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(WASHINGTON) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were scheduled to speak by phone Monday afternoon to try to reach a compromise on a coronavirus relief deal, after Pelosi - for the first time - set a Tuesday deadline if additional aid is to be approved before Election Day.

Pressed on ABC's "This Week" Sunday, Pelosi put the ball in the administration’s court, telling ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, "We don't have agreement in the language yet, but I'm hopeful,” referring to outstanding issues regarding a national virus testing plan - something on which Democrats have insisted. "I'm optimistic because, again, we’ve been back and forth on all of this," she said.

“We’re saying to them we have to freeze the design on some of these things - are we going with it or not - and what is the language,” added Pelosi who has not met with President Donald Trump for more than a year but says there’s little point to doing so.

“You want to meet with him, you meet with him,” she told Stephanopoulos.

In his own weekend interview with a Wisconsin television station, Trump sought to one-up Pelosi, saying he is willing to go higher than what she was proposing, despite lacking support among those in his own party.

“I'd go higher than her number, who knows what her number is, but if you said a trillion-eight, two trillion, if you said two trillion-two, so many numbers - I'm willing to go higher than that, because it wasn't the people's fault,” Trump told Charles Benson of Milwaukee station WTMJ.

Pelosi's new 48-hour deadline - just two weeks before Election Day - was met with mixed reaction by the White House. Even as White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah - in a Fox News interview - called Pelosi’s timeline “artificial,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows welcomed it.

“The 48-hour deadline is certainly welcomed by us,” Meadows told reporters Monday morning, though the former conservative congressman, whose prior role in COVID-19 talks Pelosi has dismissed out of hand, said the speaker “continues to be very rigid in her negotiation. You know, it's her way or the highway; it's all or nothing.”

Meadows said he and Mnuchin “had a number of very fruitful discussions over the last several days that give us a hope that we may be able to reach some kind of an agreement in the next 48 hours.”

"I can tell you the president has asked us to engage, if she's willing to work in terms of some of the extreme policy initiatives that she's put forth and work on those issues,” Meadows said.

Republicans and the White House have rejected hundreds of billions in aid to states that have poorly managed state pension funds, and many - if they support any further stimulus at all - have dismissed any package with a price tag in excess of $1 trillion, putting them distinctly at odds with the president.

Pelosi and Mnuchin have been negotiating for months to reach a deal on another coronavirus relief package. The Democratic-led House passed a $3 trillion measure in May that Republicans refused to consider in the Senate, and recently the White House offered a $1.8 trillion compromise at which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scoffed.

And though McConnell said on Sunday that the Senate would “consider” any Pelosi-Mnuchin negotiated compromise, the GOP leader just days earlier rejected that effort out of hand and noted that most of his GOP conference would take that position, too.

Asked if a compromise was to be had around the $2 trillion price range, McConnell said, “I don’t think so, because my members - that’s where the administration is willing to go - my members think what we laid out a half trillion dollars, highly targeted is the best way to go. And so that’s what I’m gonna put on the floor. It’s what Senate Republicans ... feel like is an appropriate response,” adding, “There are discussions going on between the secretary of the Treasury and the speaker about a higher amount. Uh -- that’s not what I’m gonna put on the floor.”

It was a moment of rare defiance for McConnell who said he would, instead, call up the same $500 billion slimmed-down GOP coronavirus relief bill that Democrats rejected last month, setting up a vote for Wednesday. The GOP bill contains more than $100 billion for education needs, billions for a coronavirus vaccine, virus testing and tracing, a replenishment of the popular small business loan program, unemployment assistance, and a litigation shield.

“I'm going to give them one more opportunity to quit saying give us everything we want or nothing at all. Narrowly targeted, contemporary - what we need now - and can we rise above these political passions,” said McConnell, R-Ky., at an event last Thursday in his home state.

Democrats are expected to reject that measure, once again, calling for a far more sweeping package in line with what has passed the House to include aid for hard-hit state and local governments, another round of $1200 stimulus checks, and greater amounts for jobless Americans, food security, child care, and health care.

The clash between House and Senate lawmakers - not to mention between Pelosi and the administration - meant that no deal was likely ahead of Election Day, something that has been apparent for weeks but none have been willing to say out loud ahead of a crucial campaign season that could flip the White House and possibly even the Senate.

-- ABC News' Jordyn Phelps and Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Octavio Jones/Getty ImagesBY: AVERI HARPER, ABC NEWS

(MIAMI) — When Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., took part in an interview on a South Florida radio show called "Caribbean Riddims," she sprinkled the Jamaican phrase "ya mon" throughout the interview with a heavy hand.

She told the host Marlon Hill her favorite Jamaican meal was "oxtail stew," a staple in many Caribbean households and claimed that scotch bonnet peppers, which give much of Jamaican food its spice, was the most important ingredient in her kitchen.

The Democratic vice presidential nominee is the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants and playing up her Jamaican heritage is a huge part of the Biden-Harris campaign's outreach to Afro-Caribbean voters in the Sunshine State.

"There's such enthusiasm, there's such love and passion for her and such pride that it just is an easy way to just kind of invigorate the base, give them something to look forward to," Karen Andre, senior adviser to the Biden-Harris campaign in Florida, told ABC News. "So it's absolutely essential."

The voting bloc is significant in Florida, especially in South Florida and along the critical I-4 corridor, a bellwether in this battleground state. According to the Migration Policy Institute, 41% of the nation's 4.4 million Caribbean immigrants live in Florida, and Miami-Dade County has the highest number of Caribbean immigrants in the U.S. with 862,000 Caribbean immigrants calling it home. If the campaign's outreach to this community is successful, it could help turn the state into an electoral victory for Biden and Harris.

In 2016, the Trump campaign attempted to make inroads in the Haitian community. Then-candidate Donald Trump visited Miami's Little Haiti and promised to hold Hillary Clinton accountable for what he described as her failures to help the island nation in the aftermath of the deadly 2010 earthquake. According to a University of Florida study, Trump garnered the votes of nearly 20% Haitian-Americans in select Palm Beach and Broward County precincts.

One Biden-Harris campaign official told ABC News that they don't believe this ticket will experience the same outcomes as Clinton but said the campaign is working to ensure that Caribbean voters feel reached in an "authentic way."

"I do not have the same fears (as in 2016), but I am very vigilant of it," the official said.

"The numbers -- especially within the Black community -- is being driven by persons from Jamaica, persons from Haiti, persons from Trinidad and Tobago and other countries. That's driving the increase in the population in the state of Florida," said Hill, a political operative, who hails from Jamaica.

Harris has visited the state twice with stops in Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville. Karine Jean-Pierre, senior adviser to the campaign and Harris' chief of staff, is of Haitian descent and has also taken part in the campaign's outreach efforts in the state. Former Vice President Joe Biden also visited Little Haiti.

Andre, who is Haitian American, said the campaign is focusing much of its outreach on Haitian Americans, who represent the largest segment of the community. They've invested in Caribbean radio and print ads and the campaign has designated five paid staffers devoted to Caribbean outreach in both English and Haitian Creole-speaking communities.

The campaign has invested in having its plan for Black America, dubbed the "Lift Every Voice Plan," and other campaign materials translated to Creole. The campaign has also worked to translate phone and text-banking scripts into the language.

"The Haitian community is part of Black America and they should hear it in a language that they can digest it more easily," said Andre.

The Biden-Harris team in Florida is reaching out to the community on issues including immigration, health care and education. Additionally, the campaign in Florida has made efforts to describe how a Biden-Harris administration would interact with CARICOM, the political organization representing 15 Caribbean nations.

"We care about a pathway to citizenship. We care about being treated fairly whenever there is an emergency or some sort of traumatic event overseas like it was in Haiti. We want to be afforded the same policy protections like other countries," said Hill of issues of particular interest to Caribbean voters.

One campaign official referred to reaching Caribbean communities via Harris' heritage "low-hanging fruit," but some wonder if these blatant displays, including a social media video of Harris speaking with a Jamaican accent could leave the campaign vulnerable to accusations of pandering.

"The question is, to what degree did you promote your heritage before you ran for office?" said Sharon Wright Austin, a political science professor at the University of Florida and the author of "The Caribbeanization of Black Politics: Race, Group Consciousness, and Political Participation in America.”

Harris' parents split when she and her sister Maya were young. Harris' niece Meena described her grandfather as "not being around" after the divorce.

"Their experience and relationship with blackness is through being raised in these communities in Berkeley and Oakland, and not through the lens of being Caribbean," Meena Harris told The New Yorker, describing Sen. Harris and her sister Maya's California upbringing.

"You could easily say that critics would accuse her of pandering, but as a politician, I think she's doing what she thinks she needs to do to win," added Wright Austin.

Others, like Hill, see her outward displays of her multifaceted heritage as a plus.

"When you can hear an accent, even if you can't speak it, means that you have exposure or an awareness of someone's experience, and when she brings that into the room, she will be able to understand those different layers of who we are as Americans," said Hill. "Being a hyphenated American hybrid is something that she is bringing into the room and she's bringing all her hyphens."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Yuliya Baranych/iStockBy LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- With 15 days to go until Election Day, and President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden racing toward Nov. 3, voters are turning out in record numbers to cast their ballots early, with lines forming across Florida Monday morning as voting kicks off in that battleground state.

Roughly 28 million Americans have already voted in the 2020 election, reflecting an extraordinary level of participation and interest despite unprecedented barriers brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

In the final weeks of campaigning, the president remains on defense as his approval rating drags. He's hosting rallies this week mostly in states he won in 2016 including Arizona, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia.

Biden, maintaining a nationwide lead in polls -- his largest lead of the election, according to FiveThirtyEight's average -- has no public events on his schedule this week so far ahead of Thursday's final presidential debate with Trump.

Polls indicate a huge pre-Election-Day edge for Biden and a sizable Trump advantage among those who plan to vote on Nov. 3 itself. Trump has sowed doubt in the mail-in ballot process -- and imminent election results -- for months.

