President Trump is headed to Sanford, Florida, on Monday for his first in-person campaign rally since contracting COVID-19. The president is slated to deliver remarks at an airport hangar at 7 p.m. ET, 12 days after he disclosed his COVID-19 diagnosis, CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga reports. Mr. Trump also plans to address an outdoor crowd from the South Lawn balcony of the White House on Saturday. He’s expected to make remarks on “law and order” in conjunction with an event that was already slated to take place with the conservative group Blexit, a White House official confirmed. Trump supporter and activist Candace Owens leads the group, according to CBS News White House producer Fin Gomez.
Mr. Trump and his physicians have so far not answered when he last tested negative for COVID-19 and have not said if he’s tested negative yet. White House communications director Alyssa Farah told reporters on Friday that she did not have an answer on whether he has been tested recently or if he is currently negative. The White House on Thursday released a memo from Mr. Trump’s physician saying that he believed the president will be able to return to “public engagements” as soon as Saturday. Hours after the memo was released, Mr. Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he was planning to hold a rally on Saturday in Florida. “I think I’m gonna try doing a rally on Saturday night if we have enough time to put it together — but we wanna do a rally, probably in Florida on Saturday night,” the president said. “We might come back and do one in Pennsylvania the following night, and it’s incredible what’s going on. I feel so good.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with COVID-19 remain contagious for 10 to 20 days after their onset of symptoms, depending on the severity of the case, CBS News White House producer Sara Cook and digital reporter Audrey McNamara report. The president’s personal physician Dr. Sean Conley wrote in a White House memo, released hours before Mr. Trump’s own announcement, that Saturday will be 10 days since Mr. Trump’s diagnosis, “and based on the trajectory of advanced diagnostics the team has been conducting, I fully anticipate the President’s safe return to public engagements at that time.” The White House has said that the president began experiencing symptoms on Thursday, October 1, and tested positive that night. The next day, he was flown to Walter Reed Medical Center, where he received a combination of treatments. He returned to the White House Monday evening.
The CDC says a person with COVID can safely end isolation if at least 10 days have passed since their first symptoms, plus if that person’s fever has been gone for at least 24 hours and other symptoms are improving. The CDC adds a person can end isolation sooner if the person has received “two negative tests results in a row, from tests done at least 24 hours apart.” Mr. Trump told Hannity that he would be tested for the first time since his diagnosis on Friday. “What we’re doing is probably the test will be tomorrow, the actual test, because there’s no reason to test all the time,” he said in the Thursday interview. He said in a separate interview on Fox News Thursday that he thinks he’s “better,” adding, “to a point where I’d love to do a rally tonight.”
“They are going to be testing him to determine the trajectory and whether he gets to the point where he’s not infected,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, told CBS News Radio White House correspondent Steven Portnoy in an interview Friday. “I can guarantee you that they will be testing him before they let him go out.” Rutgers medical professor Dr. Bob Lahita told CBSN that if Mr. Trump were his patient he would still be in isolation on Saturday. “He’s talking about getting in front of thousands and thousands of people, and making a speech without a mask,” Lahita said on CBSN Friday. “This is an extraordinary display of behavior that’s very unusual.”
FROM THE CANDIDATES
Joe Biden made his first general election stop in Nevada on Friday as he encouraged voters in the state to take advantage of early voting starting soon. He then held a drive-in style campaign event with local politicians. Biden told the Nevadans gathered that Mr. Trump “is trying to scare us” by trying to “convince people there are ways to play with the vote.” To counteract the president’s questioning the efficacy of the election, Biden said, “We can’t just win, we have to win overwhelmingly.” Always a grandfatherly figure on the trail, Biden invited a 10-year-old boy at the event, who performed a lasso routine alongside a Mariachi band, to Washington. “I got a couple people I’d like you to lasso,” Biden said. Biden’s latest trip to Nevada marks the ninth battleground state the Democratic candidate has campaigned in person since June, according to CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson.
UP FOR DEBATE
The next debate between Mr. Trump and Biden has been officially canceled, the Commission on Presidential Debates said Friday. CBS News political correspondent Ed O’Keefe reports officials with the nonpartisan entity responsible for organizing every televised debate between presidential contenders since 1988 began informing campaign officials Friday afternoon.
BATTLEGROUNDS IN THE BATTLEGROUNDS
MINNESOTA – *DAKOTA COUNTY*
Dakota County, located in Minnesota’s second congressional district, encompasses the suburbs to the south of the Twin Cities metro area. CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman says Minnesota’s second congressional district is a battleground as well, as Mr. Trump flipped the district in 2016 after former President Obama narrowly won the district in 2012. But there have been Democratic gains in Dakota County at large since 2012. Mr. Obama won the county by 3 points in 2012 and Hillary Clinton won the county by 4 points in 2016. There was a bigger shift in the 2018 midterms as then Democratic congressional candidate Angie Craig expanded Democratic margins, winning the county by nearly 11 points. Former President George W. Bush carried Dakota County twice.
In 2020, Democrats are looking to increase their margins in the suburbs, while Republicans are focused on minimizing Democratic gains. Tyler Kistner, the Republican candidate challenging Craig in the second congressional district, recently released an ad pushing a law and order message, alleging that Craig supports the defund the police movement. During the summer and early fall, Republicans, including Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, have pushed a law and order message. Pence and Ivanka Trump recently attended a “Cops for Trump” event in Minneapolis. Democrats around the nation have focused on health care and the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a recent ad, titled “Mom,” Craig made a pitch to suburban families, tying her past employment to a health care message. “I worked two jobs, too,” Craig said. “It’s why I am fighting to make health care more affordable and lower prescription drug costs.”
The pro-Democrats Super PAC American Bridge 21st Century is teaming up with the progressive vote-by-mail organization Deliver Democracy to help educate Pennsylvania voters and make sure ballots are counted. To that end, they’ve announced a six figure “It Takes Two” digital campaign to remind voters in the keystone state to make sure to use both envelopes when mailing in ballots, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. In September, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that mailed so-called “naked ballots,” or mail-in ballots, returned without both an outside mailing envelope and inside privacy one would not count. This could result in an estimated 100,000 ballots being rejected in the general election by one Philadelphia elections official’s estimate. American Bridge’s new campaign aims to educate voters on the vote-by-mail process in the hopes of reducing the number of ballots being rejected due to their “naked” state. “Donald Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes in 2016. With estimates showing more than double that number of mail in ballots at risk thanks to a recent court ruling, we must do everything we can to remind Pennsylvanians that it takes two envelopes to vote this year,” said American Bridge 21st Century President Bradley Beychok in a statement. “American Bridge 21st Century and Deliver Democracy will launch a massive voter education campaign targeting voters new to the mail ballot process to ensure their vote is counted.” The “It Takes Two” digital campaign will utilize both social media and email to reach voters. “How to get your mail-in ballot counted in PA: FIRST Seal your ballot inside the provided secrecy envelope. SECOND: Seal it inside the return envelope #ItTakesTwoPA,” reads one example of an ad on Facebook. “Young people and people of color disproportionately have their mail-in-ballots rejected more than any group in the country,” said Paul Tencher, senior adviser to Deliver Democracy. He noted the path for Democrats winning the presidency and Senate has always been about turnout and a significant portion of that will now take place by mail. “Together with American Bridge 21st Century we have launched a digital ‘chase’ program that will reach voters online rather than in the mail to make sure they send their ballot back with two envelopes.” According to the Pennsylvania Department of State, more than 2.5 million people have requested mail-in ballots so far for the November 3 election. Of those, more than 1.6 million requests have come from registered Democrats while just over 620,700 have come from Republicans to date.
In a 29-page order issued Friday morning, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker denied a preliminary injunction filed to extend the state’s voter registration deadline after technical difficulties reportedly prevented thousands of eligible Floridians from being able to register before the initial deadline at 11:59 p.m. on October 5. Though the state extended the voter registration deadline for seven hours on October 6, Walker said in the order that the Secretary of State’s “cure” for the website failure “had at least one major flaw,” which was that voters weren’t informed of the new deadline until after noon on the date of the new deadline, which Walker said “left less than seven hours for potential voters to somehow become aware of the news and ensure that they properly submitted their voter registration applications, all while also participating in their normal workday, school, family, and caregiving responsibilities.” CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that the group of voting rights organizations that were plaintiffs calling for the voter registration deadline to be extended have released a few statements calling this latest string of events “another episode in Florida’s long history of voter suppression.” In a statement Friday the plaintiffs said, “From its efforts to thwart the will of Floridians in overturning racist felony disenfranchisement laws this year, to its failure to adequately update and address technical issues of its online voter registration system, one thing is clear: the state of Florida has consistently failed Florida voters.” The statement continued. “Moving forward, we will continue our commitment to ensure that all voters who were able to register will be protected during all voting periods.”
CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that on Friday, the North Carolina State Board of Elections issued a memo reminding voters that voter intimidation is prohibited in the state. In the memo, the board outlined a list of unlawful activities like distributing misleading information about the time, place, or date of an election, which is prohibited and in some cases punishable with prison time, fines or both. “The State Board is committed to ensuring all voters have a safe voting experience, free from intimidation and harassment,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board of Elections in a press release statement. “Regardless of political affiliation, every voter deserves to cast their ballot in peace.” This announcement coincides with the last day of regular voter registration by mail or online for North Carolina voters and less than a week before in-person early voting begins in the state. Throughout the week, videos from celebrities like basketball superstar Stephen Curry and actor Zach Galifianakis — who is a native of North Carolina — have made the rounds on social media, informing North Carolinians on the ways they can register to vote in the upcoming election. As the CBS News political unit has previously reported, the period for early voting and same-day registration in North Carolina is October 15-31. Absentee ballots received after 5 p.m. on Election Day will be counted only if they are postmarked on or before Election Day and received by mail no later than 5 p.m. on November 6.
The Franklin County Board of Elections announced in a statement that 49,669 voters received an inaccurate ballot. The Board, who worked with its system vendor Bluecrest in correcting the issue, noted that they have begun the process of printing replacement ballots with the goal for these ballots to be sent to the United States Postal Service within 72 hours in order to be delivered to voters. In addition, CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman reports the board will be mailing a postcard to impacted voters describing the problem and educating them on multiple options for them to cast their vote. For voters who do not wait for their replacement ballot, they can vote in person at the county board of elections. “We want to make it clear that every voter who received an inaccurate ballot will receive a corrected ballot,” the board said in a statement. “Stringent tracking measures are in place to guarantee that a voter can only cast one vote.”
A judge on Friday rejected an effort from the Trump campaign to make Philadelphia’s election officials let campaign representatives inside temporary elections offices to monitor for fraud as voters request, fill out and return ballots, reports CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak. The campaign last week filed a lawsuit after Philadelphia’s commissioners refused to allow Trump campaign representatives to watch voters registering, filling out ballots and returning them at satellite elections offices. But in a 14-page opinion, Philadelphia County Common Pleas Court Judge Gary Glazer wrote that “the very detailed Election Code contains no provision that expressly grants the Campaign and its representatives a right to serve as watchers at ‘satellite offices’ of the Board of Elections.” The code does allow watchers at polling places, but Glazer wrote that the satellite offices fail to meet the geographic and temporal requirements to be considered polling places. Whereas the state Election Code describes polling places as voting rooms serving voters in an election district, satellite offices serve an entire county, Glaser wrote. Like the state’s top elections official, Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar, Glaser interpreted the Election Code to consider polling places to be voting centers that are open on Election Day, not before it. The satellite offices are “true offices of the Board of Elections,'” Glaser wrote, and watchers therefore do not have a right to be present in them. Glaser encouraged the Trump campaign to accept the Philadelphia Elections Board’s invitation to tour the offices. He also said campaign representatives can enter the offices to perform their own voting activities, but “may not linger” as poll watchers. Shortly after Glazer issued his order and opinion, lawyers for the Trump campaign filed a notice of appeal with the Commonwealth Court. Mr. Trump has repeatedly said that the only thing that could keep him from winning Pennsylvania is cheating from Democrats. In the presidential debate last week, he said his campaign’s uncertified poll watchers had been kept from elections offices in Philadelphia, “Because bad things happen in Philadelphia.” Trump campaign spokesperson Samantha Zager echoed that sentiment in a statement about the ruling. “What are they trying to hide?” she asked. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat who sued Mr. Trump’s appointed postmaster general over mail delays ahead of the election, said the Glazer’s decision should give voters confidence in the election. “Today’s ruling makes clear, yet again, that the president’s wild claims don’t hold up in the court of law,” he said in a statement.
