The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Tipping point week for Trump, Biden, Congress, voters

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Monday! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators, and readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported this morning: 219,674.


Total COVID-19 cases worldwide exceed 40 million, with more than 1.1 million fatalities.

This week, with 15 days to go until Election Day, COVID-19 is rampaging across the United States and Europe, President TrumpDonald TrumpMcAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington Democrats troll Trump over Virginia governor's race Tom Glavine, Ric Flair, Doug Flutie to join Trump for Herschel Walker event MORE is openly voicing fears he will lose on Nov. 3, and lawmakers continue sparring over legislation all sides concede could keep millions of Americans and businesses from sliding into economic ruin.


The state of the 2020 presidential race is a nail-biter for a wily incumbent or an impending victory for Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenPressure grows for breakthrough in Biden agenda talks State school board leaves national association saying they called parents domestic terrorists Sunday shows preview: Supply chain crisis threaten holiday sales; uncertainty over whether US can sustain nationwide downward trend in COVID-19 cases MORE, depending on who did the talking on Sunday. Trump is taking evident comfort from his exuberant supporters at rallies that will continue this week, but polls, the money chase and early voting suggest he has fallen behind with scant time to upend the dynamics.


Niall Stanage, The Memo: Trump’s second-term chances fade.


Axios: Trump's advisers brace for loss, point fingers. 


The president has turned nervousness about possible defeat into gallows humor: “Running against the worst candidate in the history of presidential politics puts pressure on me. Could you imagine if I lose? My whole life, what am I going to do? I’m going to say ‘I lost to the worst candidate in the history of politics.’ I’m not going to feel so good," he told a crowd on Friday. “Maybe I’ll have to leave the country? I don’t know” (The Hill). 


Even some of Trump’s most stalwart political supporters believe that if he loses to Biden, it will be because he talked voters out of giving him four more years. Trump’s critics, meanwhile, freely diagnose what they see as his miscalculation: “The president is a failing candidate because he's not answering the two questions everybody's got on their minds, the virus and jobs. He's not dealing with those,” Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyDemocrats struggle to gain steam on Biden spending plan Building back better by investing in workers and communities Barletta holds wide lead over GOP rivals in early poll of Pennsylvania governor race MORE (D-Pa.) told Greta Van Susteren during an interview broadcast on Sunday.


The New York Times: Trump runs the kind of campaign he likes, but not the one he might need.


The president could try to make up ground on Thursday when he debates Biden for the final time. The Trump campaign hopes he can count on “shy Trump voters” who may not talk to pollsters as well as people who sat on the sidelines in 2016 or are late deciders. But with predictions of a record voter turnout this year, it is Biden’s campaign that senses momentum.  


CBS News: The Trump campaign embraces mail-in absentee voting as part of a social media ad blitz in Florida and North Carolina: "TIME IS RUNNING OUT! Request your ballot today." 


According to the U.S. Elections Project, more than 28 million Americans have already voted as of this morning, which represents 20.3 percent of the total 2016 electorate.


The Washington Post: Biden’s lead in polls fuels a sense of dèjá vu among Democratic supporters.


Rolling Stone: This morning’s November cover story, “Biden’s Moment,” endorses the former vice president: “Biden’s broad acceptability is his strength. But inside his big tent, Biden’s platform offers progressive solutions to every major problem facing the country. And the former vice president has the experience to put that platform into practice.” 



CNBC: On Wednesday at a Pennsylvania event, former President Obama will campaign for Biden for the first time this year. 


Philly Voice: On Thursday night in Nashville, Tenn., Trump and Biden are scheduled to debate for the second and final time. NBC News debate moderator Kristen Welker announced six major topics she plans to raise (CNN). 


The New York Times: On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettLocked and Loaded: Supreme Court is ready for a showdown on the Second Amendment Biden's Supreme Court commission ends not with a bang but a whimper Biden's Supreme Court reform study panel notes 'considerable' risks to court expansion MORE, setting the stage for an expected floor vote later this month.





> State (and county) watch: With the final sprint to Election Day firmly in progress, political watchers are looking for signs of things to come in the battle for the White House as Trump and Biden continue to crisscross the preeminent battleground states. 


The Hill’s Tal Axelrod takes a look at 10 bellwether counties that could indicate how the November election will turn out and give clues as to shifts across the country looking ahead to future elections. 


One place where people will keep their eyes peeled is Texas, a longtime Republican bastion that has increasingly moved in the direction of the Democratic Party due in part to an influx of transplants from liberal areas, including California. As Julia Manchester writes, there are warning signs flashing for the GOP in parts of the state, especially in the suburbs, fueling a rise in the polls for Biden. 


