Weekly Presidential News Briefing: October 2nd, 2020

October 2nd, 2020: Every weekday, Ballotpedia tracks the news, events, and results of the 2020 presidential election.

Here’s the latest from the campaign trail.

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Presidential Race Ratings

The Cook Political Report updated its race ratings on September 29, 2020:

  • Iowa and Ohio moved from Leans Republican to Toss Up.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball updated its race ratings on October 1, 2020:

  • Iowa and Ohio moved from Leans Republican to Toss Up.
  • Wisconsin moved from Toss Up to Leans Democratic.
  • Minnesota moved from Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic.

Notable Quotes of the Week“This was not a debate. It was a sustained attack on the American system of government by the President of the United States. There is nothing to comment on regarding policy; Donald Trump made substantive discussion of anything all but impossible. But Trump did make a few things clear: He takes no responsibility for the pandemic deaths that occurred on his watch, he refuses to condemn white supremacists, he wants his followers to engage in voter intimidation, and he intends to challenge any election result he doesn’t like. Any sense of decorum, any possibility that an election is a contest between Americans who want the best for the nation, went out the window as Trump railed—and lied, repeatedly—in desperation. Any reasonable viewing of this debate can only lead to two conclusions: One is that something is deeply wrong with Donald Trump, mentally and emotionally. The other is that the president will attack anyone and anything, that he will sacrifice any principle, ignore any norm, and even that he will violate any law that he thinks stands in the way of staying in office. Trump has brought a new disgrace upon his own country, and we should be horrified that our fellow citizens, our children, our allies—and especially our enemies—have now seen the United States brought low in a way few of us could have imagined possible even five years ago.”

– Tom Nichols, professor at the U.S. Naval War College

“Indeed, while the debate was contentious, and at times became personal, it lacked any real substance that could change attitudes in any meaningful way.

Given the level of back-and-forth between the candidates, the substance of the candidates’ answers was often lost and took a back seat to their style of argumentation and command of the room.

Though, in terms of style, in my view, President Trump was the clear winner—Trump was in command of the conversation, in control of the discussion, and if not presidential, certainly more in command.

Biden, on the other hand, became exasperated at times in the face of Trump’s stop-at-nothing strategy—as the president spoke over both Biden and the moderator—and Biden even leveled personal attacks on Trump, calling him a ‘liar,’ and a ‘clown.’”

– Doug Schoen, Fox News

Week in Review

Biden on the campaign trail

  • On Sunday, Biden held a campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware.
  • On Tuesday, Biden attended the first presidential debate in Cleveland.
  • On Wednesday, Biden completed a train tour across Ohio and Pennsylvania.
  • On Friday, Biden was scheduled to campaign in Michigan.
Trump on the campaign trail

  • On Saturday, Trump campaigned in Pennsylvania.
  • On Tuesday, Trump attended the first presidential debate in Cleveland.
  • On Wednesday, Trump campaigned in Minneapolis and Duluth.
  • On Thursday, Trump held a fundraiser at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
  • Trump canceled his Friday rally in Florida after testing positive for COVID-19.

Trump tests positive for COVID-19

Donald Trump announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 on early Friday morning, along with First Lady Melania Trump.

He earlier confirmed reports Thursday that White House adviser Hope Hicks, who traveled with Trump to the debate and a rally in Minnesota this week, had tested positive.

Trump’s scheduled Friday rally in Florida has been canceled. Trump is quarantining at home in the White House. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on Friday that Trump was experiencing mild symptoms.

Mike Pence and Joe Biden tested negative for COVID-19 on Friday.

Biden, Trump spar over COVID-19, economy, and race in first debate

Joe Biden and Donald Trump debated in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday night. The candidates discussed the Supreme Court vacancy, coronavirus pandemic, economy, race and violence, climate change, election integrity, and their political records.

Trump spoke for 39.1 minutes, while Biden spoke for 37.9 minutes. Here are highlights for each presidential candidate with a focus on policy. The following paraphrased statements were compiled from the transcript of the debate.

