A line forms Tuesday outside an early-voting site in Texas....

A line forms Tuesday outside an early-voting site in Texas. Seniors nationwide are emerging as swing voters in the 2020 presidential election. Credit: AP / LM Otero

Over-65ers become vital

Ageism, as it has come to be called, may be a bad idea in this election. President Donald Trump is 74, and challenger Joe Biden is 77. They are vying hard with three weeks left until Election Day for a key group that helped Trump win four years ago.

Biden hit Florida on Tuesday to court voters over 65. It was his third visit to the state in the month. He's previously made pitches to veterans and Latinos there. Polls report big recent gains for Biden in most swing states, including Florida. Trump held a packed rally in Sanford on Monday. Coronavirus deaths statewide have passed 15,000, mostly seniors.

In Pembroke Pines, Biden said of the president: "I prayed for his recovery when he got COVID, and I'd hoped at least he'd come out of it somewhat chastened. But what has he done? He's just doubled down on the misinformation he did before and making it worse. So many lives have been lost unnecessarily because this president cares more about the stock market than he does about, you know, well-being of seniors."

Biden asserted that Trump's policy goals for a second term would undercut funding for Medicare and Social Security. Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign's communications director, said Biden is "lying" and "trying to mislead and scare seniors for political reasons."

Not that Trump ever refrained from throwing stones. Late Tuesday, he retweeted a tasteless photoshopped depiction of Biden in a nursing home on a fake poster that proclaimed, "Biden for resident!" Back in 2017, the tweeter in chief fumed when then-Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said the White House under Trump had become "an adult day care center."

Last week, Trump released a video directed at seniors, who he called "my favorite people in the world." He pledged without evidence what he called a "cure" that "you're gonna get free ... no charge."

Suspicions grew Tuesday about the veracity of his sales-like pitch. Suddenly, it turned out, enrollment was paused for a study testing an experimental antibody therapy being developed by Eli Lilly that is similar to a Regeneron experimental therapeutic drug Trump received. Eli Lilly said Tuesday the action was due to safety concerns that it did not specify. That comes a day after a temporary halt in the study of Johnson & Johnson's single-dose coronavirus vaccine candidate.

Trump stumps to stop slide

As usual, the Sunshine State is a source of electoral suspense. Among likely voters polled in a sample of 690 Floridians, 50% said they would vote for Biden if the election were held today. Just over 47%, meanwhile, said they would vote for Trump, according to a NewsNation/Emerson College poll issued this week.

Different polls show Biden leading in Pennsylvania, where Trump stumped on Tuesday at Johnstown's airport. For the last presidential election, Trump warned state residents in advance against ballot fraud that never surfaced.

This time, as Trump tried to kill Obamacare in court, he accused Biden of trying to keep those with preexisting conditions from getting insured, which is flatly false. Other dissemblings included a claim about manufacturing jobs, of which there are 164,000 fewer than when he took office because of the ongoing pandemic. COVID cases are up in western Pennsylvania.

Coincidence, they think not

An FBI agent testified Tuesday that conspirators charged in a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also discussed "taking Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam."

Both governors are Democrats, and both happen to be regular targets of Trump's nasty verbal attacks.

Playing to small bands of protesters who denounced COVID-19 health restrictions, Trump has tweeted both "Liberate Michigan!" and "Liberate Virginia!" How and from whom, he has not quite spelled out.

Northam spokeswoman Alena Yarmosky said, "The President regularly encourages violence against those who disagree with him. The rhetoric coming out of this White House has serious and potentially deadly consequences. It must stop."

Whitmer has made similar remarks. Trump's slams against both governors have not abated since the arrests, and he complained that Whitmer didn't thank him for the FBI's work.

Doctoring a 'diagnosis'

As if to deflect nagging questions about the president's own health and temperamental fitness for office, Trump & Co. have his former White House physician trolling Biden.

Dr. Ronny Jackson, now a Republican congressional candidate, said in a Trump campaign teleconference that the Democrat lacks the "cognitive ability" to be president. He acknowledged this was not a medical assessment.

But Trump has animus toward a more important doctor who is still on the job. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top official on infectious diseases, is starting to draw the kind of open abuse from Trump as other advisers the president has turned against.

"Tony’s pitching arm is far more accurate than his prognostications," Trump tweeted, referring to Fauci's ceremonial first pitch in the Nationals' season opener. Fauci, who has said his remarks have been used out of context in Trump campaign ads and without his authorization, said he will not quit the White House coronavirus task force.

SCOTUS clips census

The Supreme Court is allowing the Trump administration to stop its 2020 census count earlier than announced. Critics warned this could result in undercounting racial and ethnic minorities.

The administration seeks to use the results to decide the number of House seats and electoral votes each state gets for the decade ahead before Trump's first and possibly only term ends.

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented. She said "meeting the deadline at the expense of the accuracy of the census is not a cost worth paying." She said the census was rushed, and "respondents will suffer their lasting impact for at least the next 10 years."

Judge Barrett draws a line

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett said at Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings that she gave no commitments to the White House on how she would rule on Obamacare or election-related disputes. She sidestepped Democratic senators' questions about how she regards the decision process that went into milestone rulings on abortion and same-sex marriage.

One complication, however, seemed to come from the ham-handed messaging of the man who put her name into nomination. As other Trump nominees have done on Capitol Hill since 2017, she distanced herself from his stances.

"I can’t really speak to what the president has said on Twitter," Barrett said when asked about Trump's promise to get the Affordable Care Act struck down. Trump has suggested his court appointees would act as a cudgel against Chief Justice John Roberts, who the president has criticized.

"I am 100% committed to judicial independence from political pressure," Barrett told Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). Newsday's Tom Brune has more takeaways from the second day of the hearings.

Trump's suburban-woman problem

At his Pennsylvania rally Tuesday, Trump had an interesting little dose of condescension for female residents of the suburbs who told pollsters they dislike him.

"Suburban women, they should like me more than anybody here tonight because I ended the regulation that destroyed your neighborhood. I ended the regulation that brought crime to the suburbs, and you’re going to live the American dream," he said. "So can I ask you to do me a favor? Suburban women, will you please like me? I saved your damn neighborhood, OK?" (See video.)

This bizarre pitch grows out of Trump's frequently repeated lie that by canceling an Obama-era rule aimed at fighting racial discrimination in housing, he'd prevented crime and violence in the suburbs.

More coronavirus news

See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond, reported by Newsday's staff and written by Bart Jones. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.

What else is happening:

  • A pro-Trump super PAC ad uses images of actors featured in stock footage from Russia and Belarus, Politico reports.
  • Trump is trying to appeal his tax subpoena from the Manhattan district attorney to the Supreme Court for the second time in a year.
  • Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declined to confirm the White House's garbled timeline for U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
  • Early in-person voting began Tuesday in Texas with people waiting in long lines, as they have in Georgia and Virginia.
  • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said officials found no link between the state's coronavirus outbreaks and a Trump fundraiser at his Bedminster golf resort.
  • With Biden getting "town hall" exposure on ABC, Trump is considering his own spot on NBC to compete with it Thursday, the day of the canceled debate.
  • Baseless reports that a left-wing "coup" is in the works keep getting spread by Trump supporters, echoing unhinged claims during the Robert Mueller probe.
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