Election Live Updates: The High Stakes of Biden’s V.P. Pick

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Biden’s V.P. choice could end up defining the presidential contest.

For all the attention it gets, the vice-presidential choice has usually proved of little significance to the outcome of an election. But as Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, draws closer to naming his running mate, some party leaders think his selection could prove particularly meaningful this time.

President Trump has struggled to find a line of attack that works against Mr. Biden. But depending on whom Mr. Biden chooses, Mr. Trump might be able to make this contest not about his Democratic challenger but about the No. 2 person on the ticket.

That is why questions being raised about the history of one of the leading contenders for the position, Representative Karen Bass, a California Democrat, have such resonance. The disclosures include her trips to Cuba as a young activist and an appearance at the opening of the Church of Scientology headquarters in Los Angeles. These are the kinds of things that a Trump campaign could seize on (in fact, it already has).

“Biden has been a frustratingly elusive target for Trump because Biden does not sound, look or feel like the ‘radical left,’” David Axelrod, who was President Barack Obama’s senior strategist, said in an email. “So Trump is hoping to depict Biden as a Trojan Horse and the running mate as the radical-in-waiting.”

Many Democrats assume much of this anti-Bass research was unearthed and distributed by one of her rivals; that would hardly be unusual in American politics. Where it came from may not be relevant: The Trump campaign would probably have uncovered it soon enough.

The Tennessee Senate Republican primary may have taken a competitive turn in its final weeks, but Bill Hagerty proved that for red-state candidates in the Trump era, there are still few things more valuable than the endorsement of Donald J. Trump himself.

On Thursday, Mr. Hagerty, 60, who served as the president’s first ambassador to Japan, trounced 14 other candidates in the primary to succeed the retiring Senator Lamar Alexander.

The race had tightened in its homestretch, with an upstart candidate, Manny Sethi, riding a wave of grass-roots enthusiasm as he positioned himself as the field’s true conservative and most committed ally of the president, earning the support of prominent conservatives like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Mr. Sethi, 42, an orthopedic surgeon, had for months attacked Mr. Hagerty for his background in private equity, longtime friendship with Senator Mitt Romney of Utah and support from the Tennessee Republican establishment.

In the end, it wasn’t enough. Mr. Trump had endorsed Mr. Hagerty before he even entered the race. When skepticism arose about Mr. Hagerty’s commitment to the tenets of Trumpism, Mr. Hagerty squelched it simply by promoting that endorsement even more.

Mr. Hagerty will face off against Marquita Bradshaw, a Tennessee native who grew up in South Memphis, has long worked as a community advocate focusing on environmental justice and other issues like education and tax reform.

Though she faces long odds in the general election, Ms. Bradshaw’s primary victory makes her the first black woman to become a major party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate in Tennessee. If she were to prevail in November, she would become the first Democrat in the state to win a Senate race in three decades.

Mr. Trump traveled Thursday to the crucial battleground of Ohio, hoping to highlight efforts to bolster the economy after the damage done by the spread of the coronavirus and to announce new executive orders to make drug prices more affordable.

But he could not escape the reality of the landscape he is facing: Before Mr. Trump arrived, the state’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, tested positive for the coronavirus during a routine screening for people meeting the president.

Mr. DeWine tested negative later in the day, using a different test that his office said was more reliable and that had been processed twice.

The sudden change in plans — Mr. DeWine had been expected to greet Mr. Trump at the airport when the president arrived — mirrored the president’s shifting fortunes in a state that coming into 2020 had seemed unassailable on Mr. Trump’s electoral map.

The failures in his response to the pandemic have changed the forecast for November in Ohio. Several polls in the state have shown Mr. Biden running close to Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump could still win in Ohio, a state that has been won by Republicans seven times since 1972 and that has been a strong predictor of the national winner.

But the cost in “resources, attention and manpower is likely to cost him another needed state,” said Nicholas Everhart, the president of Content Creative Media, a Republican national ad-buying firm based in Ohio. Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign has laid out tens of millions of dollars for a fall advertising blitz there.

The Census Bureau’s decision to cut its collection period short by one month in the midst of the pandemic has made pollsters and other statisticians nervous that this year’s census could deliver faulty data.

That would leave poll-takers without the baseline population portrait they use when crafting surveys and analyzing results.

“Every demographic survey I’m aware of, they use the census,” said John Thompson, a former director of the Census Bureau. “If there’s undercounts in the 2020 census, and they’re large, that means that these surveys and these polls won’t be as accurate, because they’ll be under-representative.”

A census undercount would have political implications: It would most likely affect representation of non-English speakers and low-income people, who are typically among the hardest for demographers to reach, and who tend to tilt Democratic.

A memo issued by the Census Bureau this week, ordering an internal task force to explore methods of compiling an accurate estimate of noncitizens, adds another political wrinkle. The memo says the aim of the effort is to carry out Mr. Trump’s July mandate — already being challenged in court — to exclude undocumented residents from population totals used to divvy up House seats among the states.

