What to Know in Washington: Biden Holds Lead Over Trump

Democratic nominee Joe Biden retains his lead over President Donald Trump in national polls two months before the election, with neither candidate seeing a bounce in surveys after their party conventions last month.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, both the Republican and Democratic gatherings in August were almost entirely virtual, and the race remains largely where it was three weeks ago, with Biden ahead by at least a half-dozen points in national surveys.

Two polls released yesterday showed the former vice president holding a sizable lead. Biden led Trump by 10 percentage points in a Quinnipiac University survey of likely voters and by 8 percentage points in a CNN poll of registered voters.

In the Quinnipiac survey, Biden leads Trump 52% to 42%. It was conducted Aug. 28 -31 — after both nominating conventions had ended — and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points. This was Quinnipiac’s first survey of likely voters in the 2020 general election cycle, so there are no previous numbers to compare.

CNN’s poll, conducted Aug. 28 to Sept. 1, found support for Biden among registered voters at 51%, with 43% backing Trump, a difference that was similar to a CNN poll conducted before the conventions. It had a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.

And polls by Fox News had Biden out in front in three states crucial to Trump’s re-election. In Arizona, the Democratic nominee leads the Republican incumbent 49% to 40%. In North Carolina, Biden leads 50% to 46%, and he is ahead 50% to 42% in Wisconsin. In all three surveys, Biden was bolstered by strong support among women and suburban voters.

At the same time, according to a Monmouth University poll, Trump has gained on Biden in Pennsylvania, a battleground state that, along with Wisconsin and Michigan, gave him the path to victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Biden, who was born in the state and often speaks of its importance in his life, is currently leading by 4 percentage points among all registered voters but among likely voters, he is down significantly from the 13 percentage point lead he held six weeks ago. When pollsters looked at only likely voters, the margin tightened to 1 to 3 percentage points, depending on expected turnout.

Trump will visit Latrobe, Pa., today, while Biden will meet with the family of Jacob Blake, a Black man shot seven times by police in Kenosha, Wis. Read more from John Harney and Emma Kinery.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
Biden at a campaign event in WIlmington, Del., on Wednesday.

More Elections & Politics

Trump Makes Big Bet Where Hillary Clinton Beat Him: Trump is taking to the airwaves in the once reliably Democratic state of Minnesota, launching an attack ad that paints Biden as “taking a knee” when protests in Minneapolis turned violent. The Trump campaign’s foray into Minnesota — including at least $12.9 million in advance ad buys after Labor Day — represents an audacious attempt to win a state that has gone to Democrats in every presidential election since 1972. Trump lost the state by only 1.5 percentage points in 2016, and Minnesota was ground zero for summer-long protests and civil unrest after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. Read more from Gregory Korte and Bill Allison.

Barr Stokes Doubts Over Mail-In Voting: State and local officials are “playing with fire” if they rely on sending out tens of thousands of mail-in ballots for the November election, Attorney General William Barr said, without providing evidence that there’s a risk to a process long used in the U.S. The nation’s top law enforcement officer weighed in on an issue frequently raised by Trump, who has said the election will be “rigged” against him if officials allow the broad use of mail-in ballots in response to health concerns during the Covid-19 pandemic. That’s despite Trump having submitted vote-by-mail ballots previously, and states such as Oregon having a track record of conducting their elections solely by mail.

“We haven’t had the kind of widespread use of mail-in ballots that’s being proposed,” Barr said yesterday on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” “Now what we’re talking about is mailing them to everyone on the voter list when everyone knows those voter lists are inaccurate.” Read more from Chris Strohm.

  • Meanwhile, Trump said North Carolina voters who mail in ballots for November’s election should go to the polls and attempt to vote a second time to verify whether the ballots sent via the U.S. Postal Service were counted. The president’s suggestion could lead to voters violating the law if they attempt to cast a second ballot. “On your ballots,” Trump said during a visit to Wilmington, N.C., yesterday, “if you get the unsolicited ballots, send it in and then go make sure it counted and if it doesn’t tabulate, you vote. You just vote, and then if they tabulate it very late, they’ll see you voted and it won’t count.” Read more from John Harney.

