What to Know in Washington: Trump, Biden Close Drama-Filled Race

The final stretch of the race for the White House between Donald Trump and Joe Biden has been fraught with dramatic twists — a hospitalized president, a resurgent pandemic, the death of an iconic Supreme Court justice, and the rapid confirmation of her successor.

Yet none of it appears to have altered the course of the race that was set months ago.

After striding into the 2020 election year with a white-hot economy and beating Democratic efforts to remove him from office, Trump was ready to cruise to a second term. But then came the pandemic and economic devastation, steadily unraveling his presidency and case for re-election.

Now, ahead of Election Day, Trump finds himself significantly trailing his Democratic challenger and looking to defy public opinion polls — as he did four years ago — to salvage a victory.

“The polling average in this race has just not moved, no matter what happened,” said Jason Roberts, associate chair and professor in the political science department at UNC-Chapel Hill. “Which to me suggests that voters by and large have made up their minds and made up their minds months ago, and the campaign has just been a sideshow.”

A new wave of polls released yesterday showed, essentially, no substantial change or late swings: polls by CNN, Emerson College and the Detroit Free Press all found Biden leading Trump comfortably in Michigan. CNN and the New York Times released polls showing Biden leading Trump in Wisconsin. An ABC/Washington Post poll showed Biden leading Trump in Pennsylvania by 7 points, while the Times found him up there by 6 points.

Sunday polls also showed close races in Florida, Iowa and Georgia — states that are more important to Trump’s election chances than to Biden’s. An outlier was the Des Moines Register poll Saturday night showing Trump up by 7 points in Iowa, after he and Biden were tied in the same series in September.

While views of Trump’s performance dimmed as coronavirus deaths mounted in the spring, recent dire news about a resurgence of the pandemic, coupled with the failure of the government to pass another round of economic stimulus, has only reinforced the view that Trump has mishandled the crisis. Josh Wingrove has the state of play on the race.

Hour-by-Hour Election Guide: Following tomorrow’s showdown means more than identifying the battleground states and remembering how the Electoral College works. With a massive turnout expected, an avalanche of mail-in ballots to process, differing state policies on counting them and an army of election lawyers ready to pounce, election night has the potential to end in anything from an early landslide to a drawn-out brawl that carries into 2021.

Bloomberg provides an hour-by-hour guide for what to look for as American voters choose a president, decide who controls the Senate, pick their House representatives and weigh in on local races and ballot issues. Read the election guide.

Starting tomorrow, Bloomberg News will report live election results for the presidential, Senate, House and gubernatorial races.

Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg
A ballot drop box in Washington, D.C.

More on the Race for the White House

Biden Heads to Ohio as Polls Show Tie: Biden added a last-minute campaign stop in Cleveland today after Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) implored him to make a final pitch in the state where polls show him tied with Trump. Ohio isn’t critical to Biden’s path to the White House, but according to Five Thirty Eight’s average of polls, Trump leads Biden in the state by 0.2%, while the RealClearPolitics average has Biden up by 0.2%. Both show the outcome too close to call. Read more from Tyler Pager.

  • Trump has rallies planned in Miami, Fayetteville, N.C., Avoca, Pa., Traverse City, Mich., Milwaukee, Wis., Kenosha, Wis., and Grand Rapids, Mich.

Biden Warns Trump Against Declaring Early Win: Biden yesterday warned that he wouldn’t let Trump declare victory before tomorrow’s election results are clear. Biden was responding to a report in Axios that Trump has told associates that he intends to declare victory early if the results show him ahead, even if the outcome isn’t really known. Speaking to reporters in Charlotte, N.C., Trump denied the report, but also criticized the counting of late-arriving ballots as “terrible” and said his campaign intended to fight it. Read more from Jennifer Epstein.

Trump Cabinet Members Invited to Trump Hotel Party: Some members of Trump’s cabinet will gather at his Washington hotel tomorrow night to watch election results, people familiar with the plans said, as the president hopes for a second poll-defying victory. The viewing party is being arranged by the campaign and comes after Trump grappled with plans for the evening. The president has signaled that local restrictions in Washington have stymied his hopes of hosting a headline event at his hotel, just blocks from the White House. Read more from Jennifer Jacobs.

