Live Trump vs Biden 2020 Updates: Fact-Checking the President’s Town Hall

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And now, 226 days since the bungled Iowa caucuses, America’s 2020 primary season is finally over.

It ended in Delaware, where Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat, easily fended off a progressive challenger, Jessica Scarane. If there was a universal lesson from this year’s intraparty battles — especially for Democrats — it is that for all the restive energy on the party’s left, it is the party’s moderates who in most districts continue to cobble together winning coalitions.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. won the party’s presidential nomination, as the limits of Senator Bernie Sanders’s coalition became clear.

Progressives at first punted on all of the Senate contests and jumped in to help Charles Booker in Kentucky only after he gained traction following the police shooting death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville. Mr. Booker lost after being hugely outspent by Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot who faces long odds against Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader.

Of the three Democratic House incumbents who lost renomination, two — Representatives Eliot L. Engel of New York and William Lacy Clay Jr. of Missouri — showed the path for the left: Find a progressive candidate of color in a big city. The other Democrat to be retired was Representative Dan Lipinski of Illinois, whose anti-abortion views have long been out of step with his party.

Still, Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman, the progressive upstarts from St. Louis and the Bronx who ousted Mr. Clay and Mr. Engel, have laid the groundwork for a potentially larger class of 2022 progressive challengers.

It is also worth noting that the party’s high-profile progressive incumbents, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, easily fended off primary challenges from their right. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts also beat back Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III.

But dozens of veteran House Democrats come from safe districts and are ripe for a challenge from their left — Representative Jim Cooper of Tennessee, whose district includes Nashville, had a surprisingly close race against an underfunded progressive challenger. Besides Mr. Clay, there are many veteran Black members of Congress who haven’t faced a tough primary challenge.

Most of the Republican congressmen who lost primaries didn’t reflect any sort of ideological reckoning in the party. Iowans tired of Steve King’s dabbling in white supremacy. Ross Spano of Florida and Steve Watkins of Kansas were both freshmen with legal problems. Denver Riggleman of Virginia lost a convention vote of 2,400 delegates after officiating a gay wedding. Only Scott Tipton of Colorado lost a primary for being insufficiently conservative — he was felled by a QAnon sympathizer, Lauren Boebert.

What will the next round of primaries bring? It will depend a lot on who is president.

If Mr. Biden wins, the left will be energized and the existential threat of the Trump presidency for Democrats will be gone. The Republican contests are anyone’s guess.

Few Republicans cross President Trump now — he could be more vindictive after winning re-election. Yet if he’s out of office, there is certain to be a party-wide brawl about who inherits his political coalition.

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Delaware Democrats on Tuesday nominated Sarah McBride, a transgender rights activist, for a State Senate seat, advancing her bid to become the nation’s highest-ranking openly transgender elected official.

Ms. McBride, 30, defeated a token primary challenger and is widely expected to win the November general election — the Wilmington-based seat is safely Democratic and is being vacated by Harris B. McDowell III, who is retiring after representing the district for 44 years.

Ms. McBride said in an interview that she wanted her victory to inspire others. “My hope is that this result can help reinforce for a young kid trying to find their place in this world, here in Delaware or anywhere else in this country, that this democracy is big enough for them, too,” she said.

“Right now in America, we are seeing voices that for so long were pushed to the margins and to the shadows finally being heard,” she added.

Ms. McBride is no newcomer to national or local politics. In 2012 she became the first openly transgender person to work at the White House when she was an intern during President Barack Obama’s administration. She later lobbied the Delaware state legislature on behalf of a transgender rights bill, which was signed into law in 2013, and is now a national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest L.G.B.T.Q. civil rights group.

In 2016 she became the first transgender person to speak at a major party’s national convention when she took the stage before Democrats in Philadelphia.

Joseph R. Biden Jr. — a towering figure in Delaware politics, and now the Democratic presidential nominee — wrote the foreword to Ms. McBride’s 2018 book about her fight for transgender equality.

“Sarah is the epitome of what can make an elected official great,” said Alphonso B. David, the Human Rights Campaign’s president. “Tonight, she takes the first step on what I expect to be a storied career in the public realm.”

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Typically, if voters are hearing from President Trump late at night, it’s because he is either calling into Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, or standing onstage at a rally in front of happy supporters.

