President Trump on Wednesday expressed support to California Republicans who installed more than 50 unauthorized absentee-ballot drop boxes falsely labeled “official” — an extraordinary endorsement by a president of a practice that state officials call deceptive and illegal.
“Fight hard Republicans,” Mr. Trump wrote in a tweet that linked to a news report about California state officials calling the unauthorized boxes illegal and demanding their removal.
California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, has given the state Republican Party until Thursday to remove the boxes, which are labeled “Official Ballot Drop Off Box” or “Ballot Drop Box” and have been placed near churches, gun shops and party offices in Los Angeles, Orange and Fresno Counties over the last two weeks.
The party has refused to remove the boxes or even place disclaimers on them. To the average voter, the gray metal boxes are virtually indistinguishable from drop-off sites established by the state, which are governed by strict regulations intended to prevent the partisan manipulation or theft of ballots.
This is not the first time Mr. Trump has advised his supporters to contravene the law or state regulations to undermine the integrity of the election or erode faith in the process.
In September, Mr. Trump suggested that people in North Carolina stress-test the security of their elections systems by voting twice — an act that constitutes the kind of voter fraud the president has railed against.
In recent months, a handful of states and local governments, most of them controlled by Democrats, have expanded the use of drop boxes as a safe alternative to voting in person during the coronavirus pandemic. In response, Republicans in many states have turned their sights on drop boxes, trying to limit their use through state orders or lawsuits.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly slammed Democrats for a practice known as “ballot harvesting” — the collection of assigning a third party to collect batches of voter ballots.
But on Monday, Hector Barajas, a spokesman for the California Republican Party, said the party’s actions were legal because state law did not restrict them from collecting voters’ completed ballots. He blamed Democrats for blocking Republicans from making the third-party collection of ballots illegal.
Mr. Trump seized on that point on Wednesday, tweeting, Democrats “have been taking advantage of the system for years!”
But the placement of the boxes go beyond anything either party has done, and Mr. Becerra said he would consider pressing criminal charges or seeking a civil court ruling against the party.
“This is like nothing I have ever seen before,” Mr. Becerra, a Democrat, said in a phone interview on Tuesday, contending that state Republicans were trying to stir up confusion around drop boxes. “You want people to have confidence in the system, to know that if you submit a ballot it will be counted. How can you do this at a time when people are losing faith in the process?”
A federal judge has extended the voter registration deadline in Virginia until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, after a cut cable on Tuesday brought down the online system hours before the original deadline.
Judge John A. Gibney Jr. granted the extension on Wednesday after voting rights groups argued that the six-hour outage had disenfranchised voters during a critical day when voters, who often wait to the last minute, rushed to apply in time to vote in November.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a lawsuit late Tuesday night requesting that the deadline be extended and calling for the state make “a significant effort” to tell the public about the change.
“If you still need to register or update your information, you can do it online at https://vote.virginia.gov—you can also register and vote early at your registrar’s office,” Gov. Ralph Northam wrote in a tweet announcing the decision.
“The systemwide failure impacted Virginians across the Commonwealth, preventing people from registering to vote for the first time or updating their registrations, and prevented many voters from casting a regular ballot during in-person early voting,” said Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of New Virginia Majority, a progressive group that backed extending the deadline.
Around midday on Tuesday, Virginia’s Department of Elections reported a “fiber cut” that took down the networks of several agencies in Richmond, including the department’s registration portal.
The cable was inadvertently cut during roadside utilities work near Richmond, according to the state’s information technology agency, and no foul play is suspected. The connection to the portal was restored six hours later.
President Trump traveled on Tuesday to Johnstown, Pa. — exactly the kind of place where he needs to run up the score next month — and, even with a teleprompter in tow, he veered off script to instead deliver some stage directions for the electorate.
“Suburban women, will you please like me?” Mr. Trump said at his rally. “Please. Please. I saved your damn neighborhood, OK?”
The itinerary of Mr. Trump’s return to the campaign trail after his multiday hospitalization with the coronavirus this month shows the extent to which the president has been forced into a defensive posture in the final weeks of the campaign.
He is pleading directly with women who have abandoned him in large numbers, and on Friday he will make stops in Florida, a must-win battleground, and Georgia, a longtime Republican stronghold now firmly up for grabs.
And for a second straight day, Mr. Trump joked about wading down into the crowd from the stage to kiss people, since he says he has recovered from the virus. “Now I’m immune,” he crowed.
Later, Mr. Trump spent part of his evening amplifying a false conspiracy theory about the Central Intelligence Agency, President Barack Obama and the terrorist Osama bin Laden.
