Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander to retire in 2020

Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander will not run again in 2020, he announced Monday, a decision that could create a scramble among Republicans looking to replace him.

NBC News's Jonathan Allen has more on Alexander's career, which included stints as governor, the secretary of education, and at the head of the Senate Health,Education,Labor and Pensions Committee. 

The move means that the state is losing its two prominent Republican senators in a span of two years—Sen. Bob Corker is retiring at the end of the year, with GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn slated to replace him after her November victory. 

Now, Volunteer State Republicans have to settle on a replacement for Alexander, who's held the seat since 2003. Some possibilities for the GOP include those who ran, or flirted with, bids for Corker's seat or for retiring Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's position. 

Former Rep. Stephen Fincher briefly ran against Blackburn in this year's GOP primary and has $1.75 million left in a federal campaign account. 

The Club for Growth PAC is calling on Congressman-elect Mark Green to run for the seat. Green, a Republican, briefly flirted with a Senate bid before running and winning the race to replace Blackburn. 

Rep. Diane Black, who chose not to seek reelection to launch an unsuccessful bid for governor, could also look toward a return to Washington. 

A current congressman like Rep. David Kustoff could be well-positioned to jump into the race. 

And there will also likely be speculation about whether Haslam wants to run. He briefly flirted with a bid to replace Corker, as some within the party called for a more establishment pick.  

It’s possible Democrats could mount a serious challenge too. But they may be dissuaded by Blackburn’s double-digit victory over former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen

Democratic Senate candidates have ad spending advantage in nearly every competitive race

WASHINGTON — Democratic Senate candidates have outspent Republicans in TV and radio ad spending in nearly every competitive Senate race, according to data from Advertising Analytics. 

In Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, one Georgia seat, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas the Democratic challenger or incumbent has outspent the Republican on TV and radio ads. The only race where Republicans have outspent Democrats is the special election in Georgia which features two Republican candidates, Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins, and just one chief Democratic candidate, Rev. Raphael Warnock. 

Democrats are outspending Republicans by nearly 2-to-1. The deficit in spending is tighter, though, when outside groups like the National Senate Republican Senatorial Committee, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and PACs are factored in. Republican groups have boosted funding in Colorado, Georgia, Kansas and Kentucky so much that the combined Republican effort in those races is greater than the Democratic effort.

But in key races that could turn Senate control over to the Democrats, the Democratic candidates are dominating the airwaves. 

From left, Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., from right, debate in the South Carolina Senate debate at Allen University in Columbia, S.C., on Oct. 3, 2020.Joshua Boucher / The State via AP

Mark Kelly, the Democratic challenger in Arizona, has spent over $37 million on TV and radio ads in the general election — incumbent Sen. Martha McSally has spent just about $17.8 million in that same time frame. When the total Democratic and Republican efforts are added in, the Democratic effort has still spent $19.6 million more on the airwaves. 

It's a similar story in Iowa. Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield has spent $29.2 million on ads while Republican Sen. Joni Ernst has spent $10.6 million. Even with outside money, the Democratic spending has over $18 million on Republican spending. 

Republicans' best case to keep Senate control would be to win races currently rated as a toss-up, while flipping Alabama Sen. Doug Jones' seat. 

The Cook Political Report has rated both Georgia seats, Iowa, Maine, Montana, North Carolina and South Carolina as toss-ups. 

The Senate races in South Carolina and North Carolina have brought out the biggest spending. The total Democratic effort in South Carolina  is over $66 million — the total effort to re-elect Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has been about $44.8 million. In North Carolina, the Democratic effort has topped $112 million, while incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis' total effort is about $95.7 million. 

Democrats' ability to win outright control of the Senate would be netting four seats. They would also maintain control if they had a net gain of three seats and Joe Biden won the White House with would-be Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. 

