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Trump's 'rigged' election talk is more dangerous than it was four years ago

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.
Image: President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on wildfires with local and federal fire and emergency officials at Sacramento McClellan Airport in McClellan Park, CA
President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on wildfires with local and federal fire and emergency officials at Sacramento McClellan Airport in McClellan Park, CA on Sept. 14, 2020.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has talked about the upcoming presidential election in conspiratorial and often violent ways, as liberal New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie notes.

“I am going to start by saying that the Democrats are trying to rig this election because it’s the only way they are going to win,” Trump said this past weekend in Nevada. (No matter the national and battleground polls that currently show Trump trailing.)

“[T]he only way [Democrats] can win is by doing very bad things. That’s the only way,” he said last week in North Carolina.

“Look, it’s called insurrection. We just send in and we do it, very easy. I mean, it’s very easy. I’d rather not do that because there’s no reason for it, but if we had to we’d do that and put it down within minutes,” Trump said on Fox News last week when asked about riots if he wins re-election.

It’s become easy for the political community to dismiss this as your normal Trump rhetoric; after all, he says these kinds of things all the time, including when he was trailing Hillary Clinton four years ago.

But it’s another thing when the President of the United States says it, and when his supporters and allies starting saying it, too.

“The top communications official at the powerful cabinet department in charge of combating the coronavirus made outlandish and false accusations on Sunday that career government scientists were engaging in ‘sedition’ in their handling of the pandemic and that left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election,” the New York Times reported yesterday.

We don’t know if Trump will do it. But he’ll certainly say it.

And that’s just as dangerous for America’s democracy.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

6,585,191: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 40,957 more than yesterday morning.)

195,755: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 583 more than yesterday morning.)

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

400,000: The number of immigrants who could be affected by a new court ruling that allows the president to terminate legal protections for immigrants fleeing their home countries under “Temporary Protected Status.”

Poll: 52 percent don’t trust Trump on vaccines

At last night’s Senate debate in North Carolina, Democratic nominee Cal Cunningham said he’d be hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine if the FDA approves it.

"Yes, I would be hesitant, but I'm going to ask a lot of questions," he said. "I think that's incumbent on all of us right now — in this environment with the way we've seen politics intervening in Washington."

Cunningham isn’t alone.

According to the latest weekly NBC News|SurveyMonkey tracking poll, 52 percent of American adults say they don’t trust President Trump’s comment about vaccine, while just 26 percent say they do.

Another 20 percent say they are "not aware" whether they trust what the president has said about a vaccine

And these numbers come as the percentage of Americans who say they would get a government-approved vaccine has declined, the poll also finds.

Only 39 percent of adults say they would get a vaccine – down from 44 percent a month ago.

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: Last primary dance of 2020

Today brings us the final primary day on the 2020 election calendar – Delaware’s primary, just 49 days before Election Day.

And NBC’s Ben Kamisar writes that the top race to watch in Delaware tonight is the Democratic Senate race between incumbent Democrat Chris Coons and progressive challenger Jess Scarane.

Coons, the heavy favorite, is a relatively moderate Democrat who is a close ally of former Vice President Joe Biden. He’s not as moderate as a Joe Manchin, but he’s sought to work across party lines at key times.

Scarane, a 34-year-old digital marketing professional, backs progressive platforms like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. She’s hit Coons over issues like taking money from big industries/fossil fuel companies, and for Coons’ compromises with Republicans.

There’s no recent public polling in Delaware given its heavy Democratic tilt and the lack of fireworks in the race. On TV/radio, Kamisar adds, Coons has spent about $562,000 to Scarane’s $39,200, per Advertising Analytics. The American Chemistry Council ran $217,000 last year on TV ads boosting Coons as well.

On the campaign trail today

Joe Biden is in Florida, where he holds a roundtable with veterans in Tampa and a Hispanic Heritage Month event in Kissimmee. President Trump tapes an ABC News town hall that airs at 9:00 p.m. ET. Kamala Harris is in Nevada.

Climate duel

President Trump and Joe Biden both spoke Monday about climate change and the still-blazing fires on the West Coast. But their two messages couldn’t have been more different.

Biden called Trump a “climate arsonist” in his speech. “If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if we have more America ablaze?” he said. “If you give a climate denier four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised when more of America is underwater? We need a president who respects science.”

During a briefing on the California fires with Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, Trump was confronted over remarks he’s made about forest management causing the fires by California Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot:

Crowfoot: "If we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it’s all about vegetation management, we’re not going to succeed together protecting Californians."

Trump: "Okay. It’ll start getting cooler. You just watch."

Crowfoot: "I wish science agreed with you."

Trump: "Oh well, I don’t think science knows actually."

Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar

Today’s Ad Watch takes a look at a new round of spots from the Trump campaign, another attempt at rallying soft Republicans with a focus on the economy.

The two new spots hit Biden for trade deals the campaign says “put China first” over American workers and include a testimonial from a woman who says “Joe Biden could never handle the economy after Covid” and that “President Trump has been the greatest president we’ve ever seen.”

In a press release, the campaign announced the new ads were part of an expanded TV buy as the campaign increases its advertising by “nearly 50 percent,” with these new spots to run in North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, as well as the 2nd Congressional Districts in Nebraska and Maine.

The increased spending will likely be welcomed by allies who have signaled frustration with the campaign’s financial situation. But the recent gap has been so big — since Labor Day, Joe Biden’s campaign has spent more than $31 million on TV and radio, per Advertising Analytics, while the Trump campaign has spent $9.4 million — that the increased spend will still likely keep Trump’s spending significantly behind Biden’s pace.

The Lid: Stormy weather

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at where public opinion stands on climate change.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

A bipartisan group is trying to kickstart negotiations on the stalled coronavirus aid bill.

Trump is setting his sights on Minnesota. And he’s hoping to make inroads with Latinos, too.

Gavin Newsom gently confronted the president on climate change (even as others in his administration took a blunter tone.) Meanwhile, Biden is calling Trump a “climate arsonist.”

The DOJ IG is investigating the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone.

Not all of Trump’s allies thought his indoor rally in Nevada was a great idea.

Some downballot Dems are returning to traditional door-knocking.

A Trump ad that urges Americans to “support our troops” features a stock image of Russian jets.

Where will climate refugees move? The New York Times takes a deep dive.