Joe Biden is vastly outspending President Trump in TV advertising, maintaining a nearly 2-to-1 advantage on the airwaves. The Trump campaign is projecting a confidence that doesn’t match the difficult reality his team is grappling with.

Biden sets his sights on North Carolina, a critical state for Trump to keep in his column.

Biden is vastly outspending Trump in TV advertising, maintaining a nearly 2-to-1 advantage on the airwaves.

Senator Chris Coons says he is not a fan of packing the Supreme Court but is open to steps to ‘rebalance’ it.

Many voters who refused to support Clinton in 2016 plan to vote for Biden this year.

With just over two weeks until Election Day, Joseph R. Biden Jr. traveled to North Carolina on Sunday, a state that could be crucial both to the presidential contest and the battle for control of the Senate.

Early in-person voting is underway in the state, which no Democratic presidential candidate has won since Barack Obama narrowly carried it in 2008. For President Trump, keeping the state in his column is critically important.

“Without North Carolina, it’s very hard to imagine Donald Trump winning,” Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Mr. Biden’s campaign manager, said during a virtual event with supporters on Friday.

Mr. Biden was joined on the trip by his granddaughter Finnegan, and they were greeted at Raleigh-Durham International Airport by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat who is running for re-election.

In the afternoon, Mr. Biden is scheduled to campaign in Durham, part of the Research Triangle region that is an area of strength for Democrats. Hillary Clinton defeated Mr. Trump by about 60 percentage points in Durham County in 2016.

Polls show a close race in the state this year. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll found Mr. Biden with the support of 46 percent of likely voters, compared with 42 percent for Mr. Trump.

North Carolina is also a crucial state in the fight for control of the Senate, with a Republican incumbent, Thom Tillis, in a close race with Cal Cunningham, his Democratic challenger.

President Trump on Sunday will campaign in the crucial battleground of Nevada, a state where Joseph R. Biden Jr. maintains a steady lead in the polls and that Mr. Trump hopes to flip from its 2016 results.

For the past decade, Democrats in Nevada have notched one hard-fought victory after another. In 2010, Senator Harry Reid won his hotly contested re-election campaign, even as the party lost other battles all over the country. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the state, though with a smaller margin of victory than Democrats garnered in the previous two presidential contests. And in 2018, the Democrats managed to capture the governor’s office and the State Senate.

According to a recent Times/Siena College poll, Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump 48 percent to 42 percent, with six percent of the state’s voters saying they remain undecided. When The Times polled Nevada last month, Mr. Biden held a four-point lead.

Voters in Nevada said, by a 10-point margin, that they trusted Mr. Biden more than the president to handle the pandemic.

The poll was taken after Mr. Trump announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus, and most of the survey took place before Mr. Trump returned to the White House on Oct. 5 from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where he had been receiving treatment. The results show the extent to which voters’ views on the coronavirus crisis and Mr. Trump’s management of it continue to hang over the election.

Mr. Trump traveled to two other battleground states on Saturday, campaigning in Michigan and Wisconsin, both of which he won narrowly in 2016, as he sought to defend his coalition amid polls that show Mr. Biden ahead in the final stretch of the race.

At a rally in Muskegon, Mich., Mr. Trump ripped into familiar liberal foils, as his supporters chanted “lock her up,” in reference to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who was the target of a kidnapping plot by antigovernment extremists, according to the F.B.I.

Ms. Whitmer, responding on Twitter, said, “This is exactly the rhetoric that has put me, my family, and other government officials’ lives in danger.”

Mr. Biden did not hold any events on Saturday, but is campaigning in North Carolina on Sunday, as his aides warned against complacency.

In a version of a memo that was to be sent to supporters, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Mr. Biden’s campaign manager, stressed that polls can be faulty or imprecise — as they were in 2016 — and warned of only narrow advantages in key states.

“This race is far closer than some of the punditry we’re seeing on Twitter and on TV would suggest,” she wrote. “In the key battleground states where this election will be decided, we remain neck and neck with Donald Trump.”

