Trump Gives Award to Unit in Al-Baghdadi Raid: Campaign Update

President Donald Trump presented a citation to a U.S. Army unit involved in the raid against the leader of Islamic State. Trump will visit Iowa on Sunday, his second trip there in less than three weeks. And more residents of Hawaii have voted early than in all of 2016.

There are five days until Election Day and 46 days until the Electoral College meets.

Other Developments:

Trump Gives Award to Army Unit That Conducted Al-Baghdadi Raid

Trump presented a citation to the Army Special Operations unit that carried out the raid that killed the Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the White House press secretary said on Thursday night.

Trump met members of the unit at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Kayleigh McEnany told reporters aboard Air Force One as the president returned to Washington.

Trump also visited a Special Forces memorial at Fort Bragg, McEnany added.

Al-Baghdadi was killed in a U.S raid in northern Syria in October 2019. At campaign rallies, Trump often mentions his death, along with the killing by the U.S. early this year of the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. At the White House last November, the president awarded a medal to Conan, a military service dog that was hurt in the raid.

Al-Baghdadi was the highest-ranking terrorist leader targeted by U.S. forces since Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011 in a raid in Pakistan during the Obama administration.

Trump to Visit Iowa on Sunday (8:19 p.m.)

Trump will travel to Iowa on Sunday, three days before the election, two people familiar with his plans said Thursday.

The president is trying to shore up his support in the state that he won by 9.4 percentage points in 2016 but where he is now essentially tied with Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

It will be his fifth visit to Iowa since becoming president and his second since Oct. 14, when he held a rally at the Des Moines International Airport.

Underscoring the importance of Iowa to Trump’s campaign, Vice President Mike Pence held a rally in Des Moines on Thursday and surrogates such as Donald Trump Jr. have also been in the state recently. -- Jennifer Jacobs

More Votes Cast Early in Hawaii Than 2016 Total (7:13 p.m.)

Early voting in Hawaii has already surpassed the total number of ballots cast in the state in the 2016 election.

Data from the U.S. Elections Project which tracks early voting, found Hawaii has seen turnout reach 104.5% of its total from the last election.

More than half of all registered voters in Hawaii have already cast their ballot, topping the record for the total number of votes cast in the state for a general election.

As of Thursday, 457,294 ballots had been returned, representing 58% of the state’s 830,000 registered voters, according to the U.S. Elections Project. That early vote alone shatters the record for the total number votes cast in a general election set in 2008, when native son Barack Obama was on the ballot and 456,000 Hawaiians turned out.

Many states are also seeing very high early turnout numbers amid the coronavirus pandemic and a hotly contested election. The number of votes in Texas as of Thursday afternoon cast during the early voting period is equivalent to 95% of its 2016 turnout. -- Emma Kinery

Hurricane Zeta Disrupts Early Voting in Georgia, North Carolina (5:04 p.m.)

Hurricane Zeta caused disruptions to early voting across the U.S. South on Thursday, including in the key battleground states of Georgia and North Carolina.

The Tropical Storm Zeta knocked out power to 1.1 million homes and businesses as early in-person voting enters a final stretch with five days to go until Election Day. Friday is Georgia’s last day to vote while voters in North Carolina have until Saturday.

Both Trump and Biden are focusing heavily on the two states, where the two men are essentially tied, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls. The Trump campaign said in a statement that it had postponed an outdoor rally scheduled for late Thursday in Fayetteville, North Carolina, “because of a wind advisory issued with gusts reaching 50 miles per hour and other weather conditions.”

Zeta ripped through the western half of North Carolina with 60 mph winds, leaving 450,000 million homes and businesses in the dark. Voting System Implementation Manager Gabriel Sterling said Habersham County in northeast Georgia had advised state officials that it would not host voting at all on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

In Georgia, the Secretary of State said 15 counties opened polling locations late, while at least 7 counties had polling sites suffer from power failures. The storm, which came ashore near New Orleans with 110-mph winds, cut a swath of devastation early Thursday through northwest Georgia, snapping trees, closing roads and leaving 650,000 customers without power, according to PowerOutage.US, a website that aggregates utility power failure data. -- Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou and Joe Ryan

Trump Would Rather Focus on Hunter Biden Than the Economy (3:20 p.m.)