But some experts inside and outside the bureau see the memo as the precursor to an effort to manipulate population figures to give Republicans an even greater edge in reapportionment.

America is in the middle of a child care meltdown.

Millions of children are out of school and unlikely to return anytime soon. Day care centers are being pushed the brink of collapse. And parents are trying — and often failing — to balance care with working.

None of this surprises Elizabeth Warren. The Massachusetts senator — still under consideration to be Joe Biden’s running mate — made child care a centerpiece of her presidential campaign, proposing one of the most ambitious plans in the primary field.

Now, the problems Ms. Warren described during her campaign have hit a crisis point. And it doesn’t seem as if help is coming anytime soon — at least not from Congress or the White House.

The Times’s Lisa Lerer and Jennifer Medina recently spoke by phone to Ms. Warren about what had changed since she ran for president, how she saw Mr. Biden’s policy plans and why child care is like building a transit system.

“We build roads and bridges so that people can get to work. We have communications systems so people can communicate and learn about jobs, right? All of those things build an infrastructure that keeps this economy going,” she said.

“Child care is a core part of our infrastructure. But when someone has a baby, in effect, our country says, ‘Hey, you’re on your own now. Good luck. Hope you can find something out there.’ That just makes it 10 times harder for every parent who’s trying to juggle raising a child and making a living.”

Kanye West seemed to indicate he was trying to get on presidential ballots in a number of states in the hopes he would damage the candidacy of Mr. Biden. Mr. West made the remarks in an interview over text message with Forbes magazine.

When asked if he was running to take votes away from Mr. Biden, he said that he was “walking” for president, saying a moment later he was “walking … to win.” When the reporter said that he could merely serve as a spoiler, he said, “I’m not going to argue with you. Jesus is King.”

Later, when asked about harming Mr. Biden, he told the interviewer, “I’m not denying it; I just told you.”

He refused to explain his approach to getting on ballots in states like Wisconsin and Ohio, or his reliance on Republicans to help him file petitions with voter signatures to make sure he does.

He noted he was working with members of the Trump administration like Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, on the development of a school. And he has long had a relationship with Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.

Mr. Trump, who is normally angered by challenges to his candidacy, has been notably sanguine about Mr. West, saying that he likes him and expressing no concern about his getting on the ballot.

Seeking to publicize new rewards of up to $10 million for information about people trying to attack American voting systems, the State Department sent text messages to cellphones in Russia as well as Iran.

It was the 2020 version of a longstanding tradition of projecting American messages across the borders of adversaries. But to the Russian government, and many Russians, the attempt looked ham-handed.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian government, ridiculed the message, which she said had appeared on many Russian cellphones. The program would yield nothing for the United States government, she predicted, and was more than just annoying to Russians.

One Twitter user in Russia posted: “For 10 million, I’ll say anything. Even that the Americans landed on the moon.”

In Iran, the messages were met with derision. Volghan Hosseini, an e-commerce specialist, posted a screenshot of his phone on Twitter, saying he received the message. “The things you do make one really wonder about your sanity,” he wrote sarcastically.

Some Iranians pointed out that banking sanctions against the country would make it difficult for them to collect any financial award from Washington. Others joked that they would be willing to stage a hack and inform on it in order to collect the reward. And some wondered if Iranians could really influence the American election.

“If Iran could influence elections, it would influence its own elections,” Pooria Asteraky, an information technology specialist and digital entrepreneur based in Tehran, said in a phone interview. “This is laughable, a game by the Trump administration for publicity.”

Top Democrats and Mr. Trump clashed anew on Thursday over an economic recovery package as a jobs report loomed over stalled negotiations on the plan, raising the stakes of an agreement even as a compromise appeared to be nowhere in sight.

Grasping for leverage, Mr. Trump threatened to act on his own if no bipartisan deal could be reached, telling reporters that he could move as soon as Friday or Saturday to sign executive orders to forestall evictions, suspend payroll tax collection and provide unemployment aid and student loan relief. But it was not clear that he had the power to do so without Congress, which controls spending, or that any set of executive actions could stabilize an economy devastated by the pandemic.

Top Democrats insisted that they would be able to settle significant policy divisions with the administration, even as they conceded that they were not close to such a resolution.

Entering a meeting this week in the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, said that the Republican proposal was now “north of where our initial offer was” — meaning, above the $1 trillion plan they introduced last week. Progress now “depends more on the Democrats and their willingness to either make a deal and show that they’re willing to compromise,” he added.

But Democrats, who are pressing a $3.4 trillion package, assailed the Republicans, saying their offers had not come close to meeting the needs of Americans struggling through historic economic and public health crises.

With no agreement at hand, lawmakers in both chambers have now left Washington, with the promise of 24 hours’ notice before any vote on a recovery package, which negotiators had hoped to reach before the end of the week.

Reporting was contributed by Julian E. Barnes, Emily Cochrane, Maggie Haberman, Lisa Lerer, Adam Nagourney, Elaina Plott, Giovanni Russonello, Jim Tankersley and Michael Wines.

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