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With two weeks to go, there are only two scheduled events left on the 2020 calendar

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 and Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden exchange arguments during the first presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic
President Donald Trump and Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden exchange arguments during the first presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — We are officially two weeks out from Election Day, and we have only two scheduled events left on the calendar.

Thursday’s final debate and the Nov. 3 election.

That’s it.

Everything else seems stuck in place — like you’re on an amusement-park ride, and the only choices you have are getting on and getting off. And all of the rest is outside of your control.

That helps explain why the Trump campaign yesterday was so fixated on the topics and structure of Thursday’s debate — because they realize they have so few opportunities left to change the trajectory of the race.

Especially with millions of Americans having already voted.

Tweet of the day

The early vote and how to watch the election night returns

Approximately 30 million Americans have already voted in the 2020 election — representing about one-fifth of the estimated turnout — and we can safely conclude that a majority of them are Democrats.

Our most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found 59 percent of registered voters saying they plan to vote early (either by mail or in person), and that includes 76 percent of all Democratic voters, but just 42 percent of Republicans.

Conversely, 37 percent said they’d vote on Election Day, which includes 55 percent of Republicans, but just 20 percent of Democrats.

That disparity is likely going to influence how election night plays out as the votes get counted, because some states — including the key battlegrounds of Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — can’t begin counting absentee/mail-in votes until Election Day.

In other words: You can expect the day-of votes (which heavily lean Republican) to get counted before the early votes (which heavily lean Democratic).

Now Florida and North Carolina are big exceptions here — they can begin counting absentee/mail-in ballots early, and they have a history of counting quickly.

Still, be prepared for uneven ways the ballots are going to come in on election night/election week.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

8,259,935: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 67,496 more than yesterday morning.)

221,318: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 561 more than yesterday morning.)

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

26,257,381: The number of Americans who have voted early, either by mail or in person, according to NBC and TargetSmart

2 minutes: The time during each presidential candidate’s initial answers to each of six debate topic questions for which the opposite candidate will have their mic muted on Thursday, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates.

3 days: The number of days after Election Day when mail-in ballots that are received must be counted in Pennsylvania, per a new ruling by the Supreme Court.

52 percent: The share of Americans who say they don’t trust what Trump has said about his health after being diagnosed with Covid, according to a new NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll.

9 points: Biden’s lead over Trump in a new national NYT/Siena poll.

1 point: Biden’s lead in North Carolina, per a Washington Post/ABC poll, showing a dead heat in the Tar Heel State.

2020 Vision: All about that base

Here was Trump yesterday talking to the press when asked about voters who aren’t “at the rallies” and aren’t “folks watching Fox News”:

“I think that we’re winning over voters by having such a success. Look, our stock market is almost at the all-time high in our history. And that’s with a pandemic. And I know you don’t like saying this, but — and I believe we’re rounding the turn on the pandemic very substantially.”

And here’s what Trump told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie last Thursday when asked about voters in the middle wanting to know why they should give the president “a second chance”:

“Because I’ve done a great job. We have the strongest economy in the world. We closed it up. We are coming around the corner. The vaccines are coming out soon, and our economy is strong.”

On the campaign trail today

President Trump holds a rally in Erie, Pa. at 7:00 p.m. ET. Kamala Harris participates in a virtual GOTV event for voters in Milwaukee.

Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar

In today’s Ad Watch, Democrats are bringing in the cavalry: Former President Barack Obama.

The former president, who has enjoyed relatively high retrospective polling marks since he left office, is on the airwaves in some key battleground Senate races as Democrats push to flip control of the body.

In Maine, he’s touting Democrat Sara Gideon as “exactly the type of leader we need in Washington” in a seat that could decide control of the Senate; in Georgia, he praises Raphael Warnock as a “man of great moral integrity, a leader in the truest sense of the word” ahead of his Georgia special Senate election showdown; he called South Carolina’s Jaime Harrison the choice who will “fight for criminal justice reform, lower college costs and make health care affordable” in his bid against Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham; and in Michigan, he praised Democratic Sen. Gary Peters as “someone I trust” to protect the legacy of the Obama administration.

Obama has endorsed other candidates up and down the ballot, so it’s possible that he wades into other races in the final few weeks (ads are continuing to roll in this morning). But Democrats are hoping that one of their top surrogates can help maximize turnout among their party’s base, as well as shore up states that Obama carried during his time on the ballot.

The Lid: All the rage

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we learned how a single viral moment turned into a big fundraising boost in a key Senate race.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Trump wants to ramp up his “BOFFO” rallies. They may come with more risk than reward.

Does Jaime Harrison really have a chance?

Admiral William McRaven says he’s voting for Biden.

The New York Times checks in with how QAnon is going mainstream in the GOP.

The U.S. is set to execute the first woman in 67 years.

The Justice Department says that Trump shouldn’t be sued personally for denying a rape allegation because he made the statement while acting in his official capacity as president.