But on Tuesday, Mr. Trump found himself in a less familiar forum: forced to answer simple questions from undecided voters at an ABC News town hall event. He didn’t have a roomful of reporters to turn into helpful foils, or a sea of red caps in front of him to draw energy from, but the town hall forum, filmed in Philadelphia earlier in the day and aired that night, provided a potential opportunity to project the image of a president willing to listen and connect with regular voters.

But Mr. Trump struggled to own “presidential.” When asked by one undecided voter if he would do anything different in terms of his behavior to create a more unified message if he won re-election, the president balked.

“I’m fighting a lot of forces,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t have time to be totally, as you would say, presidential. You have to get things done.”

At another point, when pressed on how the economic recovery appears to be benefiting wealthier Americans who invest in the stock market, the president made the tone-deaf claim that “stocks are owned by everybody.” About half of Americans own stocks, according to the CNN reporter and fact checker Daniel Dale.

His campaign strategist, Jason Miller, appeared to be doing rapid response online. “Anybody with retirements and pensions and 401k’s, absolutely,” he wrote on Twitter, trying to offer some context for the president’s statement.

Near the end of the night, Flora Cruceta, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, broke down in tears as she tried to ask Mr. Trump about his immigration policy on behalf of her cancer-stricken mother, who she said died last month.

Mr. Trump remained quiet as Ms. Cruceta composed herself, saying, “Just take your time, it’s fine.”

He added, “The love that you have for your mother, I can see that, it’s hard.”

Then he appeared to conflate the personal story of Ms. Cruceta’s mother’s battle with cancer with the coronavirus. “So many people and they die alone — they die alone, because this is such a vicious thing,” he said. “And hopefully the vaccines are going to be very soon, hopefully.”

He also played down the restrictive immigration actions he has taken at the border.

“So we are doing something with immigration that I think is going to be very strong because we want people to come into our country, people like you and like your mother,” he said.

The president also said that a coronavirus vaccine could be ready in “several weeks,” despite warnings by his own medical experts that it will take much longer, and that the virus would go away even without a vaccine because “you’ll develop like a herd mentality.” He meant herd immunity, which public health officials have warned might not happen until 70 percent of the population has been exposed to the virus.

The Biden campaign released a statement Tuesday night attacking the president’s comments. “Trump just confirmed tonight, yet again, that even after eight months of letting the worst public health crisis in 100 years spiral out of control that not only does he not have a plan — he doesn’t have a clue,” the campaign said.

Credit…David J. Phillip/Associated Press

President Trump on Tuesday night falsely claimed that “we were short on ventilators because the cupboards were bare when we took it over.” The Strategic National Stockpile, the government’s repository of medicines and medicinal products, contained more than $7 billion worth of supplies when Mr. Trump took office, including more than 16,000 ventilators.

Speaking at an ABC News town hall event in Philadelphia, he repeated his characterization of restrictions placed on travel from China and Europe as “bans” that saved “thousands of lives.” The restrictions only applied to foreign citizens and included exceptions, ultimately allowing 40,000 people to travel from China to the United States from the end of January to April. Similar restrictions were placed on travel from Europe, after the virus was already widespread in New York City.

The president also misleadingly claimed that “I was so far ahead with my closing,” which he said occurred in January. In fact, states began in March to issue stay-at-home and social-distancing orders, and Mr. Trump resisted those efforts. One model showed that 36,000 fewer people would have died had those measures been in place one week earlier. Even after the federal government recommended social distancing on March 16, Mr. Trump continued to urge reopening.

He wrongly claimed that “crime is up 100 percent, 150 percent” in New York. Over all, crime has actually decreased 2 percent in New York compared with the same period last year, though murders have increased. And he misleadingly said that “the top 10 most unsafe cities are run by Democrats.” There is no evidence that crime is correlated with partisanship. Crime is generally higher in major metropolitan areas than rural areas, and more than three-quarters of major cities have Democratic mayors.

He claimed undue credit for calling in the National Guard to Minneapolis. It was the governor of Minnesota, not him, who activated the state’s National Guard.

The president falsely claimed “we’re not going to hurt pre-existing conditions” while Democrats “will get rid of pre-existing conditions.” His administration has asked the Supreme Court to strike down the health care law that includes protections for patients with pre-existing conditions, and in 2017 unsuccessfully tried to repeal it. Democrats and their nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., have consistently aimed to uphold that law.

