with Brent D. Griffiths

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The campaign

STATE OF PLAY: There's a whole lot of data being thrown around as both parties track a surge of early voting that suggests a record level of civil participation before November 3. 

Our colleagues Brittany Renee Mayes, Peter Andringa, Lenny Bronner and Kate Rabinowitz have a look at what we know: With 13 days still to go, at least 33 million highly enthusiastic voters have cast their ballots since the coronavirus pandemic led to the expansion of options to vote early. 

The big questions: Will the influx of early votes actually translate to historic turnout, or simply reflect the number of voters who would have crushed into the polls on Election Day anyway? How will Democratic enthusiasm – as they outvote Republicans early by a large margin, according to states that offer this data – hold up as Republicans are expected to vote en masse on the big day? 

Here are five charts that help illustrate the state of this most unusual 2020 election. 

The U.S. has hit 69 percent of total 2016 early voting already.

A big factor: “More voters than ever before can vote by mail this election,” our colleagues note. “…By the end of September, requests for absentee ballots had already surpassed 2016 levels in nearly every state. In 10 states, all voters are being sent a mail-in ballot automatically.” 

Early in-person voting is also at an all time high in some states: In Texas, Houston’s Harris County saw a record 125,000 ballots cast. In Georgia, hourslong lines threaded from election offices through much of the state’s urban areas,” the Associated Press's Nicholas Riccardi and Angeliki Kastanis reported over the weekend.  

  • However: “Democrats hope this energy leads to a decisive victory on Nov. 3,” our Post colleagues note. Yet Republicans are “more likely to tell pollsters they intend to vote in person, and the GOP is counting on an overwhelming share of the Election Day vote going to Trump." 
  • This overall comparison to the total 2016 vote is 👀: “Nationally, voters have cast 27.3% of the total votes counted in the 2016 general election,” according to the United States Elections Project, a tracker from University of Florida professor Michael McDonald.
Roughly 1 in 5 votes are coming from people who did not cast a ballot four years ago in the same state.

That's for states where early ballots can be matched against a voter file, per Brittany, Kate, Peter, and Lenny. 

  • New voter, who dis?: “These new voters — who may have moved to a new state, turned 18 or just sat out the last presidential election — will probably play a pivotal role in choosing the next president,” our colleagues note.
  • New voter registrations are a silver lining for the GOP: “…Updated voter registration tallies show that Republicans have narrowed the gap with Democrats in three critical states,” reports the New York Times's Stephanie Saul. "As the presidential campaign heads into its final weeks, Republicans hope that gains in voter registration in the three states — Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania — and heavy turnout by those new party members might just be enough to propel Mr. Trump to a second term." 
With two weeks left, battleground states are seeing enormous early turnout. 
  • In some states – like Michigan and Minnesota – the number of early votes cast already exceeds early vote totals in each state from 2016.
But it's a potentially combustible situation as some key swing states are especially vulnerable to USPS slowdowns. 

“Key swing states that may well decide the presidential race are recording some of the nation’s most erratic mail service as a record number of Americans are relying on the U.S. Postal Service to deliver their ballots, agency data shows,” our colleagues Jacob Bogage and Christopher Ingraham report. 

  • Consistent and timely delivery remains scattershot as the agency struggles to right operations after the rollout, then suspension, of a major midsummer restructuring," they write: "In 17 postal districts covering 10 battleground states and representing 151 electoral votes, first-class mail service is down 7.8 percentage points from January benchmarks and nearly two percentage points below the national average. By that measure, roughly 16 in 100 items will not arrive within the Postal Service’s one-to-three-day delivery window; in January, it was fewer than 10.” 
  • This could be a major problem in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia – states that do not accept ballots that arrive after Election Day – and also potentially in places that have only a brief acceptance grace period after Nov. 3. North Carolina, for example, accepts and counts postmarked ballots up to three days after the election.

USPS insists the agency is up for the challenge: “The agency had made an estimated 64 million ballot deliveries — to and from election offices — through Oct. 7, agency data shows,” our colleagues note. 