The rhetoric between candidates is expected to heat up ahead of their second and final debate on Thursday in Nashville.

All 50 states plus Washington, D.C., currently have some form of early voting underway.

Here's how the day is unfolding. All times Eastern:

Oct 19, 2:24 pm

Harris holds drive-in rally in Orlando, calls Trump 'loco' 

As early voting kicks off in Florida, Harris hosted a drive-in rally in Orlando to encourage supporters in the state to get their ballots in early.

“You will be the first to put our country back on the right track,” Harris told the crowd of Floridians.

Roughly 90 cars were parked with supporters waving Biden-Harris signs and honking their horns when Harris danced out to take the stage.

During the event, she largely stuck to the campaign message of outlining Trump’s failures on the pandemic and also called him “loco” for what she called his “obsession” with ending Obama-era policies.

“He knew it was airborne. But what did he do?  He kept that information to himself. I call it a cover up,” Harris said.

“Donald Trump has this weird obsession with trying to get rid of whatever Barack Obama and Joe Biden created. Have you noticed that? It’s this weird obsession, right? Loco,” she said later on.

It’s the California senator’s first trip back on the road after cancelling trips through the weekend when two people who traveled with her tested positive for COVID-19. Harris continues to test negative, according to her campaign.

Harris next heads to Jacksonville for a voter mobilization event in the late afternoon.

-ABC News’ Beatrice Peterson 

Oct 19, 1:14 pm

Trump calls Fauci 'disaster' in all-staff campaign call

Trump, during an all-staff campaign call, attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert on the president’s own coronavirus task force, as a "disaster" while also dismissing the still surging pandemic, claiming Americans are "over COVID" as U.S. deaths near 220,000.

"People are tired of COVID. Yep, there's gonna be spikes, there's gonna be no spikes, there's gonna be vaccines -- with or without vaccines, people are tired of COVID," the president said on the call, using large attendance at his recent rallies as an example. "People are saying whatever, just leave us alone.”

"People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots -- these, these people, these people that have gotten it wrong," Trump said. "Fauci, he's a nice guy. He's been here for 500 years ... Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him. But Fauci's a disaster -- I mean this guy, if I listened to him we'd have 500,000 deaths."

Trump's attacks come after Fauci told CBS News program "60 Minutes" in an interview that aired Sunday night he was not surprised the president contracted COVID-19.

"Absolutely not. I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded, no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask," Fauci said. "When I saw that on TV, I said, 'Oh, my goodness. Nothing good can come outta that, that's gotta be a problem.' And then sure enough, it turned out to be a superspreader event.”

It also comes as Trump trails Biden in nationwide polls, in part, due to his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

-ABC News' Will Steakin

Oct 19, 1:17 pm

Pence to ramp up campaign travel in closing stretch, may link up with Trump on the trail 

Vice President Mike Pence is getting set to ramp up his campaign schedule in the final days of the 2020 election with scheduled visits to Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Florida this week.

On a press call this morning, the vice president’s Chief of Staff, Marc Short, said Pence will maintain “a very aggressive schedule,” maintaining at least six days on the road with at least two rallies a day this week and they may do up to three rallies a day in the closing week.

Asked by ABC News if he will eventually link up with Trump for joint rallies, Short said that the campaign feels that "there’s a stronger benefit to them being in different markets," but that in the final days they could be doing more together.

 “I think in the closing days, you will see them end up joining travel trips, and we actually do plan to do some of that a little bit beginning next week.”

Short added that the public could see them together as early as Monday during a trip to Pennsylvania and “certainly” in the “last couple of days.”

-ABC News' Justin Gomez

Oct 19, 11:59 am
Biden reacts to Trump taunting him over saying he will 'listen to the scientists'

The Biden campaign is latching on to Trump’s taunt over Biden listening to scientists, with the former vice president tweeting ”…yes,” in response to one report reading "Trump: Biden will 'listen to the scientists' if elected."

Trump, at a rally in Carson City, Nevada, Sunday night, mocked Biden for saying if elected he would “listen to the scientists” regarding the ongoing pandemic which has left nearly 220,000 Americans dead.

“If I listen totally to the scientists, we would right now have a country that would be in a massive depression,” said Trump, who also continued to criticize Biden’s use of circles at campaign events for social distancing. Trump also claimed Biden would create lockdown measures that would lead to the "Christmas season" being canceled.

Biden spokesperson Andrew Bates, responding to the attack in a statement Monday, turned to the economy.

"Now new coronavirus cases are surging and layoffs are rising. If Donald Trump had listened to Joe Biden when he urged him not to trust the Chinese government over his own scientific advisers about this crisis, he wouldn't be the worst jobs president since 1929,” Bates said.

Biden’s rapid response spokesperson Rosemary Boeglin also took aim at the attack tweeting, “Closing message, 8 months into a pandemic he’s let spin out of control: “President Donald Trump sought to insult former Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday by saying that his Democratic opponent would listen to scientists if elected president."

Shortly afterward, the Biden campaign announced Biden’s 11th negative COVID-19 test since Trump tested positive earlier this month.

"Vice President Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 today and COVID-19 was not detected,” the campaign said in a statement to reporters.

-ABC News' Will Steakin and Molly Nagle

Oct 19, 10:45 am
Biden off the trail, meeting with advisers, prepping for Thursday's debate

While Trump is slated to hold a two rallies in Arizona Monday, Biden is off the trail and prepping for their final one-on-one match up in Nashville on Thursday.

A source familiar with Biden’s schedule tells ABC News that the former vice president is meeting with advisers and doing debate prep.

Over the weekend, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced the topics the moderator, NBC News' Kristen Welker, has selected. Her list, subject to change: Fighting COVID-19; American Families; Race in America; Climate Change; National Security; Leadership.

The debate will start at 9 p.m. ET and run for 90 minutes without commercial interruption, the commission said.

-ABC News' Molly Nagle

Oct 19, 10:20 am
Biden outspending Trump on campaign ads

In the crucial final two weeks of the election, the Trump campaign is being outspent by the Biden campaign on television ads $45 million to $54 million -- a spending gap that is further widened as pro-Biden outside groups are spending more than three times the amount pro-Trump outside groups are on the ad war.

In Iowa, for instance, Trump had been completely off the air since July and is only now set to go back up in a state where polls currently show a more competitive race than 2016, when the president won by over nine points. Sources pointed to the president's recent Iowa rally as a way the team hoped to make up for the lack of ad spending in the state.

The president's team has also been pulling back spending in other states crucial to his White House win four years ago. Earlier this month, the campaign canceled more than $2 million worth of airtime in Ohio, pushing back its return to the state until the last two weeks of October after being mostly quiet since the summer. It's now among Trump's top markets entering the home stretch, with $5.3 million reserved for airtime from Oct. 20 through Election Day.

And in key states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, the Trump campaign is being vastly outpaced by the Biden campaign. From September through Election Day, Trump has invested about $31 million in those three states, compared to Biden who has poured more than $110 million in those states during the same period.

When asked about cutting ads in crucial swing states, Trump campaign Deputy National Press Secretary Samantha Zager called TV ads "a small piece of the voter outreach puzzle" and said that "it makes no sense to run TV ads in states we know we’re going to win, and in other states, they’re a useful tool to reach the right voters with the right message."

Needless or not, from Oct. 20 through Nov. 3, the Biden campaign, the Democratic National Committee and pro-Biden outside groups have reserved a total of $141.5 million of airtime, twice the $70.8 million that the Trump campaign and pro-Trump outside groups have reserved during the same period, according to ad spending data from media research firm CMAG.

-ABC News’ Will Steakin and Soo Rin Kim

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Official White House Photo by Shealah CraigheadBy WILL STEAKIN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- In a remarkable move with 15 days to go until Election Day, President Donald Trump on an all-staff campaign call Monday morning leveled his most aggressive attacks yet on Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert on the president’s own coronavirus task force, calling him a “disaster” while also outright dismissing the pandemic, saying Americans are “over COVID” as deaths near 220,000 in the United States and cases rise around the country.

"People are tired of COVID. Yep, there's gonna be spikes, there's gonna be no spikes, there's gonna be vaccines -- with or without vaccines, people are tired of COVID," the president said on the call, seemingly annoyed to even talk about the ongoing pandemic.

Trump then pointed to his packed rallies as evidence that "people" are saying, "whatever" regrading the pandemic that’s still ravaging the country. "I have the biggest rallies I've ever had and we have COVID. People are saying whatever, just leave us alone. They're tired of it," he said.

Trump then turned to his fire to medical experts, blasting Fauci in some of his harshest language yet, even openly seemingly disappointed that he can’t fire him because, he said, it would be a bigger "bomb."

"People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots -- these, these people, these people that have gotten it wrong," Trump said.

Seemingly in response to recent critical interviews that Fauci has given, Trump went on to mischaracterize the expert’s record on the pandemic, blasting him asa disaster and claiming if he listened to Fauci "we'd have 500,000 deaths."

"Fauci, he's a nice guy, he's been here for 500 years. He called every one of them wrong. And he's like this wonderful guy, a wonderful sage telling us how ... He said, 'Do not wear face masks,' and the number of months ago. He said do not close it up to China. Don't -- I have a list of 15 things, this guy, and yet, we keep him. Every time he goes on television, there's always a bomb. But there's a bigger bomb if you fire him. But Fauci's a disaster, I mean this guy, if I listened to him we'd have 500,000 deaths," Trump said.

After hammering Fauci, Trump, who seemed aware some reporters were asked to join the call, said, "If there’s a reporter on, you can have it just the way I said it, I couldn't care less."

The president also railed at what he called "fake news" reports detailing issues behind the scene both at the White House and his campaign, urging his team not to read the stories and that they are "suppression polls and suppression stories."

"[The media] are always writing these stories about conflict. Oh, by the way, my relationship with Bill Stepien and Jason [Miller] and Ronna [McDaniel] is phenomenal," the president said of the top officials leading his reelection effort.

