Biden Says Vaccine Process Needs ‘Transparency’: Campaign Update

Joe Biden said he isn’t worried that he could undermine public trust in a vaccine by voicing concerns that President Donald Trump might try to influence the development process. The Office of Special Counsel will investigate whether members of Trump’s administration violated the Hatch Act during the Republican convention. And unrest in Kenosha appears to have had little effect on the state of the race in Wisconsin.

There are 55 days until the election.

Other Developments:

Biden Says Vaccine Needs Requires ‘Transparency’

Biden said Wednesday he isn’t worried that raising concerns about Trump potentially pressuring the Food and Drug Administration to approve a coronavirus vaccine will lead to distrust in the eventual inoculation.

“No, no,” he told reporters in Detroit. “But we’ve got to make sure there’s total transparency, experts are able to look at it across the board and make a judgment.”

The president, he said, has already “put pressure on some of the agencies to do things they weren’t ready to do” on the virus. He conceded he doesn’t know whether there has been political pressure within the agency to approve a vaccine.

Biden acknowledged that Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease official, has said to trust the approval process. But the Democratic nominee added that Fauci hasn’t denied that pressure has been put on that process.

Many public health officials and scientists have expressed concerns that the FDA is under pressure from the White House to approve a vaccine before Trump faces re-election on Nov. 3. -- Jennifer Epstein

Watchdog to Investigate Hatch Act Violations During Republican Convention (5:11 p.m.)

An independent government watchdog will investigate whether members of the Trump administration violated federal law during the Republican National Convention last month.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, responding to a request from the House Oversight Committee, said there was sufficient evidence to merit an investigation into whether members of the Trump administration had broken the law that prevents federal employees from using their positions for political purposes, though the president and vice president are exempt.

Potential violations listed in the committee’s request include a naturalization ceremony at the White House that included Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech from Jerusalem and speeches on the final night of the convention made on the South Lawn of the White House.

“OSC takes seriously all allegations of Hatch Act violations and has opened files to address the activities detailed” by the House committee, Special Counsel Henry Kerner said in a letter. “Let me assure you we will conduct a full and even-handed investigation and do so with dispatch. Where investigations establish an employee violated the law, we will pursue appropriate remedies as prescribed by law.” -- Emma Kinery

Kenosha Unrest Leaves Wisconsin Unchanged in Poll (2:28 p.m.)

Trump’s efforts to make unrest in Kenosha into a campaign issue don’t seem to have a meaningful effect on the race in Wisconsin.

A Marquette University poll released Wednesday showed essentially the same results as a similar poll a month ago, before both conventions as well as the protests over police violence in Kenosha that turned violent.

The survey showed that 47% of respondents backed Biden and 43% supported Trump. That 4-point lead was essentially the same as a 5-point lead Bien enjoyed in the same poll in early August.

The poll also found little change on Wisconsin voters’ perception of protests. In June, 61% of Wisconsin voters approved of protests over police violence. That fell to 48% approval in early August. The September poll found 47% approval.

Trump highlighted the unrest in Wisconsin as part of a broader argument that Biden would cause unrest to spread to the suburbs. Biden has responded by arguing that Trump is making the situation worse with his rhetoric.

The poll of 802 registered voters in Wisconsin was conducted Aug. 30 to Sept. 1. It has a margin of error of 4 percentage points. -- Emma Kinery

Ridge Pushes Pennsylvania to Process Mail-Ins Faster

Former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge is urging state lawmakers to change a law barring elections officials from processing mail-in ballots before Election Day.

In a news conference Wednesday, Ridge, a Republican who is now the co-chair of the bipartisan group VoteSafe, said the state legislature should find a compromise that would allow earlier processing of mail-ins.

“While many states go so far as to count ballots prior to Election Day, there is no reason to prevent at least opening envelopes, verifying signatures, and stacking ballots so they’re ready to be counted right away,” he said in a statement with co-chair and former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat.