Key to that victory could be keeping Michigan's open Senate seat in Democratic hands. Sen. Gary Peters is being challenged by Republican John James, and the race has tightened over several weeks. Plus the two campaigns have spent close to the same amount on radio and TV ad buys. The total effort to re-elect Peters in the general election is about $50.3 million. The total Republican effort to elect James is $46.2 million.  

Democratic presidential effort poised to outspend Republicans $93 million to $41 million in race's final days

WASHINGTON — President Trump's campaign is poised to be heavily outspent on TV and radio ads in the final six days ahead of Election Day.

Trump's campaign has $10.1 million booked on television and radio between Wednesday and Election Day, compared to Biden's $46.9 million, according to Advertising Analytics, an ad-tracking firm. 

The president can still count on a big assist from the Republican National Committee, which is spending another $12.6 million in key swing states, and from outside groups set to spend tens of millions more.

But when all aligned outside groups are combined with the campaign's future spending, Democrats are set to outspend Republicans $93.4 million to $40.7 million on the presidential ad airwaves in the closing days. 

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Lansing, Mich., on Oct. 27, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

In many states, the majority of Trump's spend is coming from a joint effort by the RNC and the Trump campaign. 

Trump has just $400,000 booked between Wednesday and Election Day in Arizona, where he's counting on an assist of $2.3 million in spending from the RNC. Biden is set to spend $5.8 million on ads there in the next six days. 

In Florida, Trump's campaign has just $300,000 booked over that same period, with the RNC set to spend $2.1 million on TV and radio. Yet, Biden has more than $7 million in ad bookings there through Election Day, and Democrats as a whole are set to outspend Republicans there by a factor of four. 

Trump has no spending planned for Iowa, Nevada or Texas in the next six days, three states where the RNC isn't currently planning to spend more than a few hundred thousand dollars. And Trump and the RNC combined have booked $900,000 in spending in Wisconsin, compared to $3 million for Biden and the DNC.

The re-election campaign, both the Trump campaign and the RNC, has its biggest comparative investments in Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina and Ohio, when compared to the amount the Biden campaign has invested there. 

  • In Georgia, Biden and the DNC plan to spend $1.7 million, compared to Trump and the RNC's $1.1 million.
  • In Michigan, Biden and the DNC plan to spend $5 million, compared to Trump and the RNC's $4.8 million.
  • In Minnesota, Trump and the RNC are set to outspend their rivals $1.4 million to $1.1 million
  • In North Carolina, Biden and the DNC plan to spend $4.9 million, compared to Trump and the RNC's $4.1 million
  • And in Ohio, Biden and the DNC plan to spend about $1.2 millon, compared to Trump and the RNC's $1.1 million

All of those states but Minnesota were ones Trump won in 2016. 

The data from Advertising Analytics shows the joint RNC/Trump campaign account paying for more spending in these closing days than the Trump campaign is alone. By comparison, the Biden campaign alone is paying for virtually all of its ads down the stretch.

These spending numbers are not completely final, as groups can still move money around, but represent the current ad reservations by Tuesday afternoon. 

The differing strategies aren't unprecedented — national party committees typically work hand-in-glove with presidential candidates in the general election. 

But Trump's campaign has been battling cash woes for a while — most recent filings with the Federal Election Commission show Trump's campaign committee itself had $43.6 million banked away as of Oct. 14, while Biden's campaign committee had $162 million. 

And Biden has been outspending Trump in key battleground states for weeks — he spent more than Trump from Oct. 20-26 in every single state rated as a toss up or leaning on the NBC News Political Unit's latest battleground map.

The Trump campaign partially addressed the ad disparity in a statement refuting reports that it was "pulling" ads down in Florida.

"The campaign, with the RNC coordinated buy, is up with a seven figure buy in Florida on broadcast TV alone.  In addition in Florida, we are up with six figures in local cable, six figures in Spanish language, and six figures on radio," Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said, touting the campaign's investments over the race's final two weeks. 

"Including Florida, the Trump campaign is on television in 12 states and also nationally." 