IN THE SENATE
Less than a month from Election Day as voters in the battleground state of North Carolina have begun casting their votes, both candidates in the state’s competitive Senate race effectively shuttered their campaigns and had minimal campaign activity this week after Republican Senator Thom Tillis announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus and Democrat Cal Cunningham confirmed the authenticity of flirtatious text messages between Cunningham and a political strategist who is not his wife of almost 20 years. CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell and political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson report that in the days after Tillis’ positive coronavirus diagnosis and Cunningham’s admission of an affair, North Carolina voters said while these new developments are “shocking,” they’re sticking with their preferred candidate. “Your personal life is your personal life. I think it’s scummy, and it’s the slum dog thing to do, especially like to his wife, but I also…don’t think it’s abnormal for politicians to cheat on their wives unfortunately,” said Green Mountain resident Ivan Iventosch. But Tillis supporters don’t think a COVID positive test is on the same playing field as an extramarital affair and remain staunchly supportive of their candidate, even more so now in the wake of the revelations of Cunningham’s affair. Susan Mills, a school teacher in Fayetteville, North Carolina told CBS News that if Cunningham can lie to his own family, it makes her question whether or not he’d lie to North Carolinians.
IN THE HOUSE
At least 10 battleground House races had debates last night, four of them in seats with incumbent Democrats, four with incumbent Republicans and two open seats, reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. Despite some of the debate issues staying local to a district (i.e. the border wall being discussed in Texas’ 23rd), many of the topics discussed in the presidential and vice presidential debates such as the pandemic, the Affordable Care Act and the “Green New Deal” were mirrored in these down ballot races. “I think that I am basically cut and paste into the Republican talking points that are happening across the country right now,” New Jersey’s 2nd Democratic candidate Amy Kennedy said at one point in her debate.
In New Jersey, Republican incumbent Jeff Van Drew started to create a bit more daylight between himself and Mr. Trump, who he pledged “undying loyalty” to when he switched parties during the impeachment hearings. “What it meant is I support the presidency, that I support some of the things that he’s done about a strong America,” Van Drew said about his prior comments about the president, referencing the nation’s energy production and supply chain. Van Drew is facing Amy Kennedy, who was leading him by 5 points in a recent Monmouth University poll. In Texas 23rd, left open by retiring GOP Congressman Will Hurd, Republican candidate Tony Gonzales also clarified some space between him and Mr. Trump. When pressed by Democratic candidate Gina Ortiz Jones about Mr. Trump’s disparaging remarks about veterans, calling them “losers” and “suckers,” Gonzales said he didn’t appreciate the comments and that he doesn’t always agree with the president. Health care was also a big contrast in this debate, as Gonzales repeatedly talked about protecting pre-existing conditions, while showing support for repealing the Affordable Care Act. “I have a pre-existing condition. Why would I take that away from myself?” Gonzales said.
Republicans throughout the night were asked about pre-existing conditions, a mainstay campaign topic for House Democrats all cycle, and had to square away their support for it while Republicans still don’t have a concrete plan for what to replace the ACA with. “First, I do not support Medicare For All,” incumbent Democratic Congresswoman Kendra Horn said during Oklahoma’s 5th district debate. “We do not need to throw out our system. But let’s be clear, my grocery list has more details than your health care plan.”
Protests against police brutality were also brought up, used by Republicans to tie Democrats with the “defund the police” idea or a general anti-police sentiment. In Pennsylvania’s 10th, arguably the battleground state’s most competitive House race, Republican incumbent Scott Perry attacked Democrat Eugene DePasquale for marching with a group of protesters that had a sign that said “Blue Lives Murder.” Perry said, “That’s not looking for solutions, that’s throwing gas on the fire.” DePasquale responded and said showing support for the Black Lives Matter movement “doesn’t mean you’re anti-anybody else.” Congressman Perry was also asked about his “No” vote on a House resolution condemning QAnon, an extreme conspiracy theory network. Perry said it was a decision made on free speech. “If you want to believe crazy things, unpleasant things, this is America. While I might find them objectionable, and I do, we have the right to believe in those things and to say those things,” Perry said.
Candidates across the districts found common ground in the need for passing another COVID stimulus package. Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks, running in Iowa’s open 2nd district seat, said she was disappointed in the negotiations being delayed. Tiffany Shedd, running in Arizona’s 1st district against incumbent Democrat Tom O’Halleran, turned to criticizing Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s HEROES Act, saying “it’s got a bunch of pork in it…things that have nothing to do with the people of Arizona 1.”