His Democratic challenger, Joseph R. Biden Jr., spent the day in Florida, and delivered his remarks while wearing a mask.
Mr. Trump’s campaign put out a rare set of “prepared” excerpts in advance of his rally on Tuesday, with messaging that mostly reprised his 2016 come-from-behind approach, calling Mr. Biden a “a servant of the radical globalists” and casting himself as an agitator who would not “play by the rules” of Washington.
As Mr. Trump appealed to women, Mr. Biden sought to bolster his growing strength with older voters, a large, typically Republican bloc that has moved away from the president.
“The only senior that Donald Trump cares about — the only senior — is senior Donald Trump,” Mr. Biden said at a community center in Pembroke Pines, Fla., near Fort Lauderdale.
He pitched himself to senior citizens by invoking what many care about most: their grandchildren.
Accusing Mr. Trump of throwing “super-spreader parties at the White House,” he said older voters had been forced into separation from their families for their own safety. “How many of you have been unable to hug your grandkids in the last seven months?” Mr. Biden said.
Shortly after his rally had wrapped, Mr. Trump, 74, posted a meme to his Twitter account mocking Mr. Biden, 77, as elderly. Last week, he had recorded a video on the White House grounds praising seniors as his “favorite people in the world.”
Representative Brendan Boyle, Democrat of Pennsylvania, responded to Mr. Trump’s tweet with a thinking-face emoji.
“I just can’t quite figure out why @JoeBiden is the first Democrat in decades to be winning the senior vote??!!” he wrote.
NBC said on Wednesday that it would broadcast a televised town hall with Mr. Trump from Miami on Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern — the exact time that Mr. Biden will appear on ABC for his own town-hall-style event in Philadelphia.
The decision to schedule Mr. Trump directly against Mr. Biden generated a swift backlash on Wednesday among top Democrats and media pundits, who said NBC was allowing the president an opportunity to blot out his opponent on the airwaves.
Vivian Schiller, a former news executive at Twitter and National Public Radio who previously worked at NBC, called the timing decision “shameful” in a Twitter post. “The point of a news organization is to serve the public. This is the opposite,” Ms. Schiller wrote.
Mr. Biden’s town hall has been on the books since last week, after Mr. Trump, who had recently contracted the coronavirus, rejected plans to convert the second formal presidential debate into a virtual matchup; the debate was eventually canceled.
Officials at NBC said the 8 p.m. timing for Mr. Trump’s event was, in fact, about parity: NBC hosted a town hall with Mr. Biden on Oct. 5 that aired during the 8 p.m. hour, and the network wanted to retain the same conditions for the president’s event.
ABC’s announcement that Mr. Biden would appear on its air prompted Mr. Trump’s campaign to seek its own rival telecast, leading to a lengthy negotiation with NBC officials who wanted independent proof that the president would not pose a safety risk to other participants — including network crew members, the Florida voters on hand to ask questions, and the moderator, Savannah Guthrie of the “Today” show.
The NBC event, to be moderated by the “Today” show host Savannah Guthrie, had been contingent on the Trump campaign providing independent proof that the president would not pose a safety risk to the other participants — including NBC crew members, voters and Ms. Guthrie herself.
On Wednesday’s “Today” show, the NBC anchor Craig Melvin said the town hall would occur “in accordance with the guidelines set forth by health officials” and proffered a statement from Clifford Lane, a clinical director at the National Institutes of Health.
In the statement, Dr. Lane said he had reviewed medical data about Mr. Trump’s condition, including a so-called P.C.R. test — a widely used diagnostic test for the coronavirus that is considered more reliable than a rapid antigen test — that the N.I.H. “collected and analyzed” on Tuesday. Dr. Lane concluded “with a high degree of confidence” that the president is “not shedding infectious virus,” NBC said.
The town hall on Thursday will be held outdoors at the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, and audience members will be required to wear face masks, the network said. Ms. Guthrie and Mr. Trump will be seated at least 12 feet apart.
President Obama plans to hit the road on behalf of his former vice president, Joseph R. Biden Jr., over the next two weeks for socially-distanced appearances in battleground states to encourage Democrats during early voting, according to people familiar with his plans.
Aides to the former president would not say where or when Mr. Obama plans to travel but a person familiar with the planning said his team had discussed possible visits to Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin or Florida with Mr. Biden’s team.
It is not clear if Michelle Obama, the former first lady and a figure whose popularity rivals her husband’s, will also make in-person appearances.
Aides to Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden would not respond to specific questions about his schedule and said an announcement would be forthcoming when the arrangements had been finalized.
