Democrats are once again dialing back plans for their party convention, announcing on Wednesday that the event will effectively be entirely virtual.
On the advice of health officials working for the party, no national Democratic officials — not even former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — will travel from out of state to participate in events, which will begin on Aug. 17. Mr. Biden will accept the party’s presidential nomination from his home state, Delaware.
Democrats argue that the decision reinforces a sharp contrast that Mr. Biden has drawn throughout the public health crisis: He takes the coronavirus crisis seriously, and Mr. Trump does not. It is critical, allies have said, that Mr. Biden serve as a role model who adheres firmly to the public health guidelines that the president has often flouted.
“I’ve wanted to set an example as to how we should respond individually to this crisis,” Mr. Biden said at a fund-raiser on Wednesday. “Science matters.”
“From the very beginning of this pandemic, we put the health and safety of the American people first,” said Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “That’s the kind of steady and responsible leadership America deserves. And that’s the leadership Joe Biden will bring to the White House.”
Wisconsin officials are still expected to give speeches at the convention center in downtown Milwaukee convention center, but leading Democrats, including former President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, plan to deliver their addresses from elsewhere. Delegates had already been instructed not to attend.
Health officials working for the convention advised against having anyone travel to Milwaukee, citing fear of bringing the virus from other parts of the country.
“While we wish we could move forward with welcoming the world to beautiful Milwaukee in two weeks, we recognize protecting the health of our host community and everyone involved with this convention must be paramount,” said Joe Solmonese, chief executive of the convention.
Bowing to the health threats posed by the virus, Mr. Trump reversed course last month and canceled the portion of the Republican National Convention that was to be held in Jacksonville, Fla. His decision came just weeks after he moved the event from North Carolina because state officials wanted the party to take health precautions there.
For Mr. Biden’s campaign, there have long been both practical and political considerations about how to appear in public during a pandemic. His team is wary of the health risks associated with public campaign events amid the coronavirus crisis — for attendees and staff, and for the candidate himself.
Tuesday’s winners: progressive Democrats, mainstream Republicans and the act of voting — maybe.
Tuesday’s primaries, held in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington, included gains for the Democratic Party’s liberal wing, as left-wing candidates continued their string of victories over establishment figures.
In Michigan, progressive Democrats were buoyed by Representative Rashida Tlaib’s decisive win over a primary challenger she first faced in 2018. And in Missouri, they cheered Cori Bush’s upset over a longtime House incumbent.
Missouri voters also supported a proposal to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, which could extend health coverage to as many as 217,000 low-income people.
Mainstream Republicans also got what they wanted last night, watching the polarizing conservative Kris W. Kobach crash to defeat in his Senate primary against Representative Roger Marshall, who is seen as a safer general-election candidate.
And for anyone worried about the challenges mail voting will pose in a general election transformed by the coronavirus crisis, the contests on Tuesday provided some cautious encouragement. Problems persisted in Michigan and beyond, but no full-scale meltdown akin to those this year in Georgia and Wisconsin appeared to have unfolded.
In Arizona, Joe Arpaio remains locked in a tight Republican primary race as he tries to reclaim his old job as sheriff of Maricopa County, where he presided for nearly a quarter-century and acted as something of a trailblazer for Mr. Trump’s aggressive treatment of immigrants.
Taking stock of the grab bag of results on Tuesday, different factions of both parties could cherry-pick signs for hope. Hovering over it all, though, were the ultimate questions of voting, and whether Americans will be able to exercise their rights in November despite the pandemic. No firm answers arrived, but hints of optimism emerged.
Funding for the Postal Service — caught in the crossfire of Mr. Trump’s battle with Democrats over mail-in voting — has emerged as a potential stumbling block to fast passage of a new congressional coronavirus relief package.
Lawmakers are nowhere close to an agreement for a new economic rescue measure to address the recession caused by the pandemic. The fight over the Postal Service is just one of several issues dividing Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, and they remain far apart on the expansion of unemployment benefits and aid to state and local governments.
On Wednesday, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, called for the post office to fix mail delays that have resulted from cutbacks ordered by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy during the coronavirus crisis.
