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Saturday, October 31, 2020

New York AG warns Trump, Ivanka, Eric & Don Trump she's coming after all...


After Trump accuses doctors of profiteering, medical professionals push back.

After Trump accuses doctors of profiteering, medical professionals push back.

“At a rally in Michigan on Friday, President Trump repeated an extraordinary and unfounded claim that American doctors were profiteering from coronavirus deaths.

“You know our doctors get more money if somebody dies from Covid,” Mr. Trump said, adding that in Germany and other countries, deaths are characterized differently if there appear to be multiple causes.

“With us, when in doubt, choose Covid,” he said.

Medical professionals and organizations quickly decried those comments and lauded the work of nurses, doctors and other health care workers, many of whom have risked their lives and worried about the health of their families as they cared for people who were infected with the coronavirus.

“The suggestion that doctors — in the midst of a public health crisis — are overcounting Covid-19 patients or lying to line their pockets is a malicious, outrageous and completely misguided charge,” said Susan R. Bailey, the president of the American Medical Association, in a statement on Friday.

“Rather than attacking us and lobbing baseless charges at physicians, our leaders should be following the science and urging adherence to the public health steps we know work — wearing a mask, washing hands and practicing physical distancing,” she added.

Misleading claims about inflated death counts related to the coronavirus surfaced as early as April. 

Coronavirus cases are rising in Michigan as a third wave of infections spreads across the country. This week, the state recorded a 91 percent increase in new cases from the average two weeks earlier.

Mr. Trump made a similar false claim about physicians at a campaign rally on Oct. 24 in Wisconsin — another state that has seen a surge in cases this month — when he said that “doctors get more money and hospitals get more money” for reporting more deaths due to the coronavirus.

That prompted a backlash from organizations including the Society of Hospital Medicine, the Council of Medical Specialty Societies and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

“These baseless claims not only do a disservice to our health care heroes but promulgate the dangerous wave of misinformation which continues to hinder our nation’s efforts to get the pandemic under control and allow our nation to return to normalcy,” the American College of Emergency Physicians said in a statement on Sunday.

On the campaign trail, the president has often declared that the virus was vanishing— even as case counts soared — and attacked Democratic governors and other local officials for keeping public-health restrictions in place.“

Friday, October 30, 2020

‘It doesn’t have to be this way’: Chris shares his thoughts before Election Day

‘It doesn’t have to be this way’: Chris shares his thoughts before Election Day

Opinion | Trump Has Made the Whole World Darker - The New York Times

"There is no escaping it: America is on the ballot on Tuesday — the stability and quality of our governing institutions, our alliances, how we treat one another, our basic commitment to scientific principles and the minimum decency that we expect from our leaders. The whole ball of wax is on the ballot.

The good news is that we’ve survived four years of Donald Trump’s abusive presidency with most of our core values still intact. To be sure, the damage has been profound, but, I’d argue, the cancer has not yet metastasized into the bones and lymph nodes of our nation. The harm is still reversible.

The bad news is that if we have to endure four more years of Donald Trump, with him unrestrained by the need to be re-elected, our country will not be the America we grew up with, whose values, norms and institutions we had come to take for granted.

Four more years of a president without shame, backed by a party without spine, amplified by a TV network without integrity, and the cancer will be in the bones of every institution that has made America America.

Damon Winter/The New York Times

And then, who will we be? We can explain away, and the world can explain away, taking a one-time flier on a fast-talking, huckster-populist like Trump. It’s happened to many countries in history. But if we re-elect him, knowing what a norm-destroying, divisive, corrupt liar he is, then the world will not treat the last four years as an aberration. It will treat them as an affirmation that we’ve changed.

The world will not just look at America differently, but at Americans differently. And with good reason.

Re-electing Trump would mean that a significant number of Americans don’t cherish the norms that give our Constitution meaning, don’t appreciate the need for an independent, professional Civil Service, don’t respect scientists, don’t hunger for national unity, don’t care if a president tells 20,000 lies — in short, don’t care about what has actually made America great and different from any other great power in history.

If that happens, what America has lost these past four years will become permanent.

And the effects will be felt all over the world. Foreigners love to make fun of America, of our naïveté, or our silly notion that every problem has a solution and that the future can bury the past — that the past doesn’t always have to bury the future. But deep down, they often envy Americans’ optimism.

If America goes dark, if the message broadcast by the Statue of Liberty shifts from “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” to “get the hell off my lawn”; if America becomes just as cynically transactional in all its foreign dealings as Russia and China; if foreigners stop believing that there is somewhere over the rainbow where truth is still held sacred in news reporting and where justice is the norm in most of the courts, then the whole world will get darker. Those who have looked to us for inspiration will have no widely respected reference point against which to critique their own governments.

Authoritarian leaders all over the world — in Turkey, China, Russia, Poland, Hungary, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and elsewhere — already smell this. They have been emboldened by the Trump years. They know they’re freer to assassinate, poison, jail, torture and censor whomever they want, without reproach from America, as long as they flatter Trump or buy our arms.

I asked Nader Mousavizadeh, a former senior U.N. official who now runs the London-based consultancy Macro Advisory Partners, what he thought was at stake in this election. He said: “It’s the sense that ever since F.D.R., despite all kinds of failures and flaws, America was a country that wanted a better future — not just for itself but for other people.”

While that may seem like a banality, he added, “it is actually unique in history. No other great power in history has behaved that way. And it provided America with an intangible asset of immense value: the benefit of the doubt. People across the world were willing to give America a second, third and fourth chance because they believed that, unlike any other great power that had come to impact their lives, our purpose was different.”

Of course, America has at times behaved in cruel, nakedly self-interested, reckless and harmful ways toward other nations and peoples. Vietnam was real. Anti-democratic coups in Iran and Chile were real. Abu Ghraib was real. Separating children from their parents at our southern border was real.

But they remain exceptions, not our modus operandi, which is precisely why people all over the world, not to mention Americans, are so enraged by them — while shrugging off Russia’s or China’s abuses.

It’s because they know, added Mousavizadeh, that historically “America’s intent, if not always its practice, has been to exhort not extort other nations; to export not exploit; to collaborate not dominate; and to strengthen a global system of rules and norms, not overturn it in order to focus exclusively on its own enrichment.

“Four more years of Trump’s America, and no one will have cause to give us the benefit of any doubt. The disillusionment will be shattering to our standing and influence — and only when we are received around the world as Russians or Chinese will we know what we have lost, for good.”

Was everything Trump did wrong or unnecessary? No. He provided a valuable corrective to U.S.-China trade relations. A useful counterpunch to Iranian excesses in the Middle East. And he sent the needed message, albeit crudely, that if you want to come into this country, you can’t just walk in, you have to at least ring the doorbell.

But these initiatives were nowhere near as impactful as Trump pretends they are, precisely because he did them alone — without allies abroad or bipartisan support at home. We could have had a much bigger and sustainable impact on China and Iran if we had acted with our allies; we could have had a grand bargain on immigration if Trump had been willing to move to the center. But he wouldn’t.

I fear that this inability of Americans to do big, hard things together anymore — which predated Trump and the pandemic, but was exacerbated by them both — has led to another loss. It’s a loss of confidence in democratic systems generally, and versus China’s autocratic system in particular.

Over the last pandemic year, the legendary investor Ray Dalio wrote in The Financial Times last week, China’s “economy grew at almost 5 percent, without monetizing debt, while all major economies contracted. China produces more than it consumes and runs a balance of payments surplus, unlike the U.S. and many Western nations.” Even Tesla’s best-selling Model 3 car, he wrote, “may soon be made entirely in China.”

Makes you wonder if the Trump presidency will be remembered not for making America great but for China’s great leap past America. If you’re not worried about that, you haven’t been paying attention these last four years."

Opinion | Trump Has Made the Whole World Darker - The New York Times

Nate Silver On Whether We'll Get Final Results On Election Night l FiveT...

Kavanaugh Fixes Error in Election Opinion After Vermont Complaint - The New York Times

"Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh made a correction to a concurring opinion after Vermont officials pointed out that he mistakenly said the state had not changed its election rules.

After Vermont officials complained, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh corrected an error in the opinion he wrote in a Wisconsin election case.
After Vermont officials complained, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh corrected an error in the opinion he wrote in a Wisconsin election case. 

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh on Wednesday corrected an error in an opinion issued as part of a Supreme Court ruling that barred Wisconsin from counting mail-in ballots that arrive after Election Day.

Though not unheard-of, such revisions are rare, experts said, adding that Justice Kavanaugh’s change highlighted the court’s fast pace in handling recent challenges to voting rules.

In the opinion, which was issued on Monday and alarmed Democrats worried about mail ballots being counted, Justice Kavanaugh wrote that while some states had changed their rules around voting in response to the pandemic, others had not.

“States such as Vermont, by contrast, have decided not to make changes to their ordinary election rules, including to the election-day deadline for receipt of absentee ballots,” he wrote in his original concurring opinion, which was attached to the 5-to-3 ruling against the deadline extension in Wisconsin.

The decision, issued just over a week before the presidential election, immediately drew intense scrutiny, and Justice Kavanaugh’s opinion prompted a complaint from Vermont’s secretary of state, Jim Condos. He pointed out that the state had, in fact, changed its rules to accommodate voters worried about showing up to polling stations during the pandemic.

On Wednesday, two days after the ruling, he wrote to Scott S. Harris, the clerk of the court, and said Vermont had made two key changes this year: All active, registered voters had received a ballot and a prepaid envelope, and election officials were authorized to start processing the ballots in the 30 days leading up to Election Day.

By contrast, Wisconsin had done neither, Mr. Condos noted.

“Vermont is not an accurate comparison for the assertion Justice Kavanaugh has made,” he wrote in the letter.

Mr. Condos also posted a copy of the letter to Twitter saying, “When it comes to issuing decisions on the voting rights of American citizens, facts matter.”

By Wednesday evening, the opinion had been changed to read that Vermont and other states had not changed their “election-deadline” rules in response to the pandemic.

The Supreme Court began noting corrections and changes in opinions following a 2014 study that showed how, for years and without public notice, it had been altering its decisions long after they were issued, said Richard Lazarus, a law professor at Harvard University and the study’s author.

During the 2019-20 session, the court noted it had changed errors or typos in written decisions about half a dozen times, he said. The court typically issues several dozen decisions each term.

In this case, Professor Lazarus said, Justice Kavanaugh’s error was troubling because it revealed the rapid-fire pace with which the court, days before a presidential election, is making decisions that have enormous implications for the country.

“The mistake he made is not of an earth-shattering, catastrophic nature but it does underscore the risk of writing quickly, not writing more deliberately and not taking time,” he said.

Latest Updates

In a statement, Mr. Condos, the Vermont secretary of state, said he was glad Justice Kavanaugh corrected the error.

But, he said, “a one-word addition doesn’t go far enough.”

“The larger problem with the justice’s concurring opinion, and the majority opinion largely, is not the absence of the word ‘deadline,’” Mr. Condos said. “It is the total lack of regard for the voting rights of American citizens.”

The Wisconsin ruling was one of a series of decisions made in response to emergency applications and motions related to the election.

Democrats, civil rights groups and some legal scholars were unnerved by Justice Kavanaugh’s opinion that Election Day mail-in deadlines were devised “to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after Election Day and potentially flip the results of an election.”

Justice Elena Kagan responded in her dissent that “there are no results to ‘flip’ until all valid votes are counted.”

Mr. Condos said the opinion by Justice Kavanaugh and the decision itself “repeats the misinformation we, as chief elections officials, have been fighting against all election season: that votes cast on Election Day and arriving afterward are somehow not valid or are lesser than votes cast in person.” He added, “that is simply not true.”

The court’s recent decisions have been issued quickly, without full briefings or oral arguments, in a process known as the “shadow docket.”

When the justices do not have time to send opinions back and forth to one another and deliberate together, “they’re more likely to make mistakes,” Professor Lazarus said.

Justice Kavanaugh appeared to be trying to take on a leadership role by issuing his own opinion and explaining his decision making, he said.

“Whether you like his principle or not, he actually tried to explain it and he also corrected it,” Professor Lazarus said.

During an ordinary court schedule, the justices and their clerks have more time to discuss cases and pore over the words in each opinion to prevent errors, said Allison Orr Larsen, a professor of law at William & Mary Law School.

Mistakes are “rare,” she said, “but it happens.”

The current pace “is not the way that they’re designed to function,” Professor Larsen said. “It’s not the way that any of them prefer to function. It’s high stakes and limited time and that’s never good for decision making.”

Kavanaugh Fixes Error in Election Opinion After Vermont Complaint - The New York Times

In Florida, voters of color and young voters have had ballots flagged for possible rejection at higher rates than others

In Florida, voters of color and young voters have had ballots flagged for possible rejection at higher rates than others

"As Floridians rush to vote in the presidential election, mail ballots from Black, Hispanic and younger voters are being flagged for problems at a higher rate than they are for other voters, potentially jeopardizing their participation in the race for the country’s largest battleground state.

The deficient ballots — which have been tagged for issues such as a missing signature — could be rejected if voters do not remedy the problems by 5 p.m. Nov. 5.

As of Thursday, election officials had set aside twice as many ballots from Black and Hispanic voters as those from White voters, according to an analysis by University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith. For people younger than 24, the rate was more than four times what it was for those 65 and older.

While the number of deficient mail ballots in Florida was relatively low one week before the election, at roughly 15,000 out of more than 4.3 million cast, that figure could rise sharply: Roughly 1.6 million Floridians still have outstanding mail ballots.

With President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden locked in a tight race for the state’s 29 electoral votes, the number of rejected ballots could make a difference in who wins Florida — and potentially the White House.

“The margins in Florida could definitely come down to the vote-by-mail ballots,” Smith said. “It’s obviously an area where there will be litigation if there is a close election.”

Florida has a history of problematic ballots triggering high-stakes fights with tight electoral margins on the line. The 2000 presidential contest in the state, upended by the battle over “hanging chads” in the South Florida counties that used punch-card ballots, was decided by 537 votes.

In 2018, then-Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) lost his reelection bid by just 10,033 votes after more than 32,000 mail ballots were rejected by election officials. That race led to a slew of lawsuits over the state’s signature-matching rules. In one case, a federal judge gave voters more time to fix mismatched signatures, but it did not provide Nelson with enough additional votes to beat Republican Rick Scott.

The massive shift to voting by mail this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic has increased the possibility that problems with mail ballots could be a factor in races across the country.

For the first time in recent history, voters in every major swing state are eligible to cast ballots by mail without a traditional excuse. Many who have never voted this way may not be familiar with the extra steps required, such as signing the envelope or placing the ballot inside a secrecy sleeve in some states.

More than 534,000 mail ballots were rejected during primaries across 23 states, including nearly a quarter in key presidential battlegrounds, according to a tally by The Washington Post. Notably, election officials tossed out more than 60,480 ballots during primaries in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — states Trump won by roughly 80,000 votes in 2016.

As of Tuesday, roughly 30,000 mail ballots had been flagged for possible rejection or cure in eight battleground states, accounting for a tiny fraction of the roughly 11.5 million mail ballots returned, an analysis by The Post found. Florida accounted for about half of the total number, which was compiled from data provided by Smith, secretaries of state and University of Florida political science professor Michael McDonald’s U.S. Elections Project.

The number of deficient ballots nationally is expected to rise quickly. Only a handful of battleground states publicly report the number of ballots that have been tagged for possible rejection, and some provide only partial data.

“The problem is, if you’ve got millions of ballots, you’re trying to notify a large number of voters that there’s a question about their signature, you have untrained staff looking at signatures, people may have a 30-year-old signature,” Trevor Potter, president of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit group that has sued over signature-match rules, told reporters this week.

“This is going to be an issue if it’s a close election in a number of states because there will be battles over whether absentee ballots will be counted or not,” he added.

Votes up in the air

Studies have shown that ballots from voters of color and younger voters have been disproportionately rejected in past elections, a trend that appears to be continuing this year based on the figures available.

In Georgia, 1,385 ballots had been flagged for problems as of Friday, including 729 from Black voters and 416 from White voters, according to state data. The vast majority had missing or invalid signatures.

Atlanta resident Victoria Benedict, a 51-year-old small-business owner, said she has been voting by mail for years and was shocked when she was notified that her ballot was rejected for an “invalid signature.”

When she called the Fulton County elections office, she said a staffer told her to make an appointment to come into the office or bring the ballot to the polls on Election Day. She later learned from the state Democratic Party that she could successfully fix her ballot by emailing an affidavit to the elections office.

“It’s terrifying to me that the office is disseminating incorrect information that could have a chilling effect on voters curing their ballot,” said Benedict, who was reached through ProPublica’s Electionland voter tip line. “I’m worried that people won’t know what to do or have the time to research it like I did.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) predicted this week that the state’s total ballot rejection rate will be consistent with the last election, in the range of 1 percent.

“Every eligible voter — their vote will count,” he said at a news conference.

In Florida, the most commonly flagged problem with mail ballots has been a missing voter signature on the back of the ballot envelope, Smith said.

The total rate of pending rejections was 0.35 percent, a rate he predicted will rise to the 2016 election-year level of about 1 percent after late-arriving ballots are factored in.

Deficient ballots were slightly more likely to come from Democratic mail voters, at 0.33 percent, than Republican voters, at 0.29 percent — and both were lower than unaffiliated voters, whose ballots were flagged at a rate of 0.47 percent.

Experience also matters in whether a voter’s ballot gets tossed, the data shows. Floridians who did not vote by mail in 2016 but did so this year had a rejection rate three times that of other voters, Smith found.

Election officials are required to notify voters “as soon as practicable” that their ballots are deficient and send affidavits to correct them. A Florida election law retooled last year gives voters extra time to fix their ballots, allowing them to return affidavits by mail, by email, by fax or in person by 5 p.m. on the second day after the election.

In Miami-Dade County, where about 2,600 ballots have been flagged, 52-year-old Democratic volunteer Andrea Askowitz recently spent two days driving around and knocking on the doors of voters whose ballots have been flagged for rejection.

Askowitz said assisting even a small number of Democratic voters felt more worthwhile than her previous efforts handing out Democratic slate cards at an early-voting site and holding a Biden sign on a street corner.

“I think helping people with their absentee ballots is the one thing I can do that’s meaningful,” she said. “It’s grueling, but I know those are three Biden votes for sure.”

Such efforts could make a difference. Seven statewide elections between 2010 and 2018 were decided by less than 1.2 percent, including three that were decided by 0.4 percent or less, according to Democratic consultant Steve Schale. Trump’s 2016 margin of victory in Florida was about 113,000 votes.

Reasons for rejection

Mismatched signatures on mail ballots were central to legal disputes in Florida after the 2018 election, with multiple courts agreeing that state rules for validating and curing ballots were not fair or enforced consistently.

In a 2019 retuning of state election law, legislators required the secretary of state to offer signature-match training to election supervisors and other members of local canvassing boards.

More than 30 states this year are using signature matching to validate mail ballots, a process that involves comparing the voter’s signature on the ballot envelope to one on file with the government.

Voting rights advocates and Democrats have challenged this approach in some places, arguing that rules must be standardized to protect voters against false mismatches.

And in about 20 states, there is no guarantee that voters will be notified and offered a chance to fix, or “cure,” problems with their ballots this year, another source of concern.

Virginia Kase, chief executive of the League of Women Voters, said the problem of rejected ballots has been “amplified this year” by the shift toward mail voting in a hotly contested presidential cycle.

“We are constantly fighting and battling to ensure that there are notification and cure processes for rejected ballots,” she told reporters this week, noting that her group is prepared to file lawsuits if it observes problems with ballot processing or counting.

In addition to signature problems, late arrival tends to be one of the top reasons mail ballots are rejected, studies have found. More than 36 million requested mail ballots had not been returned throughout the country as of Friday morning, according to McDonald, leading election officials and activists to push voters to return them quickly in person or to change their plans and vote on Election Day.

“The most important issue is for voters to know as quickly as possible if there is an error, if there is a mistake, so they can correct it,” Democrat Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and founder of Fair Fight Action, said during an online panel discussion this week. “Fixing your ballot is just as important as sending it in, and the longer we take to send in those ballots, the less time we have to correct any mistakes.”

This year, more than 20 states plan to count ballots that are postmarked by Election Day and received within a certain period after that, some despite lawsuits from Republicans seeking to toss ballots that arrive after Nov. 3.

This week, the Supreme Court upheld extended ballot return deadlines in North Carolina and Pennsylvania while invalidating an extension in Wisconsin. On Thursday night, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit rolled back an extended deadline in Minnesota; the state is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Postal delays could further complicate voters’ efforts to return their ballots on time. The U.S. Postal Service has said it cannot guarantee delivery for ballots mailed past Oct. 27, and rates of on-time mail delivery are lagging in critical battleground states.

Wave of lawsuits

Signature-match and curing rules have dominated court fights related to voting ahead of the election, prompting at least nine states to make their systems more voter-friendly.

This month, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit reversed a lower court’s decision allowing Arizona voters who forget to sign their mail ballots up to five days after the election to fix the problem. Voters with mismatched signatures already had that amount of time to prove their identities and have their ballots counted.

In Pennsylvania last week, the state Supreme Court said state law does not authorize election officials to reject mail ballots based on mismatched signatures.

In North Carolina, mail voters are required to include a witness signature as proof their ballot was voted properly. Litigation over how to address ballots missing those signatures left at least 6,800 votes — including more than 3,300 from people of color — in limbo at one point earlier this month.

Rosalee Rockafellow, a 76-year-old resident of Sunset Beach near the state’s southern border, sprang into action last month after she was notified her absentee ballot was deficient because of an error on her ballot envelope. She personally delivered an affidavit to the Brunswick County elections office. But online, her ballot was still marked as not accepted. A staffer told her that absentee ballots were the subject of a court case and that her ballot remained in limbo.

Rockafellow, who was reached through ProPublica’s Electionland voter tip line, said she finally confirmed last week that her ballot had been counted.

“I really feel that had I not called and called and called and been so tenacious that my vote would still be sitting in a pile of unaccepted ballots somewhere,” she said."

In Florida, voters of color and young voters have had ballots flagged for possible rejection at higher rates than others

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Walmart pulls firearms from store shelves amid fears of possible unrest

Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff goes viral with EPIC takedown at Georgia...

See Trump-era racism exposed as many voters focus on ousting Trump


The Stories That Haven’t Gotten Enough Coverage In 2020 l FiveThirtyEight

As Election Day nears, Trump ponders becoming one thing he so despises: A loser

As Election Day nears, Trump ponders becoming one thing he so despises: A loser

“Trailing in the polls and with little time left to change the trajectory or closing themes of the presidential race, President Trump has spent the final days of the campaign complaining that the coronavirus crisis is getting too much coverage — and openly musing about losing.

Trump has publicly lamented about what a loss would mean, spoken longingly of riding off into the sunset and made unsubstantiated claims that voter fraud could cost him the election. He has sarcastically threatened to fire state officials if he doesn’t win and excoriated his rival Joe Biden as someone it would be particularly embarrassing to lose to.

“If I lose, I will have lost to the worst candidate, the worst candidate in the history of presidential politics,” Trump said at an Oct. 17 campaign rally in Janesville, Wis. “If I lose, what do I do? I’d rather run against somebody who’s extraordinarily talented, at least, this way I can go and lead my life.”

The president, who said at the same rally that “we’re not going to lose, we’re going to win,” has certainly not abandoned his showman’s approach to the campaign trail. But his unscripted remarks bemoaning a potential loss — and preemptively explaining why he might suffer one — offer a window into his mind-set as he barnstorms the country in an attempt to keep himself from becoming the one thing he so derisively despises: a loser.

Trump has told rallygoers he had the presidential race won until the pandemic hit, and he has accused media outlets of focusing on the ongoing health crisis to hurt him politically.

“Covid, Covid, Covid is the unified chant of the Fake News Lamestream Media,” he tweeted Wednesday. “They will talk about nothing else until November 4th., when the Election will be (hopefully!) over. Then the talk will be how low the death rate is, plenty of hospital rooms, & many tests of young people.”

Trump has previously complained that Biden could win the race and then receive the benefit of glowing media coverage for overseeing the implementation of Trump administration policies on the coronavirus and other issues.

The president’s comments reflect his long-running failure to shift the nation’s focus from the rapidly worsening pandemic in recent months. As he has tried to build his campaign on other themes — including cracking down on racial-justice protests, making unsubstantiated corruption allegations against Biden and attacking the former vice president over energy policy — the coronavirus has continued to dominate American lives and news headlines.

His critics say Trump’s own inconsistent handling of the pandemic is one of the main reasons it has remained a key issue in the campaign for several months. With Election Day approaching, the virus is surging across the country, with record cases in recent days and growing hospitalizations and deaths. More than 227,000 Americans have died.

Trump’s own hospitalization earlier this month after he was infected not only took him off the campaign trail for several days but also led more Americans to believe he was not taking the deadly virus seriously enough, polls show.

Despite spending four days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Trump quickly returned to the campaign trail and continued holding the kind of mass gatherings that his own health officials have described as “superspreader” events. He has also attacked scientists and journalists for focusing on the deadly virus.

Trump has falsely called media reporting on the pandemic an effort “to change our great early election numbers” and said it “should be an election-law violation.”

The rallies have themselves become a symbol of his “reckless” approach to governing, said Guy Cecil, who leads Priorities USA, a liberal group that has blanketed the airwaves with advertisements against Trump on the pandemic.

“He’s making people less favorable and less open to voting for him,” Cecil said Wednesday. “He is actually hurting himself by traveling around the country holding these rallies.”

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh attacked public polls showing Trump behind Biden and predicted victory.

“The mainstream media has spent the last four years trying to destroy and defeat President Trump, so no one should put any stock in polls paid for by these same news organizations,” Murtaugh said in a statement Wednesday. “We know where he stands in the states that will decide this election and we are confident in his reelection.”

Biden, who has eschewed large rallies for smaller events, has sought to contrast his approach to the pandemic with Trump’s.

During a speech Wednesday in Wilmington, Del., Biden referenced a Trump rally in Omaha at which thousands of supporters were left stranded waiting for buses in near-freezing weather. He called it “an image that captures President Trump’s whole approach to this crisis.”

“He gets his photo op, and then he gets out,” Biden said. “He leaves everyone else to suffer the consequences of his failure to make a responsible plan. It seems like he just doesn’t care much about it. And the longer he’s in charge, the more reckless he gets.”

Trump has talked about the virus as something that has upended his own political fortunes, while downplaying its impact on the country. At packed rallies in which few people wear masks, he has repeatedly claimed the United States was “rounding the turn” on the pandemic — despite evidence to the contrary.

At his rallies, the president speaks more about the political ramifications of the pandemic than about its devastating impact on millions of Americans.

“You know, until the plague came in from China, I didn’t even have a race,” he said Tuesday at a rally in West Salem, Wis., describing the election as a choice between a “Trump boom and a Biden lockdown.”

But parts of Wisconsin are already facing the prospect of shutting down as the virus circulates at record levels. On the day of Trump’s visit, Wisconsin recorded 71 covid-19 deaths, the most of any day since the beginning of the pandemic. The following day, the University of Wisconsin announced it was canceling football-related activities for at least seven days because of an outbreak among students.

Trump’s approach may end up hurting him politically in a key state, said David Wasserman, the House editor for the Cook Political Report.

“The president’s decision to downplay the severity of COVID at multiple late October rallies in Wisconsin might be the biggest display of tone-deafness I’ve ever seen, and I cover hundreds of campaigns a cycle,” Wasserman wrote Tuesday on Twitter.

Even as he has complained about unfair treatment, Trump has told supporters that he is in strong position to win reelection. The boasts have doubled as a reassurance to his political base and a basis for explaining away a potential loss.

As he has repeatedly brought up losing in recent days, he has said that only external forces could cause such an outcome. With record numbers of Americans voting early and by mail, he has seized on absentee ballots as one explanation for a potential loss.

“Who’s sending them? Who’s receiving them? Who’s bringing them back? Who’s signing them? It’s ridiculous,” Trump said at a rally Monday in Allentown, Pa. “It’s the only way we can lose, in my opinion, is massive fraud. And that’s what’s happening because all over the country you’re seeing it. Thousands and thousands of ballots.”

There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and several Republicans have openly said Trump could lose fairly — with some almost predicting that he will.

During an Oct. 15 committee hearing, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said Democrats “have a good chance of winning the White House.” In leaked comments from a phone call with constituents, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) warned of a “Republican bloodbath” in November and specifically attacked Trump on a number of issues. Speaking to CNBC on Oct. 9, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said the GOP could be in for “a bloodbath of Watergate proportions” in which they lose the White House and the Senate.

Public polling backs up the concerns of those Republican senators. Trump trails Biden nationally by a wide margin, and his deficit in several swing states remains significant.

Still, Trump has told reporters that a “red wave” is soon coming that would sweep him into another unexpected victory.

But that hasn’t stopped him from considering the alternative — sometimes quite publicly.

“And maybe I’ll lose because they’ll say I’m not a nice person,” Trump told conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh on Oct. 9. “I think I am a nice person. I help people. I like to help people.”

During the rally in Allentown, Trump looked over at a truck and mused about hopping in and leaving his presidential life behind

“I’d love to do it. Just drive the hell out of here,” he said. “Just get the hell out of this. I had such a good life. My life was great.”

Trump has said his references to losing and leaving the White House are made sarcastically. But they also reveal his insecurities about potentially going down in history as a one-term president, said Amanda Carpenter, a former aide to Cruz and a Trump critic who wrote a book titled “Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies To Us.”

“He always tells you what he’s thinking, right?” she said. “To him, it is embarrassing if you lose this to Biden in particular because Biden stands for things like empathy, experience and patience — which in Trump’s world are considered defects.”

Trump, who has openly mocked Biden’s mental acuity and political skills, has said losing to him would be especially devastating.“

White House advisers warn of 'unrelenting' COVID-19 spread

White House advisers warn of 'unrelenting' COVID-19 spread

“WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House coronavirus task force is warning of a persistent and broad spread of COVID-19 in the western half of the United States and its members urged aggressive mitigation measures to curb infections.

FILE PHOTO: Anthony Fauci, MD, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, testifies during a U.S. Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing to examine COVID-19, focusing on an update on the federal response at the U.S. Capitol Washington, D.C., U.S., September 23, 2020. Graeme Jennings/Pool via REUTERS

The area includes a number of battleground states that will play an important role in Tuesday’s U.S. presidential election as Republican President Donald Trump seeks a second term against Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

“We are on a very difficult trajectory. We’re going in the wrong direction,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, task force member and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Fauci noted that coronavirus cases are rising in 47 states and patients are overwhelming hospitals across the country.

“If things do not change, if they continue on the course we’re on, there’s gonna be a whole lot of pain in this country with regard to additional cases and hospitalizations, and deaths,” Fauci said in an interview with CNBC Wednesday night.

The White House coronavirus task force has warned states in the middle and west of the country that aggressive mitigation measures will be necessary, according to weekly state reports seen by CNN.

“We continue to see unrelenting, broad community spread in the Midwest, Upper Midwest and West. This will require aggressive mitigation to control both the silent, asymptomatic spread and symptomatic spread,” one state’s report said.

Biden and his fellow Democrats in Congress have excoriated Trump for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 228,000 people in the United States. (Graphic:

Trump pushed to reopen the U.S. economy, sometimes against the advice of his own government health experts, while many of his supporters in Michigan and elsewhere protested lockdown and mitigation efforts.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows defended the administration’s response on Thursday and stressed that therapeutics and vaccines were on the way.

“We know what doesn’t work. We know that long-term lockdowns and shutting down our economy and making sure that everybody just stays inside their house doesn’t work,” Meadows said on CBS’ “This Morning.”

There are no calls for a nationwide lockdown at this point, but health officials are urging a renewed push to get Americans to redouble mitigation efforts. Meadows did not say the White House would engage in any new initiative on that front.

Trump has repeatedly downplayed the virus, claiming for weeks that the country is “rounding the turn” as cases climb.

The task force reports said the cooler weather is a major factor in the increase as friends and families move gatherings indoors. It urged states to intensify efforts to encourage mask wearing, social distancing and avoiding crowds in public spaces.

U.S. hospitalizations are soaring, a metric not affected by the amount of testing done, reaching 45,205 on Wednesday, the highest since Aug. 14.

Thirteen states, mainly in the Midwest and West, reported a record number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients on Wednesday, according to a Reuters analysis.

Wisconsin, a hotly contested battleground, is one of 34 states where coronavirus hospitalizations are rising by at least 10% compared with the previous week. Michigan, another election battleground state, logged a one-day record of over 3,500 new cases.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said in an interview with CNN on Thursday that the situation in the city is “worst that it’s ever been,” and slammed Republicans in the state legislature for sparking a legal battle with the Democratic governor over emergency orders to mitigate the spread of the virus.

“Clearly politics has just permeated this in a way that, I think, has made it very, very difficult for us to deal with this,” he said.

Reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington and Lisa Shumaker in Chicago; additional reporting by Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky“