- US President Donald Trump and rival Joe Biden began a sprint through the final 11 days until election day.
- The two candidates battled over the COVID-19 pandemic and personal integrity in their second and final debate on Thursday night and offered follow-up speeches on Friday.
- More than 50 million Americans had already voted in early ballots, according to the United States Elections Project tracker.
Texas court blocks limits on mail-in ballot drop boxes
A Texas appeals court on Friday ruled Texas Governor Greg Abbott cannot limit drop-off sites for mail ballots to one per county, a possible setback for Trump.
Upholding a lower court decision, the Texas 3rd Court of Appeals agreed that limiting the number of drop boxes would increase the risk that voters could get infected with COVID-19, and would infringe on their right to vote.
Abbott issued the order on October 1 to limit ballot drop-off locations to one per county, regardless of size or population, citing election security.
Trump has repeatedly criticised mail-in ballots, claiming without evidence that they would lead to widespread voter fraud.
TV viewership drops for final presidential debate
Roughly 63 million television viewers watched the final presidential debate on Thursday night, according to Nielsen data released on Friday, a drop from the candidates’ first face-off in September.
The debate was widely regarded as more watchable because Trump reigned in his combative nature and frequent interruptions, but it still fell short of the 73.1 million viewers who tuned in for the candidates’ first meeting.
Part of the decrease could be attributed to a National Football League game that aired on Fox Thursday night.
The Nielsen numbers do not take into account people who streamed the debate on digital platforms.
Trump plays video showing Biden appearing to call for Social Security cuts
During his rally in Florida, Trump played an offscreen video appearing to show Biden arguing with former Democratic presidential contender Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders over Biden’s previous calls to cut a social programme that benefits seniors.
Sanders, leader of a growing left-wing movement in US politics and supporter of socialised healthcare and Social Security, was heard repeatedly asking Biden to answer for those positions.
Here is the video that President Trump just played at his rally in Florida of Bernie Sanders attacking Joe Biden over Biden's support for cutting Social Security. pic.twitter.com/7OgUzYE9JT
— Francis Brennan (@FrancisBrennan) October 23, 2020
The Intercept reported that Biden has called for such cuts since 1984 – and as recently as 2018.
Biden’s current plan provides short-term fixes to Social Security that could raise benefits for some, according to The Motley Fool, a private investing and financial advice service popular with seniors.
Curbs to Social Security are unpopular with seniors, an important demographic that Trump won in 2016 but that may opt for Biden this election over COVID-19 fears. “I believe American seniors must come first,” Trump said.
Trump says US ’rounding the turn’ on coronavirus
Trump claims the COVID-19 pandemic in the US is beginning to improve.
The president said the US has the choice between a “Trump super recovery” or a “Biden depression” and promised voters that the stock market will continue to improve during a second term.
Statistics suggest the US is experiencing a third wave of coronavirus infections as temperatures drop across the country and a majority of states across the country are experiencing an increase in cases.
COVID-19 has killed over 220,000 US citizens to date.
Trump begins Florida rally by highlighting Biden’s stance on fracking
The US president opened his Friday afternoon rally at The Villages, a Florida retirement community for people aged 55 and older, with attacks on Joe Biden’s stance on fracking.
Biden said during Thursday’s debate that he would not ban fracking, but would push for renewable energy.
But Trump said Friday that his opponent was against fracking and “energy independence”.
Trump also claimed Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris wanted a future without cars. “This woman is a super radical left. She’s against fracking,” he said.
Major labour union to endorse Biden
North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU), a coalition of 14 construction industry unions representing nearly three million workers, is set to endorse Biden, the group announced on its website.
NABTU is one of the most conservative union groups in the US and the endorsement is a win for Biden, who has long campaigned on a working-class platform.
The building trades, one of the nation's most conservative unions, just endorsed Biden. Notable given that the union president told me last year they probably wouldn't endorse at all. https://t.co/W48OEGE7WY
— Ian Kullgren (@IanKullgren) October 23, 2020
“Joe Biden will deliver for America’s working class because he’s done it before,” Sean McGarvey, the union group’s president, told Reuters in an email. “His plan to build a vibrant, sustainable infrastructure and a secure energy future supports union building trades workers and their families.”
The union group endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016, but roughly half of its members voted for Trump – so its endorsement of Biden may not necessarily translate into votes, however.
Biden calls out Trump’s ‘dangerous’ COVID-19 response
Biden excoriated Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, taking a uniting tone while focusing on the human toll of the virus during a post-debate address in Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden called out the president for “holding rallies with no mask, with no social distancing … inviting the virus into the White House”.
Biden pledged to treat “red and blue” states equally, promising support for measures like wearing masks that could slow down the spread of the virus, economic support for people and a “seven-fold” increase in testing.
During Thursday’s debate, Trump again failed to take responsibility for his administration’s handling of the pandemic, which has killed over 220,000 US citizens.
“If this is a success, what does a failure look like?” Biden said.
Poll roundup: Florida continues to be tight
Another Florida poll shows Trump and Biden continuing to run neck-and-neck among likely voters.
A St Pete Polls survey released today shows Biden with a two-point lead over Trump – a statistical tie – which is in line with Biden’s average of recent polls in Florida.
RealClearPolitics’ polling average shows Biden with a slim 1.5 point advantage there.In Pennsylvania and Michigan, Biden continues to show strength in surveys of likely voters.
A Muhlenberg College poll of Pennsylvania voters out today has Biden up 51-44 percent over Trump. And an EPIC-MRA poll in Michigan shows Biden leading Trump 48-39 percent.