Texas Court Halts Harris County Ballot Plan: The Texas Supreme Court on Wednesday temporarily blocked Harris County from sending mail-in ballot applications to all of its registered voters in the Houston area. The decision came in response to a petition filed Sunday by the Harris County Republican Party asking the high court for emergency relief. Read more from Paul Stinson.

The Coronavirus Pandemic

Trump, Aides Ditch Masks After Saying Patriots Wear Them: Trump and his top aides are conducting near-daily public events without wearing masks, disregarding government guidelines as well as the president’s short-lived effort to encourage Americans to cover their faces out of patriotism. Trump first publicly wore a mask on July 11 during a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, to acclaim from aides. He wore them sporadically through the summer, including while visiting his ailing brother, Robert Trump, in the hospital on Aug. 14. But as of late, he’s gone bare-faced. Trump twice attended large Republican National Convention events last week without wearing a mask. Almost no one else wore one, either. Read more from Josh Wingrove.

Crucial Vaccines Test Results Due in Weeks: Drugmakers made big promises for a quick turnaround on coronavirus vaccines. The moment of truth for the front-runners is coming as soon as this month. The first results showing whether a vaccine can stop people from getting the virus could come by mid-September from AstraZeneca, according to Airfinity, an analytics company that tracks drug trials. The drugmaker has pledged as many as 30 million doses to the U.K. by the end of the month.

Two other contenders — the U.S.’s Moderna and the U.S.-German partnership of Pfizer and BioNTech — may also have initial data before a key Food and Drug Administration meeting on virus vaccines scheduled for Oct. 22, Airfinity said. A fourth, China’s Sinovac Biotech, could have preliminary results shortly after the meeting.

These early results will be far from the full picture. They’re what’s known as interim readouts — snapshots taken before a study is complete, with only a fraction of the data. The World Health Organization on Monday cautioned against approving a vaccine before its full risks and benefits are clear. But with the virus resurgent in Europe and continuing to spread in India and the Americas, the initial numbers will be an important early indicator. Read more from Naomi Kresge.

Hospitals Get $3.5 Billion From Medicare: Medicare payments for inpatient hospital services will increase by $3.5 billion, or 2.7%, in fiscal year 2021, the Trump administration announced yesterday. The payment boost is significantly more than the estimated $2.1 billion, 1.6% payment bump that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services first proposed in May. Read more from Tony Pugh.

Georgia Exchange Exit Could Leave Thousands Uninsured: Georgia’s proposal to walk away from the federal HealthCare.gov insurance exchange would leave as many as 100,000 people in the state going without coverage, analysts who support Obamacare say. The plan would have consumers buy coverage directly from insurers or through web brokers. It recently picked up steam with the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services saying the state’s application can move forward. The CMS scheduled a fast public comment period ending Sept. 16 with a final decision due within 180 days. Read more from Sara Hansard.

Economic Outlook

Job Gains Seen Hanging On in August: The battered U.S. labor market probably saw a fourth month of improvement in August, but chances of further outsize gains are diminishing without the widespread stimulus payments and small-business aid that have sustained incomes and spending. Economists project tomorrow’s jobs report will show the unemployment rate dropped below 10% for the first time since March, with employers adding 1.35 million people to payrolls, a figure boosted by the Census Bureau’s hiring of about 240,000 temporary workers to help conduct a decennial count that’s been delayed by the pandemic. Read more from Olivia Rockeman.

  • It’s been a tough year to manage a state unemployment agency, and unemployment officials in at least eight states now have resigned or been fired during the pandemic. The latest is Ken Lawson, who resigned as director of Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity on Monday. The department has responsibility for paying unemployment benefits in Florida, although Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) assigned a different state agency head to oversee those benefits in April amid criticism of lengthy delays in getting the payments to laid-off workers. Read more from Chris Marr.

Airline Fuel Use Rising: U.S. airlines used 37% more fuel in July compared with June, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports, suggesting that travel is climbing gradually, Courtney Rozen reports. The cost per gallon of fuel is also increasing slowly. It ran $1.17 per gallon in July, up from $1.08 in June. Airline fuel use dropped in April to a record low since 2000, as many states ordered residents to stay home because of the coronavirus outbreak. The cost of fuel also plunged during the early months of the pandemic, in May hitting the lowest price nationwide since April 2004.

Eviction Ban Lacks Crucial Cash: Trump’s expansive new eviction ban will help some tenants delay the inevitable. But it’s missing a key ingredient that only lawmakers can supply: money. “Ultimately, it creates new urgent pressure on Congress to get back to work and pass a final Covid 19 relief bill,” said Diane Yentel, president and chief executive officer of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “On its own, it’s a half measure.” Read more from Prashant Gopal.

Senators Ask for Funds to Help Wheat Farmers: Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and 20 other senators called on Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to use funds provided in coronavirus relief legislation to help wheat growers deal with the impact of the pandemic on crop prices, Ben Livesey reports. The letter was signed by a bipartisan group of senators including Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas).

What Else to Know Today

Trump Orders Funding Review of ‘Lawless’ Cities: Trump is ordering a review of funding of Democratic-run cities that have been epicenters of a wave of protests demanding racial justice, saying so-called “anarchist jurisdictions” should be disfavored for federal money. Trump signed a memorandum yesterday aimed specifically at New York, Portland, Seattle and Washington, D.C., but including steps that could affect other U.S. cities. The document calls on the White House Office of Management and Budget to detail within two weeks how all federal agencies will submit reports detailing funding to those four cities. Read more from Josh Wingrove.

Pompeo Imposes New Limits on Chinese Diplomats: Chinese diplomats face new limits on travel and meetings in the U.S., Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said, as the Trump administration moves to match Communist Party restrictions on American diplomats and impose costs for what it calls unfair treatment. Read more from Nick Wadhams.

  • Beijing-based education company GSX Techedu said it is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the latest case as U.S.-listed Chinese companies face greater scrutiny on accounting issues amid rising tensions between the two countries. The SEC’s Division of Enforcement contacted the company asking it to produce financial and operating records dating from Jan. 1, 2017, GSX said in its second-quarter earnings statement yesterday. Read more.

Trump Taps Top Aide to Lead OECD: Trump plans to nominate a top aide to lead the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, seeking to make him the first American secretary general of the global policy and advisory group. Trump’s choice, Christopher Liddell, is an assistant and deputy chief of staff for policy coordination. Liddell, who was born in New Zealand, is a dual citizen. The White House announced the planned nomination in a statement last night. Read more from Eric Martin.

Nobel Winners Oppose Shelton Nomination: A group of more than 100 prominent economists, including seven Nobel Prize laureates, have signed a new open letter to senators urging them to reject Trump’s nomination of Judy Shelton to the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors. The letter is nearly identical to one published in August by former Federal Reserve officials and staffers. That version now has 70 signatories, including four former regional Fed presidents and a former Fed governor. Read more from Christopher Condon.

Trump Promise to Save Coal Unfulfilled: Trump spent more than $1 billion in taxpayer funds, rolled back environmental rules and tried to stop power plant closings to fulfill a vow he made to West Virginia coal miners in the 2016 campaign. But nothing he’s done is rescuing the coal industry. Since Trump’s inauguration, U.S. coal production—after a slight uptick in 2017—is expected to be down 31% this year from 2016 levels. By some estimates, more than five dozen coal-burning power plants have closed and although mining jobs remained steady before dropping this year, they didn’t increase. Read more from Ari Natter and Will Wade.

Trump Gives Hope of Solving Balkan Puzzle: A White House meeting this week on Kosovo may be Serbia’s best chance to secure an advantage in resolving one of Europe’s most enduring puzzles. The conflict resulting from a war two decades ago and Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008 is no closer to resolution despite years of struggle to find an agreement at the negotiating table. Kosovo is demanding recognition as a sovereign state, which Serbia refuses to give. Read more from Jasmina Kuzmanovic and Misha Savic.

Influential Fed Economist Thomas Laubach Dies: Thomas Laubach, a top economist and director of the Federal Reserve Board’s Division of Monetary Affairs, has died at the age of 55. “I will miss Thomas as both a colleague and a friend. He was a world-class economist, committed to public service and universally respected for his significant contributions to the theory and practice of monetary policy,” Chair Jerome Powell said in a statement yesterday. Laubach passed away earlier in the day, a Fed spokeswoman said. He was being treated for cancer. Read more from Catarina Saraiva.

To contact the reporter on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com