"There was a story today that I don't get along with Mark Meadows, that I'm disappointed. I love Mark Meadows -- he's the best thing that's happened. The guy is fantastic, he works, 25 -- it's so horrible that they would put that in a story ... I have tremendous confidence," Trump said.

"I love Mark Meadows, and Mark Meadows is doing a great job," he added.

Trump also looked to reassure, amid sagging poll numbers and fundraising struggles, that he’s confident he will win in November. "This is the best day we ever had, I just want to project that to you," Trump told campaign staff.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Official White House Photo by Shealah CraigheadBy WILL STEAKIN and SOO RIN KIM, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- President Donald Trump, down in the polls to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and facing a once-unimaginable cash crunch, has been forced to spend the dwindling final weeks of his reelection fight on defense.

Out of the 13 rallies in nine states that the president has scheduled since returning to the campaign trail after being diagnosed with COVID-19, only one, Nevada, would be a pickup for the president -- the others show a president needing to spend valuable time and money predominantly campaigning in states he won in 2016, including some he won handily like Iowa.

Trump in recent days has also held rallies in Georgia and Florida, and is already scheduled to make his second swing through Pennsylvania and North Carolina since returning to the trail.

"I've just looked, a poll just came out, we're up six. OK, big deal. Didn't we win by 11 or something?" Trump said at a rally in Des Moines, Iowa on Wednesday night. "We're up six. For me, to only be up six, I'm a little bit concerned."

Trump's public concern matches some growing internal uneasiness as the president's team continues to implement belt-tightening measures that include repeatedly cutting back on TV ad spending in crucial states in the final stretch of the campaign.

Internally, the Trump campaign is increasingly worried that the president's chances of winning North Carolina, a state the team has heavily invested in and views as essential for Trump's path to victory, has all but evaporated. The campaign had viewed the state as "super safe" as recently as just a few weeks ago, sources told ABC News.

Advisers now fear that, because the state counts and reports both day-of and mail-in votes together on election night, losing North Carolina could be a clear white flag.

And with the fallout from the first debate and Trump's contracting the novel coronavirus, some aides inside the campaign have started to grow fearful of what their employment prospects may look like if the president were to lose, sources said.

Meanwhile, Biden is expected to maintain his steady pace on the campaign trail in the battleground states his campaign believes give them as many paths to 270 electoral votes as possible.

Last week alone Biden visited the swing states of Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina -- all states that could see a return visit from the former vice president in the campaign's waning days. The Democratic nominee has also hemmed close to the many safety precautions his campaign has adopted since they resumed travel amid the pandemic, opting for drive-in rallies and smaller, socially-distanced events where masks are required -- the polar opposite approach from Trump's campaign.

Biden's team is also eyeing multiple ways to spend its considerable war chest in the coming days.

In the crucial final two weeks of the election, the Trump campaign is being outspent by the Biden campaign on television ads $45 million to $54 million -- a spending gap that is further widened as pro-Biden outside groups are spending more than three times the amount pro-Trump outside groups are on the ad war.

Trump had been completely off the air in Iowa since July and is only now set to go back up in a state where polls currently show a more competitive race than 2016, when the president won by over nine points. Sources pointed to the president's recent Iowa rally as a way the team hoped to make up for the lack of ad spending in the state.

A recent Des Moines Register/Medicom Iowa poll shows the race in a dead heat between Trump and Biden, with 47% of likely voters in the state saying they'd support each candidate.

Overall, the president remains down double digits nationally, trailing Biden by over 10 points -- Biden's largest lead of the election -- according to FiveThirtyEight's average.

The president's team has also been pulling back spending in other states crucial to his White House win four years ago. Earlier this month, the campaign canceled more than $2 million worth of airtime in Ohio, pushing back its return to the state until the last two weeks of October after being mostly quiet since the summer. It's now among Trump's top markets entering the home stretch, with $5.3 million reserved for airtime from Oct. 20 through Election Day.

And in key states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, the Trump campaign is being vastly outpaced by the Biden campaign. From September through Election Day, Trump has invested about $31 million in those three states, compared to Biden who has poured more than $110 million in those states during the same period.

When asked about cutting ads in crucial swing states, Trump campaign Deputy National Press Secretary Samantha Zager called TV ads "a small piece of the voter outreach puzzle" and said that "it makes no sense to run TV ads in states we know we’re going to win, and in other states, they’re a useful tool to reach the right voters with the right message."

"Considering President Trump won in 2016 and the D.C. establishment got itself worked up over the exact same issue then, maybe it’s time for the mainstream media to accept our winning strategy and start questioning why Joe Biden is needlessly overspending on TV," Zager added.

Needless or not, Biden and his ally groups are now spending double the amount Trump and his supporters are spending on television and radio ads. From Oct. 20 through Nov. 3, the Biden campaign, the Democratic National Committee and pro-Biden outside groups have reserved a total of $141.5 million of airtime, twice the $70.8 million that the Trump campaign and pro-Trump outside groups have reserved during the same period, according to ad spending data from media research firm CMAG.

One source close to the Trump campaign marveled that the team, which has raised over a billion dollars, is now struggling to compete when it matters.

"If Trump goes down, the big story will be how the campaign blew so much money and wasn't able to be up in key battleground states in the final stretch," the source told ABC News.

It's a sharp turn for a campaign that throughout last year touted efforts to expand the map into states like Colorado, New Mexico and even Oregon.

"We plan on also being in Minnesota very soon; I think New Mexico is in play in 2020," then-campaign manager Brad Parscale said on CBS News' Face the Nation in April 2019. "I think New Hampshire, I think we continue to grow the map. I think Nevada, you know even Colorado. And so those are, those are states we did not win in 2016 that I think are open for 2020."

But with the president's support and standing in the polls sinking and his team light on cash, the Trump campaign has since pulled back from targeting those long-shot states, spending only a combined total of $367,000 on television ads.

Last September, Trump held a rally in New Mexico -- a state he lost in 2016 by over eight points -- after Parscale said data from a neighboring El Paso, Texas, rally indicated the president could have a shot at flipping the state. But the president hasn't held a rally there since then, and the campaign has spent a total of $212,000 on television ads targeting voters there.

Around the same time, then flush with cash, Parscale was also publicly floating the idea of sending resources to flip Oregon, which a Republican hasn't won in over 35 years and which Trump lost by more than 10 points in 2016. Trump has still not traveled to the state for a rally, and the campaign has made no investments in television ads there.

Instead, the Trump campaign has largely focused on flipping Minnesota and New Hampshire, where the team has spent roughly $9 million and $3.4 million, respectively, including $4.3 million and $1.8 million reserved in the last two weeks of the election cycle.

But Biden remains ahead in those states, up by over 11 points in New Hampshire and nine points in Minnesota with two weeks to go, according to FiveThirtyEight.

With Trump's schedule and spending so focused on retaining must-win states, Democrats and Trump's rivals smell blood in the water.

"The greatest sign that Trump is in trouble is his own travel schedule," Mike Madrid, co-founder of The Lincoln Project, a political action committee comprised of anti-Trump former Republican political strategists, told ABC News. "Stops in Iowa and Georgia less than 20 days before an election can only mean one thing -- Trump's red wall is collapsing in on him."

Yet despite the president being down in the polls and trailing in fundraising, the Biden campaign is warning the race is closer than what recent public polling shows.

In a new memo sent to supporters and obtained by ABC News, Biden campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon warned against complacency among Democratic voters as the race enters its pivotal final weeks.

"The reality is that this race is far closer than some of the punditry we're seeing on Twitter and on TV would suggest. In the key battleground states where this election will be decided, we remain neck and neck with Donald Trump. In Arizona and North Carolina, for example, polling averages show us just three points ahead," O'Malley Dillon wrote in the memo.

When asked about being out-fundraised and outspent in the lead up to the 2020 election, the Trump campaign points to 2016, noting that then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and ally groups raised double what Trump did four years ago -- and the president still went on to win.

Recently, Trump himself has pivoted to defend against Biden leapfrogging his campaign in spending, arguing, "If you can win for less money that's a good thing, not a bad thing."

"You know money doesn't ultimately get you there," Trump said at a rally last week.

It's a stark reversal, given that the president's campaign deemed itself a fundraising "juggernaut" for well over a year.

At a rally in Janesville, Wisconsin, on Saturday night, the president argued he could be "the greatest fundraiser in history," but that he didn't want to because, "if you do that ... when they call you in two months, three months, four months because they need something, you got to take their call and got to do it."

Despite the president's comments on Saturday night, an invitation obtained by ABC News indicated that Trump was set to attend a closed-door fundraiser Sunday night at "the home of Nicole and Palmer Luckey" -- where tickets ranged from $2,800 up to $100,000 per person.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


tovfla/iStockBy WILL MCDUFFIE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- As in-person voting begins Monday in Florida, 52 of the state's 67 counties are opening their polling sites to an electorate eager to determine the outcome of one of the nation's most critical battlegrounds.

As of Sunday, 2.5 million Floridians had already cast their ballots by mail -- only 200,000 shy of 2016's entire vote-by-mail total -- with 16 days still left to vote. But in the state, most polls still show a tight contest between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

The high number of mail-in ballots and absentee ballots has some Florida election officials expecting shorter-than-usual lines at the polls, days after voters in other states, including neighboring Georgia, waited hours at some precincts to vote in person.

"We rarely have lines during early voting as it is, so this is likely to be even less, simply because of the fact that so many voters are now voting from the kitchen table," Steve Vancore, a spokesman for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, told ABC News.

Democrats have cast nearly 470,000 more absentee ballots than Republicans -- a shocking turn of events for a state where Republicans typically vote by mail at higher rates than Democrats.

"Biden's supporters in large part have already voted or are in the process of voting, which makes it a lot easier at the end to target a smaller number of people that you actually still need to turn out," Tom Alte, a Democratic consultant, told ABC News.

"Trump's problem is that he's got a lot of his voters voting on Election Day. So, he's got to get them all out at the same time, and unless he has already identified them and gotten a commitment that they're going to vote, they have to go after all of them," he added.

