Harris, whose own presidential bid foundered after a strong start, had been seen as a national figure for her party for a decade. Within hours of Donald Trump’s upset victory in 2016, Harris, who was cruising to a win in her Senate race, was already tipped as a potential 2020 candidate. After her exit from the race last year, some of her key staff joined Biden’s campaign, and Harris had worked amicably with the campaign as a fundraiser and surrogate.
The news drew out critics from both the right and left. RootsAction and Progressive Democrats of America, which had been organizing Democratic delegates, sarcastically welcomed Harris by saying that “her habit of aligning her stance with the prevailing political winds gives us some hope.” The Trump campaign portrayed her as a “phony,” but its two-paragraph statement demonstrated the challenges Harris could give the GOP, accusing Harris of trying “to bury her record as a prosecutor” while arguing that the Biden-Harris ticket had surrendered to a “radical mob” that would “cut police funding.”
As a candidate, Harris was often stuck in that trap, with left-wing voters decrying her as a “cop” and moderate, or “electability”-focused Democrats fretting that she might come off as a radical. Biden is now the third Democratic nominee in this century to pick a rival from the primary as his running mate, complicating the usual effort to define the vice-presidential choice negatively. For Democratic voters, Harris has already been defined, and for the media, which has profiled her for years, there may few new details to uncover.
While Harris developed her own Medicare-for-all plan during the primary, she, like much of the 2020 field, co-sponsored Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Medicare-for-all legislation, a point Republicans made today. Harris made several other efforts to woo the left after 2016, saying that Immigration and Customs Enforcement should be “reexamined” and that a new immigration approach may require “starting from scratch.” The Trump campaign made it clear that, as it portrayed Biden as a doddering senior citizen, it would target his running mate, that voters would choosing between her and Trump, not Trump and Biden. That effort starts today, and so does the general election.
In the states
Remember the Democratic presidential primary? The one that started with an app-driven stalemate in Iowa and wrapped up two months later in Wisconsin? It finally ends today, with a much-delayed primary in Connecticut selecting the final pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention, an event that will not actually feature in-person delegate voting.
That race is an afterthought today, the final major day of primary voting that spreads across multiple time zones. From the Deep South to the Canadian border, six states will hold primaries or runoffs, few in races that could determine control of Congress next year. Like the past few statewide contests, this will test how different voting systems handle the conditions of the coronavirus, something Connecticut, in particular, has struggled with. And like last week's races in Michigan and Missouri, it will reveal the strength of the Democratic Party's left and whether all four members of the “squad,” the left-wing, non-White members of Congress who triumphed in 2018, have firmed up their positions.
Polls close at 7 p.m. in Georgia, with runoffs in several safe seats — one of them already infamous for Republicans. In the 14th District, Marjorie Taylor Greene dominated the June primary, then, quickly, became a focus of attention for her dalliance with the QAnon conspiracy and her sometimes racist Facebook videos.
“I think she would embarrass our state, and I’m going to do everything I can to keep her from representing northwest Georgia in Congress,” her opponent, neurosurgeon John Cowan, told Politico in June.
Some leading Republicans condemned Greene, and some endorsed Cowan, who'd won just 21 percent of the vote in the nine-way primary. Both candidates ran to the right. On TV, Cowan claimed that Greene “refused to participate in E-Verify to prove that workers were not illegal aliens,” while Greene's suggested that Cowan was simply too politically correct to take on the forces (antifa, Black Lives Matter and more) that she claims are threatening life in northwest Georgia, and that the candidate himself is not a true Trump supporter.
“I have supported President Trump since before he came down the escalator,” Greene said in a mid-July debate with Cowan. “Unlike my opponent, John Cowan, who has never donated a single dime to President Trump.”
The president carried the 14th District by 53 points in 2016, and a Republican primary win here is a ticket to Congress, which explains the effort by national Republicans to pull support away from Greene. The same is true in the 9th District, which backed Trump by 59 points, which pits gun dealer Andrew Clyde against state Rep. Matt Gurtler, who has embraced the label of “the most conservative legislator in Georgia.” Democrats will settle runoffs in that district and the less-conservative 1st District, which isn't a top party target in November, either.