Trump Signs Fracking Memo in Pitch to Voters: Trump signed a symbolic memo in support of the fracking sector during a four-rally swing through Pennsylvania, a crucial battleground in tomorrow’s election. The president issued the memorandum on Saturday, ordering his government to study the effects of “prohibiting, or sharply restricting, the use of hydraulic fracturing and other technologies.” Trump sees full-throated support for fracking as a critical element in Pennsylvania, where he trails Biden. Justin Sink and Josh Wingrove have more.

  • Meanwhile Biden during a campaign rally in Milwaukee assailed Harley-Davidson for cutting jobs and moving some production outside the U.S. and linked it to Trump’s tax cuts. Biden, speaking on the company’s home turf, said the motorcycle maker cut 800 manufacturing jobs and repurchased about $700 million in stock after Trump “rolled out his irresponsible tax giveaways,” Kim Chipman reports.

Billionaires Among Bundlers Backing Biden: Billionare investors and moguls, including Tony James, vice chairman of Blackstone Group, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and U.S.-Israeli movie producer Haim Saban, were some of the names on a list of individuals and couples who raised at least $100,000 for the Biden campaign and its joint fundraising committees. The volunteer fundraisers, sometimes referred to as bundlers, raised at least $81.7 million, though the actual amount is most likely far higher. Read more from Bill Allison.

Voting and Security

Biden Aides See Warning Signs in Black, Latino Turnout: Senior officials on Biden’s campaign are increasingly worried about insufficient Black and Latino voter turnout in key states like Florida and Pennsylvania before the election, according to people familiar with the matter. Despite record early-vote turnout around the country, there are warning signs for Biden. In Arizona, two-thirds of Latino registered voters had not yet cast a ballot as of last week. In Florida, half of Latino and Black registered voters had not yet voted but more than half of White voters had cast ballots, according to data from Catalist, a Democratic data firm. In Pennsylvania, nearly 75% of registered Black voters have not yet voted, the data showed. Read more from Tyler Pager.

Philadelphia Expects to Need Days to Count Mail Ballots: Philadelphia officials said today it “will easily take several days” to count the city’s large number of mail-in ballots, potentially delaying statewide election results from Pennsylvania that could decide a close presidential race. Mayor Jim Kenney and Commissioner Lisa Deeley noted in an open letter to city voters that counties in Pennsylvania can’t start processing mail-in and absentee ballots until 7 a.m. on Election Day — guaranteeing there will be ballots left to count after election night. Read more from Mark Niquette.

Texas’ Top Court Dismisses GOP Drive-Thru Vote Suit: The Supreme Court of Texas denied a Republican effort to render more than 120,000 votes in Harris County invalid because they were cast by drive-thru. The court made the ruling without comment yesterday, ahead of a Federal hearing on the same issue today. Harris County incorporates the Houston metropolitan area, is home to about 4.7 million people and has a Democratic mayor. Harris County implemented drive-through voting to limit the spread of Covid-19 during the election. Read more from Kevin Crowley.

Campus Vote Undone by Virus Could Tip Balance: Closed college campuses, a decline in enrollment, and obstacles for first-time voters could depress the student-age vote in tomorrow’s election, possibly depriving Biden of votes from shuttered college towns in key battleground states. That’s despite more young voters casting ballots early than ever before, with enthusiasm rivaling the 2008 election that put Barack Obama in the White House. Read more from Gregory Korte.

Employers Giving More Workers Paid Time Off to Vote: More U.S. employers recognize how important voting is and are making it less onerous—and expensive —for workers to get to the polls. Over 80 million Americans already have cast ballots during early voting ahead of the election, and many people have to wait for hours in line to vote. A Bloomberg roundup showed that some companies in banking, tech, autos and retail are providing anything from an hour to a whole day off on Election Day. Read more from Maria Eloisa Capurro.

U.S. Fires Up War on Election Cyber Threats: Haunted by Russia’s brazen effort to meddle in the last election, federal and state officials have erected what they believe are formidable barriers to thwart cyberattacks ahead of tomorrow’s presidential vote. Cybersecurity experts, including those authorized to deploy military cyber capabilities, have been brought together to form an ‘all of government’ effort to ensure voters decide whether Trump or Biden wins, without U.S. adversaries sabotaging the process. That means dozens of state, local, federal and private players, amounting to hundreds of people, will be linked to the Department of Homeland Security’s command center on election night. Read more from Kartikay Mehrotra.