Still, Democrats should expect a surge of Republicans at the polls in the last days of voting, according to Susan MacManus, distinguished professor emerita of political science at the University of South Florida.

Democrats' advantage in absentee voting "doesn't mean that the people who might have voted by mail that are old are not going to vote," she told ABC News, referring to a demographic that turned out in large numbers for Trump in 2016. In fact, an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted last month found that 76% of likely voters in Florida who planned to cast their ballot in person on Election Day supported Trump.

Trump and Biden have used recent visits to Florida to mobilize their bases, going to communities that already show them broad support but whose voters they need to turn out in large numbers if they want to win the state.

Trump held events Friday in Lee and Marion counties, both of which he won by at least 20 points in 2016, while Biden has made two recent trips to South Florida, home to the state's largest swath of Democratic voters.

"So far, no matter what people say, it's definitely a base election," said MacManus. "The question now is turnout."

There have been indications that both candidates are struggling with key constituencies. Recent polling in Florida shows Trump trailing Biden among voters age 65 and over, while Biden is struggling to match former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 2016 margins with the state's Hispanic voters.

MacManus also thinks it's no guarantee that younger voters, who polls suggest overwhelmingly prefer Biden, will turn out strongly enough for the former vice president.

"I'd rather be Trump, relying upon the tried and true rural voters. They're high turnout, always," she said.

A potential game-changer that entered the fray in Florida this fall is former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who last month promised an investment of $100 million to help turn out Democratic votes.

Much of that money has gone toward television ads, including a $40 million ad buy he made through the Bloomberg-funded Independence USA PAC in late September.

His most recent investment, last week, was a donation of $2.4 million to help Latino Victory Fund, a progressive PAC, turn out Hispanic voters in Florida.

"Voter turnout among Latinos in Florida could mean the difference for a Biden-Harris win in Florida," said Bloomberg in a statement.

Experts in the state say Bloomberg's investment -- while it arrived late in election season -- could still pay dividends in a state typically won on the margins.

"Just half a percent can make a difference in our state," said MacManus.

Election officials say they are prepared to navigate the hurdles posed by COVID-19 as in-person voting begins, particularly after holding primary elections in August under similar conditions.

"We're not doing anything differently than we did in the primary," Alan Hays, supervisor of elections for Lake County, told ABC News. "Our workers have shields and masks and the voters are welcome to wear whatever protective equipment they want to wear."

Vancore, of Broward County -- which has a county-wide mask mandate -- said the county ordered 500,000 extra masks to offer voters at the polls, and Chris Anderson, supervisor of elections for Seminole County, said he plans to personally disinfect all eight early voting sites after they close at night.

All three counties said they have plans to ensure social distancing at polling locations.

Election officials also say they're ready to handle any disturbances that poll watchers might present. In previous interviews with ABC News, some experts expressed concerns that poll watchers, organized by campaigns to observe the voting process at polling sites, could intimidate voters, citing language by the Trump campaign that describes its poll watchers as part of an "army."

According to Florida statute, each party is allowed one poll watcher per voting site, whose job is to "watch and observe the conduct of electors and officials" but "may not interact with voters."

Anderson told ABC News he has never had issues with poll watchers, but acknowledged that "it's never been as passionate of a position."

"There's only so much they can do," he said. "If they are disruptive... if they cause any problems, they are gone."

While in-person voting is just starting in Florida, election workers have already begun processing absentee ballots, as permitted by state law, which means the state should have most mail-in ballots already counted by the time polls close on Nov. 3.

Since some other battlegrounds -- like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin -- must wait until Election Day to begin processing vote-by-mail ballots, Florida could be one of first key states to have a declared winner.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


3dfoto/iStockBy LAURA ROMERO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Four key battleground states -- Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina and Wisconsin -- are seeing record-high novel coronavirus cases, sparking concerns the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction a little more than two weeks before Election Day.

"It is very possible that this is the beginning of a second wave," Michigan Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said Tuesday at a meeting with state and public health officials.

The battle at the polls is quickly becoming a battle to keep voters safe as they turn out in pivotal contests.


On Thursday, Michigan set a daily new record with 2,030 reported coronavirus cases, the highest daily number of COVID-19 cases reported in the state since the pandemic started. The seven-day average for new cases reached its highest point since early April.

The state also saw an 80% increase in hospitalizations from the 564 hospitalizations reported in September, with 1,017 hospitalized as of Thursday.

"Public health officials in Michigan are deeply concerned about the increasing numbers," said Adam London, health officer for the Kent County Health Department. "In recent weeks, we have seen significant increases in new cases, the test positivity rate and the number of people admitted for inpatient care at our local hospitals."

London told ABC News that if people socially distance, voting will not result in more coronavirus cases.

"I believe voting itself can be a low-risk activity if people wear facial coverings, maintain physical spacing and practice good hygiene," said London. "I am, however, worried about election watch parties."

Last week, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon issued an emergency order restricting gathering sizes, requiring face coverings in public spaces and imposing limits on certain business operations.

The order came after the Michigan Supreme Court struck down orders that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had issued in late September.

"The rise can only be due to behaviors that are not consistent with public health advice," said Nigel Paneth, a professor of epidemiology at Michigan State University. "In Michigan, our rise has paralleled the return to college campuses and the increase in mask-free, non-distanced, social gatherings in bars, fraternities and the like. No doubt there is some fatigue with the restrictions as well."

"Of course, national leadership does not model good public health advice," added Paneth. "The effects of this are disastrous."


In Ohio, health officials reported 4,217 new coronavirus cases in two days, with the state setting a record high for COVID-19 cases on Thursday, marking the third time the state hit a new high in less than a week.

"We've gone up dramatically in a relatively short amount of time," Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday at a news conference.

DeWine added that the state's positivity has increased from 2.7% in September to 5.4% in October.

"As we see tests go up, we would expect to see more cases," added Dewine. "But what we then really have to look at is positivity. What we should be seeing is a decrease in positivity as the testing goes dramatically up. Instead of that, what we're seeing is not a decrease in positivity, we're seeing a very, very significant increase."

Garrett Guillozet, the health commissioner in Ross County Health District, is concerned the rise in coronavirus cases is spreading to Ohio's rural counties. Ross County, about an hour south of Columbus and two hours east of Cincinnati, is one of those places.

"I am absolutely concerned with the increased cases of COVID-19 across Ohio and within our community," Guillozet told ABC News. "We are seeing spread in both congregate and non-congregate settings. I think we are at a point where people are suffering from COVID-19 fatigue. However, now is the time to reinforce the precautions that we know work to reduce the spread of COVID-19 within our communities."

"I am concerned about the rise in cases and I think it's similar to what we saw in July with COVID fatigue," said Dr. David Margolius, division director of internal medicine at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland. "Folks want to reclaim their pre-COVID life. They start to get a little less stringent about wearing their masks and they start to spend more time with friends and family that they've been isolating from."

Ahead of Election Day, counties throughout the state have added strict measures to keep voters safe. In September, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose sent a 48-point voting safety plan to the battleground state's 88 county boards of elections.

The plan includes routine cleaning of voting machines and e-pollbooks, making curbside voting available and implementing mask requirements and regular hand-washing for all poll workers.

"Voting is different during a pandemic and voters are going to need to take steps to protect themselves," said Catherine Turcer, the executive director for Common Cause Ohio, an organization dedicated to protecting and improving voters' rights and access to the ballot. "While the increased number of cases makes everyone nervous, we have some basic tools like masks and all Ohio voters who choose to vote in person are encouraged to wear a mask. The poll workers will have masks and PPE for voters who need them."

North Carolina

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported Friday the state's highest one-day increase of COVID-19 cases to date with 2,684. The department also reported the second-highest number of hospitalizations in the past 30 days, with 1,148.

"I know we're all tired of this. It's frustrating to feel confined and to do the things we need to do to slow the spread of the virus," said Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday. "We cannot let weariness and frustration win out. Wearing masks and being careful are more important than ever."

Earlier this month, the state board of elections announced it will provide options for those who want to safely vote in person without entering a potentially crowded polling place or standing in long lines.

Every voting site in North Carolina will offer curbside voting for those unable to enter a polling place due to age or disability.


In Wisconsin, 3,700 new coronavirus cases were reported on Thursday, shattering a daily record set just two days prior by nearly 500 cases. The increase in cases brought the state's seven-day average to nearly 2,928 cases per day.

At a press conference on Thursday, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said that Wisconsinites need to heed warnings to help slow the spread of the virus.

"We can prevent deaths. I don't know how anyone in the state of Wisconsin can feel comfortable about saying, 'What the hell, I don't care about preventing deaths,'" said Evers. "We will continue to be messengers ... to reach out to the 30% of the people that don't believe in this and we'll continue to fight."

Evers said he plans to activate the Wisconsin National Guard to fill any staffing shortages at election sites.

Darren Rausch, health director at Greenfield, Wisconsin, Health Department, is concerned that voting and other gatherings in the community will result in more COVID-19 cases, but is hopeful that since the state has promoted absentee voting and early voting, there will be fewer people gathering at the polls.

Ajay K. Sethi, an associate professor in population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin, told ABC News that the state has put in place strict restrictions to make sure voters are safe.

"Since previous COVID cases were tied to polling locations during the April spring election, there certainly is awareness and concern for additional spread of the virus on Election Day," said Sethi. "Election officials are preparing to operate polling places safely, and a record number of Wisconsinites have voted already, so I am hopeful that Election Day will not add more fuel to the fire."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Kameleon007/iStockBy MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- This year's general election is shaping up to be one for the history books. Between anticipated mail-in ballot records, early voting surges and a slew of novel coronavirus-related safety precautions, the global pandemic has shaped almost every facet of voting.

State and local election officials have been gearing up for this most unusual election cycle for months. With early voting already underway in all 50 states, here's what voters can expect leading up to Nov. 3, and beyond:

Mail-in voting surge

Often a service used by those living overseas, such as the military, but increasing in popularity, mail-in voting has taken on new significance in the pandemic, with more than 80 million requested so far in this general election cycle, double the previous presidential election and more than half the total vote cast in 2016.