Trump won the state in 2016 by 9 percentage points, but that lead has been cut in half. According to the latest RealClearPolitics average, Trump leads by 4.4 percentage points. While Trump and Republicans are struggling to win support from suburban voters nationwide, experts say the party is struggling to appeal to the growing and increasingly diverse suburbs in the Lone Star State.


Dan Balz: Texas is the most intriguing political state in the country this fall.


Reid Wilson, The Hill: Undecided voters in Arizona wary of Trump, crave stability.


The Hill: Five things to know about Biden's tax proposals.


The Hill’s roundup of Sunday talk shows: Trump’s Saturday night rally in Michigan grabbed the spotlight. Trump supporters chanted, “Lock her up” about Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerMichigan orders 'all-hands-on-deck' response to water crisis Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Altria — Michigan leaves majority-Black city with lead-contaminated taps for three years Whitmer vetoes bill on bird feeding over deer fears MORE (D), and the president responded, “lock ‘em all up.” The governor accused Trump of inciting “domestic terrorism” following the recent arrests of militia group members who plotted to kidnap her and discussed abducting Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) (The Hill).




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CONGRESS: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats step up pressure on Biden on student loan forgiveness Climate activists target Manchin Democrats face growing storm over IRS reporting provision MORE (D-Calif.) says she has given negotiators one more day to strike a deal on a coronavirus relief package in order to pass a bill before Election Day, adding urgency to talks that appear to have devolved into finger-pointing, even as she declared herself “optimistic.”


The Washington Post: Pelosi sets deadline early this week for a stimulus deal with the White House.


In a phone call that lasted more than an hour on Saturday night, Pelosi laid out the timeline to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Former Treasury secretaries tried to resolve debt limit impasse in talks with McConnell, Yellen: report Menendez, Rubio ask Yellen to probe meatpacker JBS MORE. The Speaker added on Sunday that Democrats are “seeking clarity” and that the two sides “don’t have agreement language yet.” The White House and Democrats remain apart on major sticking points, including on funds for testing and contact tracing Democrats have demanded in any comprehensive package, she told ABC’s “This Week.” 


“With all due respect to some of the people in the president’s administration, they're not legislators,” Pelosi told host George StephanopoulosGeorge Robert StephanopoulosBiden giving stiff-arm to press interviews Yellen confident of minimum global corporate tax passage in Congress Democratic lawmakers, Yellen defend Biden on the economy MORE. “So when they said we're accepting the language on testing, for example, they're just making a light touch. They said they changed shall to may, requirements to recommendations, a plan to a strategy, not a strategic plan. They took out 55 percent of the language that we had there for testing and tracing” (The Hill).


In the event the administration and Democrats strike a deal, there remains a major obstacle: Senate Republicans. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHoyer signals House vote on bill to 'remove' debt limit threat Biden signs bill to raise debt ceiling On The Money — Progressives play hard ball on Biden budget plan MORE (R-Ky.) said in a statement over the weekend that the Senate will “consider” any potential agreement, large swaths of the Senate GOP conference remain opposed to another gargantuan package. 


In a sign of where Senate Republicans stand, McConnell announced that the upper chamber will vote on a $500 billion package of targeted relief on Wednesday. The bill will include a federal unemployment benefit and another round of small-business assistance under the Paycheck Protection Program. According to McConnell, the targeted legislation will also include more than $100 billion for schools as well as money for testing, contact tracing, and vaccine development and distribution (The Hill).


The New York Times: Budget deficit hits record $3.1 trillion.


The Hill: Expiring benefits raise the economic stakes of the stalled stimulus talks.


> GOP steps back from Trump: In anticipation of a possible Trump loss in more than two weeks, Republicans have started running for the hills seeking to distance themselves from the president as his chances of winning a second term continue to look bleak. 


As The Hill’s Mike Lillis and Scott Wong write, vulnerable Republicans are making a late play for independent and moderate GOP voters with whom Trump has fallen out of favor. Other Republicans, however, have started to outright dismiss the president’s chances of securing four more years in office in an attempt to separate themselves in what could be a nation’s capital sans Trump 


“It’s about survival for some. For others, it’s about positioning for the post-Trump world,” said one former Republican lawmaker, who estimated there was only a “5-to-10 percent chance” of Trump winning a second term.


The New York Times: Trump rallies in the South as Republicans begin to edge away from him. 


The Hill: Republican National Committee chairwoman: Republicans should realize distancing themselves from Trump “is hurting themselves in the long run.”


The Hill: Sen. John CornynJohn CornynCornyn raises more than M for Senate GOP Is the Biden administration afraid of trade? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE (R-Texas): Relationships with Trump are like “women who get married and think they're going to change their spouse.”


