With the presidential race hurtling into its final stretch, Joseph R. Biden Jr. sought Friday to amplify the closing argument he delivered on the debate stage a night earlier, accusing President Trump of failing to stem the ballooning coronavirus crisis and vowing more aggressive federal action for the “dark winter ahead.”
In a speech near his home in Wilmington, Del., Mr. Biden denounced Mr. Trump’s familiar assertion that the pandemic was “rounding the corner” and “going away” even as cases surge across the country, placing the blame for the rising death toll squarely at the president’s feet.
“As I told him last night, we’re not learning to live with it. We’re learning to die with it,” Mr. Biden said, while noting the more than 220,000 people who have already died from the virus.
Arguing that the coronavirus “isn’t showing any signs of slowing down,” Mr. Biden repeated with a tone of incredulity Mr. Trump’s comments earlier in the week that he would do “not much” differently if he were given the opportunity for a do-over.
“As many as 210,000 avoidable deaths, and there’s not much he would do differently?” Mr. Biden said, citing figures from a recent study out of Columbia University. “If this is a success, what’s a failure look like?”
Mr. Biden’s remarks came one day after he and Mr. Trump met on stage for the second and final time. Coming out of the debate, both men sought on Friday to build momentum heading into the last days of the campaign.
While Mr. Biden was delivering his speech in Delaware, Mr. Trump was preparing to host two rallies in Florida. Both men have campaign stops scheduled for the weekend in key battleground states.
During his address, Mr. Biden laid out the immediate steps he would take to rein in the coronavirus if elected. He also said he would ask Congress to put a bill on his desk by the end of January outlining the resources needed for the country’s public health and economic response to the virus.
Mr. Biden said he would ask every governor to institute mask mandates; if they refused, he said, he would work with local officials to get local mandates in place nationwide. And he said he would require masks in federal buildings and on interstate transportation.
Once again connecting the future of the Affordable Care Act to the Supreme Court battle, Mr. Biden warned that overturning the health law would mean people would have to pay for a potential coronavirus vaccine and vowed to make it free for everyone.
President Trump used his first campaign rally after his final debate against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., where he turned in what passes for a disciplined performance, to return to some of his favorite themes — mocking the media and complaining he’s not treated fairly.
The president’s advisers, who were thrilled with his debate performance Thursday night, had hoped that Mr. Trump would be able to sustain something approximating discipline in the remaining days before the election. They conceded that even with a newfound rigor, there may simply not be enough time for Mr. Trump to change his fortunes.
It didn’t take long to undo their hopes. During an Oval Office event announcing a peace deal between Israel and Sudan, with the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the phone, the president asked Mr. Netanyahu if he thought “Sleepy Joe” could have accomplished such a goal.
Mr. Netanyahu paused before saying his country welcomes help from any American, moving cautiously in order not to risk insulting Mr. Biden.
Later, Mr. Trump went to Florida, where he was scheduled to hold two rallies, one on Friday afternoon near The Villages senior community, and a second in Pensacola in the evening.
At the first event, Mr. Trump hurled insults at Mr. Biden, played a video of the former vice president debating Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, and said that the country does not want a socialist president — “especially a female socialist president,” he said, in reference to Mr. Biden’s running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California.
He suggested that Mr. Biden had made the “biggest” mistake in a debate in political history by saying the night before that he would “transition” from the oil industry. He mocked Mr. Biden for focusing on the coronavirus.
And he complained, again, about how he has been treated by the news media and Democrats. “There has never been a president who has been treated so badly as I have,” he complained.
THE EARLY VOTE
With 11 days to go until Election Day more than 50 million people have already cast their ballots, according to the U.S. Elections Project — which is more early votes than the project tallied during the entire early-voting period in 2016.
The early-voting turnout, which combines mail-in ballots already received as well as early in-person voting, stood at 52.6 million as of Friday afternoon, according to the U.S. Elections Project, which tracks state-by-state data. That surpassed the number of early votes that the project counted in all of 2016, when it tallied over 47 million.
Voters across the nation have already cast more than 38 percent of all the votes that were counted in the 2016 presidential election.
Campaign officials and elections experts are still trying to understand the extent to which the high early vote totals suggest that the election is on pace to see record turnout this year, or whether they are yet another reflection of how 2020, and the coronavirus pandemic, have reordered so many aspects of life, including voting.
