2020 Election Live Updates: Trump Comes Full Circle on His Convention

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Trump decides to accept the nomination in Charlotte after all.

Back in March, President Trump was doing televised daily briefings about the spread of the coronavirus while preparing to appear at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., and was still experimenting on the best ways to attack former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

After an interlude in which, spooked by his tanking approval ratings, Mr. Trump stopped his daily TV appearances, the president is once again talking almost daily about the pandemic.

He yanked most of the Republican convention out of Charlotte to Jacksonville, Fla., only to have to cancel that, too, last week when it became clear that few top Republicans wanted to go. The president said this week that he was going to Charlotte after all and would give a speech to the scaled-down gathering of 336 Republican delegates who will formally nominate him for president in a hotel conference room, after they’re done voting on party business like the official rules of a convention that mostly won’t happen.

And not a week goes by without Mr. Trump trotting out more lines slamming Mr. Biden — questioning his energy levels, calling him a pawn for the far left or suggesting the country would devolve into violent unrest if he were elected president.

Mr. Trump has tried outings that defy the timeout most of America’s public life has had to take. But his campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., was a disaster and ultimately cost his campaign manager his job. Another rally planned for New Hampshire was canceled when it was clear the crowd would be short of capacity. (The campaign blamed the weather but has not rescheduled the event.) And Mr. Trump has, with one exception, refused to be seen in public wearing a mask, as most of the country has been asked to do to stop the spread of the virus.

So the reality TV president, his poll numbers ever lower, has retreated back to his comfort zone: standing in front of TV cameras, where he can brood in public, spar with reporters and wonder aloud why he’s less popular than the nation’s foremost public health expert, who has delivered a coherent message throughout the crisis and whom the White House has largely forbidden from appearing on television. Mr. Trump, meanwhile, is on to the next thing.

With Mr. Biden building a steady advantage in the polls, a state that Mr. Trump won narrowly in 2016 threatens to move more firmly back into the Democratic column in 2020.

Since the end of June, Mr. Trump has spent more money on ads in 10 other states — with Michigan falling behind even much smaller states like Iowa and Nevada — and in recent days Mr. Trump’s campaign stopped buying ads in Michigan entirely.

The Biden campaign has more than tripled what Mr. Trump spent on television in Michigan in the last month, by far the most lopsided advantage of any swing state where both are advertising. And in Detroit, the state’s largest media market, the Trump campaign last ran a television ad, outside of national ad buys that include the state, on July 3, according to data from Advertising Analytics.

Mr. Trump faces a trifecta of troubles in Michigan, according to political strategists and state polling: reduced support among less educated white voters in a contest against Mr. Biden compared with Hillary Clinton; motivated Black voters in the state’s urban centers; and suburban voters who continue to flee Mr. Trump’s divisive brand of politics nationwide.

“Of all the states he won in 2016, Trump would be most hard-pressed to keep Michigan in his column this time around,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster for Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC.

Written on top was the name of someone thought to be a top contender: Senator Kamala Harris of California. Five talking points followed:

“Do not hold grudges.” “Campaigned with me & Jill.” “Talented.” “Great help to campaign.” “Great respect for her.”

The notes about Ms. Harris — which were captured by photographers and reported by The Associated Press — indicate that he was prepared to field questions about her.

That may not mean anything about her likelihood (or not) of being picked. Mr. Biden — who is often quite fond of talking — had relatively little to say when asked on Tuesday about his vice-presidential search. But he did tell reporters one thing: He will make his selection next week.

Tired of watching Republicans with their own checkered ethics backgrounds attack Mr. Biden over his son’s business dealings in Ukraine, a group of Democratic officials on Wednesday introduced an organization intended to target corruption by congressional Republicans.

The group, the Congressional Integrity Project, released the first of what its organizers say will be a series of reports called “Covering for Corruption.” The five-page document aims to highlight what the group calls business self-dealing by Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, accusations of which have been reported in the past but that Democrats largely did not highlight during his 2016 re-election campaign or while pushing back against Mr. Johnson’s attempts to investigate the Bidens.

