Live Trump vs. Biden 2020 Election Updates and Analysis
Television ratings matter to President Trump. So these numbers may sting.
In a result that few in the TV and political arena predicted, Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s ABC town hall on Thursday night drewa larger audience than President Trump’s competing event on NBC, MSNBC and CNBC, according to preliminary Nielsen figures.
Mr. Biden’s town hall, which aired on a single network, was seen by an average of 13.9 million viewers, compared to 13.1 million for Mr. Trump, according to early data from Nielsen. The ratings will be updated later on Friday afternoon, but so far, the president’s telecast has failed to match Mr. Biden’s — despite Mr. Trump’s event monopolizing three networks simultaneously.
The town halls were vastly different television spectacles, befitting their respective protagonists. On NBC, Mr. Trump was darting and defiant as the “Today” host Savannah Guthrie pressed him to denounce QAnon and white supremacy (Mr. Trump hesitated on both) and clear up questions about his medical condition.
On ABC, Mr. Biden and the moderator George Stephanopoulos engaged in a sober 90-minute policy discussion more akin to a PBS telecast. (Politico wrote that flipping back and forth between the two was like going from Bob Ross to “WrestleMania.”)
NBC had drawn scorn for scheduling its Trump event at the same time as Mr. Biden’s previously-announced ABC forum, depriving viewers of the opportunity to watch both candidates. Executives at NBC News said it was a matter of fairness, saying they wanted the same conditions offered to Mr. Biden at his NBC town hall on Oct. 5. Critics, including the MSNBC star Rachel Maddow, suggested that NBC had erred in allowing Mr. Trump to appear at the same time as Mr. Biden.
In the end, it appears that Mr. Biden did not need to worry. And the fact that the Democrat outdrew his voluble Republican rival is likely to launch dozens of hot takes about whether, after four seasons, Americans are simply growing bored with The Trump Show.
The viewership figures for both town halls will only grow when Nielsen factors in out-of-home viewers and the number of people who streamed the town halls to their television screens.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett is on a glide path to the Supreme Court, but she will leave behind a Senate badly torn by its third confirmation blowup in four years, with the potential for severe repercussions should Democrats take control next year.
The decision by Senator Mitch McConnell and Republicans to push through Judge Barrett’s nomination to the high court on the eve of the election, after blocking President Barack Obama’s pick under similar circumstances in 2016, enraged many Democrats who saw it as a violation of Senate norms and customs.
They were also coming under increased pressure from progressive activists demanding payback, in the form of an end to the legislative filibuster and an expansion in the size of federal courts should Joseph R. Biden Jr. triumph in the presidential race and Democrats take the Senate.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, said it would be premature to discuss what Democrats might do if they won the Senate majority. But he did not dismiss the idea that changes could be in store should the party prevail, only to hit roadblocks erected by a Republican minority in 2021.
“First we have to win the majority because if we don’t, all of it is moot,” he said in an interview after the confirmation hearing. “If we do, I’ve told my colleagues that everything is on the table if they jam through this nominee.”
Democrats have been hesitant to discuss their plans should they gain power, not wanting to provide Republicans — who are playing defense around the country — with an issue that could alienate voters. Mr. Biden has pointedly declined to give his opinion on adding seats to the courts, but during a Thursday night town-hall-style interview on NBC, he said he was “open” to the idea depending on how Republicans handled Judge Barrett’s nomination.
Yet even before the current fight, progressive groups were urging Democrats to be ready to ditch the filibuster, which allows the minority to block legislation by setting a 60-vote threshold for action.
Activists — and some senators — say allowing the filibuster to remain in place if Democrats took control would hand minority Republicans the ability to block Mr. Biden’s agenda as they did Mr. Obama’s, maintaining the gridlock that has plagued Washington. Eliminating the 60-vote requirement would probably also be a prerequisite if Democrats decided to pursue enlarging the Supreme Court.
Progressive activists who want Democrats to expand the Supreme Court and pack it with additional liberal justices are mustering a new argument: Republican-appointed jurists, they say, keep using their power to make it harder for Americans to vote.