Mr. Obama’s endgame re-engagement, a reprise of his efforts on behalf of Hillary Clinton four years ago, kicks off this afternoon when he sits down with two former White House advisers, Jon Favreau and Tommy Vietor, who host the popular Pod Save America podcast.
The podcast episode, due to run 30 minutes, will be taped at 4 p.m. and posted Wednesday evening; interview topics will include “his thoughts on the race, his pitch to voters, his thoughts on the future of Trumpism and democracy,” Mr. Favreau said.
Mr. Obama, who adopted a posture of neutrality during the Democratic primaries, expressed initial reluctance to take on President Trump personally — to deprive him of an easy foil that could motivate the president’s base.
But he cast aside caution over the summer and fall, appearing at fund-raisers, roundtables and side-by-sides with Mr. Biden and campaign surrogates over Zoom.
Mr. Obama’s address to the Democratic convention in August painted a dire picture of the country under Mr. Trump, portraying him as a man unfit, uncaring and unserious, who threatens both the nation’s welfare and its core democratic institutions.
“This administration has shown it will tear our democracy down if that’s what it takes to win,” Mr. Obama, hair grayed and manner grave, said in one of the most comprehensive denunciations of a sitting president made by a predecessor.
As a student at Howard University, called “The Mecca” by those who know its legacy, Kamala Harris settled into the pragmatic politics that have defined her career.
She participated in protests, but was a step removed from the more extreme voices on campus.
She sparred with the Black Republicans on the debate team but made no secret that she thought some tactics by activists on the left were going too far.
She extolled the values of racial representation, joining a generation of Black students who decided to step into the institutions — in government and the corporate world — that were unavailable to their parents.
In interviews, more than a dozen classmates and friends who knew Ms. Harris and attended Howard themselves placed their experience in the larger context of Black politics in the 1980s and a changing Washington. They were the children of the civil rights movement, the early beneficiaries of federal school desegregation, with newfound access to institutions and careers. Words like mass incarceration and systemic racism were not yet widely used, though the effects of both were becoming visible around Howard’s campus.
Instead, there was an overarching belief among them that increased racial representation could bend any institution to their will, that participating in a system many viewed as unjust was an important form of harm reduction. Ms. Harris has personally cited this belief in years since, including when she discusses her decision to become a prosecutor.
More than 30 years later, the power and limitations of Ms. Harris’s instinct to couple insider politics with her lens as a Black woman and first-generation American are on display as Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s running mate. On the vice-presidential debate stage last week, Vice President Mike Pence criticized her record as prosecutor, arguing that it disproportionately affected people of color.
“I will not sit here and be lectured by the vice president on what it means to enforce the laws of our country,” Ms. Harris responded, a response that is also a callback to a worldview that she formed in college. That’s when she and her classmates weighed what to do in the world and decided a system that had historically oppressed Black Americans could be made to work in their favor.
Ms. Harris, who declined to be interviewed about her college years, said through a campaign spokeswoman that she was proud to be back at Howard — occasionally working from an office on campus during the campaign — and that the college was “a place that shaped her.”
Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign on Wednesday introduced a new ad featuring Bridgett Floyd, one of George Floyd’s sisters, who in an emotional testimonial calls the former vice president “the change we need.”
Set against a soft piano score, Ms. Floyd recalls Mr. Biden’s personal outreach after the killing of Mr. Floyd by the Minneapolis police, set against pictures of Mr. Biden praying, reflecting and interacting with Black voters on the campaign trail.
“He was actually there to listen,” Ms. Floyd says in the ad. “He was very sincere.”
The ad, released on what would have been Mr. Floyd’s 47th birthday, comes as the Biden campaign is ramping up its effort to energize Black voters as early voting gets underway. Though the ad will air nationally on television, digital platforms and radio, the Biden campaign plans to target it in 16 different states as well.
The ad is being accompanied by a day of action to honor Mr. Floyd on his birthday, organized by the George Floyd Memorial Foundation, which was founded by members of his family. The social media campaign asks people to ensure that they “make a voting plan now” and to call their senators to pass a criminal justice overhaul bill.
The foundation also announced a partnership with the National Urban League to get out the vote.
“He should still be here today,” Ms. Floyd said in a statement. “For that reason, I greatly believe that we need change, and it’s pivotal that people vote in this election. People need to make a plan and take voting seriously — it’s more important than ever.”
During the first round of questioning in her Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Judge Amy Coney Barrett faced a wide variety of meaningful inquiries about her background in a predominantly civil marathon on Tuesday.
