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Trump and Biden town halls: highlights and analysis

The events were planned after Trump pulled out of Thursday's scheduled presidential debate.

President Donald Trump and Joe Biden held separate town halls Thursday night after Trump pulled out of the night's scheduled presidential debate last week.

Trump's event, held in Miami, aired on NBC with host Savannah Guthrie from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. ET. ABC aired Biden's event, hosted by George Stephanopoulos in Philadelphia, from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. ET. Both segments were town hall-style, meaning the candidates took questions directly from voters.

Trump backed out of the second presidential debate scheduled for Thursday after organizers announced that it was going to be conducted virtually because of his recent Covid-19 diagnosis. The final presidential debate is scheduled for next Thursday, Oct. 22.

Read the latest updates below:

774d ago / 12:20 AM UTC

Trump clashes with Guthrie after question about white supremacy

Trump came under fire in the last debate after he failed to denounce white supremacists and the Proud Boys.

“I denounced white supremacy for years,” Trump claimed, complaining that Guthrie and other people in the media keep bringing up the topic.

But Trump repeatedly dodged attempts to get him to condemn these groups that have expressed support for him, despite being given multiple opportunities to do so.

774d ago / 12:18 AM UTC

Fact check: Trump wrongly characterizes CDC study on mask wearing

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Trump wrongly characterized a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study when he claimed that "they came out with a statement that 85 percent of people who wear masks catch" the coronavirus.

That is an inaccurate read of a Sept. 10 CDC report — the study found that people who contracted Covid-19 are more likely to have eaten in a restaurant. The lead researcher says the research is actually “mask neutral” and that the data was based on self-reports and not designed to argue for or against mask wearing.

The CDC tweeted on Wednesday that “the interpretation that more mask-wearers are getting infected compared to non-mask wearers is incorrect.”

All the available evidence suggests that masks help slow the transmission of the coronavirus. A recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal Health Affairs showed that Covid-19 transmission slowed after states implemented mask requirements. Scientists believe this is because masks reduce the amount of respiratory droplets spread by the wearer. 

While some masks appear ineffective at slowing the spread of the coronavirus (like very thin masks or masks with valves), the concept of masks is not up for debate. Trump has been criticized for not aggressively promoting the use of masks, and for refusing to appear in public wearing one until months into the pandemic. 

774d ago / 12:18 AM UTC

Trump ignores question about herd immunity, attacks Whitmer

When asked whether he supported herd immunity, Trump responded: “The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself.” 

Trump then launched into attacks against Democratic governors who implemented stay-at-home orders and closed businesses, including Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was recently the victim of a foiled kidnap plot. She has blamed Trump for being "complicit" in the vitriol against her.

774d ago / 12:16 AM UTC

'Nothing': Biden's account tweets on what Trump's doing to combat virus

774d ago / 12:15 AM UTC

Audio issues at NBC News town hall

Trump’s audio is echoing through his microphone. 

The outdoor stage setup carries sound differently than an indoor stage. 

774d ago / 12:11 AM UTC

Trump begins town hall with questions about his Covid diagnosis

Savannah Guthrie kicked off Trump's event by asking about his Covid-19 diagnosis and treatment. She also asked whether or not he got tested before the first presidential debate.

Trump said he was unsure whether or not he got tested for the coronavirus the day of the presidential debate, as was required by the debate commission. “Possibly I did, possibly I didn’t,” Trump said, adding that he gets “tested all the time.” 

Trump said that he “didn’t feel good” or “strong” when he had the virus but he again refused to say whether or not he had pneumonia. His doctors have not answered questions about whether or not his lung scans showed signs of pneumonia. 

“They said the lungs are perhaps a little bit different, a little bit infected,” Trump responded. 

774d ago / 12:08 AM UTC

Biden town hall kicks off with first focus on Covid-19

The ABC town hall with Biden has kicked-off in Pennsylvania. The second presidential debate was supposed to take place tonight, but since President Trump contracted Covid-19, the debate commission moved to a virtual debate, in which Trump refused to participate. 

The first question was on Covid-19, with a voter asking how a Biden he would handle the pandemic compared to Trump, who has been criticized for his administration’s response. 

Biden excoriated Trump for how he has communicated to the American people and a national, coordinated public health response and a nationwide standard to slow the spread. 

George Stephanopoulos, who recovered from Covid-19 earlier this year, is moderating the town hall.  

774d ago / 12:00 AM UTC

Biden leading in polls in Pennsylvania heading into tonight’s town hall

Biden’s town hall, hosted by ABC, is taking place in Pennsylvania, a crucial battleground state and the birthplace of the former vice president. 

