2020 Election Updates: Trump Visits Georgia as G.O.P. Turns to Senate Battles There


Republicans shift their focus to Senate fights in Georgia.

With one contentious intraparty Senate battle behind them in Alabama, Republicans are now looking next door to Georgia, where President Trump is scheduled to visit on Wednesday and meet with the two Senate candidates fighting for his supporters even as his own political standing in the state appears shakier than ever.

Georgia has started drifting away from Mr. Trump in recent weeks, the latest sign of how imperiled his re-election hopes are — and how his unpopularity is endangering his party’s chances of holding onto the Senate. In 2016, he won the state by five percentage points. But a series of recent polls have shown that a tight race is developing between Mr. Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Some polls, including one released by Fox News late last month, show Mr. Biden beating the president in the state.

The fact that Mr. Trump would feel the need to visit to Georgia, where he will deliver remarks on rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure in Atlanta, instead of one of the states he so narrowly won in 2016, is further evidence of how his mishandling of the coronavirus and failure to alleviate the country’s anger over racial inequality have left him vulnerable.

Georgia Democrats sought to frame the Trump visit as the latest evidence of his mishandling of the coronavirus. Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the disputed 2018 governor’s race to Brian Kemp, said Wednesday the president has proved himself incapable of handling the pandemic.

“We know that Trump’s incompetence and failures and his coronavirus response is just the latest in a three-year chain of actions that have disproportionately hurt African-Americans as well as Latinos and Asians in the United States, and particularly here in the state of Georgia,” Ms. Abrams told reporters on a video conference call. “His incompetence and his failures have inflicted disaster after disaster on African-Americans, and that’s never been more apparent than in the last several months.”

The backdrop for Mr. Trump’s visit is a fight between two Republicans who are competing for the Senate seat that was held by Johnny Isakson until his retirement late last year. Senator Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed by Mr. Kemp to fill the vacancy, has to stand for election this year. But Representative Doug Collins, who represents the northern part of the state in Congress, is running against her.

Ms. Loeffler is backed by the Republican leadership but has baggage: She faces questions about stock trades she made soon after being briefed about the threat of the virus. Mr. Collins, who has been an ally to the president as a House member, has pitched himself as the candidate who would be most faithful to Mr. Trump’s agenda. The president has not made an endorsement in the race.

Then there is the matter of Georgia’s other senator, David Perdue, who is also up for re-election. His seat was once considered safe, but Republican strategists say they are increasingly worried about losing to the Democratic nominee, Jon Ossoff.

The Trump campaign releases a dark TV ad featuring misleading claims.

A new ad from the Trump campaign paints a dystopian future if Mr. Biden wins in November, repeatedly mischaracterizing Mr. Biden’s position on police reform as it stokes division and fear.

Hewing to a strategy that dates back to his first campaign ad in 2016, which falsely depicted immigrants as violent criminals, the new ad comes as Mr. Trump trails the former vice president in several national and battleground state polls, spurring him to reach for additional lines of attack.

The president has been whipsawing from seemingly divergent — and even contradictory — messages, including attempting to paint Mr. Biden as weak on crime while also attacking him for his role in the 1994 crime bill, which critics say led to over-policing and mass incarceration. He’s repeatedly tried to paint Mr. Biden as a “radical” left-wing candidate, despite Mr. Biden’s decades-long career as a moderate Democrat.

The scattershot criticism in the ad mimics Mr. Trump’s hourlong, meandering stream of consciousness remarks at the White House yesterday, when a scheduled news conference quickly morphed into a directionless attack on Mr. Biden. Mr. Trump touched on China, the coronavirus, the Paris climate change accord, his friendship with the president of Mexico, the death penalty, schools and crumbling highways. And more.

The ad begins with a scene from a fictionalized police station, empty with phones ringing off the hook, before scenes of violence and unrest from recent protests flicker across the screen. A narrator warns of “radical left-wing mobs” and asks, “who will be there to answer the call when your children aren’t safe?”

The ad mischaracterizes multiple statements from Mr. Biden. Misleading editing makes it appear that Mr. Biden is saying “yes” to defunding the police, using footage from an interview with the liberal activist Ady Barkan. Asked by Mr. Barkan if “we agree that we can redirect some of the funding,” Mr. Biden, who has said repeatedly does not support defunding the police, replied: “Yes. Absolutely.”

The ad also attempts to absolve Mr. Trump for “violent crime exploding” and somehow blame Mr. Biden, who holds no elected office at the moment. The ad points to rising shootings in Chicago that have killed multiple children over summer weekends.

