Weekly Presidential News Briefing: October 9th, 2020

Friday, October 9th, 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

Sabato’s Crystal Ball updated its race ratings on October 8, 2020:

  • Arizona moved from Toss Up to Leans Democratic.
  • Georgia moved from Leans Republican to Toss Up.
  • New Hampshire moved from Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic.

Notable Quotes of the Day“The sharpest and perhaps most important contrast from Wednesday evening: the two parties’ views on the economy and on taxes. On that, Vice President Pence had the upper hand, and it showed. If the race ultimately boils down to pocketbook issues—as it so often does—then Democrats should be careful preemptively popping the champagne corks.”

– David Polyansky, Republican strategist


“Democrats worried about whether Senator Kamala Harris would play prevent defense had their fears alleviated within the first 30 seconds of the debate. Harris showed exactly why Vice President Joe Biden selected her to be his running mate. When pressed on foreign policy, a topic that has tripped up many a nominee, Harris didn’t just appear in command of the issue, she articulated a clear and cogent doctrine that Americans all over the country could understand. She was presidential.

Harris chopped away at the Trump administration with the precision of a surgeon and the bite of a seasoned attorney—all while smiling. The women in my life felt seen on a stage in Salt Lake City. It meant something to them. The Democratic nominee for vice president came for Mike Pence and didn’t miss.

– Michael Starr Hopkins, Democratic strategist

Week in Review

Biden on the campaign trail

  • On Monday, Biden campaigned in Miami and participated in an NBC News town hall.
  • On Tuesday, Biden gave a speech in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
  • On Thursday, Biden met with American Indian tribal leaders and small business owners in Phoenix.
  • On Friday, Biden campaigned in Las Vegas.
Trump on the campaign trail 

  • Trump was off the campaign trail this week following his COVID-19 diagnosis on Oct. 1. He was discharged from Walter Reed Medical Center and returned to the White House on Monday.

Trump discharged from Walter Reed Medical Center, could return to campaign trail on Saturday

Donald Trump was discharged from the Walter Reed Medical Center and returned to the White House on Monday evening after receiving treatment for COVID-19. In a video posted to Twitter, Trump said of the coronavirus, “Don’t let it dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it. We have the best medical equipment. We have the best medicines, all developed recently.”

Trump’s physician, Sean Conley, said in a statement on Thursday, “Saturday will be day 10 since [last] Thursday’s diagnosis, and based on the trajectory of advanced diagnostics the team has been conducting, I fully anticipate the President’s safe return to public engagement at that time.”

Trump said he wanted to hold a campaign rally in Florida on Saturday if his campaign could organize it in time. He also said he wanted to make a stop in Pennsylvania on Sunday.

Presidential debate schedule in flux as campaigns disagree over timeline, format

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Thursday morning that the second presidential debate would take place virtually “in order to protect the health and safety of all involved.” Moderator Steve Scully would conduct the town hall-style event with attendees asking questions in Miami, while the candidates participated remotely.

The Joe Biden campaign agreed to the virtual format. Donald Trump said in an interview on Fox Business that he would not participate in a virtual debate.

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said, “We’ll pass on this sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden and do a rally instead,” In a second statement, Stepien said the second debate should be moved to Oct. 22 and the third moved to Oct. 29.

The Biden campaign rejected the proposal to move the third debate, saying in a statement, “We look forward to participating in the final debate, scheduled for October 22, which already is tied for the latest debate date in 40 years. Donald Trump can show up, or he can decline again. That’s his choice.” ABC News also announced it would hold a town hall with Biden Oct. 15.

The Trump campaign issued another statement on Thursday evening, calling for the second debate to go forward in-person as originally planned. The commission said that it would not reconsider its decision to make the second debate virtual.

Harris, Pence debate coronavirus response, SCOTUS, and economy

Kamala Harris and Mike Pence debated in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Wednesday night. The candidates discussed the coronavirus pandemic, economy, climate change, China, foreign policy, abortion, healthcare, race, and the election.

Pence spoke for 36.5 minutes, while Harris spoke for 36.4 minutes. Here are highlights for each vice presidential candidate with a focus on policy. The following paraphrased statements were compiled from the transcript of the debate.

