WASHINGTON — With 98 days to go until the election, Joe Biden has a bigger and more durable lead over President Trump than Hillary Clinton ever had in 2016, particularly in the key battleground states.
But that doesn’t mean the race is guaranteed to remain stable over the next three months. Here are six upcoming events and potential storylines that could move numbers.
- Biden’s VP pick: With the Democratic convention approaching, so is Biden’s running-mate selection. Not since LBJ has a VP pick truly helped win a presidential race, but bad picks have backfired (see: Palin, Sarah). And as we’ve written, Biden’s fav/unfav numbers are soft with African Americans and younger voters.
- The virtual conventions: Given the increased polarization in the country, the days of big post-convention bounces are probably over, and that’s probably especially true during a pandemic. Still, the conventions will consist of two weeks of speeches to sell each party’s ticket.
- Will the economic and coronavirus numbers get better, worse, or stay the same? These might be the most important statistics to watch over the next three months. It’s the fundamentals, stupid.
- The debates (or will they even take place?): That Notre Dame became the latest college campus to withdraw as a debate host site during the pandemic is an ominous sign. Ditto the fact that the Trump camp appears to be still negotiating over the debates.
- Another October surprise? James Comey’s letter in the last two weeks of the 2016 election is proof that events at the end of a presidential race can move numbers.
- How the 2020 vote gets counted: This might be the most important storyline of all, especially amid a deadly pandemic. Are there long lines? Disputes over mail-in ballots? Postal Service delays? Allegations of fraud and abuse? And just how long does it take to count the ballots?
Expect fireworks at today’s Barr hearing
Beginning at 10:00 a.m. ET, Attorney General William Barr testifies before the House Judiciary Committee. And from Barr’s opening statement alone, it looks like it’s going to be a combative hearing.
"Ever since I made it clear that I was going to do everything I could to get to the bottom of the grave abuses involved in the bogus 'Russiagate' scandal, many of the Democrats on this Committee have attempted to discredit me by conjuring up a narrative that I am simply the President's factotum who disposes of criminal cases according to his instructions,” Barr is expected to say, per his prepared remarks
(So Barr believes that Russia didn’t interfere in the 2016 election; that the Trump campaign didn’t expect it would benefit from the interference; and that Roger Stone didn’t communicate with Russian intelligence in ’16?)
He will say this about African Americans killed by police: “According to statistics compiled by the Washington Post, the number of unarmed black men killed by police so far this year is 8. The number of unarmed white men killed by police over the same time period is 11.”
(Thirteen percent of the U.S. population is Black; 60 percent is white.)
And Barr will say this about the protests in Portland: “What unfolds nightly around the courthouse cannot reasonably be called a protest; it is, by any objective measure, an assault on the Government of the United States.”
Data Download: The numbers you need to know today
4,317,028: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 59,724 more cases than yesterday morning.)
149,500: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,679 more than yesterday morning.)
52.25 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.
68 percent: The share of Americans who say they always wear a protective mask when they leave home and may encounter other people, per a new NBC News|SurveyMonkey tracking poll.
$1 trillion: The amount of the coronavirus relief package unveiled yesterday by Republicans as benefits are set to expire within days.
Two: The number of Major League Baseball games postponed last night after members of the Miami Marlins team tested positive for the virus.
Talking policy with Benjy: Where’s my vaccine?
Even as there are a signs a vaccine may be in reach, some experts are worried about Americans getting complacent in the hopes a miracle drug will bail out our flagging coronavirus response, NBC’s Benjy Sarlin writes. Even in a best-case scenario in which a vaccine is approved by the end of the year, it may take months to distribute and plenty can go wrong along the way.
A new report from the Center for American Progress urges the federal government to prepare early for everything from manufacturing enough glass vials (to store the vaccine) to opening a network of community health clinics (to administer it), to running a PSA campaign (to convince people to receive it, which polls suggest many Americans may be reluctant to do).
“I think there ultimately will be a vaccine that at least partially works. That’s why it's important to prepare for that eventuality,” Topher Spiro, VP of Health Policy at CAP and a co-author of the report, told NBC News. “It will take a while to stand up some of these things."
The report, of course, assumes that we find an effective vaccine. But some experts, including a top pharmaceutical CEO, are warning we need a Plan B just in case the next phase of trials hit a snag or the first approved vaccines are only partially effective.
Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar
Today’s Ad Watch takes a look at a new ad from Giffords PAC, which is wading into the Colorado Senate race with a $1.25 million television ad campaign against Cory Gardner.
The first ad in that Colorado campaign frames Gardner as more concerned about sticking by Trump than helping Colorado families confront gun violence, hitting the Republican in a state that’s seen tragic mass shootings in recent years and that’s given Trump low marks.
NBC has learned the ad (which will run today through the end of next month on broadcast and cable) is part of the at-least $7.5 million that Giffords PAC and its non-profit plan to spend this general election to play in races up and down the ballot and message on gun-violence prevention.
Read more on the MTP Blog later this morning about the push.
Tweet of the day
Here’s what’s in the Senate GOP relief bill
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released the GOP coronavirus relief package on Monday, and it includes a $400 cut in the weekly federal unemployment benefit. If enacted, the $200 flat benefit would last for two months until states transition to a wage replacement system. Essentially, states would have two months to create. A system that would give unemployed people 70 percent of their wages.
The bill also includes $105 billion for schools, liability protections, and another round of direct payments for Americans. You can read more about that here.
In a particularly awkward moment, though, McConnell seemed unaware of some of the bill’s components. When asked by our Hill team why new money for a new FBI headquarters is in the bill ($1.75 billion), McConnell responded, “I'm not sure that it is, is it?” After confirmation from a staffer McConnell said there were provisions in the bill as a starting place with the Trump administration.
But negotiations with Democrats probably won’t go as smoothly as throwing in construction provisions. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the bill was "a halfhearted, half-baked legislative proposal.”
ICYMI: What else is happening in the world
The Trump administration is sending more federal agents to Portland.
Trump’s announcement — and subsequent cancellation — of throwing a first pitch at Yankee stadium was a surprise to the team.
Susan Collins will vote against Trump’s pick for the Fed board.
Trump national security advisor Robert O’Brien has tested positive for coronavirus.
The New York Times looks at Trump’s history of leaving mourning to others.
Politico writes that Trump has a big problem with voters who are the core of his base: the white working class.
How real is the Susan Rice-for-veep buzz?