As of Oct. 14, more than 1.5 million vote-by-mail ballots have been returned in California -- far surpassing the 150,000 at the same point in the season in 2016 -- according to the Secretary of State's office. That's in a state that already had a significant percentage of voters who chose to cast ballots by mail. This year, the state also decided to mail ballots to all active voters for the first time -- one of the major ways voting by mail has been made more accessible for this year's election.

Voting by mail is "going to be the real story of this cycle," Matthew Weil, director of the Elections Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center, told ABC News. "The jump from 2016 to 2020 is going to be huge," he said.

In the 2016 general election, 33,378,450 absentee ballots were returned, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission -- representing 23.7% of all ballots cast.

Based on evidence from primary elections since COVID-19 lockdowns began, the Bipartisan Policy Center estimated that 50% to 70% of all ballots cast will be absentee this year. Weil now estimates that number to be on the lower end of that range, noting that "even 50% will be a huge increase over 2016."

For the general election, at least 30 states plus the District of Columbia have made at least some changes that will make it easier and more accessible for voters to cast their ballots from home. These changes include removing strict excuse requirements or allowing COVID-19 concerns to be a valid excuse to vote absentee, allowing ballot drop boxes, offering prepaid postage on election mail and proactively sending all active registered voters applications to request an absentee ballot -- with some, such as California, skipping that step and sending the actual ballots.

Unlike in elections past, there's also a partisan preference for mail-in ballots, Weil noted. Nearly 10 million more registered Democrats have requested absentee ballots compared to registered Republicans, according to the U.S. Elections Project out of the University of Florida.

Adding to the complexities this year are President Donald Trump's repeated attempts to sow doubt on mail-in voting through false and conspiratorial claims about voter fraud. Legal experts told ABC News there hasn't been evidence of widespread or systematic voter fraud with mail voting.

Voters should be wary of making mistakes with their mail-in ballots. In the 2016 general election, around 1% -- 318,728 -- of absentee ballots were rejected, according to the Election Assistance Commission. The most common reasons for rejection were "missing the deadline, the signature on the ballot not matching the signature on the state’s records, and the ballot not having a signature," the commission said.

That rejection rate remained small overall in 2018, but growing, at 1.4%, according to an ABC News analysis.

"With a lot of voters voting in a different way than they ever had before," Weil said, "are we going to see a higher number of these absentee ballots rejected?"

Long lines vs. long waits

With early voting already underway in every state, some counties have seen record-breaking numbers of in-person voters.

Amid the historic turnout, long lines have been reported at some polling locations -- though experts are quick to point out that long lines might not necessarily mean long wait times, and voters should not be deterred from voting as a result.

"Long lines are not necessarily a bad thing," Hannah Klain, a fellow with the nonpartisan law and policy institute Brennan Center for Justice, told ABC News. "It hopefully does mean that the polling site is enforcing social distancing, that people are keeping their distance when they are waiting in line to vote, that only so many people are being allowed into the voting space at a time in order to manage the crowds."

A snaking line could seem daunting, but "don't let a long line deter you," she said. Voters should be prepared to see them, Weil added.

That doesn't mean that long wait times aren't a concern, Klain said, and election officials may need to sort those out throughout the early voting process. Because of the coronavirus, there may be limits on the number of voting machines at polling sites to avoid too many people being inside at one time. When early voting got underway in Georgia last week, some wait times reached five hours. Counties that had long lines were working to add more voting equipment where possible, officials said last week.

Some counties in states including Texas, North Carolina and Nevada are implementing online wait-time technology so you can see the anticipated wait at your polling site.

"It is a more forward-looking use of technology in our election sphere," Klain said. "That's exciting to see, and helpful, especially in a year where, again, we're seeing high levels of turnout."

Both Klain and Weil recommend that voters who intend to vote in person should vote early if they can.

"If people show up and the wait time is so long that they can't wait, you can always come back on another day of early voting," Klain said. "Election Day is a totally different story. You only get one bite of that apple."

If weather is a concern, you also can avoid waiting outside on a potentially cold or rainy Nov. 3 by voting earlier, Weil said.

"We should try to take as much pressure off of Election Day at the polling places as possible," he said. "If individually we can all make that decision, I think the entire election season will go better."

New safety precautions

Socially distanced lines aren't the only safety measures in play this election cycle. Plexiglass petitions between voters and poll workers, hand sanitizing stations and curbside voting options are just some of the new sights voters may encounter while voting during a pandemic.

The Bipartisan Policy Center partnered with the Cleveland Clinic to provide voting safety guidance this year. Their recommendations include "bringing your own supplies, such as hand sanitizer, an ink pen for paper ballots, or a stylus for touchscreen machines." Just make sure to verify with an election official before using your own supplies, they note.

Precautions may vary by state and even county. The Brennan Center has been working closely with Harris County in Texas, where new measures this election cycle include disposable plastic finger covers to wear while touching voting machines.

"We're seeing innovations like that across the country," Klain said. "I do think county election officials are doing their best to keep people safe."

Among recommendations it issued with Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Brennan Center also advises that voters avoid bringing any unnecessary people, such as children or other non-voting eligible family members, to the voting location.

"We want to limit the number of people who are at the polls to just those who need to cast a ballot," Klain said.

Make a plan -- and stick to it

If you're unsure about the current voting rules in your area, Weil recommends heading to canivote.org, run by the National Association of Secretaries of State, for the latest information.

"I think that is the gold standard," he said. "You want voters to be turning to their state election officials."

With so many changes and, in some cases, legal challenges regarding voting this year due to the pandemic, Klain recommends figuring out when you're going to vote, then double checking information such as polling locations and hours with local election offices.

"Things are even changing in real-time," she said. "We want to make sure that people have the most accurate and up-to-date information when they're making decisions and making a voting plan."

Whether you've decided to already vote by mail-in ballot or early in-person, Weil recommends sticking to it to avoid increasing the burden of election officials. For instance, if you've requested an absentee ballot but then decide to vote in person, that takes more time and puts more pressure on the check-in system.

If planning to vote in person, prep ahead: Pack supplies such as a mask, hand sanitizer, ink pen or a stylus and any relevant voting materials.

When to expect results

On a general election night, Americans are accustomed to knowing who's won the presidency and other races relatively quickly through projections made by news organizations. But with record absentee ballots anticipated, there is a concern that some states, especially battlegrounds, could be overwhelmed with counting ballots on Election Day.

Rules for processing and counting absentee ballots vary from state to state, ranging from some that allow immediate processing and counting of absentee ballots when they are submitted, to those that do not start counting them until Election Day. Some rules have changed temporarily to accommodate the increase anticipated for the pandemic, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

For Weil, there haven't been significant changes to state election laws to allow election officials to count those ballots earlier, given increases in absentee voting.

As a result, it could be a while before the results of the presidential election are final, with some experts predicting the process could last for at least a couple of weeks.

"It's going to serve voters well on election night, so it's not a big shock," Weil said, to know that "there might not be a call."

There are guidelines in place in the event the election is not decided on Election Night. This year, states have until Dec. 8 to file final election results if they want to insulate themselves from legal disputes. Usually this process, governed by obscure 19th-century law, is not much more than an afterthought, but the potential complexities of counting the vote this year as well as the prospect of legal challenges have added a new wrinkle. The Electoral College will then meet on Dec. 14 to formally cast their votes for the president.

Officials have urged Congress to move these deadlines back to avoid a potential crisis.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- As President Donald Trump came under attack from Democrat leaders for prompting a "lock her up" rally chant on Saturday over a thwarted attempt to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee defended his rhetoric on Sunday.

At the Michigan rally Saturday, Trump said of Whitmer, "I guess they said she was threatened and she blamed me. You've got to get your governor to open up your state. And get your school's open. The schools' have to be open. Right?"

People in the crowd began applauding and chanting "lock her up."

Trump responded, "Lock 'em all up."

Whitmer later released a statement that said, "This is exactly the kind of rhetoric that has put me, my family and the lives of other government officials in danger."

"Every single time the president does this at a rally, the violent rhetoric towards her immediately escalates on social media. It has to stop. It just has to," the statement continued.

Ronna McDaniel said it was "inappropriate" for Whitmer to blame Trump for putting her in harm's way, in an interview on ABC's "This Week."

"First of all, the president and his FBI foiled this plot," the RNC chairwoman said told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos. "I think Gov. Whitmer is really inappropriate to try and lay blame at the president. These were sick individuals, there was no political affiliation. They were attacking the capital, as well. We're glad she's safe, her family is safe."

McDaniel claimed the chant was spurred by the frustration of Michigan residents over being locked down for months by Whitmer's restrictions to fight the coronavirus.

"She has locked us down. Open it up," McDaniel, who lives in Michigan and recently had a bout with COVID-19, said. "Let's not take this rhetoric further. Let's not continue to extrapolate things that were not being said. And what people are saying in Michigan is 'Please let us open up. Let our kids go back to school. That's what they're talking about. They're not threatening our governor and she's taking it way too far -- once again."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday that she and the Trump administration still haven't reached an agreement on coronavirus relief, and that a deal must be struck in the next 48 hours if they want to pass the package by Election Day -- just 16 days away.

On ABC's "This Week," Pelosi put the onus to complete the deal on the White House when pressed by Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, saying its success "depends on the administration."

"We don't have agreement in the language yet, but I'm hopeful," the speaker said. "I'm optimistic because, again, we’ve been back and forth on all of this."

NEW: “We don’t have agreement in the language yet,” Speaker Pelosi says when asked if they are closer to reaching a deal on COVID-19 stimulus negotiations, adding, “we’re seeking clarity” because Trump administration officials are “not legislators.” https://t.co/P6iz1jjwYE pic.twitter.com/wYtJv3jIye

— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) October 18, 2020

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been negotiating for months to reach a deal on another coronavirus relief package. The Democratic-led House passed a $3 trillion relief package in May that did not progress in the Senate, and recently the White House offered a $1.8 trillion compromise, while Trump has said he wants to pass a "a big, beautiful stimulus."