  • Postal workers were told to use “extraordinary measures” to accelerate the delivery of ballots, Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer told our colleagues, adding that there is extra staffing and resources to help with election mail. “Those measures include expedited handling, special pick-ups, and extra and Sunday deliveries,” our colleagues report.

But on-time performance is still dragging since the start of the year: “The Postal Service began the year moving 91.8 percent of all first-class mail on time — below its internal goal of 95 percent but within the realm of reliable service. The national rate hovered in the low 90s until mid-July, roughly a month into the tenure of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a former supply-chain logistics executive and major Trump financier who implemented a stricter transportation schedule that banned late and extra deliveries, and other cost-cutting measures.” 

  • “Still, on-time service has improved since early August, after DeJoy suspended his changes and after seven federal courts intervened on behalf of 19 states and voters groups. Judges in New York, Pennsylvania, Washington state and D.C. ordered the Postal Service to authorize late and extra trips to deliver election mail, including ballots, ballot applications and voting information.” 
The variability of mail delivery in certain pockets of crucial battlegrounds could affect the race. 
  • In Pennsylvania, for example: “The Western Pennsylvania district, which encompasses Pittsburgh and its surrounding suburbs and exurbs, traditionally has some of the best on-time rates in the country, and even with service down nationwide, the on-time rate there, 89.4 percent, exceeds the national average. The Central Pennsylvania district, a Republican stronghold, has an 83.2 percent on-time rate.” 
  • “But the Philadelphia Metro district, which Democrats need to dominate to offset GOP votes in the rest of the state, is one of only six districts in the country with on-time service below 80 percent,” per Jacob and Chris. 

The people

BIDEN IS FLUSH WITH CASH: Democratic nominee Joe Biden entered October with nearly three times as much cash as Trump, amassing a major financial advantage for his campaign committee thanks to an injection of cash from Democratic donors,” Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy report.

  • This is a dramatic reversal from just months ago: “Biden’s campaign committee entered October with an estimated $180 million compared with Trump’s $63 million, according to federal filings made public Tuesday night.”

On the Hill

MCCONNELL TOLD THE WHITE HOUSE NOT TO CUT A DEAL: “Prospects for an economic relief package in the next two weeks dimmed markedly after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell revealed that he has warned the White House not to strike an agreement with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before the election,” Jeff Stein and Erica Werner report.

  • Publicly, the majority leader told reporters he allow a vote on a possible deal at “some point”: “In remarks at a closed-door Senate GOP lunch, McConnell told his colleagues that Pelosi is not negotiating in good faith with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and that any deal they reach could disrupt the Senate’s plans to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court next week.”
  • Many GOP senators remain weary of a large stimulus package: “Republicans could lose control of the Senate based on the outcome of November’s election, and senators have made clear to the White House that voting on a huge stimulus deal could mean the end of their majority if it scares away fiscally conservative voters." 

Pelosi and Mnuchin pressed on as they blew past the 48-hour deadline: “Pelosi had said that if they are going to vote on a deal by the end of next week, they need to agree on specific language by the end of this week,” our colleagues write.

  • Where things stand: “White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told CNBC that Mnuchin and Pelosi have made ‘good progress’ and that negotiations would continue [today]. Still, he said major hurdles remain, with the negotiators ‘several hundred billion’ dollars apart and also at odds over the extent of state and local money.”

From the courts

DOJ SUES GOOGLE: “The Justice Department sued Google over allegations that its search and advertising empire violated federal antitrust laws, launching what is likely to be a lengthy, bruising legal fight between Washington and Silicon Valley that could have vast implications for the entire tech industry,” Tony Romm reports.

  • The suit marks caps off a nearly year-long investigation: “The complaint contends that Google relied on a mix of special agreements and other problematic business practices to secure an insurmountable lead in online search, capturing the market for nearly 90 percent of all queries in the United States.”

