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Running scared in Pennsylvania, Trump has an alibi ready

President Donald Trump in Lititz, one of his

President Donald Trump in Lititz, one of his three campaign rally stops in Pennsylvania on Monday. Credit: AP / Alex Brandon

Keystone State cage match

Addressing the first of three rallies Monday in one of the most crucial states on the map, President Donald Trump said, "If we win Pennsylvania, we win the whole thing." That's not necessarily so, but it would certainly help. Conversely, if he loses Pennsylvania, it gets very difficult for his Electoral College votes to add up to the required 270. Polls in the state show Joe Biden with a steady though not insurmountable lead.

But Trump said there's only one way he wouldn't repeat his narrow 2016 win in Pennsylvania. "The only way we can lose, in my opinion, is massive fraud," he asserted at the Allentown rally. He repeated his claims against mail-in balloting and the state's largest city and Democratic stronghold. "We’re watching you very closely in Philadelphia," the president said, adding without evidence: "A lot of bad things happen there with the counting of the votes."

Trump has threatened in advance to contest a bad result for him. His team already is keeping the courts busy on ballot rule challenges. After their suit against an extended deadline for mail-in ballots failed in the U.S. Supreme Court on a 4-4 tie, Pennsylvania Republicans are trying there again, hoping that Monday's ascension of Justice Amy Coney Barrett could provide a fifth vote in their favor.

Biden has stronger leads in two other Rust Belt states that went for Trump four years ago, Michigan and Wisconsin. The Democratic candidate told reporters Monday that he has a "fighting chance" in Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia and Iowa — all red states in 2016.

Biden said he will be crisscrossing the country in the next few days, with stops planned in Iowa, Wisconsin, Georgia and Florida — all considered battleground states. Michigan was added later to the list.

The potential margin of victory in Trump's best-case scenarios is so thin that his itinerary for the campaign's final days included stops in Maine and Nebraska, aiming to lock up one electoral vote in each of the states that award some of them by congressional district.

Trump is scheduled to hold a marathon 11 rallies in the final 48 hours before polls close on Nov. 3.

Biden likes spotlight on Trump

Trump taunts Biden nonstop for keeping to a lighter schedule — "This guy doesn't leave his basement" — but some Democrats think it's good when Trump gets more attention, according to NBC News.

Trump's rallies, with scant regard for coronavirus precautions, highlight his most pugnacious tendencies. They also remind voters who don't attend them that Trump's focus on personal squabbles is virtually unlimited, while his focus on the pandemic is sharply limited. "The more that Trump talks, the more votes he loses," Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis said. "He is going to be the first president to have talked himself out of office."

After he won in 2016, campaign aides to Hillary Clinton observed that, for the first time in their memory, polling numbers dropped for whichever candidate was most in the news during a given period. In the runup to the 2018 midterm elections, after Trump traveled the country with dark warnings about caravans of migrants, suburban voters flocked to the Democrats, NBC News reported.

Biden is relying on Americans being sick of Trump. If Biden is wrong, a fundraising tweet he sent out Monday will not age well. "Don't wake up on November 4th wishing you had done more," the tweet said.

This day in polls

By this time in 2016, Trump was rapidly closing his polling gap with Clinton. This time around, there's still no sign of a late comeback.

Reuters/Ipsos polls found Biden up by 9 points in Wisconsin and 5 points in Pennsylvania, both slight improvements from last week. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution survey saw a near tie in Georgia, with Biden up by 1 point.

Trump is doing 4 points better than Biden in Texas, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll.

The Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found Biden with nearly double his leads of a month ago in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — now up by 10, 9 and 8 points respectively.

Janison: Trump exit strategy?

Putting aside the polls, one of the most glaring signs of trouble for Trump is the way he has been talking. For weeks, he has indicated that defeat is on his mind, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

His most absurd threats to the public have a certain anticipation to them. He evokes imagined ballot fraud, visions of destroyed suburbs, cities ablaze, collapsing markets and coronavirus vaccines deferred — a Democrat dystopia if he loses. Trump even balks at discussing plans for a second term.

On Monday, the president stood before an audience in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and said: "Nice trucks. You think I could hop into one of them and drive it away? I'd love to do it. Just drive the hell out of here. Just get the hell out of this. I had such a good life."

This was not an optimistic campaign message, nor was it lighthearted banter. This was a vague grievance, all about himself.

Jared to Black Americans: Try harder

Jared Kushner suggested in a Fox News interview on Monday that when Black Americans struggle, it's their own fault for not wanting enough to raise themselves up.

"President Trump's policies are the policies that can help people break out of the problems that they're complaining about, but he can't want them to be successful more than they want to be successful," said Trump's son-in-law and senior White House adviser.

Critics offered quick reminders of Kushner's silver bootstraps — he was born into immense wealth, married a Trump heiress and got a nepotism ticket to his West Wing job. "His father-in-law gave him the position he is failing at miserably, with deadly consequences," tweeted Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), alluding to Kushner's role in shaping coronavirus policy. "We will remember his casual racism."

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said: "Jared Kushner is the face of white privilege and nepotism. He doesn't want to change our racist, broken system because he benefits from it. He’s the last person that should be lecturing the Black community on the value of ‘hard work.’ "

Kushner also mocked supporters of the anti-brutality protests that followed the death of George Floyd. "They go on Instagram and cry, or they would, you know, put a slogan on their jersey or write something on a basketball court," said Kushner. "Quite frankly, that was doing more to polarize the country than it was to bring people forward." (See video of Kushner's "Fox & Friends" interview.)

It's Justice Barrett now

Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court late Monday, with Senate Republicans overpowering Democrats to install Trump’s nominee days before Election Day and secure a 6-3 conservative court majority.

Trump’s choice to fill the vacancy of the late liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg potentially opens a new era of rulings on abortion rights, the Affordable Care Act and even his own election, The Associated Press reported. Monday night’s 52-48 vote was the closest high-court confirmation ever to a presidential election, and the first in modern times with no support from the minority party.

Only one Republican — Sen. Susan Collins, who is in a tight reelection fight in Maine — voted no, saying she was against the preelection timing of the vote, not the nominee herself.

Barrett was sworn in at a White House ceremony Monday night by Justice Clarence Thomas as Trump looked on. The event was held on the South Lawn, with chairs spaced about 6 feet apart and most guests masked — unlike her nomination ceremony in the Rose Garden a month ago that turned into a superspreader fiasco.

More coronavirus news

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

What else is happening:

  • No matter who wins the presidency, writes Newsday's Tom Brune, the success of either Trump or Biden in getting an agenda through Congress will depend on a handful of other races on Nov. 3: the battle for control of the Senate. The outcome of about 10 close races will determine if Mitch McConnell continues his reign as majority leader or Chuck Schumer gets to move him aside.
  • Sunday's "60 Minutes," featuring interviews with Trump and Biden, gave the program its highest ratings since a 2018 interview with Stormy Daniels.
  • A Trump appointee who headed a key advisory council on the Civil Service has resigned to protest the president's order to strip away protections against political interference for nonpartisan career employees, The Washington Post reported. The order "seeks to make loyalty to him the litmus test for many thousands of career civil servants," said Ronald Sanders, a lifelong Republican.
  • If Trump loses, senior leaders at the Department of Health and Human Services are bracing for a fast exodus of dozens of political appointees seeking a head start on landing their next job, Politico reports. A wave of departures would leave only a shell staff shepherding the department through the cold-weather coronavirus challenges during the transition.
  • Trump has repeatedly claimed that the rise in coronavirus cases in the United States is due to more widespread testing. Experts explain that the spike is due to an actual increase in illnesses, and that hospitals are filling up with COVID-19 patients, CBS News reports.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday during an interview with Yahoo Finance that the daily count of coronavirus cases in October is "the worst that we've ever had."

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