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The Hill's Campaign Report: Barrett hearings take center stage | Trump returns to campaign trail

The Hill's Campaign Report: Barrett hearings take center stage | Trump returns to campaign trail
© Greg Nash

Welcome to The Hill’s Campaign Report, your daily rundown of all the latest news in the 2020 presidential, Senate and House races. Did someone forward this to you? Click here to subscribe.

We’re Julia Manchester, Max Greenwood and Jonathan Easley. Here’s what we’re watching today on the campaign trail:

LEADING THE DAY: 

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Happy Monday. It’s another busy day in Washington with the first day of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing underway just weeks before the presidential election. 

The Q&A portion of the hearings is slated to kick off on Tuesday, but the jabs began on Monday, setting the scene for what is likely to be a deeply partisan battle. 

“Unfortunately, I expect the minority will try to rustle up baseless claims and scare tactics ... anything to derail the confirmation of a Republican nominee,” the committee’s former chairman, GOP Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Dem leaders back smaller COVID-19 relief bill as pandemic escalates Republican senators urge Trump to dodge pardon controversies Grassley suggests moderate Democrats for next Agriculture secretary MORE said in his opening remarks. 

Democrats slammed Republicans’s move to go ahead with the hearing ahead of the election after the party refused to give former President Obama’s nominee Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandThe five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight McConnell pushed Trump to nominate Barrett on the night of Ginsburg's death: report MORE a hearing ahead of the 2016 presidential election. 

“We shouldn’t be holding a hearing three weeks from a presidential election, when millions of Americans have already voted. Not when doing so requires that literally half of the Senate goes back on their word,” said Democratic Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyGovernment used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 Top GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week Incoming Congress looks more like America MORE

Former Democratic presidential contender Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenate committee approves nominations of three FEC commissioners Scammers step up efforts to target older Americans during pandemic Hillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk MORE used the hearing to hit President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE, saying he “doesn’t think truth matters.” 

"He has allies in Congress who in the past defended our democracy but are now doing his bidding,” Klobuchar said. “This isn't Donald Trump's country, it is yours. This shouldn't be Donald Trump's judge, it should be yours.”

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Democrats stayed laser focused on the issue of health care, warning that a conservative majority would work to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. They also steered clear of invoking Barrett’s Roman Catholic faith. Republicans have accused the party of trying to apply a “religious test” to Barrett in the past. 

All eyes were on Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden says family will avoid business conflicts Biden says China must play by 'international norms' MORE, who has the unprecedented role of being the VP nominee while sitting on the committee during a Supreme Court nomination process weeks away from the election. 

The senator, who spoke from a virtual location, hit Republicans for pushing to hold the hearing amid the coronavirus pandemic and accused them of working to undermine ObamaCare through Barrett’s nomination. 

"This hearing has brought together more than 50 people to sit inside of a closed-door room for hours while our nation faces a deadly airborne virus. This committee has ignored commonsense requests to keep people safe,” Harris said. 

The Q&A portion of the hearing will serve as a test for Harris, who finds herself walking a fine line ahead of the election. 

Harris has made headlines for honing in on her own prosecutorial skills on the Senate Judiciary Committee, having a number of memorable exchanges with figures like Supreme Court Judge Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughSupreme Court sees new requests for religious COVID-19 carve-outs For Thanksgiving, the Supreme Court upholds religious liberty COVID-19: Justice Alito overstepped judicial boundaries MORE and Attorney General William BarrBill BarrBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Trump campaign, RNC announce 0 million post-election fundraising haul Michigan voter fraud hearing goes viral for alleged flatulence, unruly witness MORE

While those exchanges might have helped propel Harris as a rising star with the Democratic Party, this time she’s in a very different role as the vice presidential nominee. 

Strategists warn that Harris could risk turning off moderate and undecided voters if she hits Barrett too hard in an exchange. However, others warn that a more low-key performance from Harris could disappoint liberals and Democrats opposed to Barrett’s nomination. 

READ MORE: 

Gloves come off early in Barrett confirmation hearing, by Jordain Carney and John Kruzel 

Democrats steer clear of Barrett's religion during Supreme Court hearing, by Jordain Carney

Democrats seek to tie Barrett to Trump on Affordable Care Act as confirmation hearings begin, by Alexander Bolton 

Harris faces pivotal moment with Supreme Court battle, by Julia Manchester 

BIDEN WEIGHS IN

Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE weighed in on the Barrett hearings from the campaign trail on Monday, saying Democrats should steer clear of Barrett’s religious beliefs in her Senate hearing. 

"No, I don’t think there should be any questions about her faith," Biden said. 

Biden’s comments echo his previous remarks during the 2012 election when he defended then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him WaPo reporter says GOP has less incentive to go big on COVID-19 relief COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks MORE from attacks on his Mormon faith. 

"You may remember, I got in trouble when we were running against Sen. [Romney], who was a Mormon, he was a governor, OK? And I took him on, and nobody’s faith should be questioned," Biden said. 

Biden and Barrett both identify as Roman Catholics. If Biden wins the election, he would be the second president to identify as Catholic, following John F. Kennedy.

HE’S BACK:

Trump returns to the campaign trail on Monday after being hospitalized with COVID-19 only 10 days ago.

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The president has an ambitious travel schedule planned that includes rallies at airports  in Sanford, Fla., Monday evening, followed by trips to Johnstown, Pa.; Des Moines, Iowa; and Greenville, N.C., over the next four days.

Trump has been cleared by his doctor to resume public activities but the White House has not said whether the president has tested negative for the coronavirus. 

Trump’s return comes just over three weeks before Election Day, with polls showing him needing to quickly alter the trajectory of a race that is slipping away from him. 

POLLING UPDATE:

More bad polls rolling in for Trump in key battleground states…

The latest New York Times-Siena College poll finds Biden building big leads in both Wisconsin in Michigan.

The Democratic nominee has a 10 point lead in Wisconsin and an 8 point lead in Michigan. In both states, Trump is underperforming among the white voters that powered his narrow 2016 victory.

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The latest batch of data shows Biden pulling ahead by more than 10 points nationally in the RealClearPolitics average. He’s also performing quite strong across the Midwest and Rust Belt, making him the prohibitive favorite to win the White House at the moment.

In a phone call with reporters on Monday, Trump campaign adviser Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiGiuliani's son, a White House staffer, tests positive for coronavirus Chelsea Clinton blames Trump for Secret Service officers in quarantine More than 130 Secret Service officers in quarantine: report MORE said the public polls are “skewed” against the president. He argued that the campaign’s own internal polling reflects a far closer race than the one the media is reporting on.

“They don’t want their polls to face scrutiny, so they won’t give us the crosstabs or the partisan makeup of the polls, thereby skewing the results,” Lewandowski said.

“The enthusiasm in the states are very real,” he added.

“Couple that with the endorsements this president is receiving from the law enforcement community, and the increase in the African American vote he’s going to receive this cycle, compared to where he was just four years ago, and it’s becoming mathematically almost impossible for Joe Biden to win this campaign.”