Many early voters hope to avoid the risks of contracting the coronavirus by standing in long lines on Election Day. Fears of widespread postal delays have prompted many to mail in their ballots earlier than usual. Others are opting to vote early in person, including Democrats who distrust the U.S. Postal Service and Trump supporters who are heeding the president’s repeated assertions that mail-in balloting is insecure. (Voter fraud is extremely rare in all forms, including mail-in balloting.)
Not all states report the party registration of those who vote early, but the early vote in the states that do has leaned heavily Democratic so far. Of those who have already voted, 50.3 percent are registered Democrats, 27 percent are Republicans and 22 percent are unaffiliated, according to the U.S. Elections Project.
But it is too early to draw significant conclusions on whether that’s good or bad news for the candidates; analysts widely expect many of Mr. Trump’s voters to turn out in person on Election Day, while Mr. Biden is expected to capture more mail-in votes that might not be counted until following days and weeks.
Some states have already received more than half the votes they counted in 2016. In Texas, 71.1 percent of the total 2016 turnout has already voted. Georgia, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Vermont have passed half their 2016 totals.
A state appeals court in Texas blocked Gov. Greg Abbott from limiting ballot drop boxes to one per county, upholding a lower-court ruling and setting up a likely showdown at the Texas Supreme Court.
The expected appeal by Mr. Abbot, a Republican, to the state’s highest court means the existing additional drop boxes in other counties are unlikely to be in operation immediately, if at all.
Earlier this month, Mr. Abbott issued an executive order that limited drop boxes in Texas to one per county, regardless of the county’s population. As a result, major population centers like Harris County, home to 4.7 million people and the second-most populous county in the country, had to consolidate from 12 ballot drop-off locations to one.
The decision led to a long line of snaking cars around Houston’s NRG Arena, the lone drop box location for Harris County, and an outcry from voting rights activists, who said that limiting the number of boxes amounted to voter suppression.
But though the edict from Mr. Abbott lessened the options to drop off ballots, voters in Harris County have been turning out in record numbers. According to state records, 6.4 million ballots have already been cast in Texas, and nearly 90 percent of those have been cast in person. More than one million people have voted in Harris County alone.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Friday that county elections boards in the state may not reject absentee or mail-in ballots based on signature comparisons, removing a major avenue for challenging votes after the election.
The ruling was a blow to President Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee, which had argued that signatures on mail-in and absentee ballots should be compared to those on file to prevent voter fraud.
“The law does not impose a duty on county boards to compare signatures,” the court ruled, adding that a 2019 law expanding absentee voting adopted by the Pennsylvania Legislature envisioned a streamlined canvassing process.
The ruling also requires that any challenges to absentee-ballot applications must be filed the Friday before the election, eliminating another avenue for challenging votes during the postelection canvassing period.
It was the second major elections-related court ruling this week benefiting Democrats in the battleground state, where Joseph R. Biden Jr. is ahead of Mr. Trump by seven points, according to a New York Times/Siena poll.
In a split decision, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that will allow the state to count absentee ballots received up to three days after Election Day.
Republicans had challenged Pennsylvania officials’ plan to count ballots after Nov. 3 as long as they were mailed by that date, but the state court upheld it.
The State of the States
Florida, the perennially competitive state where President Trump is campaigning Friday, is one of the states hardest hit by the coronavirus. The Villages, the sprawling retirement community in Central Florida where he held his first rally, was not spared.
George W. Bush won twice in Florida (the first time after the contested 2000 election went to the courts), as did Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Mr. Trump won Florida in 2016.
The state, whose 29 electoral votes make it a rich prize, is yet again considered a tossup. A win there is critical to Mr. Trump’s re-election hopes, but he will have to campaign hard for it. An average of recent Florida polls show former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. with a narrow edge of 3 percentage points, according to the Upshot’s calculator.
Here is how Florida is doing on two of the biggest issues of the day, the coronavirus and the economy.
Florida has reported at least 768,083 coronavirus cases, the third highest tally in the nation, and 16,266 deaths, the fourth highest toll, according to a New York Times database.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican ally of Mr. Trump’s, was criticized for declaring prematurely in April that the state had “flattened the curve,” and for moving swiftly to reopen businesses. Infections soon began to surge, and the state became a Sun Belt hot spot over the summer, at some points in July averaging more than 11,000 new cases each day, according to the database.
While cases in Florida are down sharply from their highest point, they are climbing again: Over the past week, Florida has seen an average of 3,300 new cases per day, according to the database, an increase of 37 percent from the average two weeks earlier.
