Mike plays moneyball
Florida, with its 29 electoral votes, is the biggest swing state up for grabs between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Mike Bloomberg announced Sunday he will toss in at least $100 million to help tip the scales in Biden's favor.
Trump narrowly won Florida in 2016, but recent polls indicate either a tie or a small, fragile Biden lead. If the president loses the Sunshine State, and one of more of the Midwestern states that he won four years ago but are tipping against him now, his path to reelection with at least 270 electoral votes becomes very narrow. Bloomberg, after holding back for months on pledges to spend big against Trump, is looking to shut the door.
The multibillionaire's money will be spent through Democratic groups, including Bloomberg's Independence USA, to be used to boost voter turnout for Biden. A news release said "communicating with Hispanic voters will be a key part" of Bloomberg’s effort. Biden has struggled among the state’s Latino population.
"Voting starts on Sept. 24 in Florida, so the need to inject real capital in that state quickly is an urgent need," said Bloomberg adviser Kevin Sheekey. "Mike believes that by investing in Florida, it will allow campaign resources and other Democratic resources to be used in other states, in particular the state of Pennsylvania."
Bloomberg’s aim is to prompt enough early voting that a pro-Biden result would be evident soon after the polls close, The Washington Post reported. "It would give lie to what we expect to be Trump’s election-night messaging that Democrats are stealing the election, because unlike other battleground states, Florida counts its absentee ballots on or by Election Day," Bloomberg adviser Howard Wolfson said.
Trump reacted swiftly to Bloomberg's move, pointing to the former New York mayor's flameout in the Democratic primary race. "I thought Mini Mike was through with Democrat politics after spending almost 2 Billion Dollars," Trump tweeted. (Actually, it was a mere $1 billion.)
Wolfson tweeted back at Trump with a video parody that could have been inspired by recent mishaps at Trump supporters' boat parades. Altering a clip from the 1980 film comedy "Caddyshack," it depicts the president aboard a boat representing "Trump's chances in Florida" getting sunk by a much larger craft piloted by a gleeful Bloomberg.
Trump pitch to Latinos
Trump sought support on Sunday from Latinos whose votes could prove vital in such closely contested states as Florida, Nevada and Arizona, by promoting economic gains made before the pandemic.
He hosted a roundtable discussion with Latinos in Las Vegas on Sunday afternoon before a nighttime rally in nearby Henderson, Nevada, his first indoors since one in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was blamed for a surge in coronavirus infections, The Associated Press reported. Trump's hard-line immigration policies and sometimes inflammatory remarks about immigrants have alienated many Hispanics, but polls indicate he has made inroads.
Some close Biden allies are frustrated that the Democratic nominee has not given a major speech on Latino issues, advertised more aggressively and earlier on Spanish-language media or given more interviews to Latino news outlets, The Washington Post reported.
Biden will campaign in Florida on Tuesday for the first time as the presidential nominee, and reaching out to Latino voters will be a key focus of the visit, the Post wrote.
Janison: Low bar for Joe
The onus is always on a challenger to assure voters he would do a better job than an incumbent, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. Trump hasn't set a high hurdle for Biden to clear.
Polls on Trump's handling of the coronavirus show the president has yet to satisfy voters about his ability to act on the top crisis afflicting the nation on his watch. The president called the virus "deadly" in private as early as February but kept telling the public it would go away by itself.
He delayed mobilizing federal resources to fight what became the pandemic of a century. Trump's special brand of noisy passivity hands Biden obvious debating points. Even at this late date, with the U.S. death toll rising toward 200,000, Trump holds rallies that mock social distancing guidelines and makes no effort to lead anyone away from indulging in virus denial.
Experts widely attribute the severity of the wildfires ravaging the West to climate change. Trump avoids any mention of the phenomenon.
The first Fox News poll of likely voters puts Biden in front by 51% to 46% nationally, a 5-point margin. There was a partisan divide on the voting method — a 58% majority of those planning to vote in person favors Trump, while 71% of those planning to cast a mail-in ballot back Biden.
Likely voters in the Fox poll trust Trump over Biden on just one issue: the economy (by 5 points). Biden is favored on racial inequality (by 12 points), the coronavirus (8 points), health care (8 points), Supreme Court nominations (7 points) and immigration (7 points). When asked who can bring the country together, likely voters chose Biden by a 13-point margin.