FBI Said to Look Into Trump Fans Who Harassed Biden Bus: The FBI is investigating an incident of alleged harassment by Trump supporters of a Biden campaign bus in Texas, the Texas Tribune reported, citing a local law enforcement official. The campaign bus was en route from San Antonio to Austin on Interstate 35 on Friday when a caravan of vehicles with Trump signs and flags veered close to the bus and yelled profanities. Donald Trump Jr, the president’s son, appeared in a video on Twitter last week encouraging supporters of the president to show up for one of Harris’s events in Texas to give her “a nice Trump Train welcome.” The campaign scrapped an event scheduled in Austin after the incident.

Separately, Biden told reporters that Trump supporters in about 80 pickup trucks drove around his block in Delaware yesterday while he was campaigning in Philadelphia. “Folks, that’s not who we are,” he said. “We are so much better than this.” Read more from Jenny Leonard and Jennifer Epstein.

Congress and State Ballot Measures

Democratic Senate Bid Hinges on Strong Biden Showing: Democrats are on the brink of capturing the Senate to give the party full control of Congress, though the final result depends heavily on the strength of Biden’s performance. The latest polls and independent analysts indicate the Democrats have a strong chance at winning at least a narrow Senate majority, with Republicans on the defense in 12 out of the 14 most competitive races. And two years after Democrats gained control of the House by winning 41 GOP-held districts they are looking to add at least a dozen in 2020. For both parties, the Senate largely hinges on the presidential contest between Biden and Trump.

Biden has healthy poll leads in two states with vulnerable GOP incumbents down the ballot, in Maine and Colorado. He and Trump are essentially deadlocked in several other states with competitive Senate races, including Arizona, Iowa and North Carolina. At the same time, Trump is under-performing in many of the other states he won in 2016, giving Democrats opportunities in traditionally Republican strongholds such as Georgia and South Carolina. Laura Litvan, Steven T. Dennis and Billy House have more.

Voters Weigh Taxes on Rich, Oil Drillers, Office Space: Voters in tomorrow’s elections are asked whether to toss out Illinois’ flat income tax, loosen California’s commercial property tax caps, and overhaul Alaska’s oil and gas production tax. The states are all scraping for funds to erase a period of fiscal upheaval. But some of the wealthy individuals and corporate interests question the fairness of adding to their tax burdens during a recession triggered by the Covid-19 public health crisis. Read more from Michael Bologna.

Uber, Lyft Push Boundaries of Campaigning: While spending more than $200 million on a California ballot measure campaign they call essential to their futures, gig-economy companies are relying on an ultra-low-cost system to help spread their message: their own vaults of customer data. Californians with ride-hailing apps on their phones have gotten notifications to vote yes on a measure (Proposition 22) that seeks to permanently classify drivers for companies such as Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash as independent contractors rather than employees under state law. Polls have indicated the race will be tight, with many voters undecided. It’s part of a growing trend to deliver political messages by text as voters skip commercials and toss away paper ads. Read more from Tiffany Stecker.

Paying for Privacy at Core of Ballot Measure: California voters are being asked to build on a landmark privacy law that gives consumers more control over personal data that companies collect, and whether they’ll have to pay to protect it. If they approve the California Privacy Rights Act (Proposition 24) in tomorrow’s election, Californians will add an enforcer to police the privacy law, and add protections for more types of personal information. Read more from Laura Mahoney.

The Coronavirus Pandemic

SBA Handling of Virus Aid Draws Scrutiny: The Small Business Administration’s handling of a pandemic bailout program beset by evidence of fraud is drawing scrutiny from the House lawmaker who heads the committee overseeing the agency. “I’m demanding answers from SBA on how they plan to recover this taxpayer money,” Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Small Business Committee’s oversight panel, tweeted Friday, citing a Bloomberg article describing how the agency’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program distributed billions of dollars based on suspicious applications. Read more from Michelle F. Davis.

Trump’s Dismissal of Virus Paved Way for White House Outbreak: As the virus tightened its grip on the U.S, the White House itself became an incubator for infection. Since the onset of the pandemic, more than three dozen people close to the president have contracted the virus, though no one associated with the White House is known to have died.

Yet at the White House he shunned one of the simplest and most effective ways of preventing transmission — wearing a mask. “Take that f—ing thing off,” he demanded more than once to aides who showed up wearing masks in the early days of the virus, when he’d been told they weren’t a fail-safe. “It doesn’t look good.” Read more from Jennifer Jacobs.

