Future presidential debates between President Trump and Joe Biden have been called into question after the commission that organizes the event said it would be held virtually to minimize the risk of spreading the coronavirus, CBS News managing editor for politics Stefan Becket and campaign reporter Nicole Sganga report. The Commission on Presidential Debates announced the second debate scheduled for October 15 in Miami would instead feature virtual appearances by the two candidates, a change the president quickly dismissed as “not acceptable.” In an interview with Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo earlier in the morning Mr. Trump said, “I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. That’s not what debating is all about,” He added, “You sit behind a computer and do a debate, it’s ridiculous. And then they cut you off whenever they want.” Mr. Trump’s decision to forgo the event led the Biden campaign to back out as well, with deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield urging the commission to reschedule the town hall for the following week. Bedingfield said the campaign was prepared to accept the new format, but would now “find an appropriate place to take questions from voters directly” on the day of the debate.
Bill Stepien, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager who also recently tested positive for the virus, confirmed the president’s decision. “We’ll pass on this sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden and do a rally instead,” he said in a statement. In a second statement, Stepien agreed that the second debate should be moved to October 22, and the third to October 29. But the Biden campaign rejected Stepien’s proposal to push the third and final debate back, with Bedingfield issuing yet another statement saying, “Donald Trump doesn’t make the debate schedule; the Debate Commission does.”
In its unexpected announcement early Thursday morning, the nonpartisan debate commission said the second debate would “take the form of a town meeting, in which the candidates would participate from separate remote locations.” The change was made “to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate,” the group said, and appeared to take both campaigns by surprise. Mr. Trump told Fox Business that the commission had not informed the campaign of their decision to alter the format of the debate before announcing it publicly. A source familiar with the ongoing debate negotiations told CBS News that the commission did not consult either campaign before making the move, saying the commission “decided this unilaterally.” The president tested positive for the coronavirus and began experiencing symptoms a week ago, on October 1, according to White House physician Sean Conley. As of Wednesday, the president had been symptom-free for more than 24 hours, according to Conley.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
Mr. Trump has not been seen in person since his return to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday, CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga reports. Instead, the president has issued a series of short videos distributed on social media. After calling into Fox Business News for an hour-long interview on Thursday, the president posted two video messages to Twitter, including a direct appeal to seniors. “So to my favorite people in the world — the seniors. I’m a senior. I know you don’t know that. Nobody knows that. Maybe you don’t have to tell them, but I’m a senior,” the president began. Mr. Trump promised senior citizens that the therapeutic medications — including the antibody cocktail Regeneron — he took at Walter Reed to treat his illness would soon be made available to them for no cost. “We’re taking care of our seniors. You’re not vulnerable but they like to say you’re vulnerable. You’re the least vulnerable but for this one thing, you are vulnerable. So am I,” the president remarked. “So we’re going to take care of our seniors — all free!” Mr. Trump roundly criticized democratic rival Biden at the end of the video, claiming the former vice president “didn’t know what he was doing” at the onset of the swine flu. “But I do know what I’m doing,” Mr. Trump said. While just over 12,000 Americans died of H1N1 from 2009-10 according to CDC estimates, over 210,000 have died in the United States from COVID-19. In his first remarks since Wednesday’s debate, Vice President Mike Pence told the Boulder City, Nevada, crowd that Mr. Trump’s agenda won the night. “A lot of talk this morning on TV about who won the debate. But I think when you compare the Biden-Harris agenda with what President Donald Trump has done and will continue to do for America, there’s no question for who won the debate. President Donald Trump won the debate hands down,” Pence said near the beginning of his remarks. CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro reports that during the rally, Pence continued talking points he had on Wednesday. Pence critiqued Biden on saying he won’t increase taxes but would still try to repeal Mr. Trump’s tax cuts, and claimed Biden would end fracking and he called the vice president “hysterical” about Mr. Trump’s China ban at the onset of the pandemic. Pence also said last night made it clear that Biden would want to “pack” the Supreme Court, referencing Biden and Harris’ dodging answers on the question. He thanked the crowd of about 50 people for their well wishes for Mr. Trump as he was hospitalized from COVID-19. Pence, who has been the campaign’s top surrogate as Mr.Trump recovers from the coronavirus, said the president would be back on the campaign trail “before you know it.” In addition to Nevada, Pence also traveled to the battleground of Arizona on Thursday.