  • Biden said the Supreme Court vacancy should be filled after the election to give voters a say. He said the Affordable Care Act and women’s rights were at stake with Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination. On healthcare, Biden said only people who qualified for Medicaid would be automatically enrolled in a public health option. He said Trump had no healthcare plan. Biden said Trump knew how deadly the COVID-19 pandemic was and did not have a plan to address it. He said Trump was irresponsible with his handling of masks. He said schools and businesses were not supported to reopen safely. Biden said billionaires benefited from COVID-19 because Trump focused on the stock market.
Biden said Trump would be the first president to leave office with fewer jobs than when he came in. Biden said his economic plan would create 7 million more jobs than Trump had and $1 trillion in economic growth. He said he would raise the corporate tax rate to 28%. He said the Obama administration inherited the worst economy and fixed it, while Trump blew a booming economy. He said Trump’s statements about Biden’s son’s business dealings had been discredited.
Biden criticized Trump’s response to protests in Charlottesville in 2017 and George Floyd’s death. Biden said there was systemic injustice and called for increased funding for community policing. He said violent crime has increased under the Trump administration. Biden discussed the military service of his son, Beau, and the drug addiction recovery of his other son, Hunter. Biden said his plan would create thousands of green jobs and lead to net-zero carbon emissions by 2035. He said the plan was not the Green New Deal. Biden said Trump was afraid of mail-in voting.
  • Trump praised his Supreme Court pick, Amy Coney Barrett. He said Republicans had the right to nominate her because they won the last election. He said Biden supported socialist medicine. Trump said he signed an executive order that would reduce prescription drug prices. Trump said millions would have died from COVID-19 if Biden were president. He said a vaccine could be available sooner but politics was delaying it. He criticized strict shutdowns in Democratic-run states and said Biden would shut down the country.

Trump said he paid millions in federal income tax in 2016 and 2017. As a businessman, Trump said he did not want to pay taxes and used tax credits and depreciation. Trump said the Obama administration had the slowest economic recovery since 1929, while he brought back manufacturing and 700,000 jobs. Trump said Biden’s son, Hunter, received $3.5 million from a Russian billionaire.

Trump criticized the effect of Biden’s 1994 crime bill on Black Americans. He said he had support from military leaders and law enforcement groups across the country. Trump said he ended racial sensitivity training because it was racist. Trump said increases in crime across the country were a party issue. When asked if he would condemn white supremacist and militia groups, Trump said sure. He said the Proud Boys should stand back and stand by and that someone should do something about Antifa.

Trump said he created the greatest economy and lowest unemployment numbers in history prior to COVID-19. He said that he will have appointed 300 federal judges. Trump attributed West Coast wildfires to poor forest management. He said he rolled back the Obama Clean Power Plan because it drove up energy prices. He said there was no free transition in 2016 because Democrats sought a coup on his campaign. He said unsolicited mail-in ballots would lead to fraud.

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Wednesday it would change the format of the remaining debates. “The Commission on Presidential Debates sponsors televised debates for the benefit of the American electorate. Last night’s debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues,” the commission said in a statement.

The next presidential debate will take place on October 15, 2020, in Miami, Florida. Mike Pence and Kamala Harris will debate on October 7, 2020, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court

Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court vacancy on Saturday. He said, “Rulings that the Supreme Court will issue in the coming years will decide the survival of our Second Amendment, our religious liberty, our public safety and so much more. To maintain security, liberty and prosperity, we must preserve our priceless heritage of a nation of laws. And there’s no one better to do that than Amy Coney Barrett.”

Joe Biden discussed the nomination during remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, on Sunday. He called discussion of expanding the court a distraction from the effect Barrett could have on the Affordable Care Act.

New York Times reports Trump did not pay income taxes in 10 of previous 15 years

The New York Times reported on Donald Trump’s federal tax returns from 2000 to 2017. The report said that Trump “paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.” Trump lawyer Alan Garter disputed the report, saying that “most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate.”

Joe Biden released a digital campaign ad on Sunday showing the average federal income tax paid by teachers, firefighters, and nurses, compared to the $750 that Trump reportedly paid in his first year in office.

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What We’re Reading

Flashback: September 28-October 2, 2016

  • September 28, 2016: Politico reported that Chicago Cubs owner Todd Ricketts raised $30 million for two pro-Trump groups and had an overall goal to raise $70 million.
  • September 29, 2016: The editorial board of USA Today made its first presidential voting recommendation ever to oppose Donald Trump. It did not endorse Hillary Clinton.
  • September 30, 2016: The Chicago Tribune endorsed Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson for president.
  • October 1, 2016: Donald Trump told supporters at a rally in Pennsylvania to monitor polling places
  • October 2, 2016: Hillary Clinton spoke about systemic racism at a Black church service in Charlotte.