Trump’s advisers have long urged him to focus his re-election message on the economy and set aside other topics like Hunter Biden. The president disagrees.

Even after a new report Thursday showed the U.S. economy grew at a record 33.1% annual rate from July to September, the president made it clear he would rather talk about unproven allegations against the Democratic presidential nominee’s son, which have resonated in few places outside of conservative media.

“They say, ‘talk about your economic success. Talk about 33.1%, the greatest in history,’” Trump said at a rally in Tampa, Florida, on Thursday, describing the advice he has received. “Now look, if I do, I mean how many times can I say it? I’ll say it five or six times during the speech.”

Hoping to narrow Trump’s polling deficit with Biden, the president’s allies spent much of Thursday morning touting the gross domestic product report as proof his economic policies are working to pull the nation out of the pandemic-induced recession. Trump mentioned the figures at the rally, but also spent time going over his personal grievances.

Trump for the second straight day attacked Miles Taylor, the former administration official who penned an anonymous book and essay criticizing him, and said that media organizations that cooperated with him are “scum” that should be held legally liable. -- Jordan Fabian and Josh Wingrove

Biden Maintains Slight Advantage in North Carolina (1:47 p.m.)

Biden maintains a slight advantage over Trump in North Carolina, according to New York Times/Siena College poll showing that 64% of the state’s likely voters had already cast their ballots.

Biden leads Trump 48% to 45% in the poll released Thursday, within the margin of error of 3.7 percentage points. Trump won North Carolina in 2016 by 3.66 percentage points.

Biden has been running statistically even or slightly ahead of Trump in the state over the past two months. In an early October Times/Siena poll, Biden led Trump 46% to 42%. In September, the Democratic nominee led 45% to 44%.

In the U.S. Senate race, Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham is essentially tied with Republican incumbent Senator Thom Tillis, 46% to 43%.

The poll was conducted Oct. 23-27 among 1,034 likely North Carolina voters. -- Emma Kinery

Biden Has Narrow Lead in Florida (1:12 p.m.)

One model shows Biden’s narrow lead in Florida gets a little bigger in a high-turnout election, which it looks like is already underway.

In a Monmouth University poll released Thursday, Biden leads Trump 50% to 45% among registered voters. But in a model for a high-turnout election that grows to 51% to 45%.

Early voting numbers show there’s good reason to anticipate high voter turnout: 76% of the number of voters in 2016 have already voted in Florida, according to data from the U.S. Elections Project.

The poll finds Biden leads among early voters 59% to 39%; Trump leads 53% to 38% among voters who have yet to cast their ballots.

Although the numbers remain relatively unchanged from a month ago, the gender gap in the state has widened. Women back Biden over Trump 60% to 37%, compared with 53% to 41% a month ago. Men back Trump 54% to 39%, compared with 49% to 46% last month.

The poll was conducted Oct. 24-28 and has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points. -- Emma Kinery

Trump Female Voter Trouble Extends Past Suburbs (12 p.m.)

Down in the polls, Trump has pleaded with suburban women to support him, but donation data suggests that his problem luring female voters extends past the suburbs to rural America.

While Trump outraised Democratic rival Joe Biden 2 to 1 with men in what the U.S. Census deems rural ZIP codes, he has raised only slightly more than the Democrat, $11.5 million to $10 million, in contributions from women in those ZIP codes who gave $200 or more, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

In the swing states of North Carolina and Pennsylvania, Biden has even raised slightly more than Trump from women who live in small towns and rural areas and he has matched Trump in contributions from them in the competitive states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa.

Biden’s take is much more than the $5.7 million Hillary Clinton raised from those women in 2016. Trump, who largely self-financed his primary campaign and only raised money in the general election, raised $3.7 million from them.

While Trump has maintained a lead in financial support from rural areas, Biden is doing well enough with women there that it could hurt the president’s chances in states where he needs to run up numbers with voters from small towns and rural areas to make up for the support he has lost in the suburbs.