Florida’s unemployment rate in September stood at 7.6 percent, according to data compiled by Moody’s Analytics, slightly below the national average of 7.9 percent. And to answer one of the most basic questions of a re-election campaign — are you better off today than you were four years ago? — unemployment in Florida is higher than it was in September 2016, when it stood at 4.8 percent.
The state is still down more than half a million jobs from its peak earlier this year.
There are 11 days until Election Day. Here are the schedules of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates for Friday, Oct. 23. All times are Eastern time.
4:30 p.m.: Holds a rally in The Villages, Fla., a retirement community.
7 p.m.: Holds a rally in Pensacola, Fla.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
2:30 p.m.: Speaks about the pandemic in Wilmington, Del.
Vice President Mike Pence
1 p.m.: Held a rally in Swanton, Ohio.
4:30 p.m.: Holds a rally in West Mifflin, Pa.
Senator Kamala Harris
5 p.m.: Visits Atlanta to promote early voting.
NEWTON, Iowa — As Iowa set a record for patients hospitalized with Covid-19, Gov. Kim Reynolds appeared at an indoor fund-raiser for the Republican Party this week, just days after joining President Trump at one of his huge rallies in Des Moines, where she tossed hats to the clamorous crowd.
At neither event were social distancing or face masks high priorities. The rally last week defied guidelines by the White House’s own health experts that crowds in central Iowa be limited to 25.
Iowa’s governor is not on the ballot next month. But her defiant attitude toward the advice of health experts on how to fight the coronavirus outbreak, as her state sees a grim tide of new cases and deaths, may be dragging down fellow Republicans who are running, including Mr. Trump and Senator Joni Ernst.
Ms. Reynolds, the first woman to lead Iowa, is an avatar of the president’s approach to the pandemic, refusing to issue mandates and flouting the guidance of infectious disease experts, who say that universal masking and social distancing are essential to limiting the virus’s spread. Defying that advice has eroded support for both Mr. Trump and Ms. Reynolds in Iowa, especially among voters over 65, normally a solid Republican constituency, according to public and private polls.
A Monmouth University poll on Thursday showed Democrats are leading in three of Iowa’s four congressional races, with even the fourth, in deeply conservative Northwest Iowa, unexpectedly tight.
Rick Flanagan, a 61-year-old voter from Newton who had planned to vote for Ms. Ernst in the Senate race, recalled the moment he changed his mind in favor of her Democratic opponent.
It was “when Ernst said she didn’t believe the deaths and the science from Covid,” Mr. Flanagan said, referring to remarks by Ms. Ernst echoing a conspiracy theory that coronavirus deaths were being inflated and that medical professionals had a financial incentive to do so.
“That sealed it for me, and honestly, it soured me on Republicans,” Mr. Flanagan said. Ms. Ernst walked back her remarks and apologized to health care workers.
Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s pledge at Thursday night’s debate to “transition away from the oil industry” in order to address climate change put the issue at center stage, in the final stretch of a campaign in which the warming planet has played a larger role than ever before.
His statement gave President Trump what his campaign saw as an enormous opportunity to blunt his opponent’s appeal to working-class voters. Mr. Biden’s campaign tried to downplay it, saying he was merely stating that he would phase out longstanding tax subsidies for the oil industry.
But transitioning away from fossil fuels is the inevitable end game of Mr. Biden’s promise to end net carbon pollution by 2050.
That policy has energized some young voters and helped unite the Democrats’ left and moderate wings, but has always carried risks for Mr. Biden.
“Basically what he is saying is, he is going to destroy the oil industry,” Mr. Trump charged, adding, straight to the camera, “Will you remember that, Texas? Will you remember that, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma?”
The line was reminiscent of the Republican response in 2016 to Hillary Clinton’s acknowledgment that “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business” as the nation moves to clean energy. Those comments resonated in coal states like West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wyoming.
Mr. Biden’s comments may focus attention on a different set of battlegrounds, such as Texas and New Mexico. (An earlier version of the article this briefing item is based on misattributed a statement about fossil fuel to M.J. Hegar, the Democratic Senate candidate in Texas; the error was repeated in the briefing item and has since been removed.)
Representative Xochitl Torres Small, an endangered freshman Democrat in New Mexico, said on Twitter, “We need to work together to promote responsible energy production and stop climate change, not demonize a single industry.”
While more alluded to than stated outright, transitioning from fossil fuels will be necessary to meet Mr. Biden’s goals of eliminating emissions from the power sector by 2035 and reaching net-zero emissions across the economy by 2050.