Monica Alba contributed

Pence keeps campaign schedule despite Covid-19 outbreak

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence has continued a robust campaign schedule and will travel throughout the country during the final week of the election, despite a Covid-19 outbreak among close aides and staff.

Five of Pence's aides, including his chief of staff Marc Short, his “body man” Zach Bauer, and his senior political adviser Marty Obst, have tested positive for the coronavirus. Despite being in close contact with several of those aides, Pence is not quarantining because his active campaigning was deemed essential work.

"While Vice President Pence is considered a close contact with Mr. Short, in consultation with the White House Medical Unit, the Vice President will maintain his schedule in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel," the vice president's press secretary Devin O’Malley wrote in a statement.

Pence traveled on Sunday and Monday to campaign in North Carolina and Minnesota, respectively. The vice president's aggressive travel schedules comes amid renewed scrutiny of the safety precautions being put in place after the outbreak among the vice president's staff. 

A source familiar with the procedures said contact tracing was completed, and that three Pence aides —  Bauer and the two unnamed staffers — began protectively quarantining Tuesday after Obst tested positive.

Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence have reported testing negative for Covid-19 since confirmation of the positive cases close to them were disclosed. 

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a rally in Kinston, N.C., on Oct. 25, 2020.Jonathan Drake / Reuters

However, Pence was notably absent at the White House's swearing in ceremony for now-Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Monday. Pence was originally supposed to preside over the Senate for her confirmation vote. He announced earlier in the day on Monday that he would not be present at the vote but would be in D.C. if his vote was needed to confirm Barrett's nomination.

Pence’s office did not respond to NBC News’ multiple requests for comment on why he would skip that event but still travel to campaign.

Pence is expected to travel to North Carolina and South Carolina on Tuesday, and visit several battleground for the rest of the week: Stopping in Wisconsin and Michigan on Wednesday, and Iowa and Nevada on Thursday. 

However, while Pence will continue to travel, some new policies have been put in place. 

Both Pence and the second lady are tested for Covid-19 every day, and Pence and his staff that travels have been wearing masks consistently — something that was more relaxed prior to the outbreak. On Air Force Two, Pence has been seen wearing his mask, and is not getting visitors in his private cabin. The travel staff has also been cutdown for several events compared to the dozens that were present before.

Pence has also cutdown on his time interacting with supporters. After both of his events on Sunday and Monday, Pence went straight between his plane and the stage for his speeches. Typically, before the outbreak, Pence would work the rope line without wearing a mask. The vice president has also stopped doing regional interviews while campaigning. Normally, Pence would conduct two to five regional interviews during a day of events to make sure he hit local TV markets. 

Barrett ascendance isn't clear cut winner for Trump among GOP suburban women in focus group

WASHINGTON — When President Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court pick last month, GOP strategist Sarah Longwell, a co-founder of Republican Voters Against Trump, threw together an impromptu Zoom meeting with her ongoing focus group of nine college-educated suburban Republican women — all of whom voted for Trump in 2016 but are now undecided — to gauge how it was playing. 

Her assumption, she told NBC News, was that the nomination of a conservative woman to the high court could be a last-minute boon for Trump’s re-election bid.

Based on what she heard, that assumption was wrong.

“Not a single person brought up the courts." Longwell, who opposes Trump, said. Instead, "they were all super upset” about Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power and “a number offered they were leaning more towards Biden because they couldn’t believe Trump said that.”

Barrett was officially sworn in as an Associate Justice on Tuesday.

Weeks later, and with a different group of women who voted for Trump in 2016, Longwell said she still wasn't seeing the pick as a boon to the president politically. “They don’t want the court to go too far right, they want balance, even the ones that are pretty hard-core conservative. And half the groups are always pro-choice,” she said.