Biden is at 51 percent while President Trump is at 44 percent among likely voters, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll. Trump is participating in a competing town hall airing on NBC tonight in Florida, another vital state to win the election. 

Both candidates have campaigned heavily in the state.

774d ago / 11:59 PM UTC

Trump town hall will take place in one of the most competitive states

Trump takes the stage in Florida tonight trailing slightly behind Biden in recent state polls, but Florida is proving to be one of the most competitive battleground states.

Most polling averages show Biden roughly 4 percentage points ahead of Trump in the state, which is within the margin of error of some polls. 

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday showed Biden with 49 percent of likely voters compared to Trump’s 47 percent. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 points. 

With 29 Electoral College votes, Florida is one of the most critical swing states. Trump carried it by roughly 1 percentage point in 2016.

774d ago / 11:49 PM UTC

Biden, Trump arrive at town hall events

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Biden and Trump have arrived at their respective event sites. Biden pulled up to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia at 7:32 p.m. ET. Trump's motorcade arrived at the Pérez Art Museum around 7:45 p.m. ET.

774d ago / 11:44 PM UTC

In Florida, Biden courted seniors and hit Trump on Covid-19

Biden on Tuesday delivered a scathing review of how Trump’s presidency has hurt senior citizens, telling a group of older voters that his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic — which has been especially deadly to the elderly — suggests he feels they’re “expendable” and “forgettable.”

Biden, speaking to a socially distanced crowd at a senior citizen community center in southern Florida, also hit Trump over his statements on possibly cutting Social Security and his record on lowering prescription drug costs, but saved his breath almost entirely for criticism of how the president’s response to the virus has hurt older people in particular.

“While you're losing precious time with your loved ones, he's been stuck in a sand trap at one of his golf courses, and when he does decide to lift a finger it isn't to help you,” Biden said.

“While he throws superspreader parties at the White House, while Republicans hug each other, without concern of the consequences, how many of you have been unable to hug your grandkids the last seven months?" Biden said.

Read more about Biden's Florida push.

774d ago / 11:29 PM UTC

Biden tests negative for Covid-19

After announcing that a crew member on his flights to Ohio and Florida tested positive, Biden underwent another coronavirus test Thursday. 

"Vice President Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 today and COVID-19 was not detected," the campaign said in a statement.

This marks Biden’s fourth negative test since seeing Harris on Oct. 8 and second since traveling to Ohio earlier this week.

774d ago / 11:09 PM UTC

C-SPAN suspends host Steve Scully after he admits lying about Twitter hack

C-SPAN announced Thursday that it had it suspended host Steve Scully after he admitted having falsely claimed that his Twitter account was hacked last week.

Scully appeared to seek advice on Twitter last Thursday from a prominent critic of Trump and then denied it.

Scully, who had been scheduled to moderate this week's presidential debate before it was canceled, admitted that he had lied about sending a tweet to former White House adviser Anthony Scaramucci, "for which I am totally responsible."

Scully said he had been relentlessly targeted in conservative news outlets and social media and by Trump himself. And then, at that point, he turned to Scaramucci for advice, Scully now admits.

"Out of frustration I sent a brief tweet addressed to Anthony Scaramucci," Scully said in a statement. "The next morning when I saw that this tweet had created a new controversy, I falsely claimed that my Twitter account had been hacked."

Read more here.

774d ago / 10:58 PM UTC

Twitter suffers through extended outage

What would a big night in politics look like without Twitter? We might get to find out.

The microblogging platform suffered an extended outage late Thursday afternoon. Some functionality returned at around 7 p.m. ET, but at least some users were still unable to send tweets. DownDetector.org, a website that tracks outages, found that the outage started around 5 p.m. 

It's not uncommon for Twitter to have service issues from time to time. In early October, the site experienced partial outages that lasted for around seven hours. 

Twitter said in a tweet later that the outage was the result of "some trouble with our internal systems" and likely not a hack.

774d ago / 10:54 PM UTC

Biden and Harris react to Trump falsehoods in new video

In a new campaign video posted to Biden’s Twitter account, the former vice president and Sen. Kamala Harris sit several feet apart with masks on as they watch videos of Trump speaking at campaign rallies, interviews and in a campaign ad.

The two-and-a-half-minute video shows the Democratic ticket reacting to falsehoods from the president against their health care and economic record and plans. In response to Trump falsely saying at a rally that Biden’s health care plan "would destroy protections for people with pre-existing conditions," Harris calls the president "heartless."

Biden says it’s "painful just watching him" as they hear Trump accuse him of wanting "to inflict a painful shutdown on the entire country" if elected. 

774d ago / 10:41 PM UTC

Trump campaign's efforts for an October surprise are falling short

774d ago / 10:24 PM UTC

Kamala Harris cancels travel after top aide tests positive for Covid-19

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has canceled travel through Sunday after two people involved in the campaign tested positive for Covid-19, Joe Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O'Malley Dillon, said in a statement Thursday.

Dillon said the campaign learned of the positive tests, of a nonstaff flight crew member and Harris' communications director Liz Allen, late Wednesday. Dillon said Harris was not in close contact with those two, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, within two days ahead of their positive tests. Both Harris and her husband Douglas Emhoff tested negative.

Dillion said there is no requirement for Harris to quarantine but that "out of an abundance of caution and in line with our campaign’s commitment to the highest levels of precaution, we are canceling Senator Harris’s travel through Sunday, October 18th."

Read more here.

774d ago / 9:53 PM UTC

Here are the coronavirus-related safety measures in place tonight

Both town hall venues will have extra coronavirus-related safety measures in place on Thursday.

The Trump event will take place outdoors at the Pérez Art Museum in accordance with guidelines set forth by health officials and consistent with all government regulations. Moderator Savannah Guthrie and the president will be at least 12 feet apart from each other and the audience

The audience will also be socially distanced and required to wear masks, answer a symptoms questionnaire and take a temperature check before entering the outdoor venue.

The Biden town hall at the National Constitution Center, which is being moderated by George Stephanopoulos, will be held in accordance with state and local government health and safety regulations, and guidelines set by health officials, according to ABC.

774d ago / 9:36 PM UTC

Will Trump win again? Watch this Florida's county for first election night clue

Last week, Democrats took delight in the spectacle of a 500-golf cart flotilla of Joe Biden supporters parading through Florida's largest retirement community en route to turn in their vote-by-mail ballots.

It was a rare sight: The Villages is one of the most staunchly Republican enclaves in the Sunshine State.

But The Villages isn't just worth watching for its warring buggies and flags. From a data standpoint, it could be the best early indicator on Election Night of a "gray revolt" against President Donald Trump — and who's on track to win Florida.

Trump's campaign assigns so much importance on the 122,000-resident community dubbed "Florida's friendliest hometown" that Vice President Mike Pence visited last Saturday and Trump is scheduled to hold a rally in nearby Ocala on Friday. Biden was in Broward County on Tuesday making a pitch to seniors.

Read more about this pivotal Florida county here.

774d ago / 9:16 PM UTC

2020 sea wars: DNC floating billboard vs. Trump boat parade

In politics, there's the ground game, where campaigns try to out-organize each other door-to-door and the airwar, where they spend millions pummeling each other in TV ads. But what about the sea war? 

Hours before Trump's town hall in Miami, a pro-Trump boat parade passed within mere fathoms of a floating billboard commissioned by the Democratic National Committee to display the message "Trump Lied, 215,000+ Died" in the politically turbulent waters of Biscayne Bay.

Democrats, in an unusual act of political trawling, hired the naval billboard for a four-hour tour that saw it ply the waters around downtown Miami and up the Miami river while displaying its message in three local languages, English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole.

"215,000 Americans have lost their lives, including more than 15,000 in Florida, and countless families have been unable to see their loved ones. But Trump — who lied to the American people about the threat of the virus — has tried to pretend the pandemic doesn’t exist, refused to make a plan, and continues to jeopardize the safety of the American people," said DNC War Room spokesperson Lily Adams.

Trump's town hall will take place in the same waterfront location as Biden's last week, the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, but the Coast Guard plans to blockade all water traffic in the area when the president arrives so a real naval battle doesn't break out.

774d ago / 8:53 PM UTC

Pence and Trump to meet before town hall

Vice President Mike Pence told the audience at the Faith in America Event in Doral, Florida, that he’s seeing Trump ahead of his town hall tonight.

"Apparently this is the day to be in Miami," Pence said. "I arrived earlier today for a rally, the President is arriving momentarily, and we'll be meeting up at Doral before he has a televised town hall this evening."  

774d ago / 8:32 PM UTC

Trump posts photo of large crowd at North Carolina rally

774d ago / 8:00 PM UTC
774d ago / 8:00 PM UTC

Biden continues to hold double-digit national lead over Trump

Less than three weeks before Election Day, Joe Biden maintains a double-digit national lead over President Trump, with 6 in 10 voters saying that the country is on the wrong track and that it is worse off than it was four years ago.

What's more, a majority of voters say they have major concerns that Trump will divide the country rather than unite it — the largest concern for either presidential candidate.

Those are the results of a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll — conducted after Trump returned to the White House from his hospitalization for the coronavirus — which finds Biden ahead of Trump by 11 points among registered voters, 53 percent to 42 percent.

Read more about the poll here.