Mr. Trump has poured money into television ads in July, having spent $27 million in the past two weeks, with at least $7 million more in reservations for the rest of the month. Mr. Biden, by comparison, has spent $9 million so far in July, with roughly another $4 million in reservations, according to Advertising Analytics, an ad tracking firm.

Mr. Biden, who has been unusually open about his search for a running mate, said in a new interview that he was “getting closer” to finding one, shedding fresh light on his time frame.

“The background checks that have been done are coming to a conclusion within the next week to 10 days,” he said in an interview with 12 News, a Phoenix TV station, that aired Tuesday. He and his team, he said, will “narrow down the list, and then interview those folks that are left on the list.”

Mr. Biden has said he hopes to announce a running mate by early August.

He said in the 12 News interview that he was looking for someone who “shares the same value set I have and is going to be an ally in making sure that we get things done.”

Here’s a list of contenders thought to be under consideration.

In the interview, and in another he gave to a CBS affiliate in Charlotte, Mr. Biden — who has faced criticism over his work on the 1994 crime bill, which many experts associate with increased mass incarceration — also defended his record, while calling for the police to be held to a higher standard now.

Asked in the Phoenix interview how his thinking on crime had changed since the 1990s, Mr. Biden replied: “Well, it hasn’t changed a whole lot in the sense that I don’t think we should be defunding police departments. I think we should be holding police departments responsible.”

But he said that the nation, rocked all summer by an outcry over police brutality and racism, needed a “wake-up call” to end racial injustice and overhaul the criminal justice system.

“There’s a lot we’ve learned,” he said. “It’s important that we make sure that we have decency and honor in the way in which we conduct our politics and conduct policing.”

Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump 53 percent to 40 percent among registered voters in Pennsylvania, the Democrat’s largest lead in any public poll of the state this year, according to a Monmouth University poll released Wednesday.

The poll shows Mr. Biden with a 10-point lead among voters 65 and older, a stark reversal from Mr. Trump’s 10-point victory among the same demographic in 2016.

It also shows that while Mr. Biden has consolidated support from virtually every Democratic voter surveyed — just 1 percent oppose him — Mr. Trump is bleeding support among Republicans, 12 percent of whom back Mr. Biden. In a state that four years ago was decided by fewer than 45,000 votes out of more than 6 million cast, such intraparty defections could doom a candidacy.

Mr. Biden’s strength among older voters poses a significant risk to Mr. Trump outside of Pennsylvania. Key battleground states such as Arizona and Florida have disproportionate populations of retirees, who normally tend to vote Republican. If Mr. Biden and Democrats win a majority of older voters this fall, that could spell disaster for Republican candidates down the ballot, too.

Despite Mr. Biden’s commanding lead, the poll found Pennsylvania voters, by a slight margin, believe Mr. Trump will carry the state, 46 percent to 45 percent. That’s because 57 percent of those polled said they believe there are “secret voters in your community who support Donald Trump but won’t tell anyone about it.”

Alabama Democrats release a tweet storm at Tommy Tuberville on his first day as the Republican Senate nominee.

College football coaches like Tommy Tuberville, the newly minted Republican nominee for Senate from Alabama and a former coach himself, spend much of their professional life watching “game tape” of their opponents to prepare for a matchup.

It appears the Alabama Democrats have been watching some Tuberville game tape of their own.

For Mr. Tuberville’s first morning as the Republican nominee, the Alabama Democrats unleashed a combative Twitter burst, and the state party let loose a torrent of criticism directed at Mr. Tuberville’s football record and political positions.

They recalled his loss to Vanderbilt while he was the coach at Auburn University, a game that was nationally televised and an embarrassment for the football powerhouse, and his 36-0 defeat at the final Iron Bowl game (a historic rivalry between Auburn and Alabama).

They also criticized Mr. Tuberville’s treatment, while he was coach of Auburn, of a player who had been charged with rape.

The morning outburst quickly sent the Alabama Democrats’ Twitter account trending nationally; the group attempted to capitalize on the popularity of their tweets by including links to their ActBlue fund-raising page.

The Alabama Republican Party was largely silent on Twitter on Wednesday, while Mr. Tuberville retweeted a news account of his victory last night.

A Republican congressman was charged with voter fraud.

Representative Steve Watkins, Republican of Kansas, was charged with three felonies related to voter fraud on Tuesday, shortly before a televised debate in which he dismissed the accusations involving a municipal election as a political move.

The district attorney of Shawnee County, Mike Kagay, charged Mr. Watkins with three felonies: interference with law enforcement by providing false information, voting without being qualified and unlawful advance voting. Mr. Watkins was also charged with failing to notify the state motor vehicle agency of a change of address, a misdemeanor.