“Women living in rural areas are a backbone to his base and he cannot afford any movement from them in order to maintain the necessary support to win,” said Grace Haley, gender and race researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics. -- Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou and Bill Allison

Biden Turns Again to a Favorite Irish Poet (10:47 a.m.)

Biden recited Irish poets like William Butler Yeats to overcome a childhood stutter, and he’s returned to them at key moments in this campaign.

With just days to go before the election, Biden shared a video on social media which features him reading a long segment from Seamus Heaney’s free translation of the Greek play “Philoctetes,” called “The Cure at Troy.”

“History says don’t hope on this side of the grave,” Biden recites. “But then, once in a lifetime the longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme.”

Biden recited a shorter portion of the same play in a victory speech in March during the primary, and in his speech accepting the nomination at the Democratic National Convention.

“My colleagues always kid me back home saying I’m always quoting Irish poets because I’m Irish,” he said before reciting the same poem at a 2014 event. “That’s not the reason. I quote them because they’re the best poets in the world.”

Biden Ads Target ‘Voter Suppression’ (9:18 a.m.)

The Biden campaign is running two ads featuring Black women criticizing “voter suppression” in this year’s election.

In two ads called “Whatever It Takes,” women named Lily and Angel say that fights over voting procedures this year amount to efforts to “suppress the Black vote.”

“I know that Trump and his cronies are pulling out all the stops to make sure that we can’t vote right now,” says Lily. “That’s because they know we have power. If we get out there and vote they know that they’re not going to be able to stay.”

The messaging is consistent with what a left-of-center think tank found during research in the 2012 election: Talking about voter suppression can motivate sporadic Democratic voters to show up at the polls.

The ads even explicitly make that argument.

“All of the efforts being put towards suppressing the Black vote, it doesn’t discourage me from voting,” Lily says in the ad. “In fact, it makes me want to cast my vote more.”

Forecasters List Iowa, Ohio, Texas as Tossups (7:23 a.m.)

Elections forecasters are now including Iowa, Ohio and Texas among tossup states, a sign of the uphill fight President Donald Trump is facing on Election Day.

With polls showing unexpectedly close races in the three states, all of which Trump won in 2016, the path to an Electoral College majority potentially have opened further for Biden.

A win in one of the late-breaking battlegrounds would give Biden a backup plan in case he falters in any of the six major battlegrounds: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Here’s a look at the area currently listed as tossups by major forecasters:

Cook Political Report: Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine’s Second Congressional District, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas

University of Virginia Center for Politics: Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine’s Second Congressional District, North Carolina and Ohio

Inside Elections: Iowa, Ohio and Texas

NBC News: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine’s Second Congressional District, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas

Senator Says She’s Never Heard of ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape (6:35 a.m.)

Over the last four years, Republican senators have relied on a stock answer when faced with a problematic Trump statement: They haven’t seen the tweet.

But Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler took that to a new level Wednesday, claiming that she had never heard of the “Access Hollywood” tape that created one of the single biggest national scandals in recent history when it came out in 2016, according to Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA.

At a debate earlier this month, Loeffler said Trump has never said or done anything she disagreed with. She was asked again on Wednesday about any disagreements with the president and again said she supports him.

Loeffler was then asked about the “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump was caught on a hot mic making crude boasts about women.

“I’m sorry,” she replied. “I’m not familiar with that.”

Biden, Trump Campaigns Pursue Differing Strategies on Facebook

In the waning days of the election, the Biden and Trump Facebook ads are a contrast between hope and fear.

The Biden campaign’s ads running right now are mostly either gauzy and uplifting or give specific advice to supporters on returning mail-in ballots, voting early and staying in line to vote even if polls close.

“When we vote, things change,” says vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris in one ad. “When we vote, things get better.”

The Trump campaign’s ads, by contrast, are mostly attacks on Biden, with different ads claiming -- in some cases inaccurately -- that he’ll pack the Supreme Court, raise taxes, support socialism, end fracking, enact gun control measures, not support police and bring anarchy to city streets.

“Biden and Harris are RADICAL, CORRUPT, EXTREME, AND DANGEROUS,” one ad says.

Coming Up:

Trump will campaign today in Miami and Tampa, Florida, and Fayetteville, North Carolina.

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