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The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus
Welcome to The Hill's Campaign Report, your daily rundown on all the latest news in the 2020 presidential, Senate and House races.
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We're Julia Manchester, Max Greenwood and Jonathan Easley. Here's what we're watching today on the campaign trail.
LEADING THE DAY:
President Trump would like nothing more than for campaigning to return to normal, but the coronavirus has other plans.
The president's planned trip to Ohio, which has suddenly emerged as a key battleground state, was upended at the last minute on Thursday when Gov. Mike DeWine (R) tested positive for the coronavirus.
DeWine had planned to meet Trump on the tarmac but was tested as part of the White House protocols for individuals who will be in close proximity to the president.
Trump still made the trip.
In Cleveland, Trump attacked presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden's faith in God. He also toured a whirlpool plant, where he delivered remarks touting his economic agenda and a new executive order meant to boost domestic drug manufacturing. Later, Trump will conduct a fundraiser for his reelection campaign.
But the setback was one more reminder about how the pandemic has made election year politics difficult for Trump, who would like to be out among his supporters across the country.
The Trump campaign's efforts to add an earlier debate with presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden also failed. The Committee on Presidential Debates denied the request for a fourth event. The Trump campaign is eager to draw Biden out into public more, believing it will result in controversies and missteps, as it did today when Biden was criticized for comparing Latino and African American diversity.
In the meantime, The Hill's Brett Samuels and Morgan Chalfant have a smart story about how Trump is leaning into executive actions to boost his 2020 prospects.
That's something the president can do from the safety of the White House.
RED ALERT FOR REPUBLICANS:
The GOP Senate majority appears to be in real danger, and Republicans could be looking at losing more seats than anyone thought was possible only a few weeks ago.
A new round of polling from Quinnipiac University finds:
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) leads Democrat Amy McGrath by only 5 points in deep red Kentucky. That's far too close for comfort.
- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is tied with Democrat Jaime Harrison in South Carolina.
- Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) trails Democrat Sara Gideon by 4 points in Maine.
Come back to The Hill tonight for results from the Tennessee Republican Senate primary. The seat is expected to be safely Republican in November but the race between Bill Hagerty, who is supported by Trump, and Manny Sethi, who has support from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), has been a nasty one.
In private, Republicans are growing extremely anxious about their prospects in 2020, acknowledging that there's a real chance that Democrats will control the White House, Senate and the House. Just take a look at some of these background quotes GOP lawmakers gave to The Hill's Olivia Beavers and Juliegrace Brufke.
There's not much time for Republicans to turn it around.
As The Hill's Niall Stanage writes, Election Day may be 89 days away, but mail-in voting will begin soon in several key battleground states. The Trump and Biden campaigns are adjusting accordingly, marshaling their forces to maximize turnout in states where voters will begin casting ballots soon.
Speaking of mail-in voting...
The screws continue to tighten around the U.S. Postal Service and its new leader, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a top GOP donor.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, told the Associated Press on Thursday that he'd launch an investigation into reports DeJoy is cutting back on overtime and ordering some mail be delayed if it is not sorted on time. Those orders would affect the expected surge in mail voting this November, and Democrats believe it's part of a deliberate effort to make mail-in voting more difficult.
NRA UNDER SIEGE:
The National Rifle Association (NRA), once among the most powerful special interest groups in conservative politics, is fighting for its existence. New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) announced a lawsuit that aims to dissolve the NRA, alleging it violated state law governing nonprofit organizations. Washington, D.C., is also suing.
Trump said Thursday that the NRA should relocate to Texas.
"That's a very terrible thing that just happened. I think the NRA should move to Texas and lead a very good and beautiful life. And I've told them that for a long time."
Meanwhile, the Club for Growth, a GOP outside group that has allied itself with Trump, is rolling out a $5 million ad campaign hitting Biden for his opposition to parental choice grants.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS:
We're 11 days away from the beginning of the Democratic National Convention, 18 days from the beginning of the Republican National Convention, 54 days from the first presidential debate and 89 days out from Election Day.
AND FINALLY, SOMETHING FISHY:
President Trump is facing a dilemma with the lobstermen voting bloc in Maine. The Hill's Rebecca Beitsch reports that the state's lobstermen were initially thrilled with his plan to reverse protections for some 5,000 miles of ocean territory in a bid to open it to fishing.
There's just one problem.
The area Trump plans to reopen is 130 miles southeast of Cape Cod. For our readers outside of New England, that's quite a distance away from Maine. This could matter in November because Trump is already trailing Biden in the state, despite his campaign insisting Maine will be in play in November.