Mr. Watkins changed his voter registration address to a UPS store last year before voting in a City Council race that was decided by 13 votes, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

During the primary debate on Tuesday night, Mr. Watkins, a first-term representative, said that he had accidentally put his mailing address instead of his physical address on his voter registration form and that he had corrected the error as soon as he became aware of it.

He said the charges were an attempt to undermine his credibility in the upcoming election.

“This is clearly hyper-political,” Mr. Watkins said. “It comes out moments before our first debate and three weeks before the election. I haven’t done anything wrong.”

Mr. Trump and other Republican officials have claimed, without evidence, that mail-in voting could create opportunities for fraudulent election results in November. But election experts agree that voter fraud is extremely rare in the United States.

Jeff Sessions spent his final days on the campaign trail reiterating his support for President Trump’s agenda, reminding voters of his efforts to curb illegal immigration while attorney general and emphasizing how, as a senator, he had endorsed Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign at a time when few others in Washington would.

But in the end, it wasn’t enough. And in truth, after Mr. Trump endorsed Mr. Sessions’s opponent, it probably never was.

On Tuesday, Mr. Sessions fell far short in the Alabama Senate Republican runoff election to Tommy Tuberville, a former Auburn University football coach whose platform was largely a blanket promise to support the president at all times. Mr. Tuberville celebrated the results that evening at the Renaissance Hotel in Montgomery.

“People in Alabama voted against Jeff Sessions because Donald Trump told them to,” said Angi Stalnaker, a Republican strategist in Alabama. “If it had been Donald Trump saying, ‘Go write in Mickey Mouse,’ 50 percent of them would have gone to write in Mickey Mouse.”

“They wanted to please the president,” Ms. Stalnaker said. “This was never about Tommy Tuberville.”

Join Times journalists and Julián Castro to discuss this very unconventional convention season.

In the pre-pandemic political universe, Democrats planned to hold their convention in Milwaukee this week, while Republicans were scheduled to gather in Charlotte in August. Needless to say, a lot has changed.

New York Times political reporters Katie Glueck, Annie Karni, Lisa Lerer and Jennifer Medina will gather (virtually) on Thursday at 5 p.m. Eastern to talk about everything convention-related, and the latest on this unusual political summer. Rachel Dry, deputy politics editor, will host.

There is one question they won’t be able to field from personal experience. And that is: What is it like to give a career-defining speech in the bright lights of a convention hall? For that answer, and thoughts on how the Democratic Party is responding to the challenges of the moment, Julián Castro, the former housing secretary, mayor of San Antonio and 2020 candidate, will be in conversation with Ms. Medina.

RSVP here to join the discussion.

The governor of Oklahoma has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma on Wednesday became the first governor in the United States to announce that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Mr. Stitt told reporters in a video news conference that he felt “achy” but otherwise all right, and that he did not know where, when or how he had become infected. His wife and children have tested negative.

Tulsa’s top health official, Dr. Bruce Dart, said last week that the current spike in cases in Oklahoma was “more than likely” attributable to Mr. Trump’s rally there last month, which Mr. Stitt, a Republican, publicly supported and attended.

While Mr. Stitt is now part of that broader surge in cases, there is no evidence he was infected at the rally, which took place more than two weeks ago, a point he emphasized in his news conference.

Mr. Stitt said he was not second-guessing his response to the virus. He has resisted a statewide mask order and continued to do so on Wednesday, as Oklahoma officials reported 993 new cases, a single-day record.

The reports will cover the period from April 1 through June 30.

Ahead of the deadline, some Democratic candidates for Senate have announced their quarterly hauls, including Jaime Harrison of South Carolina ($13.9 million), Amy McGrath of Kentucky ($17.4 million) and Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana ($7.7 million). Now their Republican opponents must open up their books, too.

The new filings show that Jeffrey Sprecher, the husband of Ms. Loeffler, donated $468,500 to a joint committee for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and various state parties. On the same day, April 29, Mr. Sprecher donated $1 million to a pro-Trump super PAC, America First. Ms. Loeffler has garnered the support of the N.R.S.C. in her primary.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden do not have to release their reports for June until early next week, but committees that they operate jointly with the Democratic and Republican parties will file on Wednesday, offering a view into some of the largest donors sinking money in the presidential contest.

Just seven votes separate the candidates in a Texas House runoff.

Republicans won’t know their nominee for a sprawling Southwest Texas House district for some time, after Tuesday’s runoff left Tony Gonzales and Raul Reyes separated by just seven votes.