Vaccine Doubts Undercut Warp Speed Effort: Health officials responsible for distributing future Covid vaccines, particularly in areas where distrust has long been high, face both a resurgent anti-vaccination movement and worries that the White House will force out a remedy that isn’t safe. Many of the plans to distribute vaccines submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by health officials across the country lack details about how to persuade Americans to take them, according to researchers. If U.S. officials can’t speak more loudly and convincingly than anti-vaccine voices online, the government risks spending billions to put on a fast track a vaccine many won’t take. Read more from Alex Ruoff.

‘Fire Fauci’ Chant Erupts At Trump Rally: A “Fire Fauci” chant erupted at one of Trump’s campaign rallies, with the president quipping that he’d wait until after the election if he were to do anything. The chant, which started shortly after midnight this morning, was the latest development in Trump’s ongoing critique of Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who was once a prominent figure in Trump’s coronavirus response but who has since been marginalized. Read more from Mario Parker and Josh Wingrove.

Atlas Apologizes Over Interview to Russian Agency: One of Trump’s top medical advisers issued an apology yesterday for giving an interview to a Russian news agency that’s registered as a foreign agent in the U.S. Scott Atlas, a physician and one-time Fox commentator who rose to the president’s inner circle after repeatedly downplaying the risk of the coronavirus, issued an apology in a tweet, in particular to U.S. national security officials. “I regret doing the interview and apologize for allowing myself to be taken advantage of. I especially apologize to the national security community who is working hard to defend us,” he said. Read more from Josh Wingrove.

What Else to Know Today

Texas Surprise Billing Ban Points to Fight in Congress: A new Texas law that settles hospital payment disputes through arbitration so far favors physicians over health insurers, and illustrates why efforts to pass a federal ban on surprise medical bills have hit a roadblock on Capitol Hill. The state’s surprise law against surprise billing enacted in January has been a success by some metrics, resulting in a 95% drop in consumer complaints over unexpected bills and a 70% decrease in provider complaints. But insurers are paying the price. Read more from Sara Hansard.

Bipartisan Retirement Bill May Move Fast With Lawmakers Bullish: A bill introduced by House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and ranking member Kevin Brady (R-Texas) would expand on the 2019 retirement law known as the SECURE Act by automatically enrolling employees in their workplace’s 401(k) plans while increasing the required minimum distribution age to 75, from 72. A hearing on the new Neal-Brady bill is possible during the lame-duck session of Congress. A spokesperson for Ways and Means Democrats told Bloomberg Tax that Neal intends to move the bill quickly. Several of his colleagues in the Senate signaled their interest in advancing more retirement legislation. Read more from Kaustuv Basu and Warren Rojas.

Justices Take Up Limits of Life Sentences for Juveniles: The U.S. Supreme Court will consider what findings judges must make before imposing life-without-parole sentences on juvenile offenders. The issue will come before the justices tomorrow in a case involving a man who, as a teenager, fatally stabbed his grandfather. Read more from Jordan S. Rubin.

Trump Touts Rescue Operation in Nigeria: U.S. forces recovered an American citizen held hostage for several days by a group of armed men in northern Nigeria, in what Trump termed a “daring nighttime” rescue operation. “Last night our brave special forces rescued an American hostage in a faraway place,” Trump said at a rally Saturday in Pennsylvania. “We got our young man back.” ABC News reported Oct. 28 that Philip Walton, 27, an American missionary, was abducted from his home in a village in Niger, by the border with Nigeria. Read more from Ros Krasny and Justin Sink.

Space Policy Office Opening at DOD: The Defense Department said Friday it has taken the first step in creating a civilian secretary position, mandated by Congress and empowered to direct the U.S. military’s efforts to dominate space. The new assistant defense secretary for space policy office was activated by Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist in a Thursday memo. Read more from Travis J. Tritten.

180-Day Ban Set on Many Asylum Requests: The Trump administration is expected to announce a 180-day ban on a range of asylum requests citing the threat posed by Covid, according to two people familiar with the matter, in its latest effort to restrict immigration ahead of the election. Under the new rule, any person entering or trying to enter the U.S. by land from Canada or Mexico would be ineligible for asylum due to virus fears, said the people. Read more from Nick Wadhams.

Snowden Applying for Russian Citizenship: Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who disclosed top-secret U.S. spying programs, said today he would seek Russian citizenship. Snowden, 37, and his wife Lindsay Mills are expecting a baby and he cited the child as motivation to seek dual U.S.-Russian citizenship on his Twitter page. Read more from Jake Rudnitsky.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@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