Longwell said that her observations revealed that many of these women don’t prioritize the court, especially not over concerns about Trump’s behavior and temperament. A number viewed the rush to confirm before the Nov. 3 election as “unfair.” And others expressed deep respect for former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who helped uphold Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling guaranteeing access to legal abortion.

“I actually think it’s a minus” for Trump with suburban women, said Lesa Brackbill, a 37-year-old lifelong Republican who voted for Trump and describes herself as anti-abortion rights. “Integrity matters to me” and the fact that Republicans are “doing this” after blocking President Obama’s election-year nominee “is wrong,” said Brackbill, of Hershey, Penn.

Brackbill said she remained undecided about who to support in the presidential race.

Now the Trump re-election campaign is scrambling to hold on to these suburban women, who have grown skeptical about Trump and are shifting to supporting Joe Biden in large numbers, according to multiple public polls. 

These voters include older women who have experienced decades of political fights over abortion rights as well as their daughters — most born after Roe — who consider it settled law.

Wednesday Hripak, a 45-year-old landscape company manager in North Carolina, is among them: “For me, it is a huge factor,” said Hripak, a registered Republican who is pro-abortion rights and voted for Trump but is now leaning toward Biden. Barrett will dramatically shift the court, she said.

“These older men and figures that have been in politics and running the country for so long shouldn’t be having the final say on women’s health care,” said Hripak.

According to Pew Research Center, even Republican-leaning women are roughly split on Roe v Wade, a decision Democrats say Barrett would likely vote to overturn.

Indeed, the last Supreme Court confirmation fight, over seating Justice Brett Kavanaugh, illustrates that court battles aren’t a motivating factor for many suburban women, especially for the GOP. After his  confirmation, female voter enthusiasm split pretty equally by party, while it pushed independent women to the Democratic side by 12 points.

The court battles — and their focus on abortion rights — is even shifting the political advantage toward the Democrats, experts say. With Trump almost certain to seat his third justice before Election Day, the fate of Roe, once thought irreversible, suddenly appears at risk. “This is the first time we know of since we’ve had data that the Democrats are more energized than the Republicans,” said Celinda Lake, a longtime Democratic pollster.

Battleground ad spending: Biden maintains advantage in key swing states

WASHINGTON — A look at the TV and radio ad spending in the battleground states helps tell the story behind Joe Biden's lead, showing big spending advantages over President Donald Trump in places like Michigan, Wisconsin and even Pennsylvania.

Biden outspent Trump in every single one of the states rated as toss ups or leaning on the NBC News Political Unit's latest battleground map over the last week (Oct 20-26). 

Here’s some state-by-state analysis:

Arizona: Biden and Trump both slightly boosted spending over the last week, with Biden spending more than double Trump — $5.7 million to $2 million. GOP outside groups have tried to close the gap for Trump, but Democrats retained a significant edge with help from their outside groups, too.  

Florida: Biden increased spending here, while Trump decreased spending week-over-week — the Democrat spent three times as much as the Republican ($8.4 million to $2.8 million). Total spending for Republicans (campaigns + outside groups) is virtually stagnant, while total Democratic spending increased week-over-week by 23 percent. 

Georgia: Directionally, both campaigns slightly increased their investment. But Biden spent almost three times Trump over that seven-day stretch, $1.7 million to less than $600,000. When you factor in outside groups, Republicans have a $500,000 edge.   

Iowa: Biden has significantly upped the ante here, going from $700,000 two weeks ago to more than $1.1 million last week. Trump spent just $200,000 over the past week. But with outside spending, it's the red team with the edge, $2.5 million to $1.7 million

Michigan: Biden has outspent Trump here every individual day since well before Labor Day, and it shows. Biden spent more than $4 million over the week, with Trump under $2 million. And when factoring in outside groups (including a big $4.7 million week for Future Forward), it’s a 3-to-1 advantage for the blue team.

