Trump Takes New Approach at Pennsylvania Rally: Campaign Update
Joe Biden, 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, speaks during the first U.S. presidential debate in Ohio, U.S. (Photographer: Matthew Hatcher/Bloomberg)

Trump Takes New Approach at Pennsylvania Rally: Campaign Update

President Donald Trump had an unusual message at a rally in Erie, Pennsylvania. A super political action committee that benefits Senate Republicans raised a record $92.8 million in September. Also in September, the super-PAC backing House Democrats raised a record $40.9 million.

There are 14 days until the election and 55 days until the Electoral College meets.

Other Developments:

Trump Ties Campaigning in Pennsylvania to Coronavirus

Trump had an odd message for his supporters in Erie, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday: That he wouldn’t be campaigning there if not for the coronavirus pandemic.

At a Tuesday night rally, Trump said he believed earlier this year that he had the 2020 election sewn up, but then the outbreak erupted and damaged his political standing.

“Before the plague came in, I had it made. I wasn’t coming to Erie. I mean, I have to be honest: there’s no way I was coming. I didn’t have to,” Trump told the crowd. “I would have called you and said: ‘hey Erie, you know, if you have a chance get out and vote.’ We had this thing won.”

Then, he added, “we got hit with the plague and I had to go back to work. Hello, Erie, may I please have your vote? Right? I love Erie.”

Democratic challenger Joe Biden leads Trump in Pennsylvania by almost 4 percentage points, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average. The state is one of the most crucial battlegrounds this year. Trump’s victory there in 2016 helped seal his surprise win over Hillary Clinton.

Trump remarked on the chilly weather in Erie a few times and spoke for 56 minutes, shorter than his typical rally speech. “We’re going to go a little shorter because you’ve got to go vote,” the president said. -- Jordan Fabian, Jennifer Jacobs and Josh Wingrove

GOP Senate Super-PAC Raises $92.8 Million (7:50 p.m.)

The Senate Leadership Fund, a super-PAC with ties to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, raised a record $92.8 million in September, its latest filing with the Federal Election Commission shows.

Billionaires Ken Griffin of Citadel, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and Thomas Peterffy, founder of Interactive Brokers Group Inc. were among the top contributors.

The super-PAC spent $105 million to help the GOP hold its 53-seat majority in the Senate, which is at risk because of several competitive races. The group entered October with $113.8 million cash on hand.

Griffin gave the group $20 million, Adelson and his wife, Miriam, combined to give $10 million, and Peterffy gave $5 million. J. Christopher Reyes and M. Jude Reyes, co-founders of the food service and beverage distributor Reyes Holdings, each gave $5 million. The hedge fund manager Paul Singer, investment banker Warren Stephens and Linda McMahon, Trump’s first Small Business administrator, each gave $1 million. Chevron Corp. gave $1.7 million and Koch Industries gave $500,000. Unlike campaigns and party committees, super-PACs can accept money directly from corporate treasuries.

The $92.8 million haul was the Senate Leadership Fund’s biggest monthly total, FEC records show. It raised $37.4 million in August, including $25 million donated by the Adelsons. Its Democratic counterpart, the Senate Majority PAC has yet to report. Filings are due with the FEC by midnight Tuesday.

The Cook Political Report rates seven races with Republican incumbents as toss-ups, and two, involving Senators Martha McSally of Arizona and Cory Gardner of Colorado, as leaning Democratic. -- Bill Allison

Super-PAC Backing House Democrats Raises a Record $40.9 Million

The super-PAC that supports House Democrats raised a record $40.9 million in September, according to its latest filing with the Federal Election Commission.

House Majority PAC spent $26.8 million in September and ended the month with $83 million cash on hand. The group has run ads targeting more than 50 Republican House members, spending a total of $63 million.

Big donors include former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who gave $12.8 million, and philanthropist Fred Eychaner, who gave $5 million. Former Renaissance Technologies LLC chief scientist Henry Laufer and his wife, Marsha, each gave $500,000, and Bain Capital LP co-Chairman Joshua Bekenstein and his wife, Anita, each gave $200,000. Democratic PACs, advocacy groups and labor unions combined to give another $15.8 million.

House Majority’s September haul was more than four times the $9.9 million it raised in August and topped the $14.9 million it raised during the congressional midterm elections, when Democrats gained control of the House.

Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News. -- Bill Allison

Melania Trump Delays Return to the Campaign Trail (2:53 p.m.)

The first lady’s return to the campaign trail has been put on hold.

Melania Trump was expected to join President Donald Trump on Tuesday night at a campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, but decided not to go “out of an abundance of caution” following her recovery from Covid-19, according to her chief of staff Stephanie Grisham.

“Mrs. Trump continues to feel better every day,” Grisham said. “But with a lingering cough, and out of an abundance of caution, she will not be traveling today.”

Melania Trump’s last public appearance was on Sept. 29, during the first presidential debate in Cleveland. The president and she tested positive for coronavirus a few days later.

The president restarted his campaign travel on Oct. 12, just one week after being released from the hospital. But the first lady has remained out of sight, even after announcing last week that she had recovered. Her last campaign speech was on Aug. 25, when she addressed the Republican National Convention from the White House Rose Garden. -- Jordan Fabian

Trump, Biden Tied in Georgia Poll (2:20 p.m.)

Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden are tied in Georgia, while support for Democratic candidates for two Senate seats there went up, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll released Tuesday.

Trump and Biden each had the support of 45% of likely voters in Georgia, with 10% saying they backed other candidates or were undecided, the poll showed. The results are unchanged from the same poll last month.

In the race for two Georgia Senate seats, Democrats are gaining ground but not yet at the 50% threshold needed to prevent a runoff election.

In the regularly scheduled Senate election, Republican Senator David Perdue is now tied with Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff at 43%. Last month, Perdue led Ossoff 41% to 37%.

In a special Senate election, Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock now leads Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler 32% to 23%, with Republican Doug Collins in third with 17%. Last month, Loeffler led Warnock and Collins 23% to 21% each. The poll was conducted Oct. 13-19 and has a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points. -- Emma Kinery

Medicare Head to Campaign for Trump (1:29 p.m.)

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma will campaign for Trump on Wednesday in North Carolina, an unusual appearance for a relatively obscure administration official.

Verma is scheduled to appear at the state Republican Party’s office in Raleigh as a special guest at a “Prime Timers for Trump” event geared toward seniors, the Trump campaign announced Tuesday. Medicare has been a major topic for Trump and Biden in the fight for senior voters this year.

The campaign billed the CMS chief as “the Honorable Seema Verma” rather than use her job title in order to satisfy provisions of the Hatch Act, which bars government officials from campaigning in their official capacity.

The Office of Special Counsel, a federal watchdog agency, has found that a number of Trump administration officials have broken the law by making political statements while acting in their government roles.

Most recently, the OSC determined that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue violated the law in August when he plugged Trump’s candidacy at an official event in North Carolina. The agency said he should reimburse the federal government for the costs of participating in the event. -- Jordan Fabian

Lawsuit Says Armed Ex-Soldiers Plan to Intimidate Voters (12:46 p.m.)

A small private security company is planning to illegally deploy armed ex-soldiers to the polls “to intimidate and threaten eligible voters” on Election Day, a pair of civil rights groups alleged in a Minnesota lawsuit.

Tennessee-based Atlas Aegis LLC and an unnamed “consortium” of individuals and businesses plan to target people “who want to vote, advocate for and support political candidates, and express their political beliefs,” according to a suit filed Tuesday by the Minnesota units of the League of Women Voters and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The company’s “intentional recruitment of armed, highly trained, and elite former military personnel in the context of ‘protecting’ the polls serves no purpose other than to intimidate voters,” and violates federal law, the complaint says.

A recruitment advertisement described in the complaint says compensation for recruits will be $910 per day, and that the company intends to send a “large contingent” of armed former soldiers to the state for the election. The complaint cites Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar describing the company’s alleged plan as “clear voter intimidation” during the Oct. 13 confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. -- Erik Larson

Biden Keeps Racking Up Unusual Endorsements (12:07 p.m.)

The USA Today editorial board broke with a 38-year tradition to endorse Biden on Tuesday.

Although the board urged Americans to vote against President Donald Trump, calling him “unfit for the presidency” in an anti-endorsement in 2016, it did not actually endorse Hillary Clinton, making Biden the first candidate it has backed since launching in 1982.

“This time when it was a question of Joe Biden versus Donald Trump, there was a full consensus of the board not just to dis-endorse Donald Trump again, but to go that extra step and endorse Joe Biden, who is a less polarizing and less controversial figure than Hillary Clinton,” the board wrote.

Biden has picked up a number of endorsements from places that don’t normally offer them, including Nature; Scientific American, for the first time since it started in 1845; and the New England Journal of Medicine, for the first time in since it started in 1812.

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele also formally endorsed Biden on Tuesday, after criticizing Trump for months.

Biden Gets Nod From Hundreds of National Security Officials (11:04 a.m.)

A group of 780 retired generals, admirals, senior non-commissioned officers, ambassadors and national security officials have signed a letter endorsing Biden.

In an “Open Letter to America” updated today, 291 more officials joined the group of Republicans, Democrats and independents backing Biden, who it says is empathetic and honest and has sound judgment.

The letter also criticizes Trump for his handling of the coronavirus, climate change, a trade war with China, North Korea’s nuclear program and alleged Russian bounties on U.S. troops.

“The current president has demonstrated he is not equal to the enormous responsibilities of his office; he cannot rise to meet challenges large or small,” it says.

Signers include former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Paul Selva and former Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft, who served under Trump; former Defense Secretary William Cohen, a Republican who served under President Barack Obama; and former Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge, a Republican who served under President George W. Bush.

Trump Can’t Stop Complaining About Debate Moderators (10:05 a.m.)

As he heads into the final debate of his political career, Trump can’t stop complaining about the moderators.

Ahead of Thursday’s debate, Trump has pre-emptively raised questions about moderator and NBC News reporter Kristen Welker, calling her “extraordinarily unfair” and “a dyed-in-the-wool, radical left Democrat.”

He complained about the others, too. He said Fox News’ Chris Wallace, who moderated the first 2020 debate, was “a Never Trumper” and “a total JOKE.”

He called C-SPAN’s Steve Scully, who would have moderated the last debate if Trump had not pulled out, “Rigged Steve Scully” and “a Never Trumper.” Scully was suspended from his job for anti-Trump tweets.

And of NBC News’ Savannah Guthrie, who hosted a town hall with him held in lieu of the last debate, he said “I had someone going totally crazy last night.”

Biden Ahead by Nine Points Nationally (7:06 a.m.)

A new poll shows half of likely voters nationwide back Biden, as voters prefer him on almost all major issues.

In the New York Times/Siena College poll, 50% of likely voters backed Biden, while 41% backed Trump, a nine-point lead that is in line with the RealClearPolitics average of national surveys, which was 8.9 points prior to this poll.

Voters preferred Biden over Trump to handle the coronavirus pandemic by 12 points, to choose Supreme Court justices by six points and to maintain law and order by six points.

They were evenly split on which candidate would handle the economy better, an area where Trump long held an advantage.

The poll of 987 likely voters nationwide was conducted Oct. 15-18. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 points.

Trump Says He Won’t Call Suburban Women ‘Housewives’

In his latest bid to narrow the massive gender gap in this year’s election, Trump said he would stop calling suburban women “housewives.”

Speaking on Monday in Prescott, Arizona, the president said the term isn’t “politically correct” but added that most suburban married women actually don’t mind it.

“I used to call them suburban housewives, I got killed all the time. I said, ‘Oh, I better go politically correct,’” he said. “Is there one woman here that minds being called -- if you’re married at least -- a suburban housewife?”

A large group of women in the crowd then shouted “No.” Pointing to the TV cameras, he then said “the only one that minds” are the press.

A recent New York Times/Siena College poll showed suburban women prefer Biden over Trump by 23 points.

Biden, Trump Essentially Tied in Florida Poll

The race in Florida may be even closer than it appears according to a new poll of hard-to-reach voters.

In a University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab poll released Tuesday, 48% of likely voters in Florida supported Biden, while 47% backed Trump, within the margin of error and even closer than other recent surveys.

The poll used a slightly different methodology to capture sentiment among voters who aren’t easy to reach, imputing their choice from other answers if they refused to say who they were voting for and counting those who said who they backed but did not finish the survey.

“While some polls have shown Biden with a big lead in Florida and other key states, we made an effort to capture hard-to-reach voters and our results suggest that it might be a long night on November 3rd,” said Dr. Michael Binder, faculty director of the polling center.

The poll of 863 likely voters in Florida was conducted Oct. 12-16. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

Biden Ad Features Former NFL Player Who Didn’t Vote

Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier endorsed Biden in a new campaign ad, saying that he regrets not voting in 2016.

In a 30-second ad called “Flex Your Power,” Shazier alludes to his career-ending injury in the 2017 season as images of him being carried off the field are shown.

“In 2016, I didn’t vote. I didn’t think it mattered. I won’t make that mistake again,” he says. “One thing I learned in life, you have to make the most out of every opportunity you get.”

Shazier is the latest in a string of high-profile African-Americans who have publicly said that they are voting in the election after not voting in the past.

In recent days, rapper Snoop Dogg has said that he will vote for the first time ever after learning that his criminal record does not prevent it. Boxer Mike Tyson tweeted recently that he will also vote for the first time ever, after a change in Nevada law restored voting rights to felons upon release from prison.

Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal and rapper Tyler the Creator have also said that they will vote for the first time this year.

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