But with many of the more technical questions asked, senators will now begin shorter, 20-minute rounds in which they may look to more forcefully make their case for or against Judge Barrett’s confirmation.
Here are some of the ways the conversation could shift on Wednesday:
How much more will Judge Barrett be invited to speak?
Tuesday’s question-and-answer segment featured committee members pressing Judge Barrett for details about her judicial opinions and personal views, covering topics as varied as gun ownership, voting rights and same-sex marriage.
With many of the anticipated questions surrounding her relatively short record as a judge now asked and answered, more senators may pivot away from directing questions to the nominee on Wednesday.
Many Democrats have already voiced their opposition to holding the hearing at all, arguing that the proximity to the election makes it inappropriate, and that the Senate has more pressing priorities given the chaos caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Heading into later rounds of questioning this week, both parties may use their time to discuss topics like health care and coronavirus relief that they see as central to their messaging ahead of the election. If they do, Judge Barrett may be afforded much less time to speak.
What else can be said about independence?
One of the recurring questions Judge Barrett fielded on Tuesday concerned her judicial independence and whether she would recuse herself in any election law cases related to the man who nominated her: President Trump.
Throughout the day, Judge Barrett emphasized that she had made no promises to Mr. Trump or anyone else about how she might rule in the future, even though the president has repeatedly spoken about his intent to add sympathetic voices to the court.
While several Democrats pushed Judge Barrett to commit to recusing herself in cases that concern the president, she repeatedly demurred, insisting only that she would consider any relevant factors that might cast doubt on her impartiality when making that decision.
Like many past nominees, Judge Barrett declined to speculate on how she might rule in hypothetical cases that may arise after her confirmation, including in this case the election, the Affordable Care Act and abortion rights.
Given that any further questions about Judge Barrett’s participation in a hypothetical election case are likely to go unanswered, Democrats may be forced to take a different tack.
On Tuesday, Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, framed a few questions in more concrete terms, such as asking Judge Barrett whether she believed the president should commit to a peaceful transition of power, something he has repeatedly declined to do. While Judge Barrett may argue that she is not in a position to weigh in on the president’s behavior or public statements, Democrats may look to push her to discuss actions Mr. Trump has taken that they see as falling outside of the law, or threatening constitutional norms.
With less than three weeks to go before Nov. 3, it’s the time of year for closing messages. And for candidates with virtually unlimited money, that means highly-produced 60-second TV ads voiced by high-profile surrogates that intend to leave the viewer optimistic and perhaps a bit emotional not just about voting but about America and, maybe, even life itself.
These two ads, from the Democratic Senate candidates Jaime Harrison in South Carolina and Mark Kelly in Arizona, don’t bother to mention the incumbent Republicans each man is trying to defeat. They don’t have to, because by this point in the campaign, voters in each state have been bombarded by tens of millions of dollars of advertising eviscerating Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Martha McSally of Arizona.
Instead, Mr. Harrison and Mr. Kelly are, in the closing weeks of the campaign, pitching voters on a broader idea. For Mr. Harrison, it’s a belief, voiced by the South Carolina-born actress Viola Davis, that a Democrat can win in what has been a solidly Republican state for a generation.
Mr. Kelly’s ad, voiced by his wife, the former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, is her testimonial to his fidelity and loyalty — to her, to the country and, if elected, to Arizona. It almost doesn’t matter what’s in the ad; just hearing Ms. Giffords’s voice, still shaky nine years after she was shot in the head outside a Tucson supermarket, is a moving tribute to his candidacy.
Neither ad touches on any policy stance or political statement. Their aim is simply to tug at heartstrings without offering a political rationale. It’s the television version of the phrase: “If you know, you know.”
Where It’s Running
Mr. Harrison’s and Mr. Kelly’s ads are airing in their respective states.
These ads are the luxury of a campaign so flush with cash that it can afford a minute-long interruption to the onslaught of vituperative TV spots in battleground states. They bring to mind the classic 2016 Bernie Sanders ad with no words, set to the Simon and Garfunkel song “America,” and represent the campaign’s final efforts to define themselves. For Mr. Harrison, that means inspiring hope that he can actually win. For Mr. Kelly, it’s pitching the idea that the famously prickly former astronaut is actually a nice guy.
There are 20 days until Election Day. Here are the schedules of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates for Wednesday, Oct. 14. All times are Eastern time.
11 a.m.: Speaks via video feed to the Economic Clubs of New York, Washington, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Florida, and Sheboygan, Wis.
7 p.m.: Holds a rally in Des Moines.
Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Afternoon: Hosts a virtual online fund-raising event.