Polls will also be closed at that hour in Vermont, where Democrats, who have struggled against moderate Republican Gov. Phil Scott since his 2016 election, will pick their latest challenger. The early favorite was Lt. Gov David Zuckerman, a farmer backed in his races by both Democrats and the Progressive Party — and by Sen. Bernie Sanders. The two-time presidential candidate has thrown his weight behind Zuckerman again, but that did not clear the field, and former state education director Rebecca Holcombe has savaged Zuckerman over his skepticism of some mandatory vaccinations.
“Are you ready to take responsibility for the fact that your history on this issue actually undermines the public health of Vermonters?” Holcombe asked Zuckerman in a late July debate.
“I support vaccines, and I will follow medical professionals’ advice on making covid-19 vaccine mandatory,” Zuckerman said.
Both parties will pick nominees to replace Zuckerman, with one-time GOP nominee for governor Scott Milne angling for a comeback. Despite the state's deep blue tint in federal races, Zuckerman, who won in 2016, broke a 14-year Republican grip on the office.
Polls close in Connecticut at 8 p.m., and while Republicans have made recent statewide and legislative races there very close, none of the state's five congressional districts are being seriously contested in November. The party will pick nominees in the 1st and 2nd districts, but while the president lost the latter by only three points in 2016, neither businessman Tom Gilmer or former corrections officer Justin Anderson has raised much money or attracted national Republican support.
Polls close at 9 p.m. in Minnesota and Wisconsin, with the most expensive Democratic House primary of the year coming to an end in Minneapolis. Rep. Ilhan Omar, who won Minnesota's 5th District handily in 2018, has spent $3.5 million against challenger Antone Melton-Meaux's $3.4 million; together that's seven times what Omar initially spent to take the safely Democratic seat.
That's largely due to the well-funded and out-of-nowhere challenge from Melton-Meaux, an attorney with no previous political profile who has argued that the congressman's “divisive” approach to politics has been a setback for Minneapolis. He has deluged the district with negative mail, some of which urges Republicans to skip their own primary (charter school founder Lacy Johnson is expected to win it easily) and cast a vote to remove Omar. In an interview with The Post last month, Melton-Meaux criticized Omar for publishing a memoir less than four years into her political career and for writing high-profile legislation that can't pass the House, saying the district needed representation that would “actually do the work for the people, not prop themselves up as a platform for more celebrity, for more attention.”
Omar, who was initially slow to respond to Melton-Meaux, has gone after him with the backing of national and local Democrats. She's touted endorsements from everyone from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and highlighted Melton-Meaux's use of shell companies to conceal the identity of contractors. The challenger did so to get around, and protest, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee “blacklist” designed to punish strategists who work against incumbents, but both the Campaign Legal Center and the DFL (Minnesota's branch of the Democratic Party) filed complaints with the FEC in the race's final days.
Omar's own polling has found her in the lead, though the millions of dollars in ads did some damage, and the Star-Tribune's editorial board, which has never supported her in a primary, gave its support to Melton-Meaux. Three lesser-known candidates could split the vote; Omar won the truncated 2018 primary against five other Democrats with 48 percent.
Republicans have a less-expensive contest in the 7th District, the most conservative area still represented by a Democrat in Congress — Rep. Collin C. Peterson, the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. After coming up short with a series of weak challengers, Republicans recruited former lieutenant governor Michelle Fischbach to face Peterson, and while she has kept pace or even outrun the incumbent in fundraising, she has four challengers, two of whom have already lost to the congressman. There are token challenges in some other races, including Sen. Tina Smith's primary, but none have been competitive.