The Hill: Trump turns his ire toward Cabinet members. 





> Democratic fissures: If Biden is elected and Democrats control one or both chambers of Congress, progressive colleagues such as Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenMisguided recusal rules lock valuable leaders out of the Pentagon Biden's soft touch with Manchin, Sinema frustrates Democrats Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Congress makes technology policy moves MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersPressure grows for breakthrough in Biden agenda talks Sanders, Manchin escalate fight over .5T spending bill Sanders blames media for Americans not knowing details of Biden spending plan MORE (I-Vt.) and their outside allies want to see bold changes. There are plenty of dividing lines that have been papered over during Trump’s term. Some Democrats are already calling for Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinJane Fonda to push for end to offshore oil drilling in California Overnight Health Care — Presented by The National Council on Mental Wellbeing — Merck asks FDA to authorize five-day COVID-19 treatment Bannon's subpoena snub sets up big decision for Biden DOJ MORE (Calif.), 87, to step down as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. Biden's pledge to restore consensus and unity in Washington could be greeted by pushback from his party’s left flank almost immediately if he’s in the Oval Office next year (The Hill).


> Court packing: A progressive effort to expand the Supreme Court and remake the judiciary is running into an unusual opposition force: fellow Democrats. 


As The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports, left-wing calls to potentially add seats to the Supreme Court are running into trouble as a number of Senate Democrats are not on board with the possibility, with Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinFill the Eastern District of Virginia  Senators preview bill to stop tech giants from prioritizing their own products Democrats struggle to gain steam on Biden spending plan MORE (D-Ill.) saying that the idea isn't currently under discussion. Adding to the uphill climb, a number of top Democratic Senate candidates have come out against court packing. 


Amie Parnes, The Hill: Biden keeps both sides guessing on court packing.


CORONAVIRUS: COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are increasing again in the United States with no sign of stopping, sparking fears that the predicted fall and winter wave is underway (The Hill). “We’ve been talking about the fall surge for a long time now. I think that is the beginning of that reality,” Scott Gottlieb, Trump’s former Food and Drugs Administration commissioner, told CNBC in an interview.


> Public health experts: Anthony FauciAnthony FauciSunday shows preview: Supply chain crisis threaten holiday sales; uncertainty over whether US can sustain nationwide downward trend in COVID-19 cases The CDC's Title 42 order fuels racism and undermines public health Advocates step up pressure on Biden to end controversial Title 42 MORE, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that the pandemic would have to “get really, really bad" before the United States would lock down the economy again, as it did in the spring. “First of all, the country is fatigued with restrictions. So we want to use public health measures, not to get in the way of opening the economy but to being a safe gateway to opening the economy,” he said during an interview broadcast on Sunday. … Deborah BirxDeborah BirxHouse COVID-19 panel questioning Deborah Birx Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response Fauci and Birx warned Scott Atlas was 'dangerous' MORE, coordinator of the White House coronavirus response, is working far from television cameras and is on the road. In the last few weeks, she visited Alabama, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Texas to meet with state, local and university leaders to offer guidance about best practices to mitigate the coronavirus and to listen to stakeholders describe effective steps adopted in schools around the country (The Hill).


> Vaccine triage: Whenever researchers unveil an effective COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, there will be at least two overriding official worries. First, will enough Americans trust the medication enough to get the vaccine? And second, will Americans peacefully accept federal and state determinations that some adults and their children cannot go to the head of the line to receive an available cure — meaning that millions of people will be told to wait? New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoEMILY's List announces early endorsement of Hochul Hochul jumps out to early lead in NY governor's primary: poll De Blasio privately says he plans to run for New York governor: report MORE (D) on Sunday echoed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that health care workers and high-risk populations, including some long-term care residents, would get priority to receive a COVID-19 vaccine when one is approved and available (Reuters). … The world’s most promising coronavirus vaccine candidates need non-stop sterile refrigeration to stay potent and safe. However, nearly 3 billion of the world’s 7.8 billion people live where temperature-controlled storage is insufficient for an immunization campaign to bring COVID-19 under control. Poor people around the world are likely to be the last to benefit (The Associated Press).


> Who leads?: As COVID-19 cases rise, Republican governors preach “personal responsibility” while resisting mandated measures shown in other states to slow the spread of the virus. “It’s not a job for government,” North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) says (The Washington Post).


> U.S. travel: No state’s economy has been hit harder by the coronavirus crisis than Hawaii’s. The islands reopened to tourism on Thursday, welcoming 8,000 arriving passengers, most of whom had passed preflight coronavirus tests in order to avoid quarantine requirements (Los Angeles Times). An initial reopening date of Aug. 1 was pushed back to Sept. 1 and then Oct. 1 in response to rising coronavirus cases throughout the mainland United States and later within Hawaii itself (The Washington Post).


> Europe: In Italy on Sunday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte unveiled tougher measures to try to halt a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases and gave mayors the power to shut public squares from 9 p.m. to halt public gatherings (Reuters). … The Swiss government on Sunday, following a special meeting, also tightened coronavirus precautionary measures, including an obligation in Switzerland to wear masks and heed a ban on large public gatherings (Reuters). … An East-West divide is now evident between European nations struggling with surges of COVID-19 cases and Asian nations that have successfully beat the coronavirus into submission. How did they do it? (Hint: Probably not by designing pubs and restaurants like the one in London, pictured below) (The Sunday Times of London). … For 6 million people living in the UK’s Wales and Manchester, tougher lockdowns could be coming within days (Reuters).




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End our national crisis: The case against Donald Trump, by The New York Times editorial board.


Can Trump pull a second rabbit out of the hat? Perhaps, by Patrick J. Buchanan, syndicated columnist, New Hampshire Union Leader.


The House is out of Washington until after the election.


The Senate will reconvene at 4:30 p.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of Michael Newman to be a district judge for the Southern District of Ohio.


The president, who is in Nevada this morning, will fly to Prescott, Ariz., for a campaign event in the afternoon and to Tucson, Ariz., for an evening rally. 


Vice President Pence will hold a campaign rally at 4 p.m. in New Cumberland, Pa., near Harrisburg, Pa. 


Biden-Harris campaign events: Biden is off the campaign trail today.  Harris, who had been in self-quarantine for a few days as a coronavirus precaution, returns to host campaign events in Florida, with stops in Orlando and Jacksonville.


INVITATION: The Hill Virtually Live hosts Tuesday’s “America’s Most Reliable Voter” at 11 a.m. EDT, with Casey, Rep. David SchweikertDavid SchweikertLawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection We must address the declining rate of startup business launches Shakespeare gets a congressional hearing in this year's 'Will on the Hill' MORE (R-Ariz.), Columbia, S.C., Mayor Steve Benjamin (D), Miami Mayor Francis SuarezFrancis SuarezHillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Congress makes technology policy moves Miami mayor wants to pay city workers with bitcoin Miami mayoral candidate arrested, accused of impersonating police officer MORE (R), League of Women Voters CEO Virginia Kase and more to discuss how voters over the age of 50 are approaching the elections. Information to register is HERE


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. EDT at Rising on YouTube


CAPITAL PUNISHMENT: The federal government will execute on Dec. 8 the first woman on death row in nearly seven decades in the United States. Lisa Montgomery was convicted of a heinous murder in 2004. The Trump administration ended in July an informal 17-year hiatus in federal executions after announcing last year that the Bureau of Prisons was switching to a new single-drug protocol for lethal injections (NBC News).


TECH’S LEGAL LIABILITY SHIELD: Conservatives seized on the handling by Facebook and Twitter of a New York Post article last week about Hunter Biden to attack the legal liability protections under law provided to technology companies. The decisions by both platforms to limit the spread of the weakly sourced article was described by GOP critics as anti-conservative bias. Trump has used the episode to again take aim at Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which he targeted in May in an executive order (The Hill). 


SPORTS: The World Series has officially been set after the Los Angeles Dodgers came back from a 3-1 series deficit and beat the Atlanta Braves, 4-3, in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday. Los Angeles’s Cody Bellinger broke a 3-3 tie with a mammoth home run in the 7th inning to give the Dodgers their 3rd trip to the fall classic in four years. Game 1 vs. the Tampa Bay Rays is set for Tuesday night at 8:09 p.m. EDT.




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And finally …  On Tuesday, the United States plans its first attempt at collecting samples of rubble from the asteroid Bennu, which would be the biggest haul NASA has accomplished from beyond the moon if the Osiris-Rex mission returns to Earth with its payload in 2023. 


After almost two years circling the ancient asteroid hundreds of millions of miles away, the U.S. spacecraft (see below before launch in 2016) will attempt to descend to the treacherous, boulder-packed surface to bring back at least 2 ounces worth of space rock for study. Contact with the asteroid surface should last five to 10 seconds, just enough to vacuum up some dust and particles. Scientists consider the carbon-rich asteroid, which is taller than the Empire State Building, to be a time capsule full of pristine building blocks that could help explain how life formed on Earth — and possibly elsewhere (The Associated Press).


Check out NASA’s interesting three-minute video about Bennu and the Osiris-Rex HERE