The RealClearPolitics average of recent polls shows Biden up 5.1 points in Pennsylvania and up 7.8 points in Michigan over Trump.
Trump says final debate went ‘really well’
Trump said last night’s debate against Biden went “really well” and was an “exciting night.”
Addressing reporters in the Oval Office, Trump said he believed his straightforward performance “was a more popular way of doing it.”
Obama to hold drive-in rally in Miami
Former President Barack Obama is scheduled to hold a drive-in rally for the Biden campaign in the battle ground state of Florida on Saturday.
The campaign said the event will take place in North Miami, home to a sizeable Black American population and a Haitian immigrant community.
Variety: Early ratings data show drop for second Trump-Biden debate
An estimated 21.4 million people watched Trump debate Biden on three US broadcast television networks on Thursday, Hollywood publication Variety reported, citing preliminary ratings data.
The numbers fell behind initial figures for the pair’s first face-off in September. Updated ratings, including viewership on cable channels, will be released later on Friday.
The early tally includes viewership on Walt Disney Co’s ABC, ViacomCBS Corp’s CBS and Comcast Corp’s NBC.
For the September debate, preliminary numbers showed 28.2 million people tuned in, but that number also counted viewers on the Fox broadcast channel. This time, Fox aired a National Football League game instead of the debate.
During Thursday’s debate, Biden renewed his attacks on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, while Trump leveled unfounded corruption accusations at Biden and his family.
Pence, campaigning in Ohio, seizes on Biden’s comments the oil industry
During a campaign stop in Ohio, Vice President Mike Pence seized on comments by Biden in Thursday night’s debate about closing down the oil industry.
“Did you see it? Joe Biden said the oil industry pollutes and has to be replaced,” Pence told a crowd in Swanton, Ohio.
“The truth of the matter is, America’s strength and power comes in part from our vast natural resources.”
During the debate, when asked by Trump if he would “close down the oil industry,” Biden responded, “Yes, I would transition.”
Biden later clarified to reporters he would stop giving government subsidies to the oil industry rather than close it down entirely.
Biden campaigns in home state
The day after the final debate presidential debate, Biden plans to deliver a speech on his plans for combating COVID-19 from his home state of Delaware,
Biden has made Trump’s handling of the pandemic a focus of his campaign, and during Thursday night’s debate he highlighted the number of deaths under Trump’s watch: 223,087.
Trump heads to Florida, a state he must win
Florida is Trump’s next stop on the campaign trail: a must-win for the president and among the battleground states likely to decide the election.
Trump will begin his visit to Florida at the Villages, a sprawling retirement centre in central Florida that is a hotbed of political activity and a regular stop for Republican candidates.
Polls have shown Trump, who won voters above the age of 65 by 17 percentage points in 2016, to be running even or trailing Biden with senior voters in the state this year, a sign of possible trouble for the president.
In the evening, Trump will hold an airport rally in Pensacola in Florida’s heavily Republican northwestern panhandle, to urge supporters to vote early. Trump will spend the night in Florida before casting his vote on Saturday in West Palm Beach.
VP Mike Pence casts early vote
Trump’s vice presidential nominee Mike Pence cast his early ballot vote in person, alongside his wife, Karen in Indianapolis, Indiana. Pence will be campaigning in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Democratic Vice presidential nominee Senator Kamala Harris will be campaigning in Atlanta, Georgia
Some Democrats split with Biden on oil comments
Joe Biden said he would “transition from the oil industry” to “renewable energy over time” during last night’s debate, and while that was expected to receive blowback from Donald Trump and Republicans, it was not expected to ruffle any Democrats’ feathers.
Two House Democrats running in close races immediately distanced themselves from Biden’s comments.
Democratic Representative Xochitl Torres Small tweeted after the debate about the oil industry’s importance to her district and said a discussion of climate change should not “demonize a single industry”.
She declared she would “stand up to my party when they’re out of touch with the reality on the ground”.
I disagree with VP Biden's statement tonight. Energy is part of the backbone of New Mexico’s economy. We need to work together to promote responsible energy production and stop climate change, not demonize a single industry. 1/2
— Xochitl Torres Small (@XochforCongress) October 23, 2020
Democratic Representative Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, another oil-producing state, tweeted, “Here’s one of the places Biden and I disagree” and promised that she’ll “stand up for our oil and gas industry”.
Here’s one of the places Biden and I disagree. We must stand up for our oil and gas industry. We need an all-of-the-above energy approach that’s consumer friendly, values energy independence, and protects OK jobs. I'll keep fighting for that in Congress. https://t.co/9fIaZ8pyY1
— Kendra Horn (@HornForCongress) October 23, 2020
Biden has large cash advantage in final stretch
Biden’s campaign is a much better financial position than Trump’s for the final weeks of the presidential race, campaign finance reports filed on Thursday reveal.
As of October 14, Biden’s campaign had $118m in cash, compared with the Trump campaign’s $44m.
In the first two weeks of October, Biden’s camp raised almost three times as much as Trump’s: $130m to $44m.
And as of October 14, Trump had only given his campaign about $8,000. In 2016, he ploughed $66m of his own cash into his presidential bid.
A more civilised debate
On Thursday night, Trump and Biden faced off during the second and final presidential debate.
Despite sparring on immigration, the pandemic and economic policy, the evening took on a more civilised tone than last month’s debate which saw Trump constantly interrupting Biden throughout the debate.
Debate expert Alan Schroeder’s analysis of the matchup can be read here.
A timeline of the debate and all the election news from October 22 can be seen here.