However on "This Week," Pelosi noted that the impasse was not solely related to the legislation's price tag.

"The testing. The tracing. The treatment. The mask-wearing. The separation. The sanitation. And all that goes with it," she said, later adding that she wanted more specific details on both national and state strategies and a guarantee that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would "provide guidance."

Stephanopoulos further noted that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he wouldn't bring a compromise package of $1.8 trillion to the Senate floor. The Republican from Kentucky has announced that he plans to call a vote this week on a $500 billion bill.

"So what happens?" Stephanopoulos asked the House speaker.

"He said a number of things and one of the things that he said ... it was reported yesterday, that if the White House and the House come to an agreement that he would put it on the floor," Pelosi said.

NEW: “We don’t have agreement in the language yet,” Speaker Pelosi says when asked if they are closer to reaching a deal on COVID-19 stimulus negotiations, adding, “we’re seeking clarity” because Trump administration officials are “not legislators.” https://t.co/P6iz1jjwYE pic.twitter.com/wYtJv3jIye

— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) October 18, 2020

The continued impasse comes as an estimated 8 million Americans have fallen into poverty since May, according to Columbia University researchers. There have been 898,000 new unemployment claims filed in this -- the 30th straight week of historically high unemployment claims during the pandemic.

In order to bridge the remaining gaps, Stephanopoulos asked Pelosi if she would reach out directly to Trump, with whom she has had no contact during the pandemic.

"You haven’t spoken to the president in over a year. Are you willing to pick up the phone to close a deal to get this done?" pressed Stephanopoulos.

"This is not a casual conversation," Pelosi said. "This is about a meeting of the head of the first branch of government, the legislative branch, and the president. If there is a purpose, if it -- if there is a stipulation of trying to get something done, then perhaps we take this to that place when we can't solve other problems."

On "This Week," Stephanopoulos also asked Pelosi about the Supreme Court confirmation process for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, noting that she previously alluded to strategies to halt Barrett's elevation to the court -- something that appears increasingly unlikely.

"Last time we spoke, you said Democrats had arrows in their quiver to block this nomination. But she seems on a path of confirmation right now." Stephanopoulos said. "Is this a done deal or is there still something Democrats can do to stop it?

"Well, we’ll see … I’m not in the Senate," the speaker said. "What I’m talking about is how we win this election, because we have to offset ... whatever this court may do."

“We’ll see. I’m not in the Senate,” Speaker Pelosi tells @GStephanopoulos when asked if the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett is a done deal.

"What I am talking about is how we win this election because we have to offset whatever … this Court may do.” https://t.co/AaPeiGcr3W pic.twitter.com/PTsYa0gHuV

— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) October 18, 2020

Pelosi also criticized Trump's rhetoric aimed at Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was the target of an alleged kidnapping plot recently uncovered by the FBI. During a Michigan rally Saturday, the president downplayed that threat and echoed a supporter-led chant of "lock her up" -- a phrase used during the 2016 campaign in reference to Hillary Clinton. Whitmer and members of her staff say the negative attention spurred by the president leads to spikes in threats aimed at the governor.

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

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- The race to develop vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 has newly highlighted a longstanding dilemma for religious conservatives: much of the cutting-edge research relies on the use of material derived from human fetal tissue -- something they have spent years fighting against.

In interviews with ABC News this week, leaders in the Catholic Church and other anti-abortion advocates say they aren't ready to dismiss the latest scientific discoveries that could save countless lives. But they also are quick to note that much of the new findings could be what they consider ethically "tainted."

"There's a lot of concern and interest in this issue -- what's the vaccine going to look like? What kind of moral choices are we going to have before us?" said Greg Schleppenbach, the associate director of Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

At issue is the use of cells derived from human fetal tissue to discover, develop and test medical innovation -- something scientists agree is often necessary in the most groundbreaking medical advances.

Recent polling reveals a split amongst Americans: roughly 6 in 10 adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 38% say it should be illegal in all or most cases.

During his political career, President Donald Trump has assumed a staunchly anti-abortion stance. In 2019, his administration suspended federal funding for research reliant on new fetal tissue cells derived from an elective abortion, while allowing for previously established cell lines. Fetal tissue from miscarriages are permitted under this statute, although many scientists say it's difficult to use because there are often abnormalities and other issues.

In early 2020, The Trump administration created a new federal ethics board to review proposed fetal tissue research grants. Of the 15-person board, 10 have records of opposition to abortion, fetal tissue research or both.

Conservative groups long-opposed to abortion have advocated against what they call "ethically problematic" fetal material -- tissue obtained via elected termination of pregnancy, and cell lines descendent from them.

It's not a simple ask: some of the most commonly used cell lines in medical research originated that way. The experimental antibody treatment from Regeneron that was taken by Trump to treat COVID-19 was developed using cells derived originally from human kidney tissue taken from an aborted fetus in the 1970s. Several of the vaccine candidates for the virus also use that line.

The cells from that tissue, the HEK293T cell line, have continued to divide and grow in a culture, and have been used in scientific discovery, for decades.

Regeneron says it does not consider the treatment to have relied on fetal tissue, since the cells were acquired so long ago.

They "are considered 'immortalized' cells (not stem cells) and are a common and widespread tool in research labs," a Regeneron spokesperson told ABC in a statement. The cell line "wasn't used in any other way, and fetal tissue was not used in this research."

Social conservatives view research with fetal tissue as unethical and have long disputed taxpayer money's use to support it. Scientists counter, controversy aside, that countless important medical discoveries have relied on fetal tissue, leading to significant work in research and treatment of diseases like AIDS and Zika, and further, could be instrumental in combating coronavirus. Fetal tissue cells are more flexible and less specific than adult cells, and can offer a unique "blank slate" for further study and testing of new therapeutics.

"Fetal tissue has unique and valuable properties that often cannot be replaced by other cell types," the International Society for Stem Cell Research urged the new Trump ethics board in July, adding, it "remains the gold standard for evaluating the accuracy of models of human fetal development."

Lying at the crux of the contention -- how that material is obtained. Under current statute, tissue from "spontaneous" abortions, or miscarriages, are permitted. But those moments often occur not in hospital -- rather, at home -- making proper sample collection difficult, experts say, in what poses an already brief window of time before the cells are degraded. And, miscarriage often occurs because of complications during fetal development which prevented it from surviving to full term. Thus that tissue would offer limited use, unless it was that specific abnormality a scientist had hoped to study.

'Gradations of cooperation'

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has advocated for at least one COVID-19 vaccine to be developed completely free from connection to aborted fetal cells. In April, the USCCB sent a letter to FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn, urging, "no American should be forced to choose between being vaccinated against this potentially deadly virus and violating his or her conscience."

Rev. Dr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center and member of a federal ethics advisory board on the matter, told ABC: "The decision by companies to intentionally utilize these problematic cell lines results, if there are no alternatives, in a kind of moral coercion."

Still, other anti-abortion conservatives say that the cell line used to develop the vaccines or treatments for COVID poses less of a moral dilemma than if it had come directly from an aborted fetus.

Dr. G. Kevin Donovan, director of the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics, professor of pediatrics at Georgetown University, said it's not a clear-cut issue.

"There are gradations of cooperation," said Donovan, also a member of the Trump administration's fetal tissue ethics advisory board.

"Some of them are so remote to what you see is the original evil act, that you can be morally justified in accepting some necessary, lifesaving good that comes from it," he added. "Not just for you, but by being immunized, you're also not going to spread the virus to other people."

Trump faces criticism for use of Regeneron

Several scientific experts have criticized Trump for taking a treatment drawn from the research his administration has worked to curtail.

"President Trump has been an outspoken opponent of fetal tissue research -- and he used it. I just think it's incredibly hypocritical across the board," Dr. Lawrence Goldstein, fetal tissue ethics board member and senior faculty member at the University of California at San Diego. He told ABC, the board was "stacked with anti-fetal tissue research members," who "rejected virtually every proposal it saw."

"The most outspoken opponents [of fetal tissue research] are now just averting their eyes, pretending it doesn't exist, and saying, well, it happened a long time ago, and we have no choice, we've just got to deal with it," Goldstein said. "There's a bit of a bind here."

Deepak Srivastava, president of the Gladstone Institutes and immediate past president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, noted that if the Trump administration's ban was in place when the cell line Regeneron used was made -- the innovations that have come from it would not have been possible -- including testing the treatment Trump received.

"It's just tremendous hypocrisy," Srivastava said. "It would not be available to make the drugs that we've had -- and Trump would not have received those antibodies."

Those who support banning abortion argue if there is an inconsistency with COVID-19 research, it rests with the federal funding fueling vaccine development that utilizes abortion-derived cells.

"You're funding that which you say should not be funded," Pacholczyk said. "And that's a concern."

Ethical issues 'fairly nuanced'

In August, the ethics board rejected funding for nearly every proposal involving fetal tissue: 13 out of 14. No COVID-19-related proposal was reviewed, several of the board members confirm to ABC, though they were unsure why that was. The NIH told ABC none of the projects recommended for funding that proposed to use human fetal tissue were COVID-19 related, adding, "There is no special review process" for COVID-19 projects involving human fetal tissue.

Medical experts on both sides of the issue affirm the importance of fetal tissue in scientific research, entrenching the ethical tug-o-war.

"It's an ethical dilemma of competing goods, how tainted they are," said Dr. Greg Burke, co-chair of the Catholic Medical Association Ethics Committee. "In medicine, that sanctity of life argument is a powerful one. Not everybody agrees, obviously. So then how do we balance where we can't go out and live without somehow interacting, being tainted by things we would consider immoral or unethical?"

Those ethical concerns raised by the use of human fetal cell lines are "fairly nuanced," said Dr. Maureen Condic, NIH ethics board member and associate professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine.

