Trump, Biden presidential campaigns in final push

There are only two weeks left until Election Day.
Image: President Donald Trump and Joe Biden on a background of concentric circles made up of blue and red stars.
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

President Donald Trump and Joe Biden are heading into the final stretch of the 2020 presidential campaign.

With two weeks to go until Election Day and millions of people already casting their ballots at early voting sites or by mail, the candidates are facing enormous pressure to solidify their bases and win over undecided voters.

On Thursday, the two candidates will face off in the last presidential debate.

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading election news from October 21, 2020.

Read the latest updates from the trail:

Bombshell text messages haven't upended N.C. Senate race

It was a typical October surprise — Cal Cunningham, the Democratic Senate nominee in North Carolina, was forced to admit to having had an extramarital relationship after news reports surfaced with text messages he sent to the woman as recently as July.

It was the kind of bombshell that gave Republicans hope that the incumbent, Thom Tillis, could recover the kind of support he has consistently lost in the polls, giving them a shot at holding onto a seat in a battleground state that could be instrumental in their keeping control of the Senate.

But this October, the surprise appears to be having little impact on the race.

Read more here

Pelosi 'optimistic' about relief talks, but warns deal could slip past the election

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Tuesday that she was "optimistic" about the status of Covid-19 relief negotiations with Republicans after being deadlocked over a package for months. 

But Pelosi warned in an interview with Bloomberg News that if negotiators don't have a bill written by the end of the week, a stimulus deal will not happen until after Election Day, which is Nov. 3. 

The speaker is expected to talk with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday afternoon and hopes to work out language on testing and contact tracing.

“Hopefully by the end of the day today we’ll know where we all are," she said. 

She also said that the two remaining sticking points are over funding for state and local governments and liability protections. 

'Seinfeld' stars reuniting to raise money for Texas Democratic Party

Giddy up: "Seinfeld" stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander are reuniting with series co-creator Larry David for a virtual event benefiting the Texas Democratic Party.

"A Fundraiser About Something" will be moderated by "Late Night" host Seth Meyers and live-streamed on Friday night. The name of the event is a nod to the famous description of "Seinfeld" as a "show about nothing." (The series aired on NBC from 1989 to 1998.)

The event, available to contributors who chip in any amount, will feature Louis-Dreyfus, Alexander and David telling "exclusive behind-the-scenes stories about their favorite 'Seinfeld' episodes," according to a description on ActBlue, the online fundraising platform.

Democrats are hoping for a surprise victory in Texas, a traditionally Republican state that is showing signs of turning blue amid rapid demographic changes and Democratic gains in suburban areas. President Donald Trump holds a narrow lead in the state, according to most polls.

In the run-up to Nov. 3, virtual cast reunions have become popular ways to raise money for state Democratic parties. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin last month drew more than 110,000 donors to a reunion of the cast of the Rob Reiner film "The Princess Bride." The cast of the television series "Happy Days" is reuniting on Sunday to raise money for the Wisconsin Democrats, too.

Louis-Dreyfus, for her part, has been vocal in her support for Joe Biden's candidacy. She tweets frequently about supporting Democratic candidates and hosted the final night of the virtual Democratic National Convention in late August.

Melania Trump to skip Pennsylvania rally due to cough

Melania Trump will no longer travel to Erie, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday with the president due to a "lingering cough" from her bout with coronavirus," the first lady's spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said.

"Mrs. Trump continues to feel better every day following her recovery from COVID-19, but with a lingering cough, and out of an abundance of caution, she will not be traveling today," Grisham told NBC News in a statement.

The first lady was expected to join her husband at a Tuesday night rally, her first in over a year.

Photos: In-person voting begins in Wisconsin

Martha Crowley casts her absentee in-person ballot at a polling site Tuesday at the Milwaukee Public Library's Washington Park location on the first day of in-person voting in Wisconsin. Bing Guan / Reuters
Voters wait in line outside the Washington Park Library in Milwaukee to cast their ballots Tuesday. Kamil Krzaczynski / AFP - Getty Images

Committee on Presidential Debates says final debate was not dedicated to foreign policy

The Committee on Presidential Debates said Tuesday that the final presidential debate was not previously "devoted to foreign or domestic policy."

