At just three weeks until Election Day, the 2020 presidential campaign appears to have reached its final stretch – with one more debate, a Supreme Court confirmation fight and millions of votes to go before we know who will be in the White House come Inauguration Day.
Several battleground states – like Florida, Arizona and North Carolina – have already started or will soon begin processing absentee ballots, meaning we may get a hint of who the winner is on election night or the next day, even as some warn it could days or weeks to determine the victor.
Among the largest campaign issues is federal judicial nominations with the Supreme Court the top prize. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday will question President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett in her second day of confirmation hearings. On Monday, all members of the 22-senator panel as well as Barrett offered opening statements. Sen. Lindsey Graham, the committee’s chairman, warned of a “long, contentious week” as hearings got started, reflecting what has already been a bitter fight over who will replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
☕ The latest:
- 22 people were arrested Monday outside Senate offices in Washington, D.C., where liberal and conservative protesters gathered during the first day of Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings.
- President Donald Trump returned to the campaign trail Monday, speaking to a crowd in Sanford, Florida, after recovering from a bout of COVID-19. Presidential physician Dr. Sean Conley said Monday that Trump tested negative for COVID-19 “on consecutive days” and that he was not infectious to others.
- Trump will hold a rally Tuesday evening in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a battleground state. Democratic nominee Joe Biden campaigns in South Florida while Vice President Mike Pence is in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is taking part in Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings.
📊 What the polls are saying: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden holds a 12-percentage-point lead over President Donald Trump in the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll.
📆 21 days until Election Day, nine days until the final presidential debate, 99 days until Inauguration Day, 81 days left in 2020.
We will update this article throughout the day. You can follow all of USA TODAY’s politics reporters on Twitter or subscribe to our daily On Politics newsletter.
Wife of Labor Secretary tests positive for COVID-19
Trish Scalia, the wife of Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, tested positive for COVID-19, the Department of Labor announced Tuesday evening.
She was “experiencing mild symptoms but doing well,” the Department said. Her husband tested negative for COVID-19 and was experiencing no symptoms, but would work from home, according to the department.
Trish Scalia sat next to former White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway at a Sept. 26 White House Rose Garden event where President Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee. Conway later tested positive for COVID-19. Over 200 people attended the largely unmasked, closely grouped event that has since been called a “superspreader” event for COVID-19 by health experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci.
– Nicholas Wu
Trump criticizes Biden, touts Barrett in Pennsylvania rally
President Donald Trump campaigned in the critical battleground of Pennsylvania Tuesday as he seeks to turn his recent COVID-19 diagnosis and Supreme Court nomination fight into issues that will reset the trajectory of the presidential race.
Just more than a week after he left the hospital, Trump is ramping up his campaign schedule and is now set to hold rallies in Iowa, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida this week, following the visits to Florida and Pennsylvania on Monday and Tuesday.
“If we win, you win, Pennsylvania wins and American wins,” Trump told a large crowd gathered at an airport during the first few minutes of his remarks.
Trump started off almost immediately with criticism of Joe Biden, saying his Democratic opponent was “shot” and “crushed” the state. The rally comes as polls show Democratic nominee Joe Biden with a single-digit lead in a state the president won narrowly in 2016.
Trump told the crowd he had watched Sen. Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate, questioning Judge Amy Coney Barrett during her confirmation hearing as he flew to the event aboard Air Force One.
“I just watched her on television coming in,” Trump said, describing Barrett as “great future Supreme Court justice.”
“Amy’s made a great impression,” Trump told the crowd.
The rally, Trump’s second since returning to the campaign, comes as his aides have sought to turn his bout with coronavirus into a positive while also pivoting to the ongoing Barrett confirmation hearings.
— John Fritze and David Jackson
Biden: I prayed for Trump’s COVID recovery but he’s not ‘chastened
PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. – Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Tuesday that he prayed for President Donald Trump’s recovery from COVID-19, but that rather than emerge chastened from the experience, the president continued to spread misinformation and hold unsafe rallies.
Trump tested positive Sept. 29 and was hospitalized for several days, but now says he is healthy. Biden reminded older Floridians at a community center that 215,000 Americans have died and experts project the number could double by the end of the year without changes.
“I had hope at least he’d come out of it somewhat chastened,” Biden said. “He’s just doubled down on the misinformation he did before and made it worse.”
Biden quoted Trump at a recent rally saying the virus “affects virtually nobody” because only the elderly and people with heart conditions or other problems died.
“He was talking about America’s seniors. He was talking about you. He was talking about my family,” Biden said. “You deserve respect and peace of mind.”
Matt Wolking, a Trump campaign spokesman, accused Biden of lying about the Trump quote by taking a quote about how the virus doesn’t affect young people out of context.
“It affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems and other problems. If they have other problems, that’s what it really affects. That’s it,” Trump said Sept. 21 in Ohio, while noting that younger people have stronger immune systems. “You look, you – take your hat off to the young because they have a hell of an immune system. But it affects virtually nobody.”