Yet Mr. Biden has walked a fine line throughout the campaign, insisting that natural gas production — and the jobs it creates — will remain a core part of the United States energy composition for several years to come, even as he envisions a future powered more by wind, solar and other renewable sources.
Some energy experts said the Trump campaign’s attacks on Mr. Biden may not have the same resonance as those on Mrs. Clinton four years ago, in large part because public understanding of climate change has grown and the major oil companies of the world have, to varying degrees, pledged to reduce their emissions.
“This is a playbook that they keep coming back to, and it’s less and less effective,” said Joshua Freed, who leads the climate and energy program at Third Way, a center-left think tank. “The economy is moving on and the public is moving on.”
More than 63 million people watched the second and final presidential debate between President Trump and his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., according to Nielsen, a much smaller total than the one for last month’s raucous duel.
That first debate, which was notable for Mr. Trump’s repeated interruptions, notched 73.1 million viewers, making it the third most-viewed general-election matchup since Nielsen started keeping records in 1976.
The matchup in Nashville, which featured a relatively subdued president trying to revive a flagging candidacy, ranked 17th on the debate ratings chart. It narrowly beat the 62.7 million who watched the final debate between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford in 1976, 44 years ago to the day from Thursday’s debate.
The ratings drop on Thursday could stem from a number of causes: viewer backlash to the raucous first Biden-Trump debate, competition from an N.F.L. game or attrition because a marathon-length presidential race is nearing the finish line. (The first debate of the Democratic primary took place in June 2019.)
Fox News drew the largest audience of any network on Thursday, with 15.4 million viewers; the cable channel won the ratings race for the first Biden-Trump debate, as well. ABC and NBC — which aired prime-time coverage before the debate’s 9 p.m. Eastern start time — came in second and third among the networks, with 11.2 million and 10.6 million viewers, respectively.
The Nielsen data released on Friday included people who streamed the debate on their television screens, but not those who watched it solely on digital devices. There are still no widely accepted rating measures for the full digital audience.
With the second debate called off after Mr. Trump objected to its virtual format, Thursday’s event in Nashville amounted to the president’s final chance to make his case for re-election to a mass audience.
The two candidates participated in televised town halls last week, events that attracted only about 28 million viewers in total, a fraction of the audience for a debate airing simultaneously on more than a dozen networks. Mr. Biden’s town hall attracted more viewers than Mr. Trump’s.
Over the years, ratings for the final presidential debate have bounced around in different directions. Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton’s final debate attracted more viewers than their second, but fewer than their first. Former President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s third debate in 2012 was the least viewed of the cycle.
In 1984 and 1988 — when only two presidential debates were held in each election cycle — the final debates attracted more viewers.
President Trump heeded the pleas of his advisers to tone it down during Thursday night’s debate against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., but the two clashed on a series of issues that underscored their vastly different visions for the nation.
Mr. Trump did not reflexively interrupt Mr. Biden or talk over the moderator repeatedly. His voice stayed mostly calm. But Mr. Trump unleashed an unrelenting series of false, misleading and exaggerated statements as he sought to distort Mr. Biden’s record and positions and boost his own re-election hopes.
The president tried to defend his handling of the pandemic, but Mr. Biden eviscerated him for it. The former vice president, who has called for a return to civility, mocked the president’s claim that people were learning to live with the coronavirus.
“We’re dying with it,” Mr. Biden responded after Mr. Trump falsely claimed that spikes in cases in several states had receded.
It is a theme Mr. Biden was expected to try to drive home on Friday at a campaign appearance in Delaware, where he will outline his approach to handling the pandemic.
Mr. Biden made some false or misleading statements at the debate as well. But Mr. Trump relied more on questionable and specious arguments about Mr. Biden’s family, Democratic policy positions and his own record.
Mr. Trump tried to focus attention on the topic that he and his allies have pushed for days: about foreign business deals sought by Mr. Biden’s son Hunter. Mr. Biden said that he himself never took money from foreign countries, and then turned attention back to Mr. Trump’s thick web of business entanglements and conflicts.
There was a moment of levity when Mr. Biden, puzzling at a response from Mr. Trump, said, “I don’t know where this guy comes from.” Mr. Trump responded dryly, “Queens.”
Though Mr. Biden performed better than he had in their earlier matchup, he was not perfect. During a discussion of energy, Mr. Biden said he would “transition” away from the oil industry, a statement that Republicans are likely to focus on. (After the debate, Mr. Biden stressed that “we’re not getting rid of fossil fuels for a long time.”)