Biden and Harris are campaigning in Arizona on Thursday, marking their first joint appearance on the campaign trail since the Democratic National Convention, reports CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. Biden again declined to say whether he would add more justices to the United States Supreme Court if he wins the election. “You will know my opinion on court packing when the election is over,” Biden said. “But you know the moment I answer that question the headline in every one of your papers will be about that other than, other than focusing on what is happening now. The election has begun. There has never been a court appointment once an election begun.” Biden was also asked about the plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer that state and federal prosecutors unveiled on Thursday. He said Mr. Trump hasn’t done enough to condemn hate groups. “Look the words of a president matter. Whether they can – you heard me say this before. They can cause a nation to have the market rise or fall. Go to war. Bring peace. But they can also breathe oxygen into those who are filled with hate and danger. And I just think it’s got to stop,” Biden said, according to CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman. Biden and Harris also visited Arizona’s Heard Museum, which showcases American Indian art and shares the stories of American Indian people. Cindy McCain, the wife of the late Republican Senator John McCain and who recently endorsed Mr. Biden, joined the Democratic ticket. Biden and Harris later spoke at a bus tour kickoff event.
And in the wake of last night’s vice presidential debate, CBS News political reporter Ed O’Keefe reports the Biden campaign says it raised a little more than $12 million. The donations included those who opted to buy a $10 dollar “Truth Over Flies” fly swatter the campaign quickly ordered up after a fly landed in the hair of Vice President Pence. The campaign says it sold out of the roughly 35,000 fly swatters they ordered within hours. The campaign was also touting the growing success of its voter registration website, IWillVote.com. In one night, the campaign says the website had more than a third of the traffic than it had in the entire month of September. Much of the traffic was driven by the campaign’s decision to quickly buy a vanity URL – FlyWillVote.com.
BATTLEGROUNDS IN THE BATTLEGROUNDS
MICHIGAN – *MACOMB & OAKLAND COUNTIES*
Southeast Michigan is home to the state’s latest population center: Detroit and its surrounding suburbs. Two of those suburban counties, Macomb and Oakland, will play a large role in determining whether Mr. Trump wins Michigan again, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. But the counties have their differences. Macomb has long been a swing county with many working class voters who have been the core of Mr. Trump’s base. Oakland is a wealthier county, with a larger population of college educated voters, including many women and Independents who have revolted against Mr. Trump.
Macomb County is often pointed to as the bellwether of Michigan. Since 2006, the candidate who has won the county has also won statewide in gubernatorial and presidential races. Former President Obama won the county twice, though his margins went from winning by 8.5 in 2008 to winning by 4 in 2012. A boost from white working class voters in the county helped propel President Trump to an 11.5 point win in 2016 and his strength in the county helped fuel his upset win in Michigan. In 2018, however, Michigan’s Democratic Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, turned the county blue again, winning by 3.5 points. Cecil St. Pierre, chair of the Michigan 9th District Republicans, which includes Macomb County, said Whitmer ran a better campaign than her Republican opponent, but believes Republicans have seen a boost in volunteer support in 2020. He also said Whitmer’s COVID policies, which have drawn sharp criticism from conservatives, helped drive support for the president. “What Whitmer has done and what she tries to do, she’s been the best help for the president,” St. Pierre said, referring to her use of emergency powers during the pandemic. A recent Detroit News/WDIV poll showed Whitmer’s approval rating at 59%, but St. Pierre brushed that off, saying Republicans in his county have been upset with her actions. Other issues driving voters, he said, are trade, law and order, immigration and economic concerns. The Biden campaign has made a major push in Macomb County too. Biden has admitted he may not win back all of the working-class Democrats who voted for Mr. Obama then Mr. Trump, but said it’s about shaving the margins. Biden held an event in Macomb County in September and earlier this week Senator Bernie Sanders stumped for Biden in the county. Representative Andy Levin, a Democrat who represents part of Macomb County, acknowledged the massive displays of enthusiasm for Mr. Trump around the county. But, he believes Mr. Biden’s leadership will help him, especially during COVID. “That’s the kind of unifying leader Joe Biden is and I think the people sense it,” Levin said. “They’re sick of this not taking the biggest public health crisis in a century seriously.”