That message appeared designed to keep Democratic supporters engaged in the last days of the race despite national attention on Mr. Trump’s challenges, and to motivate Biden backers to turn out and continue donating.

In a sign of the shifting electoral map, and the rising prospect of a Democratic rout, Mr. Trump campaigned on Friday in Macon, Ga., a conservative region in a once reliably conservative state.

His stop there was a reminder that the G.O.P.’s “solid South” has become more competitive, with Virginia turning blue, North Carolina a deeper shade of purple, and Georgia and Texas close behind.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan on Sunday condemned President Trump after his supporters at a Saturday rally in the state broke out in a chant to “lock her up,” just a week after she was the target of a kidnapping plot, even as Trump surrogates sought to downplay his remarks.

Speaking to NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Ms. Whitmer said, “It’s incredibly disturbing that the president of the United States, 10 days after a plot to kidnap, put me on trial and execute me — 10 days after that was uncovered — the president is at it again and inspiring and incentivizing and inciting this kind of domestic terrorism.”

Ms. Whitmer has been the target of conservative criticism for her strict policies in the spring to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and Michigan’s Supreme Court recently ruled that her use of executive orders to extend the state’s emergency declaration order was unconstitutional. Since a peak in the spring, Michigan had successfully kept coronavirus cases from climbing until the last few weeks, which have seen a sharp rise.

“I’m not going to get distracted by attacks from the White House or a Supreme Court here in the state that is undermining my work,” Ms. Whitmer said on Sunday. “I’m going to keep going forward and doing everything I can to protect my people.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday also condemned President Trump for joining the chants at the rally, while Trump campaign surrogates played down the president’s remarks.

Ms. Pelosi, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” said Mr. Trump’s rhetoric was “irresponsible,” particularly targeting a female governor.

“The president has to realize that words of the president of the United States weigh a ton,” Ms. Pelosi said. “In our political dialogue, to inject fear tactics into it, especially a woman governor and her family, is so irresponsible.”

Jason Miller, a senior adviser for the Trump campaign, said on “Fox News Sunday” that Mr. Trump does not regret his remarks made during the rally.

“I think the fact of the matter is that many residents of Michigan are pretty frustrated with the governor,” Mr. Miller said.

“I’m glad that Trump’s D.O.J. was able to get these psychopaths and put them away,” he added of the 13 men arrested in connection with the domestic terrorism plot. “I think that was reprehensible, that was terrible.”

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Lara Trump, a campaign adviser and the wife of Mr. Trump’s son Eric, played down the president’s remarks.

“He wasn’t doing anything, I don’t think, to provoke people to threaten this woman at all,” Ms. Trump said. “He was having fun at a Trump rally.”

Ms. Whitmer also used her TV appearance on Sunday to promote Joseph R. Biden Jr. for the presidency, and said Mr. Trump’s response to the coronavirus has been the worst in the world.

“This is a moment where we as Americans have to elect leaders that are going to look out for our health, our economy, get us back to work and make America a leader in the fight against Covid, not a lagger,” Ms. Whitmer said.

It is a phrase that has been constantly invoked by Democratic and Republican leaders. It has become the clearest symbol of the mood of the country, and what people feel is at stake in November. Everyone, it seems, is fighting for it.

“This campaign isn’t just about winning votes. It’s about winning the heart and, yes, the soul of America,” Joseph R. Biden Jr. said in August at the Democratic National Convention, not long after the phrase “battle for the soul of America” appeared at the top of his campaign website, right next to his name.

Picking up on this, a recent Trump campaign ad spliced videos of Democrats invoking “the soul” of America, followed by images of clashes between protesters and the police and the words “Save America’s Soul,” with a request to text “SOUL” to make a campaign contribution.

That the election has become a referendum on the soul of the nation suggests that, in an increasingly secular country, voting has become a reflection of one’s individual morality — and that the outcome hinges in part on spiritual and philosophical questions that transcend politics: What, exactly, is the soul of the nation? What is the state of it? And what would it mean to save it?

The answers go beyond a campaign slogan, beyond politics and November, to the identity and future of the American experiment itself, especially now, with a pandemic that has wearied the country’s spirit.