Condic noted that the HEK293T cell line is so widely in use for decades that she said it's essentially a "component of every single type of basic biological research and all types of medical research."

"They create a lot of concern for people," she acknowledged. "But then, if that's the ethical question, then do you disavow any interaction with the medical profession, period, where you might be complicit in the utilization of a cell line that is so widely in use? It's essentially impossible to avoid it."

ABC News' Eric Strauss and Sony Salzman contributed to this report.

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(WASHINGTON) — Poll watchers are a regular feature of elections -- representatives of both sides reporting potential issues with voters to local officials while operating under strict guidelines.

But their potential role in the 2020 race has come under new scrutiny after Donald Trump called on his supporters to flock to polling locations.

During the first presidential debate, President Trump made allegations that poll watchers were blocked from entering voting locations in Philadelphia -- -- an allegation debunked by ABC News fact-checkers. Those "poll watchers" in fact were blocked from entering the early voting sites because certifications to observe the early voting process had not been issued for anyone, including the Trump campaign.

Trump's campaign is organizing Election Day poll watchers in key battleground states and calling the effort "Trump's Army", a force expected to be around 50,000. Critics say that the name of the group sounds militant, but organizers say they will just be quietly eyeballing voters and summoning attorneys when they think something is amiss.

Some have even said the president's rhetoric about poll watchers is a form of voter intimidation. The concern is particularly acute regarding communities of color, which have historically been targeted by voter intimidation.

All of the rhetoric surrounding poll watchers this year has generated confusion and concern about what they can and can't legally do.

According to elections officials and experts, poll watchers aren't merely well-meaning citizens who present themselves on voting day to guard the democratic process; there are trainings and protocols in every state and limits to their authority. And experts say that because of those limits, voters should be vigilant, but not fearful or discouraged from participating.

"When we're talking about a poll watcher from an election administrative point of view, it is a very specific task, one that is rooted in decades of history where primarily people from the two parties -- partisan people -- watch over the shoulders of election officials to make sure that they're [watching over the polling site] according to the law," Wendy Underhill, a director at the National Conference of State Legislatures, told ABC News.

Here's what to know:

What are poll watchers?

Poll watchers monitor elections in most states. From making sure voters who show up to the polls are registered, to enforcing rules and regulations at voting sites, poll watchers' responsibilities can vary by state.

From making sure voters who show up to the polls are registered, to enforcing rules and regulations at voting sites, poll watchers' responsibilities can vary by state. For example, in Pennsylvania, poll watchers are allowed to keep a list of voters.

In Chicago's latest guidance on poll watchers, that permission is not explicitly stated, but Chicago poll watchers can compare signatures in the poll book with the signatures on the ballot application.

Who can be a poll watcher?

Again, statutes vary by state, but in general, poll watchers are appointed by political parties. In New York, for example, poll watchers are appointed by party officials, candidates or independent bodies representing people on the ballot, John Conklin, the public information director of the New York State Board of Elections, told ABC News.

In North Carolina, poll watchers are called "observers" and are appointed by the political parties.

The U.S. Election Commission has a guide detailing who appoints poll watchers and their responsibilities in each state.

What poll watchers can and can't do legally

"Almost every state has some kind of a poll watcher manual that's online," said Underhill. "I think parties often do training for poll watchers to make sure that they know what the law is that they're watching for and that they themselves don't violate any laws around what they can do."

For instance, according to training videos from the Trump camp obtained by ABC News, leaders told trainees to look for potential fraud but not to create a spectacle.

In general, according to the NCSL, poll watchers can closely monitor election administration, keep track of voter turnout for their parties and report issues to polling place authorities and party officials.

Some states including Georgia, North Dakota and South Carolina require poll watchers to wear a badge indicating their name and organization. In New York, poll watchers must be credentialed, but are not required to wear a badge or any identifier at the polling site, Conklin said.

In some states, poll watchers may be able to challenge a voter's eligibility but must do so through an official process.

"There are many limits on who can be poll watchers; how someone becomes a poll watcher, said Eliza Sweren-Becker, the voting rights and elections counsel expert at the Brennan Center. "And we expect those limits to be adhered to. And voters should not be fearful of poll watchers in their polling places ... They should be vigilant but they should not be discouraged from participating in the democratic process."

Poll watchers, across the board, cannot interfere in the electoral process apart from reporting issues, according to the NCSL, nor can they campaign inside any voting precinct or facility, according to the National Association of Secretaries of State.

When poll watching crosses into voter intimidation

Election officials say there is a line between poll watching and voter intimidation, but state laws attempt to guard against the latter.

"There has been a lot of talk about telling people just to show up to the polls to watch, and in Florida, you can't just do that," Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer told Fox Orlando affiliate WOFL. "I don't think we are going to have the problems in Florida because we have some great laws around it."

Those who do engage in voter intimidation, on the other hand, "could be putting themselves in legal jeopardy," Ben Hovland, chairman of the U.S Election Assistance Commission, told ABC News.

In Virginia, one day after early in-person voting began, a group of Trump supporters reportedly intimidated voters outside of an early polling location in Fairfax, according to The New York Times.

"I would just say that it's important for people to understand what is and isn't allowed. At the end of the day, we want Americans to participate, we want Americans to be engaged, we want Americans to vote and the things that we can do to help that is something that we should support. But certainly, again, it's important to have transparency and elections but it's important to respect Americans' right to vote and encourage them to do so," Hovland said.

Also this year, for the first presidential election since the 1980s, Republicans will be allowed to send out poll watchers without supervision. They had been barred from doing so because of harassing and intimidating voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, voter intimidation includes aggressively questioning voters about their citizenship, criminal record or other qualifications, and spreading false information.

Any tactic found to constitute voter intimidation could result in hefty fines and jail time for those taking such action, according to the Department of Justice.

Guns another concern

Another concern is firearms, because some states have open carry laws. Sweren-Becker told ABC News that in those states, using a firearm to intimidate voters would be prohibited.

Only 10 states: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina and Texas, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico explicitly prohibit guns and other weapons in polling places, according to the NCSL.

On Friday, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson issued a directive that prohibits carrying firearms in the state’s polling places, in hallways used by voters or within 100 feet of building entrances for voters.

In North Carolina, one example of an open carry state, firearms are not prohibited by state law at voting places. But, according to the state’s board of elections in an emailed statement to ABC News, some buildings where polling sites are located may themselves prohibit firearms. And, any use of a firearm for voter intimidation is prohibited.

Law enforcement officials also play a key role in making sure the electoral process goes smoothly on Election Day.

Chief of police in Dearborn, Michigan, Ron Haddad told ABC News his primary duties are to keep peace at the polling places, monitoring them much more closely to ensure that the process goes unimpeded.

"It just seems that there's a lot of anger out there. A lot of conflict over the election. So, we're being very mindful of that … it does seem that people are, to say the least, very high-spirited this election and some people are outright angry. So, we will be monitoring all our polling places much more closely this year," Haddad said.

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(ATLANTA) — Georgia Sen. David Perdue is drawing outrage after appearing to mock Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris' name while warming up the crowd ahead of a rally for President Donald Trump speech on Friday night.

Perdue, who has been a Senate colleague with Harris for over three years, was railing about Senate Democrats at the president's Macon, Georgia, rally before flubbing Harris' name and then going on to mock her.

"The most insidious thing that Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden are trying to perpetuate, and Bernie [Sanders] and Elizabeth [Warren] and Kamala -- Kah-ma-la, or Kah-mah-la, or Kamala-mala-mala, I don't know, whatever."

The moment drew immediate condemnation on social media.

Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is running against Perdue, wrote "we are so much better than this" in sharing a clip of Perdue's mispronouncing Harris' name.

In an interview with MSNBC later in the evening, Ossoff said, "This kind of vile, race-baiting trash talk is what President Trump has unleashed from sitting Republican members of the Senate."

John Burke, communications director for Perdue’s campaign, said the senator "simply mispronounced" her name.

"Senator Perdue simply mispronounced Senator Harris' name, and he didn't mean anything by it," Burke said in a statement. "He was making an argument against the radical socialist agenda that she and her endorsed candidate Jon Ossoff are pushing, which includes the Green New Deal, Medicare-for-all, raising taxes, and holding up COVID relief for the people of Georgia.”

Harris' press secretary, Sabrina Singh, responded directly on Twitter, writing, "Well that is incredibly racist. Vote him out and vote for @ossoff."

Democrats in the state and nationally are demanding an immediate apology.

"Senator David Perdue has served in the Senate alongside Vice Presidential nominee and Senator Kamala Harris since 2017," the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said in a statement. "He knows her name and he knows how to say it. His disgusting performance today is nothing more than a desperate dog whistle from a losing politician who was already caught running anti-Semitic ads against Jon Ossoff. Perdue has shown he lacks the dignity and respect that Georgians deserve from their U.S. senator, and he must immediately apologize.”

"Senator Perdue’s intentionally disrespectful mispronunciation of Senator Harris’s name is a bigoted and racist tactic straight from President Trump’s handbook," Democratic Party of Georgia Chairman Nikema Williams said in a statement. "He owes Georgians an apology for his offensive display."

This is not the first time that Perdue has been criticized for racial or ethnic insensitivity. As referenced by the DSCC's statement Friday, state Democrats slammed the Georgia Republican in late July after his campaign posted a Facebook fundraising ad where Ossoff's nose was slightly enlarged, an image the Jewish Senate hopeful called a "classic anti-Semitic trope."

Perdue is currently favored to win the race, according to FiveThirtyEight's election forecast.

ABC News' Quinn Scanlan, Trish Turner, Averi Harper and Mark Osborne contributed to this report.

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(WASHINGTON) -- In the hotly contested 2020 presidential election, Arab Americans could play an important role in two swing states where they make up large communities.

While there is a lack of reliable polling data on Arab Americans, the numbers of Arab Americans in the battleground states of Michigan -- 200,000 -- and Minnesota - over 100,000 -- are high enough that they have become a powerful voting bloc that experts say is likely to benefit Joe Biden.