Still, with 11 days left until the election and more than 50 million Americans having cast ballots already, a draw or even a modest victory for Mr. Trump might not do much to change the trajectory of the race.
And any path to victory for Mr. Trump would likely have to include a win in Florida. So Mr. Trump was scheduled to hold two rallies in the state on Friday before spending the night at Mar-a-Lago.
A Texas man linked to a far-right, anti-government group was arrested on charges of participating in the destruction of a police precinct in Minneapolis during the protests that erupted there in May, federal authorities announced on Friday.
In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd by the police, a member of the Boogaloo movement opened fire during the protests, according to the F.B.I. The man, Ivan H. Hunter, 26, is accused of firing 13 rounds from a semiautomatic Kalashnikov-style rifle into the Third Precinct building of the Minneapolis Police Department.
After firing the weapon, the complaint said, video footage from the incident shows a man identified as Mr. Hunter high-fiving another person and yelling, “Justice for Floyd!” He also later bragged about fomenting violence on social media, it said.
Having traveled from Texas specifically to participate in the demonstration, he later wrote on Facebook, “I didn’t’ protest peacefully Dude … Want something to change? Start risking felonies for what is good,” according to the complaint from the F.B.I.’s counterterrorism unit in Minneapolis.
He faces a rioting charge, a felony, Erica H. MacDonald, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, announced on Friday.
Mr. Hunter left Minneapolis soon after the May 28 incident to return to Austin, Texas, where, during a traffic stop a few days later, law enforcement officials noticed a distinct magazine on his rifle that was later linked to the shooting, the complaint said. At the time of the incident, police had abandoned the building but looters remained inside, it said.
In addition, Mr. Hunter was in contact on social media with Steven Carrillo, the Air Force sergeant charged in California with the shooting death of two law enforcement officers, a federal officer at the Oakland Court House on May 29 and a sheriff’s deputy during the June 6 shootout that lead to his arrest.
Mr. Carrillo and Mr. Hunter encouraged each other, the complaint said.
Both declared themselves members of the so-called Boogaloo Bois, a loosely-affiliated group opposed to the government and seeking to accelerate a second civil war.
Mr. Hunter told the police that he was in charge of the group’s activities in southern Texas, the complaint said.
President Trump has repeatedly blamed the violence that erupted during the social justice protests in Minneapolis on “radical leftists,” particularly antifa, but that claim is unsubstantiated; antifa is a loose movement, not an organized group.
The arrest comes as both federal and local law enforcement agencies have warned about possible violence surrounding the election from armed, illegal paramilitary groups. Earlier this week, federal authorities announced the arrest of a man on accusations that he made violent threats against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic candidate, and 14 men have been charged for their alleged involvement in a plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan and other anti-government violence.
A new radio ad from the Democratic National Committee further amplifies the party’s get-out-the-vote message in the key battleground state of Pennsylvania — with the voice of Leslie Odom Jr., best known for his performance as Aaron Burr in the original cast of the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” singing about secrecy envelopes to the tune of Stevie Wonder’s hit “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.”
Mr. Odom is perhaps the only person who can turn instructions about using a secrecy envelope into a catchy jingle. But the lyrics — “Use your secrecy en-ve-looope. Double seal it to protect your voooote.” — are intended to remind Pennsylvanians how to correctly vote by mail.
The radio ad includes a whole suite of instructions: A voter must fill the ballot out and place it inside a small envelope known as a “secrecy envelope,” seal that, and place it into a larger return envelope. That envelope is then signed, sealed, and, yes, delivered once the voter puts it in the mail, drops it off at a local county elections office or puts it in a drop box.
Failure to use the secrecy envelope will leave the ballot “naked,” and the state will disqualify it, a wild card in the election that has Democrats — who are more likely to vote by mail than Republicans — losing sleep.
The ad is more instructive than heavy on facts, but these are indeed the steps Pennsylvania requires for mail ballots.
Where It’s Running
The ad is running in Philadelphia and across the state, on the radio and on digital radio outlets, including Pandora.
In the closing stretch of the campaign, Democrats have been laser-focused on getting out the vote. The effort has taken on heightened urgency during the pandemic, and the party is spending heavily to reach voters who are heading to polls early or casting their ballots by mail.
In Pennsylvania, Democrats are especially concerned that voters will forget to place their ballots in the secrecy envelopes, resulting in naked ballots that officials have been instructed to toss out.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine — the only Republican senator on the ballot this year who has not endorsed President Trump — could be in for the fight of her political life.
The four-term senator has become a national punchline among liberals for what they see as her toothless tut-tutting of the president, whom she is invariably “concerned” about. She has alienated Democrats in Maine and beyond by voting to confirm Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. And she’s been out-raised $63 million to $25 million by her Democratic opponent, Sara Gideon, the speaker of the State House.
Ms. Collins’s biggest problem this year, however, may not be Ms. Gideon or the out-of-state donors eager to send her a message, but rather the shifting ground under her feet.
She is confronting a state, sharply cleaved by region and class, that would have been politically unrecognizable to her predecessors; an increasingly alien party overtaken by a president who demands unflinching loyalty; and, perhaps most daunting of all, a polarized political culture that elevates tribalism and national issues over the bipartisanship and pork-barreling that she has always pursued.
Ms. Collins argues that there are exceptions to this era of polarization, and that well-known lawmakers in lightly populated states can overcome the partisan tide. Senators Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, for example, both won as Democrats in Republican-leaning states just two years ago.
“There’s a lot of parallels,” Ms. Collins said in an interview on her campaign bus. “I still believe that most voters want problems solved and that they’re put off by this us-against-them tribalism.”
Polls in recent weeks have shown Ms. Collins trailing Ms. Gideon, but not by much, and sometimes within the margin of error. But survey results released last week by Pan Atlantic Research showed Ms. Gideon ahead by 7.1 percentage points. The margin of sampling error for the poll, which was conducted from Oct. 2 to 6, was 4.5 percentage points.
THE TV WATCH
If you listened to President Trump debate Joseph R. Biden Jr. Thursday, you may have felt like you’d started watching a complicated serial drama — “Lost” or “Twin Peaks” — in its final season. The president kept dropping names and plot points, all seeming to reference a baroque mythology.
Who was “the big man?” What was “the laptop?” How many seasons of this show did I miss?
This impression is not far off. The soap opera whose story lines and catchphrases Mr. Trump was quoting was Fox News, his favorite binge-watch. And increasingly, he speaks less like a president to Americans than as a Fox superfan to other superfans.
For those steeped in conservative media, the “laptop” reference alludes to questionable accusations of corrupt business practices by Mr. Biden’s son Hunter, unverified in other media but pored over lately on Mr. Trump’s favorite shows.
“A.O.C. plus three” was not algebra but a dismissive nickname for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and three of her progressive peers in Congress. A reference to selling “pillows and sheets” apparently revived an old conservative criticism of support to Ukraine during the Obama administration, not a Biden home-furnishings line.
These impenetrable word clouds not only blunted his attacks but showed how Fox can be as much a blinder for the president as an asset. Mr. Trump has become so immersed in the conservative mediasphere that his language became a referential fog that seemed to require an explanatory fan podcast.
All this may have signaled solidarity to Mr. Trump’s fellow Fox News junkies. But if you weren’t a longtime watcher, this show was not made for you.
Republicans hold a narrow lead up and down the ballot in Montana, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll Friday, as Democrats remain highly competitive in a state President Trump won by 20 points in 2016.
Overall, Mr. Trump leads Joseph R. Biden Jr. by six points, 49 percent to 43 percent, echoing favorable results for Mr. Biden in Times/Siena surveys of relatively white states across Northern battlegrounds. But in the hotly contested race for U.S. Senate, the Republican senator Steve Daines narrowly leads Gov. Steve Bullock, 49 percent to 46 percent.
The survey was conducted from Oct. 18 to 20, before the final presidential debate on Thursday. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
Republicans also hold modest four-point leads in the races for U.S. House and governor. In a reversal from the Times/Siena poll in September, the Republican Matt Rosendale leads the Democrat Kathleen Williams, 50 percent to 46 percent, for Montana’s at-large House seat.
New York Times/Siena College poll of likely voters in Montana
Based on a New York Times/Siena College poll of 758 likely voters from Oct. 18-20, 2020.
The sitting House representative, Greg Gianforte, leads the Democrat Mike Cooney by four points as well, 48-44, in the state’s race for governor.
The poll results are stronger than expected for Democrats in many respects, except perhaps in the race they care about most: the campaign for Senate. In the close battle for Senate control in Washington, Montana emerged as one of the best Democratic opportunities to flip a seat after the Democrats recruited Mr. Bullock, who won re-election for governor in 2016 even as the same voters backed Mr. Trump. But the poll shows him narrowly trailing Mr. Daines, although the race is still within the margin of error.