There is bipartisan support for the action:

The dispute is likely to go on for years and DOJ did not explicitly ask to break up the tech giant: “Instead, it urged the court to consider ‘structural relief,’ which theoretically could include a requirement that the company sell a portion of its business and cease other practices that federal regulators see as harmful and unlawful,” our colleague writes.

  • This might not be the end: “Eleven Republican attorneys general — from states including Louisiana, Florida and Texas — signed onto the Justice Department’s lawsuit. Other states are still probing Google on antitrust grounds and may choose later to join the federal case or opt to bring their own.” 

Outside the Beltway

SOME CHILDREN REMAIN SEPARATED: “Lawyers appointed by a federal judge to identify migrant families who were separated by the Trump administration say that they have yet to track down the parents of 545 children and that about two-thirds of those parents were deported to Central America without their children, according to a filing from the American Civil Liberties Union,” NBC News's Julia Ainsley and Jacob Soboroff report.

  • More details: “Unlike the 2,800 families separated under zero tolerance in 2018, most of whom remained in custody when the policy was ended by executive order, many of the more than 1,000 parents separated from their children under the pilot program had already been deported before a federal judge in California ordered that they be found.” 

At the White House

TRUMP FUMES AFTER INTERVIEW: “Trump lashed out at ‘60 Minutes' host Lesley Stahl and threatened to release their interview after he cut off their conversation at the White House on Tuesday because he didn’t like the aggressive tone of her questions,” Josh Dawsey, Colby Itkowitz and Jeremy Barr report.

  • What happened: “According to a person with knowledge of what happened during the interview, Trump was unhappy that Stahl asked him tough questions regarding his rhetoric about Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the size of the crowds at his rallies and his disputes with Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert.”
  • More: “Stahl also told him during the interview that allegations about Biden’s son Hunter were not verified and that the Obama administration did not spy on the Trump campaign. Many of the questions were about the coronavirus pandemic and his handling of it, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the interview frankly.”

The president is worried the show will “cut it up to make him look bad,” an aide said: “Three aides, who were not authorized to speak publicly, said the president overreacted, and one suggested that he might actually boost the ratings of a tough interview,” our colleagues write.

  • Oval Office meeting: “A senior White House official said Trump had told aides he wanted to go after Stahl and brainstormed ideas after the session with a group of aides in the Oval Office,” our colleagues report. 
  • From one White House staffer: “It wasn’t a bad interview. She just had a tone he didn’t like.” 
  • The interview is part of “60 Minutes” election special that is set to air this Sunday, featuring Trump, Vice President Pence as well as the Democratic ticket, Biden and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.).

In the media

TRUMP HAS A CHINESE BANK ACCOUNT HE HAS NOT DISCLOSED: Trump "spent a decade unsuccessfully pursuing projects in China, operating an office there during his first run for president and forging a partnership with a major government-controlled company,” the New York Times's Mike McIntire, Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig report in their latest scoop based on the president's financial records.

  • “And it turns out that China is one of only three foreign nations — the others are Britain and Ireland — where Trump maintains a bank account, according to an analysis of the president’s tax records, which were obtained by the Times. The foreign accounts do not show up on Trump’s public financial disclosures, where he must list personal assets, because they are held under corporate names. The identities of the financial institutions are not clear.”

The pandemic has resulted in nearly 300,000 more deaths than expected in a typical year, CDC says: “The CDC said the coronavirus, which causes covid-19, has taken a disproportionate toll on Latinos and Blacks, as previous analyses have noted. But the CDC also found, surprisingly, that it has struck 25- to 44-year-olds very hard: Their ‘excess death’ rate is up 26.5 percent over previous years, the largest change for any age group,” Lenny Bernstein reports.

Obama is back on the campaign trail: The former president will hold his first in-person campaign event in Philadelphia later tonight for a drive-in rally, the Philadelphia Inquirer's Julia Terruso reports.

Viral

NOT ME, SUS: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) played and streamed the popular game “Among Us” last night in an effort to get out the vote, Noah Smith writes for Launcher.

ICYMI, here are some highlights: