2020 Daily Trail Markers: Pence says Trump is “anxious” to move forward with SCOTUS nominee process

FAN Editor

In an interview with CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell, Vice President Mike Pence said President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee will be announced by the end of the week, adding that the president “is anxious to move the process forward.” When asked if it can be completed before Election Day, Pence said “we believe that it can.” He added “but obviously it’ll be important for us to take time, to pay tribute this week to a true public servant. We join the nation in mourning the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She paved the way for women in the law.”

One of the women being considered to replace Ginsburg is U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who CBS News has learned met with Mr. Trump at the White House on Monday. Pence said he is convinced that Barrett and other finalists for the role will “interpret the Constitution in a way that’s consistent with the great tradition of Justice Antonin Scalia.” The administration’s objective is “to appoint pro-life jurists to our federal courts at every level,” Pence said. He added that he’s proud to serve alongside “the most pro-life president in American history” and that the “same standard will be met with his nominee to fill this vacancy on the Supreme Court.” Barrett has said it is unlikely the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade.

While Democratic nominee Joe Biden called on Senate lawmakers to delay a vote on filling the Supreme Court vacancy until after the presidential election, Pence said “we’re working already with the Republican leadership in the Senate to make arrangements for the process to move forward.” “There have been 29 times that there have been vacancies since George Washington through Barack Obama. In all 29 cases, the president has made a nomination to the Supreme Court during an election year,” Pence said. “President Trump believes that he has an obligation under the Constitution of the United States to put forward a nominee for the Supreme Court,” he added. Pence, who will campaign in New Hampshire tomorrow and Wisconsin and Minnesota later this week, said, “the Senate’s role is to advise and consent.”

Meanwhile, hundreds lined up Monday outside Toledo Express Airport ahead of Mr. Trump’s rally in the political battleground of Ohio. One supporter, Terry McClellan led a chant of “fill the seat” amid the maskless crowd. Donning a homemade sweatshirt with the words “fill the seat” emblazoned in white, the retired UAW worker from Detroit, MI called the Supreme Court vacancy “my number one issue, now.” Celia Sitzeharles of Edgerton, Ohio told CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga she hopes the president will nominate a “pro-life” judge, citing faith as a key motivator for her support of candidate Trump during the 2016 Republican primary. “My biggest issue is always abortion. All lives matter,” the mother of four and owner of a laundromat said. “This is dramatic. It is so crucial to have a justice that will vote for life.” Derran Reebel of Toledo, Ohio, expressed concerns over a deadlocked Supreme Court in the event the 2020 presidential election outcome hangs on the high court’s litigation. “They can’t have a vote with a 4-4 even split on the court,” he reasoned. “It will have to be nine justices.” Sixty-two percent of Americans said the Supreme Court vacancy should be filled by the winner of the upcoming presidential election, according to a Reuters-Ipsos poll released Sunday.

With Biden campaigning Monday in Wisconsin, the Trump campaign hosted a press call with former Wisconsin Congressman Sean Duffy and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce President Kurt Bauer to discuss the Trump Administration’s policies for Wisconsin families. Duffy said Biden’s support for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) led to the loss of manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin and hurt rural parts of the state. CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar notes Bauer agreed and reiterated the campaign’s point that President Trump’s trade deals have brought manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. Duffy said strong environmental policies are needed but attacked Biden for his support of the Green New Deal and said it will put American businesses at a competitive disadvantaged.

FROM THE CANDIDATES

BIDEN-HARRIS CAMPAIGN

Biden made his second trip to Wisconsin in September on Monday, visiting the Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry in Manitowoc, reports CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. Biden began his remarks by speaking about the roughly 200,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19. “I worry we’re risking becoming numb to the toll it has taken on us and our country and communities like this. We can’t let that happen. We can’t lose the ability to feel the sorrow and the loss and the anger for so many lives,” Biden said. He again laid blame squarely on President Trump for not taking action sooner to mitigate the virus in its early days. “Due to Donald Trump’s lies and incompetence, in the past six months we’ve seen one of the greatest losses of American life in history,” Biden said. “But sadly, it’s not over.” Biden’s visits to the Midwest in recent weeks have brought him to largely working-class areas where President Trump either won or ate into traditionally large Democratic wins. Throughout those stops he has focused on issues such as American manufacturing and presented a message that he understands the people in those communities better than Mr. Trump, who Biden says “sees the world from Park Avenue.” Biden said Mr. Trump’s insistence on downplaying panic in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic was an attempt solely to keep financial markets afloat. “Trump was worried that if he told the public the truth there would be a panic in the financial markets and that would hurt his chances of being reelected. That’s how Donald Trump views the world. He sees the world from Park Avenue. I see it from where I grew up in a town like this, Scranton, Pennsylvania, hardscrabble, hardworking town, just like this and so many more across Wisconsin,” Biden said. President Obama won Manitowoc County in 2008 by 7 points, but he lost the county by 3 points to Mitt Romney in 2012 and Mr. Trump carried it by 21 points in 2016. In a pitch to those who may have supported Democrats in the past, Biden said, “I know many of you are frustrated. You’re angry. You believe we weren’t seeing, you weren’t being seen, represented or heard. I get it. It has to change. And I promise you this, it will change with me. You will be seen, heard and respected by me. This campaign isn’t about just winning votes. It’s about restoring the basic dignity in this country that every worker deserves.”