Vice President Mike Pence
12:30 p.m.: Speaks at a Make America Great Again rally in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Senator Kamala Harris
9 a.m.: Participates in confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett in Washington.
Personal lawyers for President Trump, seeking to appeal their case to the Supreme Court for the second time in less than a year, asked the justices on Tuesday to delay a ruling that would allow the Manhattan district attorney to obtain Mr. Trump’s financial records.
In a 38-page “emergency” application, Mr. Trump’s legal team told the court that a Federal District Court judge was wrong to rule that the prosecutor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., had a legal right to subpoena the materials — and that an appeals court panel in New York was wrong to uphold that ruling this month.
“Allowing this deeply flawed ruling to stand, especially given the prominence of this case, will needlessly sow confusion where none presently exists,” wrote Mr. Trump’s legal team, including William S. Consovoy and Jay Sekulow. “The decision is indisputably wrong.”
The request for Supreme Court intervention had been expected since a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit unanimously ruled on Oct. 7 that Mr. Vance could use a grand jury to obtain Mr. Trump’s financial records, rejecting the president’s arguments that the request was overly broad and amounted to politically motivated harassment. Mr. Vance is a Democrat.
“Grand juries must necessarily paint with a broad brush,” the judges wrote, adding: “None of the president’s allegations, taken together or separately, are sufficient to raise a plausible inference that the subpoena was issued out of malice or an intent to harass.”
The request for intervention marks a return for the case. In July, the Supreme Court ruled, 7 to 2, that the fact that Mr. Trump was the sitting president did not make him absolutely immune from criminal investigation, as his legal team had argued.
The unlikely transformation of Joseph R. Biden Jr., a 77-year-old whose seemingly limited appeal to small donors left him financially outflanked in the primaries, into perhaps the greatest magnet for online money in American political history is a testament to the ferocity of Democratic opposition to President Trump.
Mr. Biden now has a once-unimaginable cash edge over Mr. Trump, and since Sept. 1 he has reserved about $140 million more in television advertising than the president. Money alone does not determine presidential winners — Hillary Clinton vastly outspent Mr. Trump in 2016 — but the cash has provided Mr. Biden enviable flexibility to engineer the electoral map to his advantage.
By Ella Koeze·Sources: Federal Election Commission, ActBlue
“There was always going to be a large amount of money coming into the nominee,” said Michael Whitney, a Democratic digital fund-raising specialist who worked for Senator Bernie Sanders in the primary. “I’m sure they never dreamed it would be this big.”
To chart Mr. Biden’s consequential financial turnabout, The New York Times analyzed the flow of nearly 11 million online contributions from the first nearly 500 days of his campaign. The analysis looked at $436 million given through August to Mr. Biden and his shared committee with the Democratic National Committee via ActBlue, the donation-processing platform. Checks, merchandise sales and other offline giving were not included.
The Times analysis shows four inflection points in Mr. Biden’s fund-raising metamorphosis, beginning with one unwittingly provided last fall by Mr. Trump, whose presidency has been rocket fuel for Democratic fund-raising.
The other three points — all linked in different ways to race — emerge from the 2020 data: Mr. Biden’s sweeping victories delivered by Black voters in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday, the protests following the police killing of George Floyd and, especially, the selection of Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate.
A large majority of Indian-Americans plan to cast ballots for the Democratic ticket of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Kamala Harris, according to a survey released Wednesday, despite elaborate overtures by the Trump White House to win their support.
The survey, by the polling firm YouGov, found that 72 percent of Indian-American voters planned to vote for Mr. Biden, with just 22 percent planning to go for President Trump.
While Indian-Americans hold a wide variety of political views, the presence on the Democratic ticket of Ms. Harris, whose mother immigrated from Chennai, India, has had a galvanizing effect on a voting bloc that could help Mr. Biden in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan.
Their potential impact on the presidential election highlights the growing importance of Indian-Americans in U.S. politics: As the second-largest immigrant group in the country, Indian-Americans are gaining influence, making political donations, vocally supporting candidates and causes and, most notably, running for office, from the school board to Congress.
“We have arrived,” said Ramesh Kapur, a Democratic Party fund-raiser.
Ms. Harris isn’t the only reason many Indian-Americans support the Democratic ticket this year, Mr. Kapur said. They are also turned off by the president’s frequent attacks on immigrants and people of color, despite standing to gain from Mr. Trump’s economic policies.
“Even though they are supposedly saving taxes, to the Indian-American community, when you get the president of the United States saying to an elected official, ‘Go home,’ that scares the hell out of us,” he said, referring to Mr. Trump’s tweet in July 2019 about a group of four minority congresswomen.