Despite Trump's recent effort to capture Minnesota, which went blue in 2016, a CBS News poll and a New York Times/Siena College survey both find Biden ahead by 9 points there. In Arizona, the Biden has a 3-point lead, according to the CBS poll. The Times/Siena poll shows the Democrat also leading in Nevada (by 4 points), New Hampshire (3 points) and Wisconsin (5 points). Trump lost all of those states in 2016 except Wisconsin.
Cover for COVID cover-up
There was no denying what Trump said to author Bob Woodward — that he deliberately "played down" early this year how bad the pandemic would be — so his surrogates tried out various excuses on the Sunday talk show circuit.
"Think of what would have happened if he'd have gone out and said, ‘This is awful. We should all be afraid. We don't have a plan,’ " said Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. "It would have been a run on the banks. It would have been a run on the hospitals. It would have been a run on the grocery stores." (As cases rapidly surged in March, the second and third things happened anyway.)
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said, "What he needed to do is be calm, hope for the best, but prepared for the worst." Except preparation was woefully slow. Biden’s campaign argued that critical time was wasted in the fight against a rapidly spreading virus that, as of Sunday, has killed more than 194,000 Americans.
"Donald Trump had information that could have made a difference not just seven months ago, but could have made a difference for us right now," said Biden campaign spokeswoman Symone Sanders.
Trump's handling of COVID-19 received 35% approval and 65% disapproval in a new ABC News/Ipsos poll. For more from the Sunday shows, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez and Scott Eidler.
Cooking CDC's books
Political appointees loyal to Trump at the Department of Health and Human Services repeatedly pressured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to water down weekly reports on the coronavirus that they believed were unflattering to the president, according to reports in Politico and The New York Times.
The clashes began after Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign official with no medical or scientific background, was installed in April as HHS spokesman. The meddling from Washington was turning widely followed — and otherwise apolitical — guidance on infectious disease, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, into a political loyalty test, with career scientists framed as adversaries of the administration, according to the Times. The report is meant to inform doctors, researchers and the general public about how COVID-19 is spreading and who is at risk.
Caputo told Politico the reviews by his top staff were necessary to counter "ulterior deep-state motives in the bowels of CDC."
CDC officials have fought back against the most sweeping changes, but they have increasingly agreed to allow the political officials to review the reports and, in a few cases, compromised on the wording, according to Politico.
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's reporting staff, written by Lisa L. Colangelo and Vera Chinese. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- Woodward, on CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday, said he told Trump on Aug. 14 in their final call before publication that his book "Rage" was going to be "tough" on him. An hour and a half after that call, Trump tweeted, "The Bob Woodward book will be a FAKE, as always, just as many of the others have been."
- Trump is playing into Russia’s hands by claiming that his political adversaries are trying to rig the U.S. election, said Sue Gordon, who held the No. 2 job at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence until a year ago. "That message that 'you can’t trust our system, that you can’t trust the vote, that you can’t trust the other party, that you can’t trust' — is exactly what the Russians, particularly, hope to achieve," she said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
- Roger Stone, the longtime Trump confidant whose Russia investigation sentence was commuted by the president, told Infowars host Alex Jones that if Trump loses to Biden in November, he should declare "martial law," seize total power and jail prominent figures including Bill and Hillary Clinton and Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg.
- Twitter once again tagged one of Trump’s tweets with a public interest notice — this time because it violated the social media platform’s "Civic Integrity Policy" by encouraging "people to potentially vote twice," according to the company. He's been urging people in North Carolina to vote by mail and then go to the polls and vote in person if they can't get assurance the mail ballot was counted, an idea the state's election officials have denounced as illegal and unhelpful.
- Vice President Mike Pence has canceled plans to attend a Trump campaign fundraiser in Montana following revelations that the event’s hosts had expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy-theory cult, The Associated Press reported.
- Bernie Sanders is urging Biden and his campaign to do more to excite progressive voters, The New York Times reported. While their views differ, Sander said on PBS that Biden has "a strong program. And I think he’s got to do a better job in getting it out, to be honest with you."