In Wisconsin, the Republican primary to replace Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. in the historically red 5th District has turned into a coronation: state Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has outraised land surveyor and first-time candidate Cliff DeTemple, who has spent less than $100,000 on the race. In the 3rd District, which Trump carried four years ago, veteran Derrick Van Orden has already raised more money since 2010, when Democratic Rep. Ron Kind narrowly held a different version of the seat. Turnout and Van Orden's performance against some fringe candidates could give a clue as to whether places such as this, which abandoned Hillary Clinton in 2016 but returned to Democrats in 2018, could be competitive in three months.
The question looms over all of these primaries: When will we know who won? In Minnesota, early and Election Day in-person votes will be counted today, and precincts are allowed to report results, but close races could come down to absentee ballots that arrive by Thursday. (They need to be postmarked by today.) Connecticut will follow the same rule after an executive order by Gov. Ned Lamont. Georgia, which took more than a week to count up ballots from its June primary, has adopted a new rule that allowed absentee votes to be counted before today, and that could speed the count. Wisconsin, which also took a week to report its April primary results, has not had the same troubles with manning polling places or distributing ballots, and this is the first election of any kind in Vermont since the pandemic began, with the state insisting that the count can happen tonight.
A top-of-the-mountain view of how the coronavirus changed everything.
“Facing bleak November, Republicans look to stoke BLM backlash,” by Laura Barrón-López and Alex Thompson
Can a movement that surged in popularity this summer be demonized by its associations before November?
The sun-dappled final days of the veepstakes
A look at how a ponytailed liberal's vaccine stance ran into trouble on the trail.
Antone Melton-Meaux, “Antone Melton-Meaux for Integrity and Progress.” A candidate who had no political profile before challenging Rep. Ilhan Omar, Melton-Meaux's closing message emphasizes his endorsement from the Star Tribune, the biggest newspaper in the district, and one with a complicated (but largely negative) relationship with Omar. “Instead of ethical distractions, choose a progressive that gets things done,” says a narrator, without getting into the particulars of campaign finance violations that hurt Omar this summer.
Ilhan Omar, “Progressive.” The first negative TV ad of Omar's four-year political career, her response to Melton-Meaux hits him on the issue that angered labor unions in the district: He is, per a narrator, “a partner at one of the worst union-busting law firms in the country.” Omar has taken hits to her popularity over the campaign and mixed this message with what worked before, the story of her as an organizer in the district.
Michelle Fischbach, “Taking a Stand.” The first credible challenger in Minnesota's most conservative district in years, Fischbach's closing message resembles the one used by safe-seat Republicans: “Who will stand with President Donald Trump to make our economy great again?” The content of the ad expands on Trump's tweet endorsing her, pitching her as “the ally he needs and wants.”
Marjorie Taylor Greene, “John Cowan Bends to Political Correctness.” After powering to 40 percent of the primary vote with culture war messaging, Greene has closed out her Georgia campaign by warning that Cowan, another first-time candidate with no political record to attack, cannot be trusted. The evidence: He did not condemn efforts to rename military bases currently named for Confederate generals. “America's under attack,” Greene says. “Weak, timid Republicans like John Cowan won't stop them.”
John Cowan, “Marjorie Greene’s Grade on Illegal Immigration: FAIL.” After Greene's controversies left her weakened, Cowan looked for an angle to portray her as a phony conservative. He found one in her family construction business, arguing that it may have employed undocumented immigrants because Greene did not use the E-Verify system.
Who do you think is most likely to be the source of any election meddling? (Monmouth, 785 registered voters)
Donald Trump: 19%
Joe Biden: 2%
A month of stories about the new postmaster general approving a slowdown in mail and many years of the president misinforming voters about he risk of fraud, have led to a record nobody is happy about: More voters than ever worried about their votes being counted, or the election being handled fairly. Monmouth's poll, which found a 10-point lead overall for Biden, collected the first names that came to mind when voters speculated about threats to the vote. Republicans overwhelmingly said “Democrats,” and Democrats overwhelmingly said “Russia.” But when you combine the answers that are roughly about the president and his party, 37 percent of voters worried that Trump, the GOP, the government or new USPS management would collude to suppress votes.
