later, while promising that vaccines will be “out very, very soon,” Trump looked at the sky and in a begging voice said, “I just want a normal life. All we want is normal. I’m looking up to this guy.”

This led to a tangent about a friend telling him he was the most famous man in the world. In this tale, Trump demurred and insisted he wasn’t. “What are you talking about? Who’s more famous?” the friend asked.

“Jesus Christ,” Trump replied. “And I don’t want to take any chances, so I looked up and I said, ‘And it’s not even close.’ ”

The United States passed 9 million reported coronavirus infections on Friday. At least 229,000 deaths have been linked to the coronavirus.

October 30, 2020 at 5:32 PM EDT
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In Florida, voters of color and young voters have had ballots flagged for possible rejection at higher rates than others

By Elise Viebeck and Beth Reinhard

As Floridians rush to vote in the presidential election, mail ballots from Black, Hispanic and younger voters are being flagged for problems at a higher rate than they are for other voters, potentially jeopardizing their participation in the race for the country’s largest battleground state.

The deficient ballots — which have been tagged for issues such as a missing signature — could be rejected if voters do not remedy the problems by 5 p.m. Nov. 5.

As of Thursday, election officials had set aside twice as many ballots from Black and Hispanic voters as those from White voters, according to an analysis by University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith. For people younger than 24, the rate was more than four times what it was for those 65 and older.

October 30, 2020 at 5:06 PM EDT
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Texas voters, poll workers cannot be required to wear masks at polling locations, court rules

By Neena Satija

A federal appeals court has ruled that Texas voters and poll workers cannot be required to wear masks at polling locations.

The decision is the latest development in a battle over how to balance public safety and voter rights in the middle of a pandemic. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) ordered most residents to wear masks in public places in July but made a special exception for polling places.

Democrats, along with many voting rights groups and minority advocates, have said that requiring masks at the polls would protect their constituents’ right to vote, particularly for Black and Latino residents, who have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. The state’s Republican leaders, some of whom have followed President Trump’s lead in flouting mask-wearing and downplaying the severity of the pandemic, argue that the mandate will disenfranchise voters who are not comfortable wearing a mask.

Earlier this week, a federal district judge in San Antonio had ruled that Texas’s statewide mask mandate should also apply to polling places. The judge, who was appointed by Trump, wrote that exempting polling places from the mask requirement would have a “racially discriminatory deterrent effect on Black and Latino citizens’ fundamental right to vote.”

But a panel of three judges on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals put his decision on hold Friday while the court considers the full merits of the case.

“Changing the election rules in the midst of voting would create disparate treatment of voters, and significant confusion and difficulty for voters and poll workers,” the panel, whose judges were all appointed by Republican presidents, wrote.

The exemption to Abbott’s statewide mask mandate has not stopped some Texas counties from requiring poll workers to wear masks anyway under county government rules. Dallas County was sued by five poll workers after they were fired for refusing to wear a mask, but the Texas Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

October 30, 2020 at 4:49 PM EDT
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Early voting continues to soar as Texas passes total turnout from 2016

By Derek Hawkins and Amy Gardner

Early voting continued to soar beyond historical levels throughout the country Friday, with Texas blowing past its total turnout from the 2016 election and nearly a dozen other states closing in on the same milestone.

With four days left until Election Day, more than 9 million people have cast ballots already in Texas, according to the secretary of state’s office — an unprecedented number for the Lone Star State. In 2016, the total turnout in Texas was just shy of 9 million.

Nationwide, the number of Americans who have voted early passed 85 million, according to tracking by the nonpartisan U.S. Elections Project, exceeding 60 percent of the total turnout from the last election and essentially guaranteeing that Nov. 3 will mark the first election in U.S. history in which the majority of ballots will be cast before Election Day. If the trends continue, the country will be on pace to exceed 100 million votes before Tuesday.

October 30, 2020 at 4:36 PM EDT
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Swing state voters face major mail delays in returning ballots on time, USPS data shows

By Jacob Bogage and Christopher Ingraham

Absentee ballots are taking longer to reach election offices in key swing states than in the rest of the country, new data shows, as the U.S. Postal Service rushes to deliver votes ahead of strict state deadlines.

Over the past five days, the on-time rate for ballots in 17 postal districts representing 10 battleground states and 151 electoral votes was 89.1 percent — 5.9 percentage points lower than the national average. By that measure, more than 1 in 10 ballots are arriving outside the Postal Service’s one- to three-day delivery window for first-class mail.

Those delays loom large over the election: 28 states will not accept ballots that arrive after Election Day, even if they are postmarked before. Continued snags in the mail system could invalidate tens of thousands of ballots across the country, and could factor into whether President Trump or Democratic nominee Joe Biden captures crucial battleground states and, ultimately, the White House.

October 30, 2020 at 3:57 PM EDT
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She was homeless after fleeing domestic abuse. Now she could be the first Black Latina elected to Congress.

By Caroline Kitchener

Candace Valenzuela began her congressional campaign by telling her staff her life story, including fleeing domestic abuse with her mom and living in a kiddie pool outside a gas station, barely getting by for years before receiving a full-ride scholarship to college.

Her personal story quickly became central to her campaign to represent Texas’s 24th Congressional District in the Dallas suburbs. The team developed an ad that followed Valenzuela from a house to a gas station to a shelter. Valenzuela honed her message to voters accordingly: This is what happened to me, she said, and this is why I can represent you.

Vying for a seat that’s been held by a Republican for the past 15 years, Valenzuela has been knocked for her lack of experience, having entered local politics three years ago when she joined the school board. With polls showing a close race, Valenzuela is banking on voters valuing her life experiences over her résumé. Her campaign will test the power of a personal story — and a candidate who is not afraid to tell it.