Election Live Updates: After Biden Ad Blitz on Public Safety, Trump Hits Back

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Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

In a week that has already seen President Trump visit the site of the country’s latest protests against police violence and a major speech from former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. confronting the president and condemning the sporadic violence that has erupted in some cities, the two campaigns are now engaged in an advertising war over law and order.

The Trump campaign on Wednesday morning released two ads it said would air in Minnesota and Wisconsin that aim to tie Mr. Biden to protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.

“Lawless criminals terrorize Kenosha,” the Wisconsin ad states. “Joe Biden takes a knee.”

The new Trump spots come a day after the Biden campaign unveiled a 60-second ad that repackaged elements of the speech he gave Monday in Pittsburgh condemning the violence that sprang from some protests against systemic racism in policing.

The ad — part of a $45 million one-week television and digital purchase that is by far the campaign’s largest to date — is the first time that Mr. Biden has put this pushback on issues of crime and public safety into a major paid advertising program.

“I want to make it absolutely clear,” Mr. Biden says as images flash of burned-out cars and buildings and a confrontation with the police. “Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. And those who do it should be prosecuted.”

The composition of the ads make clear what each campaign views as their most valuable assets.

The Biden spot is narrated entirely by the former vice president as footage of him speaking is spliced together with footage of Trump supporters attacking protesters and marching in Charlottesville, Va. He casts himself as a unifying figure who would seek to “lower the temperature” of the national debate and bring the country together.

The Trump ads show Mr. Biden along with Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, progressive women of color Mr. Trump and his allies regularly employ as political boogeymen, as well as Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, another frequent target.

Mr. Trump’s 30-second spot goes on to suggest Mr. Biden agrees with calls to defund the police, which he does not. Mr. Biden has called for increasing funding for law enforcement.

The Biden campaign said the ad would air nationally on cable television and in local markets in nine battleground states: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The Trump campaign did not disclose how much money it is spending on the spots or in which markets they will appear.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

When President Trump visited Kenosha, Wis., on Tuesday, he was trying to highlight what he and his advisers believe could be a politically advantageous issue — the unrest that has broken out at some protests over the use of force by the police against Black people.

But even before the trip began, Mr. Trump overshadowed his message of the day with a string of tweets aimed at rebutting something no journalist has reported — that he had a series of “mini-strokes” in late 2019, requiring a covert visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Mr. Trump toured damage in Kenosha and sat for a round-table event on “community safety.” He was vocal about feeling “safe” in the city, where there has been unrest after the police shot a Black man, Jacob Blake, seven times.

Before he left for Wisconsin, Mr. Trump doubled down on a claim he has made without offering any supporting evidence, that people in black clothes had boarded a plane with the intent of flying to other cities to create violent mayhem. The claim had political observers scratching their heads for two days, and left his aides scrambling to explain it.

And on the president’s Twitter feed, he amplified the internet conspiracy theory about him suffering small strokes.

“It never ends!” Mr. Trump tweeted. “Now they are trying to say that your favorite President, me, went to Walter Reed Medical Center, having suffered a series of mini-strokes. Never happened to THIS candidate – FAKE NEWS. Perhaps they are referring to another candidate from another Party!”

Never mind that no one had actually reported it — Mr. Trump was so adamant about the issue that he directed his re-election campaign to issue a statement saying that Joe Lockhart, a CNN commentator and former White House press secretary, should be fired for musing about Mr. Trump’s health.

The president’s inability to stop talking about himself and to keep attention focused on a message that could win back disaffected voters has been a chronic problem, one that none of his advisers have been able to solve.

Credit…David Degner for The New York Times

Senator Edward J. Markey turned back a primary challenge Tuesday from Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, handing the Kennedy family its first-ever electoral loss in Massachusetts and demonstrating the growing strength of the progressive left.

Forging a coalition of younger and more liberal Democrats, the sort of voters who once formed the core of the Kennedy base, Mr. Markey was winning about 54 percent of the vote when Mr. Kennedy called him to concede. Soon afterward, The Associated Press declared him the winner. Mr. Markey had 55.5 percent of the vote as of Wednesday morning.

By winning renomination in a generational clash — and the marquee Democratic Senate primary of the year — Mr. Markey, 74, proved that the ascendant left is not eager to simply throw out long-serving incumbents in favor of younger rivals, such as the 39-year-old Mr. Kennedy. Mr. Markey, who was first elected to Congress in 1976, was able to outflank Mr. Kennedy with progressives, leaving the heir of Massachusetts’s most storied political dynasty little opening.