A boy holds a sign while waiting for the arrival of Sen. Kamala Harris on Oct. 25, 2020 in Pontiac, Mich.Nic Antaya / Getty Images

Nevada: Both campaigns increased their TV/radio ad investment here, but with Biden significantly outpacing Trump. With outside groups, the Democrats are spending about 10 times that of Republicans

North Carolina: Trump is benefitting from a big GOP outside-spending push. Biden spent $3.8 million last week to Trump’s $2.6, but that amounted to a weekly increase for both campaigns. When outside groups are included, the advantage goes to Team Trump by almost $3 million (or almost 40 percent). 

Ohio: Biden decreased his spend here over the past week to $1.1 million, but neither the Trump campaign nor any GOP outside groups have been on the board in weeks. 

Pennsylvania: Biden keeps increasing his spending to the moon, eclipsing $8 million in just one week, a number matched by the Democratic outside group Future Forward. With Trump spending just $1.4 million last week there, the total spending gap that week (when you factor in outside groups) was about $24 million to $8 million.  

Texas: Biden has decreased his spending to about $600,000 for the week (and he’s getting outside help), while Trump and GOP outside groups were dark.  

Wisconsin: A bloodbath similar to Pennsylvania, both on the candidate and outside group sides. Biden outspent Trump by about 10 times ($3 million to under $300,000). And including outside groups, Democrats hold a huge edge of $9 million to less than $4 million. Note: The Trump campaign was the 10th biggest spender in Wisconsin over past week. 

Majority of Americans don't expect to know presidential winner on Election Day

WASHINGTON — A week out from Election Day, a majority of American adults don't expect to know who will win the presidential race on Nov. 3, according to new data from the latest NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll. 

Sixty-eight percent of adults said they don't expect to know if President Trump or Joe Biden won the election on election night, but there's a split in how long people will think it will take to find out. Thirty-eight percent said they expect to know within a few days, 19 percent said within a few weeks and 11 percent said they expect it to take longer than a few weeks. 

Thirty percent of Americans said they still expect to know who won the contest on Nov. 3. 

The data comes as a record number of votes have already been cast in this election either by mail-in ballots or early voting in-person. According to NBC News Decision Desk and Target Smart data, 62 million voters have cast their ballot early. The total early vote in 2016 was 50 million. 

People line up outside a polling station located at the McFaul Activity Center in Bel Air, Harford County, during early voting in Md., Oct. 27, 2020.Hannah McKay / Reuters

In the NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll, 38 percent of adults said they have already voted. Another 42 percent said it is "absolutely certain" that they will vote. Just eight percent of adults said they will not vote. A majority of adults who reported that they already voted were Democrats or Democratic-leaners. Fifty-two percent of Democrats and those who lean Democratic said they already voted, while 31 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners said the same. Nineteen percent of independents said they already voted. 

A stark 69 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaners said they voted by mail and 30 percent said they voted early in-person. Comparatively, 52 percent of Republican and Republican-leaners said they voted by mail and 47 percent said they voted early in person. Sixty-eight percent of independents said they mailed in their ballot while 31 percent said they went to the polls in person. 

The amount of mail-in ballots could be the reason a winner is not declared on election night. In several key states to both Biden and Trump's win, like Pennsylvania, early ballots cannot be counted until Election Day.  Other swing states though, like Florida, expect to have results on Nov. 3 because they begin counting ballots early. 

Both sides ramp up ground games in suddenly battleground state of Texas

HOUSTON — With just a week to go until Election Day both Democrat and Republican groups are on the ground in Texas working to turn-out last-minute voters. 

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican Super PAC has invested $1 million in the state, in an effort to turn out voters in areas where there hasn’t been a robust GOP voter outreach effort.

“We are trying to reach low propensity voters, Republicans who haven’t always gone out to vote,” Gabriela Hernandez, a project manager for the group told NBC News. The organization’s strategy is to talk to voters about local issues and congressional races in hopes that they will turn out to help Republican candidates win up and down the ballot. “Everyone knows how close it can be,” Hernandez said. “So these efforts right now hitting just these 1,000 doors can really make a difference.”