Mr. Gonzales, who was endorsed by Mr. Trump, led Mr. Reyes, who is backed by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, with all 335 precincts reporting results.

It will likely be a while before the race can be called: In Texas, absentee ballots can arrive by mail as late as 5 p.m. the day after an election. And the margin is certain to be close enough that whichever candidate trails can request a recount.

Any delay in declaring a Republican winner is not likely to be helpful in the party’s chances to retain a seat being vacated by Representative Will Hurd, who did not seek re-election to a fourth term.

Democrats have viewed the district as one of their best opportunities to win a Republican-held seat. Their candidate, Gina Ortiz Jones, who lost to Mr. Hurd by 926 votes in 2018, is running again in the sprawling district, which covers all or parts of 29 counties between San Antonio and El Paso.

Elsewhere in Texas, Democrats chose candidates in two districts long held by Republicans that party officials believe will be competitive this year.

In the 31st District, which covers suburbs north of Austin, Donna Imam, a tech engineer, defeated Christine Eady Mann, a physician, for the Democratic nomination to face nine-term Representative John Carter, a Republican. No Democrat had come with in 20 percentage points of Mr. Carter until 2018, when he defeated M.J. Hegar, now a Senate nominee, by less than three points.

And in the 24th District, in the suburbs between Dallas and Fort Worth, Democrats nominated Candace Valenzuela, who would be the first Afro-Latina in Congress. In the general election Ms. Valenzuela will face Republican Beth Van Duyne, a former mayor of Irving, Texas.

The winner will replace Representative Kenny Marchant, a Republican who did not seek re-election to a ninth term. Mr. Marchant had won each of his elections by at least 15 points until 2018, when he won by just 3 points against a Democrat who spent less than $100,000 on her campaign.

How Ronny Jackson, the former White House doctor, won his primary.

Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, the former White House physician with no political experience who ran a campaign based on his close relationship with Mr. Trump, won a Republican runoff election for a House seat in Texas on Tuesday night, effectively stamping his ticket to Congress next year.

Dr. Jackson’s victory in the 13th Congressional District was hailed by the Trump campaign, which had helped prop him up.

It was something of a comeback for Dr. Jackson, a retired Navy rear admiral who left the West Wing in December after becoming Mr. Trump’s unlikely choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. He withdrew his name from consideration amid allegations related to his professional conduct.

After moving home to Texas, Dr. Jackson hoped to make a fresh start, running in a crowded Republican primary to replace the retiring Representative Mac Thornberry.

Dr. Jackson made a series of novice mistakes that could have derailed any congressional campaign. He relied on a “horse doctor” with a full-time job to run his campaign. His wife, Jane, doubled as his chauffeur, and she even took on the job of putting up lawn signs and replacing them after they were defaced. Before the coronavirus struck, the couple wasted hours knocking on doors during work hours, when no one was home. And they agreed to attend events where the majority of the crowd was from neighboring Oklahoma and couldn’t vote for Dr. Jackson.

But after Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, and Kimberly Guilfoyle, his girlfriend and a top fund-raising official for the president’s re-election campaign, realized that Dr. Jackson’s campaign was in trouble, they asked senior members of Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign to step in. The campaign helped with logistical support that fueled Dr. Jackson’s improved fund-raising.

Over the past five months, people have waited in all sorts of lines to vote: some bent around store corners, some curving through city parks, others spaced six feet apart.

In Atlanta, on June 9, Katie Sharma, a medical student, did some flashcards during her three-hour wait. In San Antonio on March 3, Austin Coleman found a line around the block at his polling place.

He voted early in Tuesday’s runoff election — one of the last before Election Day in November.

How much of a hassle it is to vote is generally a matter of design, not accident, according to Carol Anderson, the author of “One Person, No Vote” and a professor of African-American studies at Emory University. “Long lines are deliberate, because they deal with the allocation of resources,” Professor Anderson said.

Looking ahead to the fall, Nicole Haase, of Milwaukee, said she had already requested a mail-in ballot. For the April 7 primary, she realized she was lucky to have been able to vote by mail when many of her neighbors didn’t get a ballot in time.

She helped deliver pizza — the local specialty Ian’s — to voters who were stuck in long lines.

“It just felt like something I could do,” she said. “I almost felt guilty for having received my mail-in ballot.”

Reporting was contributed by Maggie Astor, Evan Nicole Brown, Nick Corasaniti, Reid J. Epstein, Manny Fernandez, Katie Glueck, Shane Goldmacher, Annie Karni, Jeremy W. Peters, Elaina Plott, Sarah Mervosh and Will Wright.





Source link

Leave a Comment