Backed by a new study of how federal judges and justices have ruled in election-related cases this year, the activists argue that mainstream Democrats should view their idea as a justified way to restore and protect democracy, rather than as a radical and destabilizing escalation of partisan warfare over the judiciary.
The study, the “Anti-Democracy Scorecard,” was commissioned by the group Take Back the Court, which supports expanding the judiciary. It identified 309 votes by judges and justices in 175 election-related decisions and found a partisan pattern: Republican appointees interpreted the law in a way that impeded ballot access 80 percent of the time, versus 37 percent for Democratic ones.
The numbers were even more stark when limited to judges appointed by President Trump, who has had tremendous success at rapidly reshaping the judiciary. Of 60 rulings in election-related cases, 85 percent were “anti-democracy” according to the analysis.
“There is a systematic pattern of Republican-appointed judges and justices tipping the scales in favor of the G.O.P. by making voting harder,” said Aaron Belkin, a political-science professor and the director of Take Back the Court.
The rulings included numerous challenges to state-imposed limits on ballot access that have come under scrutiny in light of the pandemic, including requirements to obtain signatures from other people and deadlines and other limits on absentee or mail-in ballots.
Mr. Belkin argued that the study results should be seen as part of a larger critique of how American democracy has become “rigged” in favor of conservatives, entrenching minority rule of the country.
Even when Democrats enjoy majority support, they often lose elections, he said: The Electoral College in presidential races and the Senate’s structure disproportionately empower conservative-leaning voters in sparsely populated states. He called that an undemocratic advantage augmented by partisan gerrymandering of House districts and by Republicans’ increasing imposition of voting restrictions that tend to impede groups that lean Democratic. And conservative, Republican-appointed judges firmly control the judiciary.
The reliably Republican state of Alaska has soured on President Trump’s job performance, but Republicans still lead the state’s races for president, Senate and the House, according to a poll released Friday by The New York Times and Siena College.
Over all, Mr. Trump leads former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. 45 percent to 39 percent, with 8 percent supporting the Libertarian candidate, Jo Jorgensen. Forty-seven percent of Alaskans say they approve of how Mr. Trump is handling his job as president, while the same number disapprove.
Based on a New York Times/Siena College poll of 423 likely voters from Oct. 9-14, 2020.
Dan Sullivan, the incumbent Republican senator, leads the Democratic nominee, Al Gross, by 45 to 37, with 10 percent backing the Alaska Independence candidate, John Howe. And in a rematch of 2018’s House race, the Republican Don Young, the longest-serving member of Congress, leads the Democratic nominee, Alyse Galvin, 49 percent to 41 percent. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.7 percentage points.
Alaska has emerged as an unlikely battleground in the late stages of the campaign, as Democrats and Republicans have rushed to run advertisements in both the House and Senate races. The state has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1964, and Republicans enjoy a significant advantage in party registration and party identification, according to the survey.
But many Alaskans have turned against Mr. Trump after backing him by 15 points against Hillary Clinton four years ago, creating a potential opening for the Democrats in a state with an independent streak. Many voters are backing a minor-party candidate, so there is an unusual amount of uncertainty.
North Carolina may have broken a record for first-day, early-voting turnout on Thursday, when more than 333,000 people showed up in person to cast their ballots, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections.
That’s more than double the number of voters who cast their ballots in person on the first day of early voting in the 2016 presidential election, according to data shared by the board in a statement.
“We *believe* that is a one-day early voting record, beating the 304,000 total on Friday, November 4, 2016,” the board said in a tweet on Friday morning. “Way to go NC voters!”
More than 550,000 mail-in ballots have also been accepted in the state.
Voters across North Carolina enjoyed warm, sunny weather on Thursday, and there were reports of long lines at polling places — as has been the case at many early voting sites across the United States.
When most of Georgia opened for in-person voting on Monday, people in the Atlanta suburbs waited four, five, even seven hours to vote. The next day in Texas, turnout in a few counties was equivalent to more than 10 percent of those counties’ entire vote in the 2016 election.