Meanwhile Democratic groups like the Texas Organizing Project are also barnstorming the state alongside Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke. They’re focused on galvanizing Black and Latino voters who are registered to vote, but haven’t done so historically. The goal: to turn Texas, a historically red state, blue. 

“It’s going to pay off on November third because guess what, we’re going to flip Texas,” Texas Organizing Project Deputy Director Brianna Brown, told NBC News. 

And O’Rourke says a win for Democrats in Texas could have implications far beyond just the presidential race. 

“[Texas] is the state that could put Joe Biden over the top on election night, help us win a Democratic majority in the statehouse and help control — help flip control of the us senate.”

More than 7.1 million Texas voters have already cast ballots, more than any other state in the country. The latest polls show Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump in a dead heat in the Lone Star State. 

Democrats hold big edge in Spanish-language TV and radio spending up and down ballot

WASHINGTON — Much has been made about the significant ad spending advantage enjoyed by Democrats this cycle, but the trend extends to Spanish-language ads too, up and down the ballot. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign has spent $17.3 million on Spanish-language television and radio ads, compared to the Trump campaign's $8.3 million through Sunday, according to Advertising Analytics. 

And that margin is even bigger when outside groups are taken into consideration — overall, Democratic groups have spent $51.6 million on Spanish-language presidential TV and radio ads to the GOP's $9.8 million, per Advertising Analytics. 

Both presidential campaigns are embarking on similar Spanish-language strategies on the TV airwaves, at least at the broad level — a mix of ads that evoke their central campaign themes, along with specific messages targeting the Hispanic community.

For example, many of Trump's Spanish ads evoke his rhetoric on the economy (he regularly boasts about how minority unemployment dropped during his campaign, before the coronavirus pandemic), with people praising the Trump economy. But he also is making explicit arguments to Spanish-speakers by trying to argue that the nation under Biden would resemble the socialist/communist regimes in Latin and South American countries.

Biden's embarking on a similar combination of translating his general campaign message into Spanish, but also running spots targeted specifically on issues the campaign thinks will resonate with Spanish-speakers. Their spots include the sweeping calls for a new direction in America that's become a central message of his campaign, as well as testimonial ads from Spanish speakers criticizing Trump's economic record and coronavirus response. 

But he's also running those more targeted messages, pushing back on the socialist attacks and criticizing Trump's response to Hurricane Maria hitting Puerto Rico. 

The Spanish-language ad advantage can be seen down-ballot too. In Senate races, Democrats have spent $16.1 million on Spanish-language TV and radio ads to the GOP's $1.7 million.

And in House races, Democrats have spent $11.6 million on Spanish-language ads to the GOP's $3.8 million, per Advertising Analytics.

Biden spokesperson on campaign travel: We're trying to keep communities safe

WASHINGTON — A top aide to Joe Biden’s presidential bid defended the campaign’s in-person event schedule as compared to President Donald Trump’s more robust travel during the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that the Democrat is pushing forward “aggressively” while still keeping communities safe.

Trump has personally visited North Carolina, Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania a combined 19 times since Sept. 1, compared to Biden’s 14 in-person visits to those states.

And it’s not just the candidates — the Biden campaign resumed its door-to-door battleground state canvassing in October after the pandemic shifted the campaign largely to virtual organizing. By comparison, the Trump re-election effort re-started its in-person canvassing months earlier.

When asked about the campaign’s strategy regarding in-person events, deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said that Biden’s schedule represents a balance.

“We are campaigning incredibly hard. Vice President Biden has visited all of these battleground states multiple times. He was in Pennsylvania yesterday,” she said

“We have been very aggressively campaigning, but here’s the difference between what we are doing and what Donald Trump is doing: We’re doing it safely. We’re taking into account the safety of these communities that we’re visiting.”

