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Three months out, the presidential election is still being overshadowed

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks with attendees after delivering a speech in Wilmington, Del., on July 28, 2020.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks with attendees after delivering a speech in Wilmington, Del., on July 28, 2020.Mark Makela / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If you’ve wanted American elections to more resemble Europe’s — where big elections last weeks, not years — you’re getting your wish in 2020.

With the U.S. presidential election now exactly three months away, it remains on the news back-burner, even with Joe Biden’s vice-presidential selection and the conventions coming up within the next two weeks.

Think about the top news today: The coronavirus (deservedly so with more than 156,000 U.S. deaths), the tropical storm approaching Florida and the East Coast, Congress still unable to reach a deal on coronavirus relief, and President Trump’s threatening to ban TikTok.

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The presidential election and Biden’s VP pick come after those stories.

And even when Biden announces his running mate and when the conventions begin (virtually) on Aug. 17, it’s an open question whether they will dominate the news — or continue to take a backseat.

Now this lack of news doesn’t mean voters are less interested in the election; voter interest is sky-high and so is expected turnout.

But it’s a significant departure from past election cycles, when the presidential race was the news driving everything else.

As CNN’s Harry Enten tweeted last week:

“We're under 100 days til election day (and way less than that til some people start voting via mail/absentee), and the election isn't close to being the top story right now. That's not something a lot of us are used to.”

Trump’s own coronavirus experts continue to contradict him

The Trump administration’s top coronavirus experts continue to contradict the president’s claims on the virus.

While Trump has promoted hydroxychloroquine as a way to combat the virus, here was Admiral Brett Giroir on “Meet the Press” yesterday: “The evidence just doesn't show that hydroxychloroquine is effective right now.”

While Trump continues not to wear a mask in public — with one notable exception — here was Giroir again: “Wearing a mask is incredibly important, but we have to have like 85 percent or 90 percent of individuals wearing a mask and avoiding crowds. That is essentially — gives you the same outcome as a complete shutdown.”

While Trump attributes the current spike in coronavirus cases to more testing, here was Dr. Anthony Fauci speaking to Congress on Friday: “If you do more tests you are going to see more cases. But the increases that we are seeing are real increasing in cases as also reflected by increasing in hospitalization and increasing in deaths.”

And while Trump continues to talk about the virus as treating “embers,” here was Dr. Deborah Birx saying the coronavirus has become widespread: “But I want to be very clear. What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It's into the rural as equal urban areas... This epidemic right now is different, and it's wide — it's more widespread.”

If you want to know while polls show Trump getting low marks for his handling of the coronavirus, as well as his trust on the issue, this is a big part of the story.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

4,683,560: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 177,399 more cases than Friday morning.)

156,137: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 2,835 more than Friday morning.)

56.81 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: Karen Bass meets the scrutiny

Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., one of the finalists to be Joe Biden’s running mate, appeared on “Meet the Press” yesterday. Here were some of the highlights from the interview:

What makes her prepared to be a heartbeat away from the presidency?

“Having served as speaker of the house in California, as you know, California is the world's fifth largest economy. The largest state in the union. I led at a time when we went through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. I led in a very bipartisan manner. I worked with Governor Schwarzenegger, worked well with my Republican colleagues.”


"[W]hat I'm the most proud of is my ability to bring people together because I think that our country needs healing.”

On her work as a young activist in Cuba

“In my early twenties, I went to Cuba to help the Cuban people, to build houses. Now, that doesn't excuse the fact that I know the Castro regime has been a brutal regime to its people. I know that there is not freedom of press, freedom of association.”

On Republicans who have criticized her over Cuba

“Well, one, don't consider myself a Castro sympathizer. Number two, my position on Cuba is really no different than the position of the Obama administration. As a matter of fact, I was honored to go to Cuba with President Obama.”

Ad watch from Ben Kamisar

The campaign has spent virtually nothing on TV ads since last Tuesday. But now, as NBC’s Shannon Pettipiece previewed to start the weekend, the Trump campaign announced Monday that it is launching a round of new TV ads in North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Arizona, pivotal states with early voting. The forthcoming ad buy also includes Spanish-language ads and a national cable buy, the campaign said.

The two new spots released by the Trump campaign this morning aim at stoking fears about an America under Joe Biden, a theme Trump has played up repeatedly on Twitter and during events as recently as Friday’s trip to Tampa.

The first ties Biden to the “policies of the radical left,” warning of things like “crushing” new taxes and “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants during a Biden presidency.

The second one is Trump’s “silent majority” meets “Love Actually.” In it, a mother cycles through cue cards to say she’s afraid Joe Biden is “too weak,” too far “left,” and a “risk” to her “children’s future.” But the bit is: She’s too afraid to say it out loud.


After a weekend of talks, there is still no deal on a coronavirus relief package between Senate Republicans, the White House and the Democrats. And now the weekly federal unemployment benefit has expired. While making their rounds on TV yesterday, here’s what Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said about the talks:

“We proposed a one-week extension at $600 so that while we negotiate a longer-term solution, at least all those people don't lose their money, and I'm surprised that the Democrats won't agree to that. They are insistent on having this as part of a larger deal.” But when asked why Republicans waited so long to negotiate a deal, Mnuchin said, “We wanted to wait and see how the money was going to work,” and “we have to be careful about not piling on enormous amounts of debt.”

Of course, the current Republican legislation only calls for a $200 benefit, and Democrats have said they don’t want short-term legislation. Here’s Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “The amount of money that is given as an enhancement for unemployment insurance should relate to the rate of unemployment. So when that goes down, then you can consider something less than the $600, but in this agreement it's $600."

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The White House is looking to make unilateral moves if no deal is reached in Congress on coronavirus relief.

Is Biden’s VP search “messier than it should be”? And who’s lobbying whom?

With early voting starting soon, is Trump close to the “point of no return”?

Germany is deeply invested In the 2020 election. Here’s why.

The U.S. is set to withdraw almost 12,000 troops from Germany.

Young voters aren’t happy with Trump’s moves to ban TikTok.

Peter Navarro has become one of the president’s closest allies.

What happens if there’s a Supreme Court vacancy in 2020? Democrats are on the alert.

The Washington Post looks at how Joe Biden worked to rehabilitate his reputation with women after the Anita Hill hearings.