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In the final 72-hour stretch before Election Day, both campaigns were laser-focused on states that President Trump won narrowly four years ago, with former vice president Joe Biden focusing on Michigan, holding rallies with former president Barack Obama, and Trump making multiple stops around Pennsylvania.

Early voting continues to set records, with at least 90 million Americans already having cast ballots, essentially guaranteeing that the majority of ballots will be cast before Election Day.

With three days until Election Day …
October 31, 2020 at 10:29 PM EDT
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Trump praises video resembling car group that Biden campaign says tried to run its bus off the road

By Hannah Knowles

President Trump on Saturday approvingly tweeted a video of flag-bearing cars surrounding a Biden campaign bus on the road, a day after the Biden campaign says a group of vehicles with Trump flags attempted to run its bus off the highway in Texas.

“I LOVE TEXAS!” Trump wrote in his evening tweet of a video accompanied by music whose lyrics included “welcome to the red kingdom.”

The clip resembled video from Friday’s incident, which led the Biden campaign to cancel an event in a traditionally Republican state where Democrats are hoping to make inroads this year. Trump’s seeming encouragement came as officials around the country are worried about the potential for harassment, voter intimidation or violence at the polls.

Biden’s campaign said in a statement that cars with Trump signs and flags surrounded its bus on the way from San Antonio to Austin. The bus was on Interstate 35, it said, when cars pulled in front of the bus and slowed, attempting to “stop the bus in the middle of the highway.” Campaign staff called 911, according to the statement, getting help from law enforcement to reach their destination.

Video captures a white SUV and a truck colliding behind the Biden bus. The Biden campaign declined to comment on reports that a staffer’s car was the one hit.

Out of “an abundance of caution,” the Biden campaign said, it scrapped an event set to be held in the parking lot of the Texas AFL-CIO building.

“Rather than engage in productive conversation about the drastically different visions that Joe Biden and Donald Trump have for our country, Trump supporters in Texas today instead decided to put our staff, surrogates, supporters, and others in harm’s way,” Tariq Thowfeek, the Biden campaign’s communications director in Texas, said in a statement.

The Biden and Trump campaigns did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Trump’s tweet.

Earlier, a state lawmaker who said she was set to join the Biden campaign Friday condemned the pro-Trump drivers′ conduct.

“Unfortunately, Pro-Trump Protestors have escalated well beyond safe limits,” tweeted Texas House Rep. Sheryl Cole (D).

The Austin Police Department was not the jurisdiction for the 911 calls, but Lt. Chris Gwaldo said some officers joined the campaign bus when it arrived in Austin. He said there were “no problems” there and no arrests.

The incident occurred in San Marcos, Gwaldo said. San Marcos police did not immediately respond to an inquiry Saturday evening.

Footage from CBS Austin also captures people heckling the Biden bus as it pulls out of a lot, a truck with a pro-Trump flag nearby.

“We’re here to escort you out of Texas!” a man can be heard saying.

October 31, 2020 at 9:53 PM EDT
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Trump directs inquiry into fracking bans

By Anne Gearan

As he campaigned Saturday in central and western Pennsylvania, Trump said he had ordered the federal government to investigate the effects of bans on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The guidance to federal agencies has no immediate or direct effect.

Speaking at a Saturday night rally in Montoursville, Pa., Trump claimed Democratic opponent Biden would “outlaw fracking.”

The Democratic presidential nominee does not support a ban on the practice.

“Biden’s plan is an economic death sentence for Pennsylvania,” Trump said, adding that he had just signed a directive “to protect your state’s energy industry.”

Shortly before, the White House had announced that federal agencies “will assess potential effects on consumers, property owners, local governments, schools, hospitals, and medical clinics.”

“Due to public calls to ban or restrict such technologies, the President has directed his Administration to assess the potential effects of such bans or restrictions on American citizens,” including job losses, White House statement said.

Trump has focused on Biden’s inconsistent statements about fracking as the president tries to secure a potentially determinative victory in Pennsylvania.

Trump aired a video that ran together incomplete versions of Biden’s statements about ending fracking and stumbles on other topics. Trump and Republicans claim Biden is mentally enfeebled.

October 31, 2020 at 9:24 PM EDT
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Democrats grow more anxious about Pennsylvania

By Sean Sullivan

Joe Biden was preparing to mount a last-minute, two-day blitz of Pennsylvania, amid concern among some local Democrats about a potential late shift that would threaten his narrow advantage there and mirror Trump’s 2016 comeback.

Most Democrats still believe Biden will capture Pennsylvania, and he maintains a modest polling lead there, but their confidence has eroded in recent weeks with emerging signs of a tightening contest in the state, according to elected officials, strategists and party activists. Both sides believe the outcome in Pennsylvania will be crucial in determining who wins the White House.

The causes of Democrats’ anxiety are varied. They worry about potential trouble with mail-in ballots during a pandemic. They are concerned about the prospect of a voter surge in White, rural areas favorable to Trump and signs of lower-than-anticipated turnout among the Democratic base.

They are nervous about GOP efforts to place limits on voting. They cringe at the recent looting and violence in Philadelphia, which Trump has seized on to portray Biden as weak on crime and hostile to police. And they harbor lingering concerns about Biden’s muddled rhetoric on oil and gas, which has prompted inaccurate attacks that he advocates ending fracking.

October 31, 2020 at 8:36 PM EDT
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Trump campaign sought sensitive ballot security information from Pa. county, alarming commissioner

By Derek Hawkins

The Trump campaign sought highly sensitive information about voting security measures in at least one Pennsylvania county this week, alarming the head commissioner, who said he wasn’t comfortable responding to the request.

In an email sent Tuesday and later reviewed by The Washington Post, the Trump campaign asked officials in Cumberland County for the names of people who transport ballots and voting machines once polls close, the names of people who have access to the ballots afterward, and the precise locations where the ballots are stored, including room numbers.

The bullet-point questionnaire, sent from a campaign volunteer’s Gmail account, also sought answers on more generic issues such as where ballots are counted and whether information is wiped from voting machines.

The email was first reported by the Sentinel newspaper.

County Commissioner Gary Eichelberger, a Republican, called the request intrusive and said that responding might disrupt election administration in the Republican-leaning county of 253,000.

“Our responsibility is to protect the integrity and security of the election,” he told The Post on Saturday. “I don’t know if the Trump campaign understands that, but they’re asking to do our job as the board of elections. And that’s our job, not their job.” He said he’d never seen a request like it in 16 years as an election official.

A campaign spokeswoman, Thea McDonald, said the request was for “standard election transparency details.” She said the campaign had been in touch with other counties, “some of which transparently provided answers to these important, reasonable questions via less formal requests.”

“As part of the Trump campaign’s efforts to ensure a free and fair election, we have asked county clerks for information so that we can gain a detailed understanding of voting processes — and the similarities and differences that may exist in different jurisdictions,” McDonald said in an emailed statement.

David Becker, head of the nonprofit Center for Election Innovation and Research, said it was unusual for a campaign to seek information on individual election workers that is typically kept confidential for security reasons. He also noted that other, less sensitive details in the campaign’s request would have been easily accessible had the campaign reached out earlier.

“To do so one week before Election Day, when election officials are at their busiest, in the best case shows a lack of competence,” he said. “The information that the campaigns really need has been publicly available for months. I’m not quite sure what the campaign feels it’s missing here.”

October 31, 2020 at 8:02 PM EDT
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Polls show Biden in strong position in four key states, Trump lead in Iowa

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.

The CNN surveys find 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.

Separately, a Des Moines Register-Mediacom poll finds Trump leading Biden by 48 percent to 41 percent in Iowa, a shift from September, when the same survey found the candidates tied at 47 percent apiece. The poll also found Republican Sen. Joni Ernst holding a slight four-point edge over Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield in the state’s closely watched U.S. Senate race.

The DMR-Mediacom poll found Iowa independents have shifted from favoring Biden by 12 points in September to favoring Trump by 14 points in the latest survey. Trump won Iowa by a nine-point margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The CNN surveys, conducted Oct. 23 to Oct. 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.

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. The Des Moines Register-Mediacom poll was conducted Oct. 26-29 among a random sample of 814 Iowa likely voters reached by cellphones and landlines; overall results have a 3.4-point margin of sampling error.

October 31, 2020 at 7:43 PM EDT
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Obama and Biden sharply criticize Trump at Michigan rallies

By Hannah Knowles

Obama and Biden came together Saturday at rallies in Detroit and Flint, Mich. to emphasize the stakes of the election and give a blistering assessment of Trump, taking particular aim at the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Three days out from the last day to cast ballots, the Democrats said the nation’s jobs, safety and access to health care are in jeopardy. Obama gave some of his harshest criticisms of the president, noting Trump’s continued fixation on drawing large crowds to his events and saying a president should put people over “their own ego."

“Does he have nothing better to worry about?” Obama asked at the Flint event of Trump’s focus on crowds. “Did no one come to his birthday party when he was a kid?”

“This is not a game,” he said in Detroit after noting the difference between the coronavirus death toll in the United States and in Canada. “This is not a contest, of just calling each other names. This isn’t a sporting event. This is life or death.”

He and Biden slammed Trump’s suggestion that doctors may be exaggerating the pandemic’s toll because they make money off the crisis.

“He does not understand the notion that somebody would risk their life to save others without trying to make a buck,” Obama said, going on to cite White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’s recent comments that “we’re not going to control the pandemic.”

“We noticed!” Obama said. “But you know who will? Joe Biden will.”

Biden said Trump has “waved the white flag of surrender to this virus.” The former vice president promised a national plan of action.

He and Obama both urged people to vote up and down their ballots, underscoring that Democrats must take control of the Senate. One of Michigan’s senators, Gary Peters — who spoke at Saturday’s rally — is up for reelection.

Biden said he sees an opportunity for great progress in America, because the country has “gotten a glimpse of the abyss.”

“They’re ready to change,” he said.

October 31, 2020 at 6:38 PM EDT
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Thousands of early voters cast their ballot at a small-town firehouse

By Jane Gottlieb

BERNE, N.Y. — Betty Filkins has been an election inspector in this small town in the hills of eastern New York for five years. Last year, she counted 42 voters in all 10 days of early voting.

“We’d bring projects. I’m president of the cemetery board; I usually worked on that,” said Filkins, who switched from Democrat to Republican a while back to meet legal requirements that the site have inspectors from both parties.

Not this year. In the first six days of early voting, 2,900 people cast ballots at the local volunteer company. Some spent the better part of a morning or afternoon driving deeply wooded, corkscrewing roads to reach Berne, which has a population of barely 2,800.

October 31, 2020 at 6:03 PM EDT
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Police arrest participants of a march for voter turnout

By Barry Yeoman

GRAHAM, N.C. — Law enforcement officers fired a spray that left demonstrators — including children — coughing at an “I Am Change” march for voter turnout.

The racially diverse crowd of about 400 had stopped at a Confederate monument in front of the Alamance County Courthouse. The monument has been the site of months of clashes between anti-racism activists and self-proclaimed white nationalists.

Members of the march said they were listening to speeches about racial justice and the importance of voting when officers began to yell at them to disperse.

The officers then began firing the spray, according to witnesses. “All the marchers were doing was listening to the lady talk,” said Christopher McCauley, who participated in the event. Angela Willis of Burlington said she, her adult daughter and her 3-year-old grandson were all sprayed.

Several people were also arrested. One man was taken into custody after an officer told him to move off the sidewalk. “Is that why you are going to arrest me — because I’m Black?” he shouted. The officer cuffed him and led him away as activists, watching from across the street, chanted, “Let him go” and “What did he do?”

Supporters of the Confederate memorial watched from outdoor tables at a soda shop on the court square.

One man shouted, “Get off the streets!” A truck with three Trump 2020 flags drove slowly around the courthouse during the rally.

October 31, 2020 at 4:07 PM EDT
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Mimicking husband, Melania Trump echoes attacks on Biden, media and Democrats

By Colby Itkowitz

First lady Melania Trump, in her second solo campaign event, took on some of her husband’s fiery attacks, accusing Biden of hiding from the novel coronavirus.

“Joe Biden said it will be a dark winter. That is not the statement of a leader,” she said. “He wants to make us hide in fear in our basements rather than work bravely in our communities to find solutions.”

A bit later, she said, “Joe Biden says he could do a better job leading this nation. Apparently when you hide in a basement, you feel safe communicating your wishful thinking.”

She also alleged misleadingly that Democrats were refusing to sign another economic relief package, to which someone in the audience yelled, “Shame on them."

“Such selfish, corrupt political decisions are what separate the swamp from Trump and his administration,” she said.

She praised her husband’s actions on the coronavirus and, like the president, accused the media of creating a “distorted picture” of Trump and peddling “propaganda.” She also blamed the media for the divisiveness in the country and for threats and attacks against Trump supporters.

One way she diverged from her husband was by encouraging people to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and practice safe behavior during Halloween and over the holiday season.

October 31, 2020 at 3:05 PM EDT
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Trump hits Biden, Supreme Court, Ilhan Omar and more in final pitch

By Colby Itkowitz

Despite sounding relatively subdued, the president at the first of four Pennsylvania rallies suggested he could physically knock out Biden, slammed the Supreme Court for its decision to allow ballots to be counted after Election Day, and speculated that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) would be Biden’s homeland security secretary.

In a long riff against the media and Biden’s son, Hunter, the president referred to a comment by Biden in 2016 about wishing he could take Trump “behind the gym” if they were in high school.

“He’s very slight. Remember when he said a year ago, he said, ‘I’d like to take him to the back of the barn.’ I went like this,” Trump said, making a slapping motion with his hand, prompting a smattering of “lock him up” chants.

The president also again made the baseless allegation of widespread voter fraud, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to allow states to keep counting mail-in ballots after Tuesday.

“This is a terrible thing that they’ve done to our country. And that’s the U.S. Supreme Court that I’m talking about. That’s a terrible, political, horrible decision that they made,” Trump said. “November 3rd is going to come and go, and we’re not going to know. And you’re going to have bedlam in our country.”

He also changed up his daily attacks on Omar, the Somali American whom he accuses of not loving the United States, this time claiming that Biden would tap her to lead homeland security.

Representative Ilhan Omar will be running homeland security. How do you like that?” Trump said to jeers. “Who knows? I just said that one. But you know what? I wouldn’t be surprised. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re pleased to announce Ilhan Omar to run national security. … She’s going to be running our border.”

The president, who was speaking in the Philadelphia suburbs, also urged his supported to act as election watchers in the city, where he suggested there would be nefarious actions related to voting.

“I have to be very, very careful, especially in this state, more than any other state. They say you have to be very, very careful with what happens in Philadelphia,” he said. “We have to be extremely, everybody has to watch, be vigilant.”

October 31, 2020 at 2:12 PM EDT
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Trump campaigns on rescue of kidnapped American in Niger

By Colby Itkowitz

Trump detailed in campaign remarks an overnight U.S. Special Operations mission in Nigeria that rescued an American citizen who had been kidnapped in neighboring Niger.

“We had a mission sent to a faraway land where they kidnapped an American citizen, and the kidnappers wished they had never done it,” Trump said at the first of four Pennsylvania rallies. “And they went in with a large group, zero casualties. We got our American citizen, young man. We got our young man back, but the other side suffered gravely.”

Philip Nathan Watson, 27, was kidnapped earlier in the week, at his family’s farm, who live there as missionaries.

The president went on to boast that he’s brought many U.S. hostages home without paying anything for them, claiming that if he had paid any ransom to kidnappers there’d be a thousand more taken.

We’ve brought many, many of them home, some mostly in pretty good shape, some very, very bad shape, specifically, you know, who I’m talking about, came home in very bad shape,” Trump said. “But sometimes that happens, too. But we’ve brought many home.”

The U.S. government has a long-standing policy of not paying ransoms to hostage-takers, but Obama in 2015 loosened restrictions on U.S. families who want to pay to get their loved ones home.

October 31, 2020 at 1:12 PM EDT
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Stanford study estimates that 18 crowded Trump rallies ultimately resulted in 30,000 coronarvius cases

By John Wagner

A new study from Stanford University estimates that 18 of Trump’s recent large-scale campaign rallies ultimately resulted in 30,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and probably led to more than 700 deaths among attendees and others infected by them.