In North Carolina, around 48 percent of the Thursday in-person voters were registered Democrats, compared to about 27 percent who were registered Republicans, according to data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project, which is run by Michael McDonald, a politics professor from the University of Florida. About 25 percent had no party affiliation.
A poll this week from The New York Times and Siena College found that President Trump and Senator Thom Tillis trailed their Democratic challengers in North Carolina, signaling potential trouble for Republicans in a state critical to both the presidential race and the battle for control of the Senate.
Openly displaying firearms will be prohibited at all Michigan polls on Election Day, the state’s top election official announced Friday, as concerns of potential violence around the election continued to rise in the state and across the country.
Michigan has permissive open-carry laws, and the official, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, had recently been pressed about scenarios in which supporters of President Trump could show up at polls brandishing firearms, especially after the president called for an “army” of poll watchers nationwide and alerted a group associated with white supremacy, the Proud Boys, to “stand by.”
“Prohibiting the open-carry of firearms in areas where citizens cast their ballots is necessary to ensure every voter is protected,” Ms. Benson said in a statement.
More than a dozen far-right extremists were arrested last week and accused by the F.B.I. of plotting to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, and overthrow the government.
Two of the arrested men were among those who carried military-style rifles inside the State Capitol in April to protest Ms. Whitmer’s lockdown orders to limit the coronavirus. Mr. Trump seemed to egg the protesters on in a tweet, writing, “Liberate Michigan!”
Ms. Benson’s announcement said that Michigan’s attorney general and State Police director would enforce the ban.
While poll watching by representatives of political parties is permitted in Michigan, as in other states, intimidating or deterring voters is a felony. Ms. Benson’s order, sent to election clerks statewide, clarifies that the open carry of a firearm falls within that realm.
Under the order, the open carry of a firearm is prohibited in a polling place, in any hallway used by voters to enter or exit, or within 100 feet of any entrance to a building in which a polling place is located.
Senior lawyers for the Trump campaign set up a small law firm last year that is working for Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican House candidate in Georgia with a history of promoting QAnon, a pro-Trump conspiracy theory.
While federal filings show that the firm, Elections L.L.C., principally collects fees from the president’s campaign and the Republican National Committee, it also does work for a number of congressional candidates, and none more so than Ms. Greene, underscoring the connections between QAnon and Mr. Trump and his inner circle. The latest example came Thursday night, when President Trump repeatedly declined to disavow QAnon at a televised town hall.
Ms. Greene is one of several Republican candidates who openly espouse the collection of bogus and bizarre theories embraced by followers of QAnon, who have been labeled a potential domestic terror threat by the F.B.I. and who former President Barack Obama warned Wednesday were infiltrating the mainstream of the Republican Party.
QAnon imagines, falsely, that a Satanic cabal of pedophile Democrats are plotting against Mr. Trump, plays on anti-Semitic tropes and stokes real world violence — and has been expounded on at length by Ms. Greene in videos.
Elections L.L.C. was founded last year by Justin Clark, Mr. Trump’s deputy campaign manager, and Stefan Passantino, a former top ethics lawyer in the Trump White House. Matthew Morgan, the Trump campaign’s counsel, is also a partner at the firm. Ms. Greene’s campaign has made 14 payments to the firm since last year, worth nearly $70,000 in total, the most of any congressional campaign.
Mr. Clark, Mr. Morgan and Mr. Passantino would not comment. In a statement, the Trump campaign said, “Elections L.L.C. is a law firm like many others that do campaign work. Just like any other law firm, its lawyers have clients that have no relationship to other lawyers of the firm or their clients.”
The fact that a law firm with close ties to the White House is doing work for one of the most prominent proponents of QAnon shows how quickly the conspiracy theory has moved from the far-right fringe to the center of Republican politics, presenting a significant challenge to the party at a time when it is already being rejected by many moderate voters.
On Thursday The Babylon Bee, a conservative Christian satire site, reported that Twitter had shut down its entire network to prevent users from sharing negative news about Joseph R. Biden Jr.