Wisconsin (Marquette Law, 801 registered voters)
Joe Biden: 49% (-1)
Donald Trump: 44% (-)
A lot has happened since June, when Wisconsin's most trusted pollster — one that, admittedly, did not capture Trump's last-minute 2016 surge — was last in the field. Not much has changed in the presidential race. Since the start of summer, both party's nominees have seen their unfavorable rating increase slightly, but neither has hit the lows that Trump or Hillary Clinton hit at this point in 2016. Ominously for the president, 58 percent of voters have a negative opinion of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic; 57 percent have a positive view of how Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, has handled it. There's simply more downward pressure on the president's numbers than Biden's, but the Democrat hasn't broken out.
Democrats have begun naming the speakers who will get slots at the truncated, virtual convention in Milwaukee. Not every rival of Joe Biden in the primaries has his or her own speaking time announced so far. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who has appeared in more negative GOP advertising against Democrats than Biden himself, will speak the same night as former acting attorney general Sally Yates. Bill Clinton, whose reputation with Democrats has nosedived since the start of the #MeToo movement, will get time on camera; so will the party's 2016 nominee.
But on Tuesday, former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang said that he had not gotten a slot yet and that the party might be making a mistake. On Twitter, he joked that he had perhaps “endorsed too many primary challengers.” In an interview, Yang argued that some prominent role in the convention would help him reach out to disaffected voters who really hadn't liked any Democratic candidate except for him.
“I think it makes my job harder, to appeal to the 42 percent of my supporters who said they weren’t going to vote for Joe, and make the case for him,” Yang said, citing polling during the primary that found him more popular than other candidates with voters who’d backed Donald Trump in 2016. “Letting my supporters know that their concerns will be important to Joe Biden would make my job a bit easier.”
Yang, a first-time candidate who raised nearly $40 million for his campaign, won 5 percent of the popular vote in the Iowa caucuses and 3 percent in the New Hampshire primary. He ended his campaign after that showing, saying it would not have been “productive,” or fair to supporters, to keep running when he had no path to victory. Afterward, he endorsed Biden, and he was one of seven Biden rivals who appeared in the campaign's pop-up podcast, “Here's the Deal.” But he had not taken as prominent a role as a Biden surrogate as other defeated rivals, and was not in the mix for vice president.
“I’m involved in the convention video package,” Yang said. “I’m included in some form.” Yang, whose campaign focused on the idea of a $1,000-per-month universal basic income, said that his team had not been “jumping up and down and agitating” for a role in the convention but that it would have helped as he continued pitching his supporters to back Biden.
Since suspending his campaign, Yang has held events with “online influencers” to pitch the Democratic Party, and he told Yahoo News last month that he was “talking to [Biden’s] team about taking on some kind of role in the administration.” He would keep doing so, he said, though he added that the party’s nearly finished platform, which does not endorse a UBI, might have missed the momentum for the policy as seen in the government’s economic responses to the coronavirus.
“To me, UBI is the future, and it’s disappointing that the Democratic Party has not fully embraced it,” Yang said. “But it’s encouraging that more and more legislators and mayors around the country are saying we need it. It’s funny — there’s the people, and there’s the Democratic platform. And the platform is something of a lagging indicator.”
Later on Tuesday afternoon, after Yang's comments were published, Politico's Carla Marinucci reported that the candidate might be added to the schedule.
President Trump has narrowed down his options for a location to deliver his renomination speech: the White House, or the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pa. In the meantime, he claimed Monday that a good day for the stock market was a reaction to the executive orders and memorandums he'd signed over the weekend, even though state officials have worried that evictions and elapsed unemployment payments could continue unless the Senate passes a relief bill.
“The Dow Jones and the S&P 500 are now up 50 percent since March — 50 percent,” Trump said, at a news conference briefly halted as the Secret Service shot a man a block from the White House. “Think: If you had money in there, if you put your money in March, you have 50 percent. The Nasdaq index continues to set new records. It’s been up over 14 times; new record in Nasdaq.”