Bedingfield pointed to reports linking Trump’s rallies to Covid-19 cases — some Trump rally attendees have subsequently become diagnosed with the virus, most notably in Minnesota and Oklahoma, although it’s unclear where they were first exposed.

According to Minnesota Public Radio, there has also been one case connected to a Biden campaign stop in the state.

Trump campaign senior adviser Corey Lewandowski told "Meet the Press" Sunday that the president is focusing on his closing argument.

“The president’s message should be, and continues to be, the promises that he’s made and the promises that he’s kept,” Lewandowski.

“Whether you care about Middle East peace, which he’s been able to do, rebuilding our military or building the strongest economy,” he added, “that’s the closing message. The closing message is: We have an opportunity to set our country forth in the next four years for a path we’ve been on the last four years.”

With just nine days to go before Election Day, Biden is heading to Georgia in what Bedingfield called an attempt to “shore up “as many paths to 270 electoral votes as we possibly can,” including one through a state that hasn’t backed the Democratic presidential candidate since 1992.

“We believe that we are seeing energy all across the country for Joe Biden and against Donald Trump,” she said.

Trump hasn't met with coronavirus task force in months, not expected to before election

President Donald Trump has not attended a White House coronavirus task force meeting in months and is not expected to do so in the final days before the election, according to an administration official.

Although nationwide Covid-19 infections reached a new high on Thursday, the president has decided to focus on his re-election campaign and continue a rigorous rally schedule in the closing stretch. It comes as Trump continues to promise the virus will “go away” and claim “we’re rounding the corner,” despite data to the contrary. 

The president has delegated most of the current task force work to Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the group and leads its discussions. Those meetings used to be more frequent in the earlier months of the health crisis but have since become less regular with the 2020 race taking priority for the White House. 

The director of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, said recently it has been “quite some time” since the president met with the group of agency heads navigating the pandemic.

“Obviously it's a bit of a chaotic time with the election,” Collins told NPR.  “There's not a direct connection between the task force members and the president as there was a few months ago. But this seems to be a different time with different priorities.”  

Instead, Trump is “routinely briefed” on the team’s findings and recommendations by Pence, according to press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. 

Notably, Trump is also being closely advised on the pandemic by Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no background in infectious diseases. He was brought on to the task force in August, after the president saw his appearances on Fox News and appreciated that Atlas’ controversial views on the coronavirus more closely aligned with his desire to reopen states and schools. 

Atlas has repeatedly questioned the efficacy of masks and Twitter recently flagged one of his messages for violating its misinformation policy. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIAID director, and Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force response coordinator, have not appeared alongside the president in months. They were a near-constant presence in the briefing room earlier this year, before a shift in strategy that sent Birx on the road to push the administration’s message and left Fauci to do media interviews from beyond the White House grounds. 

NBC’s Kristen Welker pressed the president at the final debate in Nashville on what health experts he is actually listening to, if he considers Fauci to be a “disaster” and other scientists to be “idiots.” Trump responded: “I’m listening to all of them.” 

Trump campaign goes for kitchen-sink approach in new Spanish-language ad

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's campaign is out with a new Spanish-language ad that throws the kitchen sink at former Vice President Joe Biden in the hopes of diminishing him among Florida's diverse Hispanic community. 

For Cuban voters, there’s a photo of Biden kneeling superimposed in front of a flag of Che Guevara and the ad also accuses him of betraying Nicaraguans, abandoning the Venezuelans, and being the candidate of Castro-Chavistas. The spot ends with Trump declaring “America will never be a socialist country.” 

Team Trump has been trying to dent Biden's image among Florida Hispanics as polls over the last few months have shown the Democrat underperforming there.  

Meanwhile, the Biden campaign recently started running testimonial spots of Spanish-speaking individuals telling their own stories — combatting the socialist charge against Biden, attacking Trump on Puerto Rican hurricane recovery and the coronavirus, and criticizing Trump's hydroxychloroquine push.