This was, like everything else on The Bee, a joke, in this case a mash-up of two real-life events: Twitter had taken more limited action to restrict its users from sharing an unverified New York Post report about Mr. Biden and his son Hunter’s ties to a Ukrainian energy company,sparking outrage on the right. And on Thursday evening, Twitter experienced widespread outages for over an hour.
The fakeness of The Bee’s news, however, may have been lost on at least one reader. Early Friday morning, President Trump straight-facedly shared the story on Twitter. “Wow, this has never been done in history,” he wrote. “Why is Twitter doing this. Bringing more attention to Sleepy Joe.”
Twitter Shuts Down Entire Network To Slow Spread Of Negative Biden News https://t.co/JPmjOrKPcr via @TheBabylonBee Wow, this has never been done in history. This includes his really bad interview last night. Why is Twitter doing this. Bringing more attention to Sleepy Joe & Big T— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2020
Though Mr. Trump has occasionally retweeted stories from The Bee before, the site’s editors said recently they were confident the president was aware that their news isn’t real. “He does know it’s satire,” said Kyle Mann, The Bee’s editor in chief. “We are assured.”
The piece offered fairly clear clues that it was, in fact, fictional, including a sentence in which Twitter’s C.E.O., Jack Dorsey, “smashed a glass box in his office reading, ‘Break In Case Of Bad Publicity For Democrats.’”
Anyone wondering what The Bee would make of the president’s shout-out did not have to wait long. An hour later, The Bee tweeted: “President Trump Declares The Babylon Bee His Most-Trusted News Source.”
President Trump’s rude and demeaning comments to and about women are no secret. Just last week, he called Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, a “monster.” A new ad from the Lincoln Project urges voters to consider what it would be like to have a different kind of president — a man, it suggests, who actually respects women.The Message
The ad sharply contrasts Mr. Trump with Joseph R. Biden Jr., elevating Mr. Biden’s selection of Ms. Harris as his running mate as proof that he “doesn’t just value a female voice but chooses one to be his right-hand woman.”
The 90-second ad opens with two directives: “Imagine a young girl looking in the mirror, searching for role models in the world to give her hope that one day she, too, can make a difference. Now imagine how she feels when she watches women being verbally attacked.” Cue a series of clips that show Mr. Trump belittling women, including female reporters. “Your daughters are listening,” the ad says.
Then as the music soars, the ad encourages viewers to “imagine a different future for her” — one with Ms. Harris as Mr. Biden’s “right-hand woman.” It closes with a note of hope that doubles as a warning: “Your actions on Nov. 3 will define who she sees.”
The ad does not cover the sharply divergent views both men — and both parties — have on issues that affect women, including women’s reproductive rights.Fact Check
Mr. Trump is known for his sexist remarks, and the clips the ad shows are real. Mr. Biden, on the other hand, has long styled himself a champion of women. He still refers to the Violence Against Women Act as his proudest legislative achievement and he said months before he selected Ms. Harris as his running mate that he would name a woman to his ticket.Where It’s Running
A slightly modified 60-second version of the ad is running nationally on Fox News, MSNBC and CNN, according to Advertising Analytics. It began airing on Thursday morning.The Takeaway
The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, ran a similar ad four years ago. It did not work.
And the Lincoln Project is a group of Never Trump Republicans founded almost exclusively by men, so this ad has a tone somewhat equivalent to when men stand up and say “as a father of daughters” to denounce bad behavior by other men.
Still, the juxtaposition between the two candidates is powerful and likely to resonate with voters who are tired of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric.
Democratic candidates in competitive Senate races received another surge in donations over the last few months, with some breaking fund-raising records in their states and many entering the final weeks of the campaign with significant stores of cash, according to new quarterly filings with election authorities this week.
ActBlue, the central platform for donations to Democratic candidates and causes, announced that from July 1 to Sept. 30, it had processed $1.5 billion in contributions — an amount roughly equal to what the site raised during the entire 2018 election cycle, and one far exceeding the $623.5 million that the equivalent Republican platform, WinRed, took in during the quarter.
Mark Kelly, the Democratic Senate candidate in Arizona, was among those who reported raising another enormous sum. Mr. Kelly’s campaign took in more than $38.7 million in those three months, and polls in the state show him with a widening advantage over the Republican incumbent, Senator Martha McSally. His campaign indicated that it had entered October with $18.8 million in cash on hand.
Senator McSally’s campaign reported raising $22.6 million in the period, with nearly $12.2 million in the bank.
In the Kentucky Senate race, the Democratic candidate, Amy McGrath, raised $36.9 million in the quarter. Her campaign, seeking to unseat Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, reported having nearly $20 million in cash on hand. Senator McConnell’s campaign raised less than half of that, $15.8 million, and reported $13.9 million in cash on hand.
In Maine, the Democratic challenger, Sara Gideon, took in $39.4 million in her effort to unseat Senator Susan Collins, the Republican incumbent, whose campaign raised $8.3 million. Ms. Gideon reported $22.7 million in cash on hand, compared with nearly $6.6 million for Senator Collins, who received an endorsement from former President George W. Bush in August.
Jaime Harrison, the Democrat challenging Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, shattered the record for Senate campaign fund-raising in a quarter, taking in more than $57 million in the period in question. Mr. Harrison’s campaign reported having nearly $8 million in cash at the start of the month.
Senator Graham’s campaign reported having raised $28.5 million over the same time. As he leads slightly in polling in South Carolina, and as his leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee has drawn particular attention in his push to confirm President Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee, his campaign indicated that it had nearly $14.8 million in cash on hand.
President Trump lashed out at the Republican senator Susan Collins of Maine on Friday for not supporting the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, adding that given their previous policy disagreements, winning her over was “not worth the work!”
It was an unusual attack: Ms. Collins has often sought to distance herself from the president and preserve her reputation as someone who is willing to break with her party, but she is locked in a tight re-election race that is one of the main reasons Republicans fear they may lose control of the Senate.
Mr. Trump’s tweet described “a nasty rumor out there” that Ms. Collins would not support Judge Barrett’s nomination. It is no rumor. On Thursday night, at a contentious debate with her Democratic challenger, Sara Gideon, Ms. Collins reiterated she would indeed not vote to confirm Judge Barrett because Republicans had blockaded Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s appointee, in 2016.
“It’s clearly not a political calculation since it does not make a lot of people happy,” Ms. Collins said. “It’s a matter of principle, it’s a matter of fairness. In a democracy, we should play by the same rules and the fact is that there has not been a confirmation of a Supreme Court justice in a presidential election year since 1932.”
Mr. Trump does not actually need Ms. Collins’s vote to confirm Judge Barrett: Enough members of the Republican Senate majority have said they would support her that her confirmation appears all but certain.
Mr. Trump also criticized Ms. Collins in his tweet for not supporting “Healthcare,” a likely reference to her joining Democrats to block the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017.
He made no mention, however,of her support for his two previous nominations to the Supreme Court, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, the latter of which has cost her politically. Her vote for Justice Kavanaugh has galvanized liberal voters in Maine and across the country to flood the race with donations to Ms. Gideon.
Several polls have found Ms. Collins, the last New England Republican, narrowly trailing Ms. Gideon, who chipped away at Ms. Collins’s reputation as a moderate Republican and tie her squarely with the national party.
At Thursday’s debate, Ms. Gideon pressed Ms. Collins on whether she would vote for Mr. Trump. Ms. Collins, who has repeatedly declined to say whether she would, dodged the question again.
Ms. Gideon, who does not support adding justices to the Supreme Court or imposing term limits, said she would support returning a 60-vote threshold, known as the filibuster, for judicial nominees as a way to ensure an independent judiciary. (Both parties have chipped away at the filibuster for nominations as a way to overcome partisan opposition.)
“I think we should go back to having a filibuster in place for judicial nominees,” she said.
There are 18 days until Election Day. Here are the schedules of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates for Friday, Oct. 16. All times are Eastern time.
1:30 p.m.: Speaks about protecting older Americans in Fort Meyers, Fla.
4 p.m.: Holds a rally in Ocala, Fla.
7 p.m.: Holds a rally in Macon, Ga.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
2:30 p.m.: Speaks in Southfield, Mich, on affordable health care.