Finally, he claimed that the coronavirus “goes away” even without a vaccine because “you’ll develop like a herd mentality.” Mr. Trump was most likely referring to “herd immunity,” which occurs when the virus can no longer spread widely. Public health officials have warned that this could require 70 percent of the population to develop antibodies. Without a vaccine, this could mean an enormous death toll.

Attorney General William P. Barr said in a recent interview that the United States would be “irrevocably committed to the socialist path” if President Trump was not re-elected, and he accused government workers of working to thwart the administration. The statements cast Mr. Trump’s opponents, and possibly Mr. Barr’s own employees at the Justice Department, as essentially un-American.

“There’s now a clear fork in the road for our country,” Mr. Barr said in a wide-ranging interview with Chicago journalists, an audio recording of which drew wider attention on Tuesday after it was published on Monday.

Mr. Barr has emerged as one of Mr. Trump’s strongest defenders ahead of what could be a bitterly contested presidential election, one that Mr. Barr described as the most significant in a lifetime.

During the interview, he acknowledged that as attorney general, he is “not supposed to get into politics,” a norm that his predecessors have followed to preserve the appearance that America justice is meted out fairly, regardless of political affiliation.

But Mr. Barr narrowly defined “getting into politics” as making appearances on the campaign trail, and then offered Mr. Trump one of his strongest endorsements yet.

“I think we were getting into position where we were going to find ourselves irrevocably committed to the socialist path,” Mr. Barr said. “I think if Trump loses this election that that will be the case.”

Mr. Barr’s comments will again fuel criticisms that he has politicized the Justice Department. Under his tenure, the department has recommended a more lenient sentence for the president’s longtime friend and associate Roger J. Stone Jr. as well as sought to drop the prosecution against Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn.

Since becoming attorney general in February 2019, Mr. Barr has accused former Justice Department officials and career bureaucrats of working to attack the president, accusations that he repeated in the interview.

“There undoubtedly are many people in the government who surreptitiously work to thwart the administration,” he said.

In his telling, those government employees are working with Mr. Trump’s opponents to undermine democracy and a duly elected president, simply because they do not like him. From the day that Mr. Trump’s delivered his 2016 victory speech, “they started talking about impeachment,” Mr. Barr said.

He also cast the government’s Russia investigation as part of a partisan plot to remove Mr. Trump. “He’s not a legitimate president with the Russia stuff. He was a pawn of Russia, all this stuff from Day 1,” Mr. Barr said. In past public statements, he has said that he does not believe that the Russia investigation should have been opened.

The Justice Department’s inspector general has determined that law enforcement officials had sufficient cause to open the Russia investigation. A report released last month by the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee found that the Russian government did interfere in the 2016 election to help Mr. Trump win, and that some Trump campaign advisers welcomed Russia’s help. Those conclusions support the findings on Russian election interference from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

Mr. Barr said that the Democrats were becoming the party that supported violent protest. “Increasingly, the message of the Democrats appears to be Biden or no peace,” Mr. Barr said. “That is rule by the mob. And we’re approaching that.”

This is around the time when convention bounces start to diminish. It’s still too soon to say whether President Trump’s bounce will fade or endure, but Tuesday was arguably Joe Biden’s best day of state polls since the Republican National Convention. Here’s a closer look at polls of Florida and Wisconsin.

State polls
National polls

The best news for Biden in a while in Florida. A poll from Monmouth University showed Mr. Biden up four percentage points among likely voters on average, his best result from a nonpartisan, live interview pollster there in several weeks. He held a wide lead in Florida over the summer, but it has gradually slipped — in part because of a somewhat surprising weakness among Latino voters. The Monmouth poll shows no signs of that weakness, with Mr. Biden leading by 26 points among Hispanic voters, comparable to Hillary Clinton’s performance four years ago. If Mr. Biden can match Mrs. Clinton among Hispanic voters, he’ll be in a strong position: Polls consistently show Mr. Biden running ahead of Mrs. Clinton among white voters.

Now, gauging the support of Hispanic voters in Florida is not easy. About a third of the state’s Hispanic voters are Cuban, and they are overwhelmingly concentrated in the Miami area — the toughest area of the state to reach in a survey. As a group, those voters lean Republican. But the other two-thirds are heavily Democratic and live across the state. On top of that, Hispanic voters are harder to reach in general. They’re younger and concentrated in urban areas, and many speak Spanish as a first language, which adds further difficulties — and costs — for pollsters.

All that to say: In Florida a lot will hinge on how pollsters can measure a relatively small group of hard-to-reach voters. So interpret any single result among Latino voters with caution, especially in Florida.

Another poll showing Trump trailing badly in Wisconsin. One place where the polls have offered consistently bad news for the president is Wisconsin, where Mr. Biden has held a steady lead. A CNN/SSRS poll added to the consensus by showing Mr. Biden up by 10 points, one of his largest leads there this cycle. The firm also gave Mr. Biden a three-point lead in North Carolina, another result consistent with a clear national advantage for the former vice president. One note of caution: CNN/SSRS polls have tended to tilt to the left compared with the average of polls so far this cycle, as well as in 2018.

Tomorrow, we expect another poll of Wisconsin from ABC News/Washington Post. If it joins the club of high-quality pollsters showing at least a five- or six-point lead for Mr. Biden, that would yield about as clear of a picture as you’re going to get in a battleground state so far from an election.

A stable day nationwide. There weren’t many national polls, but the handful we did get were largely consistent with their prior results and with a fairly stable race.

Odds and ends Morning Consult had a relatively weak result for Mr. Biden in Minnesota, though there’s plenty of other recent polling there showing Mr. Biden with a wider lead. Florida Atlantic University showed a tied race in Florida, though the firm doesn’t have much of a track record and its methodology is a mixed bag. Virginia Commonwealth University gave Mr. Biden a double-digit lead in Virginia.

Credit…Lauren Petracca/The Post and Courier, via Associated Press

Kanye West wants to bring back prayer in schools, give more government support to religious groups and has even asked his campaign staff to refrain from “fornicating” outside of marriage, according to people aiding his candidacy.

Mr. West, the billionaire hip-hop artist and fashion mogul turned Christian revivalist, is not running for president, but “walking,” as he puts it.

He entered the race late and is not going to make the ballot in states including Florida, Texas and Michigan, but he will be on the ballot in others like Colorado, Minnesota and Iowa. Some Democrats fear he could be a spoiler, even if his political appeal is minuscule. Third-party candidacies don’t need that many votes to make an impact, as Jill Stein showed in 2016 and Ralph Nader in 2000.

In calls and texts with The New York Times, and in other recent comments, Mr. West made clear he believes he will become president — eventually — but said almost nothing about what he actually wanted to do if elected.

An inescapable element of Mr. West’s candidacy is his bipolar disorder, which he has spoken about in the past. His wife, Kim Kardashian West, opened up about it for the first time days after Mr. West’s only campaign appearance, in South Carolina, during which he broke down crying. Writing on Instagram, she called him a “brilliant but complicated person” who has to deal with “pressure and isolation that is heightened by his bipolar disorder.”

Because a variety of allies and supporters of President Trump are working on the ground to advance his campaign, many Democrats view his candidacy as a dirty trick by Republicans, a notion Mr. West has rejected.

Still, in a year in which the president is working to undermine confidence in the election, Mr. West’s candidacy is one more point of uncertainty. And many Republicans, including Mr. Trump, appear confident he will siphon votes from Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, though his appeal could be blunted by some of his conservative positions.

Credit…Alisha Jucevic for The New York Times

The explosion of wildfires across the West has opened a new battleground in the critical competition for suburban voters between President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr., with growing evidence that climate change is an acute concern for many Americans, particularly women, viewing the nightly images of destruction and thick blankets of acrid air.

Mr. Trump has sought to combat his sharp decline among suburban voters by asserting that Democratic control of the White House would be a threat to the safety of the suburbs, raising the specter of crime, rioting and an “invasion” of low-income housing that many view as seeking to stoke racist fears.

But Mr. Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, is seeking to redefine what “safety” means for an electorate swept by fear amid a pandemic, social unrest in the streets and now deadly wildfires. He is casting climate change as a more real and immediate threat to the suburbs than the violence portrayed in Mr. Trump’s ads and public remarks, seizing in a speech on Monday on the devastating fires ripping through forests, destroying homes and taking lives.

“It’s particularly tangible for people right now,” said Kate Bedingfield, Mr. Biden’s deputy campaign manager.

Mr. Biden’s speech came as Mr. Trump paid a last-minute trip to California to meet with officials struggling with the catastrophe, and disputed their assertion that there was any connection between the fires sweeping the state and climate change.

The developments suggest that an issue that has always been on the sidelines in national presidential campaigns — and had seemed eclipsed this time by the pandemic and social unrest — may be coming to the forefront with only seven weeks until Election Day.

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