Over the weekend, Biden responded in a somber tone remembering Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, calling her a “soul of great consciousness.” Ginsburg’s confirmation for the high court ran through Biden’s Senate Judiciary Committee 27 years ago. At the start of the confirmation hearing, Biden told her, “Judge Ginsburg, you come before the committee with your place in history already secure…You have already helped to change the meaning of equality in our nation,” referring to her fights for equal protection under law regardless of sex. Biden, aligning his message with Democratic congressional leaders, then turned political and argued Ginsburg’s seat should be replaced after the November election. Biden directed this message at Senate Republicans and in remarks on Sunday called for an opportunity to “cool the flames that have been engulfing” the country for the past six months. Unlike Mr. Trump, the Democratic nominee said voters should not expect a list of his potential Supreme Court nominees as he said he worries of influencing individuals’ decision making as a judge and subjecting potential nominees to “unrelenting political attacks.” Biden’s sole commitment thus far if elected is to nominate the first Black woman justice. Like many elements of public political life, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson notes Biden’s long record is filled with experience battling over Supreme Court nominations. Biden cast his first Senate confirmation vote for the Supreme Court in 1975, supporting the nomination of Justice John Paul Stevens. Altogether, Biden has been involved in some form for 15 high court nominations. For more, watch Erickson on CBSN for what else is to be expected over the court fight.

BATTLEGROUNDS IN THE BATTLEGROUNDS

ARIZONA – MARICOPA COUNTY

A Democrat last won a presidential election across Arizona in 1996, according to CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. But even then, Democrats still lost by more than 22,000 votes in Maricopa County, home to the state’s capital Phoenix. Now a recent Monmouth University Poll finds Joe Biden leading the county by 9 points among registered voters, besting Mr. Trump on turf he won by some three points in 2016. The GOP still outnumbers Democrats by more than 84,000 registered voters in Maricopa County. But Republicans have found themselves on defense, up against many of the trends that have favored Biden’s campaign in suburbs across America. Buoyed by a wide network of allies, everything from a grassroots push by a former GOP appointee to print and distribute “Arizona Republicans for Biden” yard signs to an organized coalition of Latino groups that have flooded the county with ads and organizers, Democrats hope to replicate the 2018 success of Senator Kyrsten Sinema. The Democrat won her seat then by more than 60,000 votes in Maricopa County, even as the state’s Republican governor handily won reelection by nearly 200,000 votes there on the same ballot. Nearly 1 in 3 Maricopa County residents are Hispanic or Latino, turnout among which a 2018 analysis cited as a key factor in Sinema’s win. “Both candidates are solidifying their support in the most partisan areas of the state, but the big prize is still Maricopa County. And we see a notable swing away from Trump there compared to four years ago,” Patrick Murray, head of Monmouth University’s Polling Institute, said in the survey’s release.

HOT TOPICS

SCOTUS NOMINATIONS

Following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, nearly three dozen racial and social justice groups are calling for seats to be added to the court. “We’ve been putting this together a long time and Friday night received devastating news that we lost a legend. In response to that, we’re going to make sure that we continue to mobilize people to vote and fight against this nomination,” Stasha Rhodes, campaign director of 51 for 51, told CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak. Her group and about 30 other grassroots groups led by Black and Brown organizers joined to form the Just Democracy coalition Monday. They plan to focus on informing voters and lobbying politicians about adding Supreme Court seats, eliminating the filibuster, abolishing the electoral college and grating statehood to Washington, D.C. “We hope to show how connected the rules of democracy are to the issues,” Rhodes said. Senator Elizabeth Warren joined the group in a Facebook Live event Monday, arguing that Ginsburg should not be replaced until after the election and making a pitch for viewers to vote Democratic in November. “We honor [Ginsburg] with action, and we channel our grief into change,” she said. “That means that we have a job to do in November: elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

MONEY MATTERS

CAMPAIGN CASH

Biden’s presidential campaign, the Democratic National Committee and their joint fundraising committee had a $141 million cash advantage over President Trump, the RNC and their joint fundraising committees heading into September, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. According to a Biden campaign official, the former vice president and Democrats had $466 million cash on hand at the end of last month. The Trump campaign and Republicans had $325 million cash on hand according to the president’s campaign. The newly revealed cash figures continue to show how the president’s cash advantage leading into the general election season has evaporated heading into the final stretch of the 2020 campaign season. In March, Mr. Trump along with his entities had a nearly $200 million advantage over Biden and the DNC combined as Democrats wrapped up a crowded primary season. Now the cash advantage has shifted toward Democrats. Biden’s campaign and Democrats had already announced a record-breaking cash haul earlier this month, raking in nearly $365 million in August. By comparison, the Trump campaign and Republicans brought a combined $210 million cash haul – more than $150 million less than Biden. New Trump campaign filings show the president’s reelection bid spent $61.2 million in August. At the same time, it brought in $61.7 million directly to the committee. The campaign also has more than $900,000 in debts, including more than $108,000 to the Treasury Department for travel. Meanwhile, the Biden campaign brought in more than $212 million, according to its monthly FEC filing, and spent about $130 million. Some of its biggest expenses include more than $75.7 million to Media Buying and Analytics for media buys as the Biden campaign shifts into higher gear with ad spending in the final stretch of the campaign season.

SCOTUS BUMP

The vacancy on the Supreme Court has galvanized Democrats to donate, according to Ewall-Wice. Since Friday evening after news of Ginsburg’s death broke, millions in contributions started flooding ActBlue, the platform used by Democrats for online fundraising. Late Saturday night, the platform announced it had a record breaking day, raising $70.6 million that day from a record 1.2 million contributions. It also had a record fundraising hour with $6.3 million brought in between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Friday night. Between Friday evening and Monday morning, tracking showed the platform brought in more than $130 million. Pro-Democrat super PACs and groups are also leaning in on the Senate fight. On Monday, Priorities USA Action announced it was teaming up with Senate Majority PAC to launch a $7.5 million digital ad campaign targeting Democrats, specifically people of color, to drive voter turnout. The program runs in four states key to Democrats taking back the Senate including Arizona, Maine and North Carolina, and maintaining the seat in Michigan. It will also run in the battleground states of Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. At the same time, Women Vote!, which is a part of Emily’s List, unveiled it will be investing $2 million in a program to unseat Senator Joni Ernst and elect Democratic Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield in Iowa. The plan targets rural women through mail, radio digital and TV ads. And the group NextGen America announced Saturday it is running new ads on social and streaming platforms in Maine, North Carolina, Iowa and Arizona highlighting the importance of electing Democrats to a new Senate in light of the court opening. The ads target 18 to 35 year olds and are in addition to six figure buys the group already made in these states.

VOTING INTEGRITY

SWAG

More Than A Vote officially launched a merchandise store where all the proceeds will go to the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman says NBA star LeBron James previewed some apparel on Sunday when he wore a hoodie that says, “Change isn’t made by watching from the sidelines” before Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference Finals. In a statement, James said that athletes and the group are using their platforms and their influence to engage people using a wide array of methods. “The connection between fashion and sports is very real and very powerful,” James added. “We’re excited to give our fans products that help them express themselves the same way we do. These shirts tell your community that you’re in it with us and you are doing what you can to stop systemic racism and voter suppression.”

STATE-BY-STATE

MINNESOTA

Hennepin County, home to Minneapolis, received roughly 336,000 absentee ballot applications in their initial batch as early voting started in the state on Friday, according to Hennepin County elections official Ginny Gelms. CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman reports the number of applications is a significant increase from 2016, as Gelms said the county received 26,000 absentee ballot applications in 2016. “We have been planning for this,” Gelms added. “It has completely transformed our operations.” Gelms noted that Hennepin County, which has over 800,000 registered voters according to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office, is providing personal protective equipment for poll workers, sanitizing polling stations and creating a “physical bubble” by spacing out lines and voting stations.

NEVADA

A federal court has rejected the Trump campaign’s attempt to roll back changes to Nevada’s election laws, the latest setback for opponents of Nevada’s efforts to mail paper ballots to all active registered voters in the battleground state, according to CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. In August, Nevada joined a number of states in moving to expand vote-by-mail amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. President Trump quickly decried the measure, accusing the governor of using the outbreak “to steal the state.” U.S. District Court Judge James Mahan ruled in an order released Monday, granting Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s motion to dismiss the case, saying, “Although they purport to allege constitutional harms that go beyond these policy disagreements, at this juncture, plaintiffs’ allegations remain just that.” Mahan added, “Plaintiffs ask for a remedy to cure the ‘confusion’ caused by AB 4, yet they have positioned this case for last minute adjudication before the general election.”

OHIO

Ahead of Mr. Trump’s visit to Ohio, state Democrats held a press call criticizing the president and his record for Ohioans. Asked if Joe Biden and running mate Kamala Harris will campaign in the state, Ohio Democratic congresswoman Marcy Kaptur said the president puts on “a show,” while Biden and Harris, she argued, are following COVID-19 protocols. CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman notes Kaptur did not raise doubts about virtual events the campaign and Democrats are holding, saying, “I’m really confident that they are reaching the public.”