4:30 p.m.: Meets virtually with faith leaders.
6:30 p.m.: Appears at a voter mobilization event in Detroit, Mich.
Vice President Mike Pence
1:30 p.m.: Delivers remarks at a campaign event in Selma, N.C.
Senator Kamala Harris
Participates in a virtual event on finance; time T.B.D.
The dueling town halls that aired on separate broadcast networks Thursday night were a microcosm of the parallel universes in which President Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. are running their campaigns.
The forums replaced what was to be the second debate between the two candidates, after Mr. Trump rejected the decision by the Commission on Presidential Debates to hold the debate virtually because of Mr. Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis.
Mr. Trump, who was interviewed by Savannah Guthrie on NBC before turning to audience questions in Miami, grew angry and defensive almost at the outset, as she challenged him for spreading falsehoods, confronted him about his openness to QAnon conspiracy theorists and coaxed from him that he couldn’t say for sure whether he had been tested for the coronavirus before his first debate with Mr. Biden. Mr. Trump was alternatively hostile and derisive to Ms. Guthrie, a popular “Today” show co-anchor.
Mr. Trump also all but confirmed that he owed about $400 million to creditors, as reported in a New York Times investigation about his taxes. “What I’m saying is that it’s a tiny percentage of my net worth,” Mr. Trump said when Ms. Guthrie pressed him on the specific dollar amount cited in the report.
Over on ABC News, at a very different octane and a very different volume, Mr. Biden answered policy questions from George Stephanopoulos. He also said he wanted proof that Mr. Trump had taken a coronavirus test before their next and last scheduled debate, on Oct. 22.
Mr. Biden’s outing was not completely easy. He again dodged a question on expanding the Supreme Court if he gets elected, though he did say, that he would offer an answer before Election Day but wanted to see how the nomination process for Judge Amy Coney Barrett plays out first.
Mr. Biden also made some news, saying that his support of the 1994 crime bill — which has been blamed for the large-scale incarceration of Black people — was a “mistake,” adding that parts of it had not been carried out properly by states.
Mr. Trump did settle into a rhythm when the audience questions began, and he engaged with some of the voters on policy questions like corporate taxes. Still, at the end of the day, the president may have been better off with a virtual debate after all.
In their televised town halls on Thursday night, President Trump continued his pattern of exaggerated, misleading and false statements on many topics, while former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. stuck closer to the facts.
Mr. Trump continued to state without any factual basis that the coronavirus pandemic will end soon, and repeated his false statements that most people who wear masks get sick. He also dodged repeated questions about whether he had a negative coronavirus test immediately before the first presidential debate.
The president’s characterizations of the economy’s performance under his administration were inflated, and he again claimed to have done more for African-Americans than any of his predecessors except for Lincoln, an assertion that historians say is not accurate.
Mr. Biden got his numbers wrong on troop levels in Afghanistan relative to when he left office four years ago and mischaracterized an element of the Green New Deal, but generally avoided clear misstatements.
A team of journalists from The New York Times fact-checked both candidates in their separate appearances, providing context and analysis.
Election Day is always the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, but the day circled on the calendar every four years is no longer the singular time when American elections happen. That day, Nov. 3 this year, instead represents the end of a six-week sprint during a record number of Americans cast their ballots in advance.
The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a trend toward more early voting. In an effort to make polling places less crowded on Election Day, many states have encouraged absentee voting, opened more in-person early-voting sites and, in a few cases, mailed ballots to all registered voters.
In state after state, voters have waited hours to vote. While the long lines were a vivid symbol of longstanding efforts to make voting more difficult — particularly for people of color — they also demonstrated the intensity of the desire to vote in an election that millions of Americans have waited for since the last one, when President Trump won a victory that shocked the country, exhilarating his supporters and infuriating large parts of the country.
The election so far has been a public demonstration of civic devotion unseen in American life for generations, but also evidence of what in many places remains a broken voting system, damaged either by neglect or intent. Yet the voters keep coming, intent on exercising a constitutional right and in hopes of shaping a better future for their country.