Joe Biden, unlike the president, commented on Sunday's local elections in Puerto Rico, which were virtually impossible to hold because of logistics issues and ballot delays, Biden put out a statement condemning the chaos. “It is unacceptable that the people of Puerto Rico, who waited in line on Sunday in the midst of a global pandemic, were denied the right to vote,” he said, without proposing a fix to the botched election.
Dems in disarray
It was the sort of story that could sink a campaign — the sort of story that has. Over the weekend, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian reported that Alex Morse, the 31-year-old mayor of Holyoke and primary challenger to Democratic Rep. Richard E. Neal, was banned from local College Democrats events after “numerous incidents” of the candidate having sexual relationships with students.
“Even if these scenarios are mutually consensual,” the group wrote, “the pattern of Morse using his platform and taking advantage of his position of power for romantic or sexual gain, specifically toward young students, is unacceptable.”
Morse stayed in the race, admitting to consensual relationships with younger men but emphasizing that none were in the classes he sometimes taught in the district. And in the days since, only a few of Morse’s supporters have backed away, with much of the left remaining silent, or criticizing the College Democrats for the letter.
“Alex said he supports and will participate in the UMass investigation because students have a right to their voices being heard and their concerns addressed,” the Massachusetts Nurses Association said in a statement reiterating its support for Morse. “Alex Morse is a strong, progressive leader.”
Like New York’s Jamaal Bowman and Missouri’s Cori Bush, who unseated incumbent Democrats this summer, Morse jumped into the race last year with the support of national liberal groups and a compelling “change” argument. Neal, 71, had been elected in 1988 — before Morse was born. He’d disappointed liberals as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee for a range of reasons, from squashing an effort to end surprise medical billing, to waiting months after taking power to pursue the president’s tax returns.
“I am proud to endorse Alex,” Bowman wrote in a fundraising appeal for Morse that went out within hours of the Daily Collegian story.
Some of the groups that had backed Morse, such as Justice Democrats, stayed quiet for days about the allegations. But only two major Morse endorsers, the Sunrise Movement and a branch of Democratic Socialists of America, reacted by pulling back their support. They’ve been outnumbered by supporters, who increasingly say that the openly gay candidate is being smeared for behavior that is neither unusual nor a crime.
“It is critical the media and others avoid reinforcing tired homophobic tropes or sensationalizing this story because of Alex’s sexual orientation,” the LGBT Victory Fund wrote in a statement reaffirming its support for Morse. “The media and voters should review the allegations and determine whether a straight candidate would be held to the same scrutiny and standards.”
Morse is the second candidate touted by the left this cycle to face accusations of sexual misbehavior, though of very different kinds. Last month, attorney Shahid Buttar lost some endorsements in his challenge to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after being accused of sexual harassment by someone he’d known in Washington, an accusation he denied.
But Buttar had also struggled with accusations of campaign mismanagement, and Morse had not. Polling in the district had found Morse trailing Neal by 10 points, and his boosters quickly speculated that he was being subjected to puritanical rules that the party’s establishment doesn’t ask others to follow.
“They used this language of sexual violence, and you diminish what happens to real survivors in this country,” said Krystal Ball on the Hill’s show “Rising,” which she co-hosts. “I think normal people will be like, ‘This is insane.’”
In a local radio interview on Monday, Morse described the allegations as “unsubstantiated” and a “political smear,” adding that harm to his reputation was “what happens when you go against power.” Neal’s campaign denied any involvement with the story — Morse suggested, without evidence, that his opponent may have had some.
On Tuesday afternoon, after not responding to questions about Morse, Justice Democrats said in a statement that the candidate showed “poor judgment” and it would “evaluate our involvement” based on how Morse continues to respond to questions and an investigation. Morse and Neal are scheduled to meet for a debate in six days.
… six days until the Democratic National Convention
… seven days until primaries in Alaska, Florida and Wyoming
… 13 days until the Republican National Convention
… 14 days until runoffs in Oklahoma
… 21 days until the Massachusetts primary
… 24 days until some absentee ballots start going out
… 84 days until the general election