  • Harris called Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic the greatest failure of any administration. She said Trump and Pence knew the virus was airborne and deadly in January 2020 and did not provide Americans with the information they needed. She said Biden’s coronavirus plan focused on contact tracing and testing. She said she would take a vaccine if public health officials recommended it.
  • Harris discussed her career as a state attorney general and senator. She said voters had a right to know about the president’s health and tax records. She said Trump was $400 million in debt. Harris said Biden would repeal Trump’s tax bill and not raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year. She said Trump rode the coattails of the economic recovery Biden created. She said Biden did not want to end fracking. She said Trump was trying to end the Affordable Care Act and that this would eliminate protections for people with preexisting conditions.
  • Harris said the Trump administration does not believe in science. She said Biden would invest in renewable energy and reach net zero emissions by 2050. She said Trump lost the trade war with China and 300,000 manufacturing jobs. She said Biden saved the auto industry. Harris said Trump disbanded the office responsible for monitoring pandemics. She said Trump made America unsafe through a unilateral and isolationist foreign policy. She said Trump insulted and did not care about service members.
  • Harris said President Lincoln waited until after his re-election to fill a Supreme Court vacancy that occurred 27 days before the presidential election. She said Trump should also wait. She said Trump had not appointed a Black judge to a lifetime appointment on the courts of appeal. Harris said justice was not done in Breonna Taylor’s case and called for criminal justice reform. She said implicit bias existed in law enforcement. Harris said Trump has openly attempted to suppress the vote.
  • Pence said Trump suspended all travel from China in response to the coronavirus pandemic and saved hundreds of thousands of lives. He said he believed the U.S. would have a vaccine before the end of the year. Pence said Trump surged resources to states with high fatality rates. He said the Rose Garden event announcing Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination followed scientific advice. He said Trump trusted Americans to make decisions about their own health.
  • Pence said Harris was undermining public confidence in a vaccine. He said the Obama administration failed during the swine flu pandemic and were lucky that it was less lethal than COVID-19. Pence said Trump paid millions of dollars in property and payroll taxes. He said Trump had added back 11.6 million jobs since the pandemic began.
  • Pence said Biden wanted to ban fracking. He said the United States reduced CO2 emissions through innovation rather than mandates.
  • Pence said the United States lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs when Biden was vice president. He said Harris put her environmental agenda ahead of American workers by opposing the United States–Mexico–Canada trade agreement. Pence said Trump strengthened alliances in the Asia Pacific and destroyed the ISIS caliphate. He said Biden failed to save ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller.
  • Pence questioned whether Harris would give Amy Coney Barrett a fair hearing because of Barrett’s Christian faith. He said he was pro-life. He said the Trump administration stood behind the separation of powers and a nine-seat Supreme Court. Pence said he trusted the justice system in Breonna Taylor’s case. He said there was no excuse for the rioting and looting that followed George Floyd’s death. He said Harris did nothing for criminal justice reform in California. He said Democrats had spent the past three years trying to overturn the results of the 2016 election.
  • Pence said universal mail-in voting created the opportunity for fraud.

Green Party vice presidential nominee Angela Walker responded to the debate on Wednesday. Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee Spike Cohen also responded to the vice in a livestream on Wednesday.

Neither candidate qualified for the debate, which required candidates to meet certain constitutional, ballot access, and polling requirements.

Candidates shift ad spending in final weeks race of race

Joe Biden reserved $6.2 million in ads in Texas, marking the largest investment from a Democratic nominee in the state in 25 years, according to Texas Democratic Party spokesperson Abhi Rahman.

Donald Trump canceled planned ad buys in Ohio ($2.5 million), Iowa ($820,000), Michigan ($2 million), and Wisconsin ($5 million). He is redirecting ad spending to Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona.

Want more? Find the daily details here:

Facebook Spending

Poll Spotlight

Campaign Ad Spotlight

What we’re reading this week

Candidates on the Issues: Climate Change:


Flashback: October 5-9, 2016

  • October 5, 2016: Bernie Sanders campaigned in Wisconsin for Hillary Clinton.
  • October 6, 2016: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump paused their campaigns in Florida as Hurricane Matthew approached.
  • October 7, 2016: The Washington Post shared a 2005 video of Donald Trump discussing groping women on Access Hollywood.
  • October 8, 2016: Outlets reported on the WikiLeaks release of thousands of emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
  • October 9, 2016: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump met in the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.