PENNSYLVANIA

The top elections official in Philadelphia on Monday warned that the state Supreme Court’s decision to reject ballots missing privacy envelopes has “set Pennsylvania up to be the subject of significant post-election legal controversy, the likes of which we have not seen since Florida in 2000.” Lisa Deeley, chair of the Philadelphia city commissioners and a Democrat, predicted that the court’s decision could result in the rejection of over 100,000 ballots, more than twice the margin of Trump’s 2016 victory in the state, reports CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak. “While everyone is talking about the significance of extending the mail ballot deadline, it is the naked ballot ruling that is going to cause electoral chaos,” she wrote to leaders in the GOP-controlled state legislature, asking for them to pass legislation to eliminate the secrecy envelope requirement. “We believe this issue is settled for this election. That being said, we share the chairwoman’s concerns over a potential post-election controversy,” said Mike Straub, communications director for House Speaker Jake Cutler.

WISCONSIN

A federal judge in Wisconsin on Monday extended the deadline for absentee ballots to be received in the upcoming general election, reports CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. U.S. District Judge William Conley ordered that ballots that arrive by November 9, the Monday after Election Day, will count as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. Normally, absentee ballots in Wisconsin are due when the polls close at 8:00pm CT. “Given the sheer volume expected this November, there remains little doubt that tens of thousands of seemingly prudent, if unwary, would-be voters will not request an absentee ballot far enough in advance to allow them to receive it, vote, and return it for receipt by mail before the election day deadline despite acting well in advance of the deadline for requiring a ballot,” Conley wrote. Back in April, Judge Conley extended the ballot deadline to the Monday after the election, and a U.S. Supreme Court decision required ballots to be postmarked by Election Day. Because of that extended deadline, nearly 80,000 ballots were counted that would have otherwise been rejected for arriving after the usual Election Day deadline. In 2016, President Trump won Wisconsin by less than 23,000 votes. The ruling, however, will almost certainly be appealed, and because of that likelihood, Conley stayed his decision for a week and urged people to still take action early. “In recognition of the likelihood of appellate review, however, this order is STAYED for one week, and NO voter can depend on any extension of deadlines for electronic and mail-in registration and for receipt of absentee ballots unless finally upheld on appeal,” Conely wrote. In his order, Conley also extended the deadline for voters to register online or by mail by a week and ruled that people do not have to be a resident of their own county to serve as poll workers in this election. Last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and a state court in Michigan extended ballot receipt deadlines in those states, which both normally require absentee ballots to be returned by the time polls close.

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE HOUSE

While most eyes will be on the Senate in the wake of Ginsburg’s death, a potential vote on the next Supreme Court justice is also finding its way into the House races. Over the weekend, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked if the House could move to impeach Mr. Trump or Attorney General William Barr in order to slow down the confirmation process. Pelosi left the door open, saying, “We have our options. We have arrows in our quiver that I’m not about to discuss right now but the fact is we have a big challenge in our country.” Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in a joint-press conference with Senator Chuck Schumer that Democrats must commit to using “every procedural tool available to us to ensure that we buy ourselves the time necessary” but didn’t directly mention impeachment.

The House Republican campaign arm has been using Pelosi’s open-ended answer to target vulnerable Democrats, as well as bringing up past comments made in 2016 regarding the lack of hearings for Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat. “Every House Democrat needs to answer on whether or not they agree with Nancy Pelosi’s insane comments that the House will look to impeach President Trump if he exerts his constitutional right to nominate a new Supreme Court Justice,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Michael McAdams told CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. NRCC Chair Tom Emmer said on a Chicago morning radio show on Monday he thinks the topic of filling the Supreme Court with another conservative justice will “energize” Republican voters. “This is just going to get those same voters that would be voting Republican on the ballot…even more motivated to request a ballot, vote absentee or vote in person and vote for our Republican candidates,” he said.

Money came pouring in for Democrat campaigns following Ginsburg’s passing and Senator McConnell’s quick promise to hold a vote. Several House Democrat candidates included this topic in their fundraising emails, pointing to what a 6-3 GOP majority on the court would mean for Roe v. Wade and the ongoing lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. “Republicans trying to jam another conservative Justice onto the court before their ACA repeal lawsuit is heard on November 10th raises the stakes of this election and provides Americans with a constant reminder that Republicans are fighting to rip health coverage away from patients battling illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and COVID-19,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson Robyn Patterson said. House Democrats have already built up their fundraising advantage even before this weekend’s rush, though a Democratic strategist said House campaigns did see their own uptick during the weekend’s fundraising bump.

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