Framing an entire campaign explicitly around a moral imperative — with language so rooted in Christianity — has been a standard part of the Republican playbook for decades. But it is a more unusual move for Democrats, who typically attract a more religious diverse coalition.

The soul, and the soul of the body politic, is an ancient philosophical and theological concept, one of the deepest ways humans have understood their individual identity, and their life together.

President Trump is being vastly outspent by Joseph R. Biden Jr. in television advertising in the general election battleground states and elsewhere, with the former vice president focusing overwhelmingly on the coronavirus as millions of Americans across the country begin casting early votes.

Mr. Biden has maintained a nearly 2-to-1 advantage on the airwaves for months. His dominance is most pronounced in three critical swing states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — where he spent about $53 million to Mr. Trump’s $17 million over the past month, largely on ads assailing the president’s handling of the virus as well as the economy and taxes, according to data from Advertising Analytics, an ad tracking firm.

In Pennsylvania alone, Mr. Biden ran 38 different ads during a single week this month, a sign of how comprehensive his effort there has been.

The president’s ad strategy, in turn, reflects the challenges facing both his campaign finances and his Electoral College map. He has recently scaled back advertising in battleground states like Ohio and Iowa and, until this past week, slashed ads in Michigan and Wisconsin, despite being behind in polls. And Mr. Trump is having to divert resources to hold onto Republican-leaning states like Arizona and Georgia.

Mr. Trump spent less on ads in 2016, too, but he went on to narrowly capture critical states anyway and prevail over Hillary Clinton. Back then he relied heavily on huge rallies and live cable news coverage to get his message out, and he got extensive airtime for his attacks on Mrs. Clinton. This time around, his rallies have been fewer and smaller because of the pandemic and his own virus infection; the events have gotten less cable coverage; and he has had a hard time making attacks stick on Mr. Biden.

In many ways, the advertising picture reveals how the pandemic has upended the 2020 race. With in-person campaigning sharply limited, the traditional advantages built by a ground game in battleground states have largely been replaced by the air cover provided by advertising. More than $1.5 billion has been spent on the presidential race alone; by contrast, $496 million was spent on ads in just the presidential race by this point in the 2016 race.

Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, said on Sunday he is open to expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court should Senate Republicans continue to rush forward to confirm President Trump’s nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Mr. Coons, a key ally of the Democratic nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., called Judge Barrett “extreme” and “unqualified” during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Mr. Coons added he was “not a fan” of expanding the number of justices on the court, but said he would consider it if necessary.

“If we happen to be in the fact pattern where we have a President Biden, we’ll have to look at what the right steps are to rebalance our federal judiciary,” Mr. Coons said.

Mr. Coons’s refusal to rule out expanding the court carries particular weight because he is one of the more bipartisan Senate Democrats, and because he is close to Mr. Biden and has his ear.

The Judiciary Committee, controlled by Republicans, is expected on Thursday to vote in favor of Judge Barrett, a conservative Catholic who personally opposes abortion rights. Mr. Coons also defended Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the highest-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, from calls that she be replaced after she praised and hugged Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and chairman of the committee, at the end of last week’s hearings on Judge Barrett’s nomination.

“Senator Feinstein was clear in her opposition to Judge Barrett. She has a long record of fighting for reproductive rights, for gender equity,” Mr. Coons said. “She carried the torch well for those of us on the Democratic side who were fighting this nomination. I don’t think we should put too much weight on just a few sentences at the end of four long days where she was being gracious to the chairman.”

He said Ms. Feinstein and other Democrats on the committee remain “angry” at Mr. Graham for “racing through” Judge Barrett’s nomination.

In public, President Trump and his campaign team project a sense of optimism and bravado. When they meet with Republican donors and state party leaders, presidential aides insist they are fully capable of achieving a close victory over Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Nov. 3.

Away from their candidate and the television cameras, some of Mr. Trump’s aides are quietly conceding just how dire his political predicament appears to be, and his inner circle has returned to a state of recriminations and backbiting. Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, is drawing furious blame from the president and some political advisers for his handling of Mr. Trump’s recent hospitalization.

Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, has maintained to senior Republicans that the president has a path forward in the race but at times has conceded it is narrow.

Some midlevel aides on the Trump campaign have even begun inquiring about employment on Capitol Hill after the election, apparently under the assumption that there will not be a second Trump administration for them to serve in.

Less than three weeks before Election Day, there is now an extraordinary gulf separating Mr. Trump’s experience of the campaign from the more sobering political assessments of a number of party officials and operatives, according to interviews with nearly a dozen Republican strategists, White House allies and elected officials. Among some of Mr. Trump’s lieutenants, there is an attitude of grit mixed with resignation: a sense that the best they can do for the final stretch is to keep the president occupied, happy and off Twitter as much as possible, rather than producing a major shift in strategy.

Instead of a delivering a focused closing message aimed at changing people’s perceptions about his handling of the coronavirus, or making a case for why he can revive the economy better than Mr. Biden can, Mr. Trump is spending the remaining days on a familiar mix of personal grievances, attacks on his opponents and obfuscations.

“The president appears to have doubled down on a base election strategy,” said Ken Spain, a Republican strategist, “while Republicans down ballot must figure out a way to appeal to independent voters in states like North Carolina and Maine and Michigan.”

Samantha Kacmarik, a Latina college student in Las Vegas, said that four years ago, she had viewed Hillary Clinton as part of a corrupt political establishment.

Flowers Forever, a Black transgender music producer in Milwaukee, said she had thought Mrs. Clinton wouldn’t change anything for the better.

None of them voted for Mrs. Clinton. All of them plan to vote for Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The point seems almost too obvious to note: Mr. Biden is not Mrs. Clinton. Yet for many Democrats and independents who sat out 2016, voted for third-party candidates or backed Mr. Trump, it is a rationale for their vote that comes up repeatedly: Mr. Biden is more acceptable to them than Mrs. Clinton was, in ways large and small, personal and political, sexist and not, and those differences help them feel more comfortable voting for the Democratic nominee this time around.

Mr. Biden also benefits, of course, from the intense desire among Democrats to get President Trump out of office. And a majority of voters give the president low marks for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the dominant issue of the race. But a key distinction between 2020 and 2016 is that, four years ago, the race came down to two of the most disliked and polarizing candidates in American history, and one of them also faced obstacles that came with being a barrier-breaking woman.

Mr. Biden now leads Mr. Trump in many public polls by bigger margins than Mrs. Clinton had in 2016. In private polling and focus groups, voters express more positive views of Mr. Biden than of Mrs. Clinton, according to strategists affiliated with both Democrats’ campaigns.

Since 2019, Mr. Biden has held an advantage of four to eight points over Mrs. Clinton in key swing districts, according to an analysis by John Hagner, a partner at Clarity Campaign Labs, a Democratic data analytics firm.

Polling shows Mr. Biden scoring higher than Mrs. Clinton among a wide range of demographic groups — most notably older voters, white voters and suburbanites. But his advantage is stark among those who sat out the 2016 election or backed third-party candidates.

Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump, 49 percent to 19 percent, among likely voters who backed third-party candidates in 2016, according to recent polling of battleground states by The New York Times and Siena College. Among registered voters who sat out the 2016 election, Mr. Biden leads by nine percentage points, the polls found.

At a drive-in campaign rally last week at a union hall in Toledo, Ohio, Joseph R. Biden Jr. asked those in the audience to beep their car horns if they earned more than $400,000 a year. “You’re going to get a tax raise,” he declared as some cars honked.

Mr. Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, has proposed sweeping tax increases on high earners and large corporations, which various independent forecasting models project would raise around $2.5 trillion or more in revenue over a decade. In a rare case of agreement, both Mr. Biden and his incumbent opponent, President Trump, have sought to elevate those tax plans in the closing weeks of the campaign.

The competing strategies reflect diverging views of how voters respond to tax increases — and of how those increases will affect a fragile economic recovery in the years to come.

Mr. Biden and his advisers say tax increases now would accelerate growth by funding a stream of spending proposals that would help the economy, like infrastructure improvement and investments in clean energy. At least one independent study supports those claims, finding that Mr. Biden’s full suite of plans would bolster economic growth. Researchers at some conservative think tanks project that his tax increases would exert only a modest drag on the economy.

Mr. Trump and congressional Republicans say otherwise, arguing that tax increases of any kind threaten to derail the rebound from recession. “If he comes along and raises rates, all those companies that are coming in, they will leave the U.S. so fast your head will spin,” the president said on Thursday during an NBC town hall event. “We can’t let that happen.”

This month, a federal judge struck down a decree from Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas limiting each county in the state to a single drop box to handle the surge in absentee ballots this election season, rejecting Mr. Abbott’s argument that the limit was necessary to combat fraud.

Days later, an appellate panel of three judges appointed by President Trump froze the lower court order, keeping Mr. Abbott’s new policy in place — meaning Harris County, with more than two million voters, and Wheeler County, with well under 4,000, would both be allowed only one drop box for voters who want to hand-deliver their absentee ballots and avoid reliance on the Postal Service.

The Texas case is one of at least eight major election disputes around the country in which Federal District Court judges sided with civil rights groups and Democrats in voting cases only to be stayed by the federal appeals courts, whose ranks Mr. Trump has done more to populate than any president in more than 40 years.

The rulings highlight how Mr. Trump’s drive to fill empty judgeships is yielding benefits to his re-election campaign even before any major dispute about the outcome may make it to the Supreme Court. He made clear the political advantages he derives from his power to appoint judges when he explained last month that he was moving fast to name a successor to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg so the Supreme Court would have a full contingent to handle any election challenges, which he has indicated he might bring in the event of a loss.

In appointing dozens of reliable conservatives to the appellate bench, Mr. Trump has made it more likely that appeals come before judges with legal philosophies sympathetic to Republicans on issues including voting rights. The trend has left Democrats and civil rights lawyers increasingly concerned that they face another major impediment to their efforts to assure that as many people as possible can vote in the middle of a pandemic — and in the face of a campaign by Republicans to limit voting.

For the better part of a century, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have made their political home under the Republican Party’s tent, motivated by conservative beliefs rooted in the family values, personal liberty and economic frugality of their faith.

But some church members now find themselves in a political quandary: They’re still Republicans, but they no longer fit in with the party as exemplified by President Trump, who for them represents a hard departure from the church’s teachings on sex, crude language, empathy and humility.

In Arizona — the only state up for grabs that has a significant Latter-day Saint population — a growing number are finding refuge in Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee.

Most church members are still likely to support the president again this year, said Quin Monson, a Utah-based pollster, who noted that party loyalty is ingrained in the religion. They agree with Mr. Trump more than they disagree with him, and for many, the issue of abortion is a litmus test that few Democratic candidates can pass.

Still, exit polling from 2016 showed 56 percent of church members supported Mr. Trump, far less than the support he received from members of other faiths. Mr. Trump, for instance, won almost 80 percent of the white evangelical Christian vote.

Even a small shift in Latter-day Saints’ voting patterns could have a large impact in Arizona. There are about 437,000 members of the faith in the state, though that number includes children; Mr. Trump won by just 91,000 votes in 2016. With well educated suburbanites already moving away from the president, the race is expected to be considerably closer this year.

Despite their reservations about Mr. Trump in 2016, members of the faith largely fell into familiar voting patterns, supporting Mr. Trump or begrudgingly casting their votes for a third-party candidate. But Mr. Biden doesn’t cause the same reluctance among some Latter-day Saints as Hillary Clinton did.

Rob Taber, the head of the LDS Democrats of America, says he understands how isolating it can be for church members who don’t support the Republican nominee, and he is trying to create “a home for the politically homeless” in the Biden campaign.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/live/2020/10/18/us/trump-vs-biden

News – 2020 Elections Live Updates: Biden Campaigns in North Carolina, as Trump Plans a Rally in Nevada