The mail and TV blitz that Mr. Kennedy deployed in recent weeks that depicted his grandfather, Robert F. Kennedy, and great-uncles did little to affect the outcome.

He was uneasy from the start of the campaign about trading on his legacy, a reluctance that mystified some of his allies, who thought he was not wielding his most enviable asset.

Mr. Kennedy’s more fundamental problem, however, may have been that he simply never gave voters a coherent reason for why he should replace Mr. Markey, who was generally well-liked and underestimated by many Massachusetts Democrats.

Satisfied with their incumbent, happy to see him embrace a progressive agenda and wary of Mr. Kennedy’s ambitions, the state’s many liberal voters made the difference. Mr. Markey won with overwhelming margins in the tony suburbs outside Boston, including Mr. Kennedy’s Newton, and in the college towns of Western Massachusetts.

In the other most closely watched race of the night, though, the left fell short. Representative Richard E. Neal, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and dean of Massachusetts’s House delegation, fended off Alex Morse, a liberal who is the mayor of Holyoke.

Mr. Neal, who enjoyed a sizable financial advantage, held up his clout in Washington and benefited from the relative scarcity of upscale liberals in his Western Massachusetts district. Every progressive primary challenger who has unseated a House Democrat in the last two elections has done so in and around big cities.

And in the tight seven-way race for the seat Mr. Kennedy is vacating, in the Fourth District, the progressive front-runner, Jesse Mermell, was trailing Jake Auchincloss, a Marine veteran endorsed by The Boston Globe, by about 900 votes as of Wednesday morning. Ms. Mermell was endorsed by Representative Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, while Mr. Auchincloss is a former Republican who ran closer to the center.

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The Russian group that interfered in the 2016 presidential election is at it again, using a network of fake accounts and a website set up to look like a left-wing news site, Facebook and Twitter said on Tuesday.

The disinformation campaign by the Kremlin-backed group, known as the Internet Research Agency, is the first public evidence that the agency is trying to repeat its efforts from four years ago and push voters away from the Democratic presidential candidate, Joseph R. Biden Jr., to help President Trump.

Intelligence agencies have warned for months that Russia and other countries were actively trying to disrupt the November election, and that Russian intelligence agencies were feeding conspiracy theories designed to alienate Americans by laundering them through fringe sites and social media.

Now Facebook and Twitter are offering evidence of this meddling, even as the White House in recent weeks has sought to more tightly control the flow of information about foreign threats to November’s election and downplay Russian interference. The Trump administration’s top intelligence official as recently as Sunday has tried to suggest that China is a graver risk than Moscow.

Facebook and Twitter, which were slow to react to wide-ranging disinformation campaigns on their services in 2016 and continue to face criticism — even from their own employees — that they are not doing enough to confront the issue, said they were warned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the Russian effort.

Credit…Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

President Trump has never let go of a baseless accusation that Democrats use mail voting to “steal” elections, a piece of disinformation he has promoted all year, including at the Republican National Convention.

Now, with the coronavirus pandemic driving an explosion in absentee voting, and polls suggesting that far more Democrats than Republicans plan to vote by mail, a nightmare scenario haunts Democratic strategists and elected officials.

What if early results in swing states on election night show the president in the lead because most Republicans voted in person, yet in the days afterward, as mail ballots that tilt heavily Democratic are tallied, states flip to Joseph R. Biden Jr.?

Would Mr. Trump claim premature victory — as he did on behalf of the two Florida Republicans and dangled as a possibility in a tweet in July: “Must know Election results on the night of the Election, not days, months, or even years later!”

Would the president, joined by allies in the G.O.P. and the news media, sow distrust in the election by arguing that mail ballots that shift states away from him are “rigged”?

Mr. Trump has been pushing denunciations of mailed-in votes for months, and his penchant for conspiracy theories is only intensifying, such as saying this week that people in “dark shadows” are behind Mr. Biden’s campaign. The nightmare scenario in November is worth preparing for, many Democrats say.

“We’ve certainly seen candidates trying to get out in front of a narrative and declare victory when all the votes have not been counted,” said Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s secretary of state, a Democrat whom Mr. Trump has attacked for promoting mail voting.

Ms. Benson and other Democrats in Michigan and Pennsylvania, both key battlegrounds, are trying to change election laws that prohibit absentee ballots from being processed or counted before Election Day. As of now, mail-in votes from large Democratic cities like Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Detroit are not reported until after in-person votes, sometimes days later. Party lawyers are girding for a worst-case scenario in which Mr. Trump fights in courts and state legislatures after declaring a premature victory.

Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

Joseph R. Biden Jr., pressing his argument that President Trump is failing the country with his handling of the coronavirus, plans on Wednesday to make the case that Mr. Trump is hurting the nation’s parents, teachers and schoolchildren with his push for schools to reopen.

Mr. Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, a community college professor, are scheduled to receive a briefing in Wilmington, Del., from a group of experts, including Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who served as secretary of health and human services for President Barack Obama and is now the president of American University, and Linda Darling-Hammond, the president of the California State Board of Education.

Mr. Biden will then give a speech on what his campaign described as Mr. Trump’s failures on the pandemic as well as Mr. Biden’s plan to reopen schools safely.

Symone Sanders, a senior adviser for the Biden campaign, said Mr. Trump was “barreling forward trying to reopen schools because he thinks it will help his own re-election.”

“We believe this is a key contrast for voters,” Ms. Sanders said. “President Trump, who continues to ignore the science and has no plan to get the virus under control, and Joe Biden, who is working with the experts and putting together an effective plan to beat the virus and reopen schools safely.”

Mr. Trump has demanded that schools reopen this fall and threatened to cut federal funding for school districts that defied his wishes. But his effort to pressure schools did not have the effect he desired, and many districts decided to begin the school year with remote instruction.

Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times

At the Democratic National Convention, viewers heard from an Arizona man whose young son was born with a congenital heart defect, a Wisconsin woman with an autoimmune disease and cancer survivors from several states. Their stories highlighted the importance of health care — and the protections provided by the Affordable Care Act.

When Republicans held their convention last week, they had little to say about their own vision for America’s health care system. Obamacare, for years a punching bag for the party, went almost entirely unmentioned. When the phrase “health care” was spoken, it was often in the service of attacking Democrats over health care for undocumented immigrants.

Those dueling approaches to discussing health policy offered a preview of what to expect as the two parties, and their presidential nominees, make their closing arguments on one of the most critical issues to many voters — one whose importance has been underscored by the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed at least 184,000 people in the United States.

Democrats are once again trying to capitalize on an issue that was key to their success in the 2018 midterm elections. And Republicans are once again vulnerable: Three years after failing to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the party still has not coalesced around a plan for the future of America’s health care system.

“No one could quite figure out what ‘replace’ was,” said Adam Brandon, the president of FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group, as he recalled the party’s struggle to repeal the law known as Obamacare after President Trump’s election. “That’s where the problem was, and we never recovered from it. And we still haven’t recovered from it today.”

Mr. Brandon cited the successful health care message employed by Democrats in 2018, with its emphasis on protecting people with pre-existing conditions, and likened it to a football team that calls a running play that proves successful — and then keeps calling the same play. “If I’m the Democrats,” he said, “I just keep handing the ball off on pre-existing conditions until Republicans prove they can stop that.”

Credit…Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The Trump administration announced an order on Tuesday to bar evictions for most renters for the rest of the year.

The order, put forward by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the action was needed to stop the spread of the coronavirus and to avoid having renters wind up in shelters or other crowded living conditions.

The moratorium would go further than the eviction ban under the CARES Act, the pandemic response legislation that covered as many as 12.3 million renters in apartment complexes or single-family homes financed with federally backed mortgages. That provision expired in July, and negotiations on Capitol Hill to renew aspects of the CARES Act have been fruitless.

Testifying in front of the House’s special select committee investigating the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic on Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called the order a “very, very significant action” and differentiated it from a rental assistance program, which would be more costly and require legislation.

“Since we don’t have that, the president’s using executive authority, which will allow for a moratorium so that people who are impacted by this don’t get thrown out of their rental homes,” Mr. Mnuchin said.

House Democrats have proposed providing up to $100 billion in assistance to enable renters to pay landlords.

To apply for the new moratorium, tenants will have to attest to a substantial loss of household income, the inability to pay full rent and best efforts to pay partial rent. Tenants must also stipulate that eviction would be likely to leave them homeless or force them to live with others at close quarters. The order provides for criminal penalties for violations, but it does not relieve tenants of their ultimate obligation to pay rent.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition, a policy group focused on affordable housing, welcomed the order but said further action was needed to provide financial relief to struggling renters. The National Multifamily Housing Council, which represents landlords, denounced the moratorium and said it addressed the financial needs of neither renters nor landlords.

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