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien criticized the topics selected by moderator, NBC's Kristen Welker, in a letter. He claimed that both camps agreed the final debate should focus on foreign policy, suggesting that the committee changed the topics to favor Joe Biden. 

"The choice of topics is left entirely to the journalistic judgment of the moderators," the committee said on Twitter. 

Both candidates will answer questions on fighting COVID-19, American families, race, climate change, national security and leadership. 

The view from one of Pennsylvania's most important swing counties

Few counties across the political landscape are of more importance than Pennsylvania's Erie County — and the county executive says it's going to be a tight race there through the finish.

In 2016, Trump, who won Pennsylvania, prevailed in Erie by about 2,000 votes, a swing from 2012 when former President Barack Obama won by 20,000 votes. This year, both candidates are targeting Erie. Biden having recently visited there, and Trump is set to hold a gathering there Tuesday evening.

"One thing that happened in 2016 from the Democratic side; I think they kind of forgot about Erie County," Kathy Dahlkemper, the county executive and a former Democratic congresswoman, told NBC News. "We had no visits. Of course now it's different, but we had no visits from Hillary Clinton."

Trump has tried to woo the region with promises of coal and steel jobs, and insisted but that Biden would eliminate fracking, but Dahlkemper says that message doesn't fly in Erie County. 

"I believe we're going to take Pennsylvania, but it's going to be a fight and not going to be a blowout," she said. "I just use my visual clues of driving around the county and the signs — people love their signs in Western Pennsylvania."

Utah gubernatorial opponents appear in joint unity video

The Democratic and Republican candidates for governor in Utah have produced a joint video calling for unity in the face of political disagreement. 

Two weeks till Election Day, Democrats have a big lead in early voting

Democratic voters have turned in more early votes than Republicans in most states.

Two weeks before Election Day, early votes have come in from almost every state and Democrats have a clear edge in ballots already cast, according to NBC News’ Early Voting tracker.

More than 29 million people from 45 states have voted as of Tuesday morning, either by mail or in-person. Nearly half of those votes — almost 14.2 million ballots — have come from Democrat-affiliated voters. Republican-affiliated voters have returned almost 10.1 million ballots. And while not every Democrat will vote for former Vice President Joe Biden and not every Republican will vote for President Donald Trump, Democrats currently have a 14-point edge in returned ballots.

Read more here.

After botching past elections, Detroit aims to avoid a 'black eye' in November

Adam Maida / for NBC News

Two months ago during Michigan’s primary, a record number of absentee ballots overwhelmed city election workers, who were short-staffed and ill-prepared because of Covid-19. Exhausted workers, processing ballots all day and into the following morning in this massive, concrete basement, had made so many errors that 72 percent of the city's absentee-ballot counting boards were out of balance, meaning the number of votes recorded did not align with the number of ballots cast.

Donald Trump won Michigan four years ago by just 10,704 votes. If the election doesn’t go his way this time, he and his supporters — already on high alert from the president’s repeated unfounded assertions that Democrats will try to rig the election — are sure to scrutinize how the ballots were tallied in Detroit. The state’s largest city is overwhelmingly Democratic, and Joe Biden is likely to get more votes in Detroit than in any other city in the state.

So when city and state election officials announced last month that they needed thousands of energetic election workers to help address the problems that undermined the August primary, they were flooded with applications.

Read more about how Detroit is preparing for Election Day.

Demonstrations planned for outside Thursday night debate

Protesters are planning to gather outside Nashville's Belmont University on Thursday night as the school plays host to the final debate between Trump and Biden. 

The protest is being organized by a group called "Be Better Belmont," which is trying to draw attention to systemic racism both at the school and in the city of Nashville. 

“We’re demanding transparency in governing the finances of the institution. We’re asking for accountability,” Safara Parrott, an organizer of the protest, told News 4 Nashville.