"I think it's safe to say that in this election cycle, the level of interest and the level of participation in the community is going to be, in my opinion, near 100 percent," said Kassem Dakhlallah, an Arab American lawyer who lives in a suburb of Detroit. "I think a lot of people are excited to just get [Trump] out of office."

Abdalla M. Battah, associate professor of political science at Minnesota State University and an expert in Middle Eastern politics, told ABC News he thinks a lot of the enthusiasm is tied to Trump’s stance toward Arab Americans during his first term.

"Trump, the first time, was given the benefit of doubt by the 26% of Arab Americans who voted for him; however, he did not moderate his rhetoric or jettison his racist ideas. This will benefit Biden," he said.

On Wednesday, Biden participated in a virtual "Muslims Making Change: National Honors" event and pledged to end the president’s Muslim ban on "day one."

"Muslim American voices matter to our community and to our country," he said. "I know you haven't always gotten the respect or representation you deserve. We’ve seen what happens when a president fans the flames -- hate crimes on the march, more kids bullied in school, the rise of anti-Muslim bigotry. This is not who we are."

Endeavors such as ‘Yalla Vote!', a national initiative of the Arab American Institute to register Arab Americans to vote, and National Arab American Voter Registration Day, when, in early October, local community groups held in-person events and virtual panels to encourage Arab Americans to participate in the electoral process, have mobilized the community.

Although some Arab Americans did vote for Trump in 2016, some of the president’s pro-Israel policies, with the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in particular, have to a large extent eroded support, according to Youssef Chouhoud, Christopher Newport University professor of political science.

"Conservatively, I am comfortable saying that a majority of Arab Americans will vote for Biden, although by how large a percentage is difficult to say," he said.

A 2019 American Community Survey, an annual survey of the population by the Census Bureau, estimated there were over 2 million Arab Americans in the country. However, the nonprofit Arab American Institute estimates that 3.7 million is a more accurate number.

In Michigan, the large majority of the 200,000 Arab Americans live in the Detroit area and in the largely Arab American city of Dearborn, in Wayne County. A Democratic statewide win depends on a massive majority from Wayne County, according to the Arab American Institute. In 2016, Trump won Michigan by fewer than 11,000 votes out of nearly 4.8 million.

In Minnesota, the Census Bureau estimates the statewide Arab American population is close to 108,553. The North Star state has been increasingly seen as a potential swing state following Trump's narrow loss there in 2016 to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who won Minnesota by about 44,500 votes or 1.5%.

Of course, there is no monolithic Arab American political voting bloc in the U.S.

Arab American communities are focused on various social and economic issues that affect them, Devin Bathish, executive director of the Arab American Heritage Council in Flint, Michigan, told ABC News. They are concerned with health care, social security, education and the economy.

For some, he says, issues of surveillance, discrimination and racism loom particularly large. Others tend to be "one-issue people," with foreign policy related to one’s ancestral homeland playing an important part in who they support for office.

"The Arab-American community is very diverse," said Amer Zahr, an adjunct professor at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and formerly a national surrogate for Bernie Sanders 2020, during an interview with Michigan Radio. "We should be careful not to conflate the terms ‘Arab’ and ‘Muslim.’ Half of the Arab American community in America is Christian. And remember, most Muslims in America are not Arab."

Many of the traditionalist values espoused by Republicans, that is a "conservative understanding of social issues," are shared by conservative Arab Americans, whether they are Christian or Muslim, Waleed F. Mahdi, assistant professor of US-Arab cultural politics international at the University of Oklahoma, told ABC news. In fact, particularly among those who are Muslim, two major social issues -- abortion and gay marriage -- are especially relevant to their political leanings.

"The Democrats are completely for those. Therefore, freedom to practice any kind of marriage that you want, for the woman to have the pro-choice... those are against our Muslim beliefs," said Trump supporter Abdullatif Aljahmi, a tax preparer from Dearborn, Michigan.

But the attacks on 9/11, and the subsequent backlash experienced by the Arab American community, with "racialized forms of exclusion, and justice…years of racial profiling, and sometimes institutionalized laws like [Trump’s] Muslim ban," has eroded support for the GOP, said Mahdi, and has led to a "recalibration" of Arab Americans’ priorities. Many are demanding acknowledgment of the fact that they are first and foremost American citizens.

Trump’s "systematic ways of excluding many voices in these communities," has reinforced the "constant sense of alienation that many Arab Americans feel," and has further exacerbated the community’s dissociation with the Republican party, according to Mahdi.

The president has a history of inflammatory comments and actions against Muslims. In his first week in office, he instituted a ban on visitors from predominantly Muslim countries. Although at first blocked by a federal court, an amended version of the ban was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2018. During a NBC interview in 2015, he said he would "implement" a database to track Muslims, and in January 2020, he also retweeted a doctored picture of Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi wearing traditional Muslim attire and standing before Iranian flag.

Some Arab Americans have been turned off from the GOP in recent decades, and many have embraced one of the most left-leaning political figures there is.

Prior to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) dropping out of the 2016 presidential race, he had won the support of several Arab American organizations, including American Arab and Muslim Political Action Committee, Arab American Political Action Committee and a coalition of Palestinian-American organizations.

Many Arab American voters supported his candidacy, attracted not only to his populist message, but also, in part, because of his sympathetic view of the Palestinian cause and his promise, if elected, to pressure Israel to cease settlement expansions in the West Bank, according to Bathish.

Sanders spoke of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in a non-"derogatory, stereotypical, or racist" fashion, but rather "in a way that was humane. I think it motivated a lot of people to come out and support Bernie," he said.

In 2016, Sanders won the city of Dearborn, with its population of about 40% Arab American residents, by 20 points over Hillary Clinton, giving his 2016 campaign a second life. And although it is hard to accurately assess the specific impact of Arab American voters on Sanders' primary victory in Michigan, Isra Daraiseh, of the National Network of Arab American Communities, believes that the Arab American voting bloc was a deciding factor," with the turnout "extremely high."

Battah, the Minnesota State University professor, said he believes that Biden’s message will resonate, "if only because of the widespread resentment in the community regarding Trump's policies at home and abroad. Trump's racism and Islamophobia are at the heart of his strategy to win."

The Biden campaign has introduced a plan for the Arab American community, in which he recognizes the contributions of Arab Americans, commits to fight "anti-Arab bigotry," and to include Arab Americans in his administration.

Still, "don’t be surprised to see Arab Americans come out and express their support for Trump," Mahdi said.

Those who do, he said, are likely to back the president because of their commitment to conservative social values and, for more well-to-do families, because they believe the economy will fare better under Republicans and that they will benefit from lower taxes.

Dima Atiya, a Michigan native who is Arab American, told ABC News that while she sees more enthusiasm from the Arab American community for getting Trump out of office this election cycle, she hopes all Arab Americans will make their voices heard.

"I really just hope that people turn out to vote. I think that Arab Americans don't realize that there's a lot of us, and we have a powerful voice if we're willing to use it."
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sshepard/iStockBy LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News

(MIAMI) -- President Donald Trump falsely claimed three times on Thursday that a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found the vast majority of people who wear a mask contract COVID-19, but several experts say the president misinterpreted the data in a potentially dangerous way as the CDC still recommends everyone wear a mask in public when social distancing isn't possible.

Trump, during a town hall with NBC News Thursday, said that "just the other day, they came out with a statement that 85% of the people that wear masks, catch it."

Moderator Savannah Guthrie immediately pushed back.

"They didn't say that," Guthrie said. "I know that study."

"Well, that's what I heard. And that's what I saw," a defiant Trump replied.

The president made the same erroneous claim during a rally in Greenville, North Carolina, earlier in the day.

"Look at all the masks. You know, they keep saying, 'Nobody wears a mask, wear the mask.' Although then, they come out with things today. Did you see CDC? That 85% of the people wearing a mask catch it, OK?" Trump told the packed audience.

And a Thursday morning interview with Fox News Trump said, "Then you see CDC comes out with a statement that 85% of the people wearing masks catch it," asking, "What's that all about?"

The CDC report Trump was referring to was published last month and found that dining out raised the risk of COVID-19 infection more than other social activities. The study was not designed to look at mask effectiveness but surveyed the behaviors of 314 symptomatic people who sought out coronavirus testing at 11 particular sites around the country in July.

It found that of 154 symptomatic people who had tested positive, 85% said they had worn a mask either "always" or "often" over the 14 days prior to the onset of their illness -- where Trump's number came from. It also found that of the remaining 160 people in the study who reported symptoms but had tested negative, 88.7% said they had worn a mask either "always" or "often."

After the study gained attention on social media this week with users raising questions on the effectiveness of wearing a mask, the CDC tweeted on Wednesday afternoon that "the interpretation that more mask-wearers are getting infected compared to non-mask wearers is incorrect."

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administration chief in the Trump administration, pushed back on the president's inaccurate interpretation Friday morning and stressed that masks are effective in slowing the spread.

"Masks are not a panacea, but they're going to afford you a level of protection," Gottlieb told CNBC. "In an environment where the alternative is having a raging epidemic that's going to force some kind of economic dislocation, I'd rather try to get everyone in masks and I'd rather try to get them in high-quality masks because we know it's going to slow down the transmission. It's going to have an impact."

He noted most studies on the effectiveness of masks have shown that wearing one reduces the transmission of the virus by blocking respiratory droplets.

One of the study's co-authors, Christopher Lindsell, co-director of the Health Data Science Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told CNN in an email Thursday that Trump misrepresented the data.

"The data suggest that among a group of patients who are already showing symptoms that prompted them to get testing for the virus, there was no statistical evidence of a difference in mask wearing behavior between those who tested positive and those who tested negative," Lindsell said.

"This is very different from the question of whether wearing masks prevents you becoming infected with the virus, and it is also different to the question of how many or what percentage of people who wear masks contract the virus. The study was not designed to answer these questions."

Trump's continued false claims come as he pushes for an end to COVID-19 restrictions, repeating on Thursday what's become a mantra to him throughout the pandemic, "The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself."

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