Three battleground states -- Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin -- don’t allow elections officials to process mail-in ballots ahead of Election Day, leading to concerns that the results of the presidential race won’t be known for days or even weeks.

Three other battlegrounds -- Arizona, Florida and North Carolina -- allow mail-in ballots to be processed at least two weeks before the election.

Biden Up by 9 in Pennsylvania Poll Thanks to Suburban Voters

Biden is ahead by nine percentage points in the battleground state of Pennsylvania due in part to higher support among suburban voters.

In an NBC News/Marist poll released Wednesday, 53% of likely voters backed Biden, while 44% backed Trump.

The margin was even higher in the suburbs that helped Trump win the state by less than a percentage point in 2016. In the poll, 58% of suburban likely voters backed Biden, while 39% backed Trump.

That comes after weeks of Trump arguing that Biden would “abolish” the suburbs with “low income housing” and that violent outbreaks at protests over police violence would be “coming to the suburbs.”

Recent polls have shown Biden ahead in Pennsylvania by an average of 4.6 percentage points according to Real Clear Politics.

The poll of 771 likely Pennsylvania voters was conducted Aug. 31 to Sept. 7. It has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

Biden Campaign Highlights Trump’s Favorite Pollster in Facebook Ads (7 a.m.)

The Biden campaign is looking to use to its advantage a poll that Trump has repeatedly highlighted.

A Facebook ad designed to bring in small donations for Biden cites a mid-August poll by the Trafalgar Group, a Republican pollster that tries to identify “hidden voters” by reaching out to more people with texts, emails and live and automated calls.

“We just got some worrying news out of Michigan. It’s a brand new poll showing Trump 47% vs. Biden 45%,” reads one ad. “We need a big surge in grassroots donations ASAP or else we could lose in Michigan and other critical battleground states.“

The Trafalgar Group poll is the only one taken this year listed on Real Clear Politics that shows Trump ahead. Two more recent polls showed Biden with a lead of 5 or 6 percentage points.

But the Trafalgar Group’s president, Robert Cahaly, has noted that its polls bucked the trend in 2016 by correctly showing that Trump was ahead in Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Trump Campaign Spins Election Day Scenarios

The Trump campaign pitched scenarios in which it could win the Electoral College, ranging from narrow wins to a “landslide” comparable to Barack Obama’s 2008 victory.

In a call with reporters Tuesday, campaign manager Bill Stepien went over seven possibilities, ranging from winning by getting a single elector in a Maine Congressional district to a sweeping win involving states not currently seen as battlegrounds.

Three of the scenarios called for just barely passing the necessary 270 electors, with 270, 272 and 273 electors.

The “landslide” scenario included sweeping the battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as well as picking up Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada and New Hampshire, for a total of 356 electors.

The maps were much more optimistic about Trump’s chances than others compiled by election forecasters using current polls. Just hours before Stepien spoke, NBC News updated its battleground map, which predicted Biden would win at least 290 electors if current trends hold. Forecasts by the Cook Political Report, the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia and Inside Elections also favor Biden.

Top Fashion Designers Update Biden Merchandise’s Look

Some of America’s most well-known fashion designers collaborated on a new collection of Biden campaign swag.

The “Believe in Better” collection features hats, shirts, tote bags and even face masks designed by Vera Wang, Jason Wu and Tory Burch.

The merchandise, which is union-made in America, costs from $40 to $60, and counts as a donation to the Biden campaign.

Trump has raised millions with merchandise sales, especially the instantly recognizable red Make America Great Again caps.

The new Biden merchandise is more trendy, with items like a bucket hat by Victor Glemaud, a purple tie-dye T-shirt by Gabriela Hearst and a tote bag with a 1970s throwback vibe by Brett Heyman.

Coming Up:

Trump will speak from an airport hangar near Saginaw, Michigan on Thursday.

Biden and Trump will both visit Shanksville, Pennsylvania on Friday to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

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