“For too long, members of Congress like Ron Johnson have put their own personal interests before the needs of the American public, covering for Trump’s corruption and ignoring their oversight responsibilities,” said Kyle Herrig, the new group’s executive director. “While conservatives try to distract the American people with baseless, partisan investigations, we will use every tool at our disposal to stop officials like Johnson from misleading and manipulating voters.”

Of course, few Washington politicians have used the federal government to boost their personal business interests more than Mr. Trump has, so it remains to be seen how effective the new organization will be in damaging the political reputation of Mr. Johnson, who doesn’t face re-election until 2022, and other future targets.

Are polls missing Republican voters?

With polls showing Mr. Biden holding a commanding lead, one question keeps popping up: Are these polls missing Trump voters?

Self-identified Democrats outnumber Republicans in most surveys, sometimes by a wide margin. This might just mean that there are simply more Democrats than Republicans. But to critics, the partisan makeup of most public polls is self-evidently out of step with a closely divided country.

There are many reasons the polls might ultimately prove wrong in November, as they did four years ago, but there’s no serious evidence that the polls are systematically missing Republican voters. There’s more evidence to the contrary — that the polls represent Republicans just fine, and Mr. Trump still trails.

If it turned out that Democrats were far likelier to respond to telephone surveys than Republicans, then the public polls could be systematically biased — and the critics would be vindicated at the ballot box. But this does not appear to be the case. The polls that are weighted by party registration or primary vote history offer nearly the same picture as those that are not. Arguably, they offer a picture even worse for Republicans.

A favored ad strategy for Democrats: Highlight Republicans downplaying the virus.

It’s become a familiar — and effective — ad motif in the presidential election for Democrats: Over a cascade of sound bites of President Trump downplaying the coronavirus crisis, a graph showing the number of deaths from the virus curves up exponentially.

This week, Jon Ossoff, the Democratic challenger in one of two Georgia Senate races, unveiled a new ad of the same style that spliced in similar comments from his opponent, Senator David Perdue.

The message is a hauntingly familiar one. “The risk to the American people remains very low,” Mr. Trump is heard saying, as an on-screen graph notes 15 coronavirus deaths. That is followed by a clip of Mr. Perdue, saying “the risk of this virus still remains low,” as the death tracker hits 24. Both are heard comparing the coronavirus to the flu, and then downplaying the number of deaths by saying the projections initially had the count higher, while the graph ticks above 100,000 deaths in the United States.

For the final five seconds, the ad switches to a more traditional negative attack. A narrator declares over a series of black-and-white photographs a familiar set of criticisms directed not this time at Mr. Trump but at Mr. Purdue: “ignored the medical experts,” “downplayed the crisis” and “left us unprepared.”

The seemingly unending pandemic, and the accompanying economic fallout, has severely hampered Mr. Trump’s re-election effort, as he trails Mr. Biden in numerous national and battleground state polls.

It’s clearly the one of the main topics on Americans’ minds, and it is likely that many more ads like Mr. Ossoff’s will begin to run in states like North Carolina, Arizona, Montana and Maine where Democrats are growing increasingly hopeful at turning the Senate blue.

‘Nobody likes me.’ Trump laments that his poll numbers are lower than those of his top science advisers.

Mr. Trump devolved into self-pity during a White House coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, lamenting that his approval ratings were lower than those of two top government medical experts.

Just over a week after he began a rebooted effort, driven by rising infection rates and sinking poll numbers, to talk about the virus in terms more in line with medical consensus, Mr. Trump was again making unfounded claims and defending discredited medical experts. It was the sort of eccentric, science-deficient performance that many of his aides believe unnerved the public during the spring and has come to gravely threaten his re-election prospects.

Noting that Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, and Dr. Deborah L. Birx, his administration’s top coronavirus coordinator, have high approval ratings even as his own have sagged, Mr. Trump added: “And yet, they’re highly thought of — but nobody likes me.”

“It can only be my personality,” he concluded.

When the president restarted his coronavirus briefings last week after shutting them down in April, he largely hewed to a script, urging Americans to wear masks and practice social distancing. But on Tuesday, he resumed his freelancing and wandering into politically and medically problematic alleyways.

Reporting was contributed by Nate Cohn, Nick Corasaniti, Michael Crowley, Reid J. Epstein, Shane Goldmacher, Kathleen Gray, Thomas Kaplan and Matt Stevens.

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