“We must resolve those in a way that allows mail to be delivered on time for the election and for the necessities that people need,” Mr. Schumer said.
Mr. Trump has predicted that the Postal Service will not be able to able to shoulder the burden of handling additional mail-in balloting — an assertion emphatically rejected by the head of the postal workers’ union and others. He repeated that claim to reporters in the Oval Office on Wednesday, saying, “The post office doesn’t have enough time — millions of ballots all of a sudden coming out of nowhere.”
Democrats have claimed the slowdown in mail delivery is part of a deliberate effort by Mr. Trump to undermine the Postal Service and to interfere with the mail-in voting that would be needed in the general election to prevent long lines and the spread of infection at polling sites.
Democrats have called for $3.6 billion in the aid package to ensure a secure and safe election. Some of the money would go toward broader mail balloting, but Republicans are opposing to such funding. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has said he needs some votes by Democrats to pass any new funding bill.
Mr. Schumer said that he had called Mr. DeJoy three times to complain about slow mail delivery in New York, and that “Mr. Dejoy evidently didn’t have concern to call back when I was concerned.”
Despite Mr. Schumer’s comments, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California told NBC on Wednesday that she was “confident we’ll have an agreement.” Some Senate Republicans reported what they described as a “positive” tone in their luncheon discussions about a possible deal.
Democrats are also pressing to extend unemployment payments, which lapsed last week, through January.
On Tuesday, Republicans countered with a plan to resume the payments at $400 per week through Dec. 15, according to two people with firsthand knowledge of the discussions who insisted on anonymity to describe them.
Democrats declined the offer, they said.
Wisconsin mobilizes National Guard as poll workers — in plainclothes.
Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin is deploying the state’s national guard — sans uniforms or military gear — to serve as poll workers in next week’s primary elections to cover a severe shortage of staff caused by the pandemic.
Mr. Evers, a Democrat, has called out the guard two times already this year for the same purpose, first for the state’s April 7 general election, when more than 2,400 members mobilized, and a second time during a special election on May 11 when 160 staffed the polls.
It is not clear how many will be deployed this time. Earlier this week, state officials reported they were 900 poll workers short for the primary.
The guard has been used extensively throughout the country to help support state governments and localities cope with the logistical challenges of trying to provide services impacted by the pandemic and related lockdowns.
Only a handful of states, including Wisconsin, Kentucky, Indiana and Nebraska, have used their guard units to assist elections officials. The practice has raised concerns among some civil rights groups about guard personnel intimidating voters at a time when images of law enforcement abuses and clashes with protesters have flooded the media.
Mr. Evers, however, said his intention was the opposite, to reassure voters they can vote without fearing for their health. “Time and time again the Guard has stepped up to help their neighbors, friends, and communities, as they will be doing that on Election Day,” he said in a statement.
Iowa restores voting rights to felons.
Gov. Kim Reynolds, Republican of Iowa, issued an executive order on Wednesday to restore voting rights to as many as 60,000 state residents with felony convictions, making Iowa the latest in a line of states that have reversed policies seen as disenfranchising minority voters.
Iowa had previously enforced one of the most restrictive voting policies in the country: Former felons’ only option for registering to vote was to petition the governor’s office individually.
The order, which comes on the heels of a similar move by Florida, was not Ms. Reynolds’s first choice. She had urged the state’s legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, to pass a constitutional amendment that would have automatically restored voting rights to felons once they had served their sentences.
But lawmakers resisted, and Ms. Reynolds, who had worked closely with civil rights leaders, opted for an executive order to allow eligible former offenders to register before the election this fall.
An estimated 10 percent of the state’s Black residents were deemed ineligible to vote under the previous policy, according to state estimates.
“Today we take a significant step forward in acknowledging the importance of redemption, second chances and the need to address inequalities in our justice system,” Ms. Reynolds said in a statement, adding that she would continue to press for an amendment to the state’s Constitution. “The right to vote is the cornerstone of society and the free republic in which we live. When someone serves their sentence, they should have their right to vote restored automatically.”