The study, released Friday by Stanford economics professor B. Douglas Bernheim and three doctoral students, examined rallies staged by Trump between June 20 and Sept. 30 and looked at the trajectory of cases in the counties in which they were held.

“Our analysis strongly supports the warnings and recommendations of public health officials concerning the risk of COVID-19 transmission at large group gatherings, particularly when the degree of compliance with guidelines concerning the use of masks and social distancing is low,” the authors said. “The communities in which Trump rallies took place paid a high price in terms of disease and death.”

Asked for comment on the study’s findings, the Trump campaign did not address the numbers but pushed back on the notion that the standards for social distancing at its rallies are low.

“Americans have the right to gather under the First Amendment to hear from the President of the United States, and we take strong precautions for our campaign events, requiring every attendee to have their temperature checked, providing masks they’re instructed to wear, and ensuring access to plenty of hand sanitizer,” Courtney Parella, the campaign’s deputy national press secretary, said in a statement. “We also have signs at our events instructing attendees to wear their masks.”

The Biden campaign seized on the study, saying it is further evidence that Trump is holding “superspreader” events.

“Donald Trump doesn’t even care about the very lives of his strongest supporters,” spokesman Andrew Bates said.

During the closing weeks of the campaign, Trump has touted his ability to draw large crowds and mocked Biden for holding “drive-in” events with far fewer attendees.

October 31, 2020 at 1:11 PM EDT
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Pence seeks to frame race as choice on economic recovery

By John Wagner

As he made the first of two scheduled tops Saturday in North Carolina, Pence sought to cast the race as a choice over who can best manage the nation’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

During a rally in Elm City, N.C., Pence said voters face a choice “between a Trump boom and Biden depression."

“Who do you really think can bring this economy all the way back?” Pence asked, suggesting Trump supporters put that question to undecided voters.

Pence is also scheduled to appear later Saturday in Elizabeth City, N.C., in a bid to bolster support for the Republican ticket in a state that Trump won in 2016 by nearly four percentage points. A Washington Post average of recent polls from the Tar Heel State show Biden with a five percentage point lead over Trump.

While in Elm City, Pence also put in a plug for Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Forest, saying his election is needed to “open up North Carolina again.”

An NBC News-Marist poll released on Friday showed Forest trailing North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) by nearly 20 percentage points. Cooper is among the governors Trump has repeatedly criticized for not opening their state’s economy more quickly during the pandemic.

With polls also showing Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) trailing in his reelection bid, Pence ended with a note of optimism for all Republicans on the ballot on Tuesday.

“I’m just absolutely confident seeing all of your shining faces today. If all of us do all that we need to do, to vote, to speak out and to pray, that we’re going to have a great victory all across North Carolina and all across America,” he said.

October 31, 2020 at 12:52 PM EDT
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More than 10,000 Texans cast ballots overnight in Harris County’s 24-hour vote centers

By Derek Hawkins

More than 10,000 people cast ballots overnight Thursday at 24-hour voting centers operated by Texas’s most populous county, part of a sweeping get-out-the-vote drive that led to historic turnout in the Houston area.

Between 7 p.m. Thursday and 7 a.m. Friday, 10,250 people in Harris County voted in the centers, according to Elizabeth Lewis, the communications and voter outreach administrator in the county clerk’s office.

Harris County officials made 24-hour voting available at eight locations for the final day and a half of early in-person voting in Texas, which ended Friday night. It was one of the only jurisdictions in the United States to do so.

The goal was to make voting easier for nurses and others who work odd hours: One site opened at the McGovern Texas Medical Center Commons, the largest medical facility in the United States, southwest of downtown Houston.

To further boost turnout, the Democratic-leaning county also tripled its early-voting locations, ran early-voting awareness campaigns, and offered drive-through voting, where Texans could cast ballots from their cars on portable machines.

As of Saturday, a record-setting 1.4 million people had voted early in Harris County, more than the total turnout in the 2016 election.

A few hours before early in-person voting in Texas ended Friday night, the Harris County clerk’s office fired off a tweet encouraging people to exercise their franchise, riffing on the George Strait county classic, “All My Ex’s Live in Texas":