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The Hill's Campaign Report: Early in-person voting kicks off in Florida | Biden lays low to prep for debate | Trump rips Fauci on call with campaign staff

The Hill's Campaign Report: Early in-person voting kicks off in Florida | Biden lays low to prep for debate | Trump rips Fauci on call with campaign staff
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Welcome to The Hill’s Campaign Report, your daily rundown on 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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Early voting kicked off in battleground Florida today, just 15 days out from Election Day 2020. 

Scenes across the state showed voters waiting in line to make their voice heard at the ballot box come rain or shine. 

A large share of votes have already been cast in Florida given increased vote by mail as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. As of Sunday, 2,509,245 votes had been cast in Florida so far. 

However, there are still 11,556,382 registered voters in the state who have yet to cast their ballots, and neither party is taking that for granted. 

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisSenate majority offers Biden new avenues on Trump environmental rollbacks Empire State Building lights on eve of Biden inauguration to honor COVID-19 victims READ: Harris letter resigning from Senate ahead of inauguration MORE visited the state on Monday, encouraging voters to head to the polls early. 

“What you will do here in Florida, in Orlando, what you will do by early voting is you will be the first to put our country back on the right track,” Harris said to a chorus of car horns at an early vote launch drive-in rally in Orlando. Harris is also slated to headline a voter mobilization event in Jacksonville.

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Vice President Pence is set to make stops in Florida for the Trump reelection campaign this weekend, visiting Tallahassee and Jacksonville. 

Additionally, the Trump campaign has been pushing voters to get out and vote early, and even called on voters to vote absentee ballot in a series of social media ads first reported by CBS News last week. The ads, which referenced Trump’s one absentee ballot vote in the Florida Republican primary earlier this year, were aired in Florida and North Carolina. 

Democrats so far say they are enthused by the show of early voting in Florida, Texas and other states. 

"It's not just people who are voting for convenience, it's people who haven't turned out," Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom PerezThomas PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE told CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday. "And that shows the enthusiasm for Joe BidenJoe BidenWoman accused of trying to sell Pelosi laptop to Russians arrested Trump gets lowest job approval rating in final days as president Trump moves to lift coronavirus travel restrictions on Europe, Brazil MORE and Kamala Harris."

However, Republicans are pushing their voters to turn out and vote in person, meaning they have two weeks to close the gap. 

DEBATE PREP:

With just three days to go until the final presidential debate, the Trump and Biden campaigns are taking different approaches to the run-up for the high-stakes final showdown.

With polls showing Trump trailing, the president will crisscross the country this week with stops in Arizona, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Melania TrumpMelania TrumpTrump allies, Washington insiders helped plan rallies before Capitol breach: reports Melania Trump bids farewell to Be Best in new video Garth Brooks, Joan Baez among this year's Kennedy Center honorees MORE will make an appearance at President TrumpDonald TrumpGiuliani used provisional ballot to vote in 2020 election, same method he disparaged in fighting to overturn results Trump gets lowest job approval rating in final days as president Fox News' DC managing editor Bill Sammon to retire MORE’s Pennsylvania rally.

Biden is taking a more cautious approach. He did not campaign on Monday, only leaving the house to film an interview that will air on “60 Minutes” this coming weekend.

It’s unclear whether Biden will campaign on Tuesday or Wednesday.

However, sources tell The Hill it’s at least possible that Biden could make the short trip from Wilmington to Philadelphia to make an appearance at former President Obama’s first in-person campaign appearance. 

That’s not confirmed yet, but Obama hitting the campaign trail for the first time will be a big deal, whether Biden is there or not.

Separately, Biden is preparing for Trump to come at him with everything he has. The Trump campaign says the president will give Biden more time to speak on Thursday after being a disruptive presence at the first debate.

But Democrats are bracing for Trump to come loaded to bear with personal attacks involving Hunter Biden.

The Hill’s Amie Parnes and Jonathan Easley have more.

WHAT TRUMP IS TELLING HIS TEAM:

Trump attacked Anthony FauciAnthony FauciCOVID-19 is a precursor for infectious disease outbreaks on a warming planet Sunday shows - Capital locked down ahead of Biden's inauguration Fauci: Approval of AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines likely 'weeks away' MORE as a “disaster” and delivered a rosy assessment of his reelection prospects during a call with campaign staffers on Monday, in which he also insisted that Americans are “tired” of hearing about the coronavirus pandemic. The Hill obtained audio of the private call. Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • Trump went after Fauci and accused him of providing inconsistent advice on how to handle the coronavirus outbreak: “He’s like this wonderful guy, a wonderful sage telling us how he said, do not wear facemasks — that’s a number of months ago. He said, do not close it up to China. I have a list of 15 things,” Trump said. “And yet we keep him. Every time he goes on television there’s always a bomb. But there is a bigger bomb if you fire him. But Fauci is a disaster. I mean, this guy, if I listened to him, we would have 500,000 deaths.”
  • He said that Americans were “tired” of the coronavirus: “People are tired of COVID. Yup, there’s going to be spikes, there’s going to be no spikes, there’s going to be vaccines. With or without vaccines, people are tired of COVID,” Trump said. “I have the biggest rallies I have ever had and we have COVID. People are saying whatever, just leave us alone. They’re tired of it.”
  • Trump insisted that he’s in a strong position heading into November despite sagging poll numbers: "We’re going to win. I wouldn’t have told you that maybe two or three weeks ago," he said. "If [we] had the election today, I think we'd win." He also added that “today is the best single day that I’ve felt on either campaign.”

The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant has more on Trump’s remarks on Fauci and COVID-19 here. For more on the president’s assessment of reelection prospects, check out this story from The Hill’s John Bowden.

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Biden’s response…

Biden slammed Trump for his remarks on Fauci, issuing a statement Monday afternoon in which he accused the president of “waving a white flag” in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Coronavirus infections are spiking across the country, but President Trump decided to attack Dr. Fauci again today as a ‘disaster’ and call public health experts ‘idiots’ instead of laying out a plan to beat this virus or heeding their advice about how we can save lives and get our economy moving again,” Biden said. “President Trump even criticized me yesterday for listening to the scientists – that’s not an attack, that’s a badge of honor. “

“Waving a white flag and saying ‘it is what it is’ is unacceptable when thousands of American lives are being taken each week, when businesses are closing and schools remain shuttered,” he continued. “The American people have never backed down from a challenge, but they need a leader to show the way and all President Trump has done is cower and wallow in self-pity.”

More on that here from Max.