Ms. Tlaib beat back a primary challenge on Tuesday from a repeat rival, significantly widening her 2018 margin of victory and helping to cement the staying power of the progressive women of color who have shaped the party’s House majority.
Ms. Tlaib, 44, defeated Brenda Jones, 60, the president of the Detroit City Council, according to The Associated Press. With 87 percent of the vote counted, Ms. Tlaib led Ms. Jones, 63,650 to 32,582.
It was a flag-planting moment for Ms. Tlaib in her predominantly Black district, which includes portions of Detroit and its suburbs.
“Voters sent a clear message that they’re done waiting for transformative change, that they want an unapologetic fighter who will take on the status quo and win,” she said in a statement. “Let it be known that in the 13th District, just like in communities across our country, we are done with establishment politics that put corporations first. If I was considered the most vulnerable member of the squad, I think it’s safe to say the squad is here to stay, and it’s only getting bigger.”
Catapulted to national prominence by a profane call to impeach Mr. Trump that she uttered on the day she was sworn in, and insulted with racist tropes by the president, Ms. Tlaib has become one of the best-known members of Congress. She is a member of the so-called squad, a group of progressive Democratic women of color who were elected to the House in 2018 and have come to embody the vanguard of the party.
Two years ago, Ms. Tlaib defeated Ms. Jones in a six-way primary for the party’s nomination.
Ms. Bush, a progressive activist and a leader of the swelling protest movement for racial justice, toppled Representative William Lacy Clay Jr. of Missouri in a primary on Tuesday, notching the latest in a string of upsets against the Democratic establishment.
Ms. Bush, 44, captured nearly 49 percent of the vote, compared with 45.5 percent for Mr. Clay, according to The Associated Press. She had tried and failed to unseat Mr. Clay in 2018, but this year she rode a surge in support for more liberal, confrontational politics within the Democratic Party amid the coronavirus pandemic and the national outcry over racial inequities.
Ms. Bush’s victory, on the same night that Missouri voters decided to expand Medicaid eligibility, was a significant milestone for insurgent progressive candidates and the groups, like Justice Democrats, that have backed them across the country.
It showed that the brand of politics that has helped young, liberal candidates of color unseat party stalwarts in Massachusetts and New York could also resonate deep in the heartland against a Black incumbent whose family has been synonymous with his district for decades.
If elected in November, Ms. Bush would be the first Black woman to represent Missouri in Congress. The plurality of the district, which encompasses St. Louis and some of its innermost liberal suburbs, is African-American and considered safely Democratic.
“Tonight, Missouri’s First District has decided that an incremental approach isn’t going to work any longer,” Ms. Bush told supporters at a jubilant news conference. “We decided that we the people have the answers, and we will lead from the front lines.”
Kansas Republicans on Tuesday soundly rejected the Senate bid of Mr. Kobach, a polarizing figure in state politics and a staunch ally of Mr. Trump’s, choosing instead to nominate a conservative congressman who was the preferred choice of party leaders.
Mr. Kobach was defeated in the primary by Representative Roger Marshall, The Associated Press reported, a major relief to Republican officials in Kansas and Washington who had worried that Mr. Kobach would uniquely jeopardize the seat in the general election and would be a thorn in the side of party leadership if he won. Mr. Marshall will face State Senator Barbara Bollier, a former Republican who switched parties, in November.
Mr. Kobach, a former Kansas secretary of state known for his hard-line views on immigration and voting rights, was seen by party leaders as an especially weak potential general-election candidate, even in a state that has not sent a Democrat to the Senate in 88 years.
In the 2018 governor’s race, Mr. Kobach lost to Laura Kelly, a Democrat, and heading into the contest this week, Senate Republican polling showed that nearly 30 percent of Republican primary voters indicated they would support Ms. Bollier in the general election if Mr. Kobach were the nominee.
Early results indicated that Mr. Kobach lost counties he had won handily in the 2018 primary, and in some places he lost last cycle, the margins of defeat were bigger this time. A rival candidate, Bob Hamilton, a plumbing executive who has lent his own campaign several million dollars, also took some counties Mr. Kobach had won in the 2018 primary. (His slogan: “Send in a plumber to drain the swamp.”)