Another Trump spokesman, Tim Murtaugh, accused Biden of “playing politics” after the president shut down travel from China to curb the virus and spurred development of therapeutics and vaccines.
“Biden is playing politics with people’s lives over the virus, trying to frighten vulnerable populations away from taking the life-saving vaccine when it’s ready, and saying he would consider calling for another economic shutdown that will create its own health problems,” Murtaugh said.
– Maureen Groppe and Bart Jansen
McConnell: Senate will vote on PPP funds
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Senate’s “first order of business” when it returns to Washington Monday will be voting on more COVID-19 relief.
In a statement Tuesday, McConnell said the measure would include new funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, a small business loan program for businesses suffering from the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. He blamed Democrats and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for the months of impasse over more COVID-19 relief, much of which has expired.
If Republicans approved the bill in the Senate, it would likely face opposition in the Democratic-controlled House.
“Unless Democrats block this aid for workers, we will have time to pass it before we proceed as planned to the pending Supreme Court nomination as soon as it is reported by the Judiciary Committee,” McConnell’s statement said, referring to President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have been negotiating with the White House over a new stimulus deal. The two sides remain at odds over the size and scope oft the bill.
– Sean Rossman
Mitt Romney reprimands Trump, Democrats for ‘vile’ and ‘hate-filled’ politics
Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said on Tuesday he is “troubled” by the state of American politics today, calling on leaders from both sides of the aisle to “tone it down.”
“I have stayed quiet with the approach of the election,” Romney said in a statement posted to Twitter. “But I’m troubled by our politics, as it has moved away from spirited debate to a vile, vituperative, hate-filled morass that is unbecoming of any free nation – let alone the birthplace of modern democracy.”
The Utah senator criticized President Donald Trump for divisive rhetoric, Democrats like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for ripping up the president’s speech after the State of the Union address earlier this year, and figures in the media he claimed “amplify all of it.”
– Jeanine Santucci
Trump attacks Fauci again, this time over a political ad
During an active morning Tuesday on social media – at least 60 tweets and retweets before 9 a.m. – President Donald Trump amped up attacks on his leading infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci.
The president mocked Fauci as he retweeted a news story about how Fauci is calling for the removal of a Trump campaign ad that quoted the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases out of context.
The campaign has refused Fauci’s request, and Trump responded by comparing Fauci’s acumen to his off-target opening pitch at a Washington Nationals baseball game earlier this year.
“Actually, Tony’s pitching arm is far more accurate than his prognostications,” Trump tweeted. “‘No problem, no masks.’ WHO no longer likes Lockdowns – just came out against. Trump was right. We saved 2,000,000 USA lives!!!”
Actually, Fauci never disdained masks the way Trump has, and more than 215,000 Americans have lost their lives to COVID-19.
In criticizing the Trump ad, Fauci issued a statement saying “in my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed any political candidate.”
He added: “The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public health officials.”
– David Jackson
Day 2 of Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings begin Tuesday
Senators are set to question President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett as the second of four days of confirmation hearings take place on Capitol Hill.
Every senator will get to question Barrett for half an hour, and the nominee is sure to face tough questions as she moves through the process to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., warned Monday of a “long, contentious week” ahead.
Democrats are likely to ask Barrett about health care, having settled on the topic as the focal point of their message as they oppose her nomination.
– Nicholas Wu
Election night uncertainty? Maybe not
Many election experts have warned it might take days or even weeks after Election Day for a final outcome in the presidential race due to the unprecedented deluge of mail ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But the country could get major clues on election night even as counting continues in some key states.
Several battleground states – some accustomed to high-volume mail-voting and others that start processing absentee ballots weeks before Nov. 3 – are expected to have substantial shares of their votes counted and reported on election night and into the next morning.
That means election night numbers in some states could indicate whether the former vice president is on track for a decisive win over President Donald Trump or whether the outcome remains in doubt.
– Joey Garrison
Trump to stump in normally GOP Georgia
President Donald Trump’s campaign scheduled a rally later this week in the normally Republican state of Georgia as polls show him in a close race there with Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
The incumbent president will speak Friday at 7 p.m. EST at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport in Macon.
Four years ago, Trump carried Georgia by more than 5 percentage points over Hillary Clinton. Current polls show him in a tight race this time around against Biden.
Georgia has gone Republican in nine of the last 12 presidential elections. It went for Democrats (and fellow southerners) Jimmy Carter in 1976 and 1980 and Bill Clinton in 1992.
In recent years, Democrats have argued that growth in the Atlanta area and an influx of professional people with college degrees have made the state more fertile territory for their party.
Trump’s Georgia stop is part of a frenzy of campaign appearances as he recovers from COVID-19. In addition to Monday’s stop in Florida, near Orlando, Trump campaigns Tuesday in Pennsylvania, Wednesday in Iowa, and Thursday in North Carolina.
Friday features Trump’s first doubleheader. Before Macon, the president hosts another rally in Florida, this one in Ocala.
– David Jackson
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2020 election updates – Biden: I prayed for Trump’s recovery; Labor secretary’s wife tests positive