Biden has a testy exchange with a reporter about cognitive testing.
During a remote exchange with a national correspondent for CBS News, a clip of which was posted online on Wednesday morning, Mr. Biden responded angrily to a question about the prospect of taking a cognitive test.
“Your opponent, Donald Trump, has made your mental state a campaign topic,” said the correspondent, Errol Barnett, referring to an incident in June when Mr. Biden was asked by a Fox News reporter about whether he had taken a cognitive test. “And when asked in June if you’ve been tested for cognitive decline, you responded you’re constantly tested.” Mr. Barnett then asked Mr. Biden to clarify if he had indeed taken one.
“No, I haven’t taken a test!” Mr. Biden said. “Why the hell would I take a test? Come on, man. That’s like saying to you, before you got on this program, Did you take a test where you were taking cocaine or not? What do you think, huh? Are you a junkie?”
The full interview with the former vice president, Mr. Barnett said in a tweet, is set to air on Thursday at the virtual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
Mr. Trump, who has faced many questions about his own mental acuity, said recently that he had “aced” a cognitive test. But his attempt to make Mr. Biden’s mental sharpness a campaign issue has had little success so far, as recent polls show Mr. Biden leading the president by double digits.
A poll shows tight races in Iowa for president and the Senate.
A new poll shows a tight race in Iowa, a state once expected to favor Mr. Trump.
In the poll, conducted by Monmouth University and released on Wednesday, Mr. Trump was supported by 48 percent of registered voters, while Mr. Biden had the backing of 45 percent, placing the contest within the margin of error. Another 3 percent said they would vote for the Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen, and 3 percent were undecided.
The poll also showed a tight race for one of Iowa’s Senate seats, with Senator Joni Ernst, the Republican incumbent, holding just a three-point lead over her Democratic challenger, Theresa Greenfield.
Mr. Biden had a small advantage over Mr. Trump in the 13 Iowa counties where the vote margins were closest four years ago, holding a seven-point lead among registered voters in these swing counties, according to the poll.
Mr. Trump won Iowa by nine points in 2016, in part on his strength among rural and older voters. His edge among older voters has eroded in recent weeks amid mounting concerns about the spread of the coronavirus and his administration’s response to it.
Mr. Biden’s campaign announced a $280 million fall advertising blitz on Wednesday, outlining plans for $220 million in television and $60 million in digital ads across 15 states in the lead-up to the November election.
The ad reservation, which will begin on Sept. 1, is by far the biggest of the 2020 race by either campaign and is a sign of the swift turnabout in Mr. Biden’s finances, as both small and large donors have rallied behind him since he became the presumptive Democratic nominee against Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump has reserved more than $145 million in television ads in 11 states starting after Labor Day; he has not announced the size of his digital reservations.
In a conference call outlining their fall strategy, Mr. Biden’s top advisers laid out a fairly simple and straightforward case heading into November: The 2020 election will be about Mr. Trump in general, and his stewardship of the nation during the coronavirus pandemic in particular.
“This election is a clear referendum on Donald Trump and his failed leadership on Covid and also on the economy,” said Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Mr. Biden’s campaign manager.
Ms. O’Malley Dillon said the ad buy reflected the campaign’s efforts to open “multiple pathways” to achieving 270 electoral votes, with spending planned for states both in industrial strongholds that Mr. Trump won in 2016, like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and in more traditionally conservative corners of the Sun Belt, including Georgia and Texas.
The long shadow of Trump’s ‘it is what it is’ quote.
Executives at Axios, which taped an interview with Mr. Trump by the reporter Jonathan Swan that aired on HBO this week, estimate that the conversation, which spread widely, will ultimately reach roughly 40 percent of the country’s population in one form or another.
The reason the conversation resonated so deeply is simple: Mr. Trump was addressing the gravest responsibilities of his office, matters of life and death, on the cusp of an election. And it produced, arguably, his most memorable quote about a pandemic that has thus far killed about 160,000 people in the country.
“They are dying. That’s true. And you — it is what it is,” said Mr. Trump, moments after undercounting the number of dead Americans at 140,000.
Mr. Trump, the most unconventional of presidents, finds himself in the teeth of the most conventional of presidential dilemmas, trying to escape a slow-motion disaster he cannot control or talk out of existence.
That thought — control — was clearly on the mind of a president who has branded himself as a take-charge executive. “It’s under control, as much as you can control it,” he added.
In this respect, Mr. Trump is little different from President George W. Bush, whose popularity sank as the bloody Iraq war raged on, or the predecessor whose legacy he ridiculed in his interview with Mr. Swan — Lyndon Johnson, whose ambitious domestic agenda was undermined by the daily death toll from Vietnam.
Ask aides to Mr. Obama about the most frustrating point of his time in office, and many will point to the protracted 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a far less serious crisis over which they too had little control. (An earlier version of this briefing item incorrectly stated that the oil spill was in 2011.)
The 45th president has succeeded politically, in part, because he is so adept at speeding up a news cycle. A bad day, until now, could be erased with a bold, disruptive tweet or by floating an “unprecedented” idea (like hosting his nomination speech on taxpayer property, the South Lawn of the White House). One narrative interrupts the next, like the flipped pages of a forgotten beach novel.
But the news cycle is now stuck on one story — snagged on a single five-letter word.
“Death” appears no fewer than 18 times in the Axios interview, according to the transcript.
“I’m talking about death,” Mr. Swan said in frustration, as Mr. Trump tried to put a positive spin on the crisis.
Joe Arpaio is in a close battle to regain his old sheriff’s seat in Arizona.
Joe Arpaio, the bellicose former Arizona sheriff whose harsh immigration tactics earned him international notoriety, is in a dead heat with his former chief deputy in the Republican primary for his old job.
On Wednesday morning, Mr. Arpaio trailed Jerry Sheridan by 572 votes out of 360,000 votes counted. Elections officials said it would take several days to count the 50,000 remaining Republican ballots.
Mr. Sheridan, a 38-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, campaigned on a promise to revive many of Mr. Arpaio’s policies but without the showmanship that marked Mr. Arpaio’s 24-year reign as sheriff.
The winner will face off in November against the incumbent, Paul Penzone, who beat Mr. Arpaio by 13 percentage points four years ago. Mr. Penzone, a centrist Democrat who has broad support from Arizona’s business community, is widely considered the favorite in the general election.
Mr. Arpaio, 88, was convicted of criminal contempt of court in 2017 for his immigration raids that racially profiled Latinos, a conviction that earned him Mr. Trump’s first pardon.
His inability to win over a decisive plurality of voters could be an ominous sign for the president, who trails Mr. Biden in the polls in Arizona.
6 weeks later, winners are declared in 2 New York primaries.
After six weeks of delays caused by a huge expansion of voting by mail, election officials in New York City declared results in a pair of Democratic congressional races Tuesday evening.
One winner was a young city lawmaker, Ritchie Torres of the Bronx, who won a 12-way race for a soon-to-be-open seat. Mr. Torres, who is Afro-Latino, could become one of the first openly gay Black and Latino members of Congress.
The other was a 14-term incumbent, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, who represents parts of New York City and who just managed to sidestep a wave of youthful progressivism that has tilted New York’s congressional delegation leftward.
The primary had been held June 23. The extensive delays in reaching final results, in elections with extraordinary numbers of mail-in ballots because of the coronavirus, have been seen as possible portents of problems in the nation’s general election in November. On Monday, Mr. Trump had called for Ms. Maloney’s race to be rerun.
Both races were in solidly Democratic districts, making both Ms. Maloney, 74, and Mr. Torres, 32, overwhelming favorites to win in November.
Reporting was contributed by Nick Corasaniti, Sopan Deb, Reid J. Epstein, Nicholas Fandos, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Katie Glueck, Shane Goldmacher, Kathleen Gray, Maggie Haberman, Danny Hakim, Astead W. Herndon, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Annie Karni, Lisa Lerer, Elaina Plott, Hank Stephenson and Glenn Thrush.