Oakland County has been more solidly blue during presidential cycles for the last two decades, but a strong Republican base helped former Republican Governor Rick Snyder win by double digit margins in 2010 and 2014. In 2012 and 2016, Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton won Oakland by about 8 points. Whitmer blew the doors open in 2018, when many independent and suburban women rejected Republicans, to win by 17 points. Democrats also flipped two U.S. House seats held by Republicans and some state legislative seats during the 2018 midterms. State Representative Mari Manoogian, whose district includes some of the wealthiest Oakland County communities, won her race by 13 points after a Republican carried it by 7 points in 2016. She said her constituents are worried about public education, healthcare and COVID. Many have also been turned off by Mr. Trump’s political style, she said. “The president’s brand of politics, the way that he behaves, the kind of just negative engagement he has with his co-workers, frankly, with other co-equal branches of government, it’s not something that sits well with the folks in my district,” Manoogian said. Oakland County Republican Party chair Rocky Raczkowski admitted 2018 was a strong year for Democrats and believes a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana may have helped the Democratic candidates increase their margins. He said Republicans in the county are focused on safety, security and economic issues. Raczkowski said that there’s been a major effort by a group of women leading Women for Trump events and supporters showing up have been ready to volunteer and spread the word about Mr. Trump. Still, he thinks there’s room for Republicans to improve their messaging to women voters. “Maybe we do a poor job of marketing and expressing how the Republican Party actually does what the majority of women feel that the government should be doing,” Raczkowski said. “We’re praying that obviously that people realize what’s at stake in this election.”
CBS NEWS COVID CHRONICLES
*UPDATE* TEXAS – TEACHERS
In one of the biggest school districts in the country, some students are so satisfied with virtual learning that they see no benefit in returning to in-person learning until the threat of contracting COVID-19 has abated or a vaccine is widely available, reports CBS News campaign reporter Cara Korte. “I’m very, very lucky to have some really, really awesome teachers,” said Houston high school senior Jennifer Hamad. “I don’t think if my teachers were on the moon that would change.” And Hamad, who is the speaker of the Houston Independent School District Student Congress, fears that “sending students back to school right now, prematurely, creates more disruption and is more disruptive and dangerous to students’ lives than it is beneficial.” The Houston Independent School District (HISD) is allowing families to choose whether to keep students learning at home or in-person. Hamad and the student congress don’t think that the district has done enough to keep students, teachers, and faculty safe for in-person learning. “It’s unethical to make people fit into that environment,” she said. “You’re needlessly putting lives at risk by making people do in-person instruction.” Read more here about the Houston student group who want school to remain virtual until a vaccine.
ISSUES THAT MATTER
The number of Americans applying for first-time jobless aid dipped last week but remained at a high level, indicating ongoing woes in the job market, reports CBS News digital data reporter Irina Ivanova. Some 840,000 adults filed initial unemployment claims in the week ended October 3, the Labor Department said Thursday. That figure, adjusted for seasonal variation, was down by 9,000 claims from the prior week and was in line with economists’ forecasts. Another 464,000 people applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a broader program intended for self-employed and gig workers. This was the first time in two months that applications for self-employed aid dipped below half a million. Still, the number of jobless applications is significantly higher than it was at the peak of the Great Recession. All told, 25.5 million people were receiving some form of unemployment aid in the week that ended September 19, the latest period for which data is available, the Associated Press reported. Underscoring the fragility of industries battered by the coronavirus, large companies including American Airlines, United Airlines and Disney have recently announced tens of thousands of jobs cuts. Economists are also concerned about the impact of colder weather on the coronavirus pandemic and the toll it could take on the labor market. “If cooler weather pushes infections up again as people move indoors, the very modest decline in jobless claims could easily become a renewed spike,” Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics said in a report. “Either way, they are far too high, still well above the 665,000 peak — for one week — seen after the crash of 2008.” This week’s figures are less reliable than usual since California, the state with the most unemployment applications, has paused new filings for two weeks while it works out its backlog of claims. Across the country, hiring has slowed just as federal relief aid has run out, hampering an economy still reeling from the pandemic. Employers added 661,000 jobs in September, less than half of August’s gain and the third straight monthly decline. At the same time, Congress and the White House are at loggerheads over talks to inject another round of stimulus into the economy. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned earlier this week that a slowing economy could create a “downward spiral” leading to further job cuts and urging lawmakers to pass a stimulus package. Just over half the 22 million jobs lost to the coronavirus have been recovered, leaving the economy with 10.7 million fewer jobs than in February — a figure that exceeds all the job losses from the 2008-2009 Great Recession. “The suffering facing the unemployed still reaches far and wide, and the failure to provide any aid for American workers will reverberate throughout the economy,” Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, said in a statement.
Ahead of a flurry of stops in Arizona from Pence, Biden and Harris this week, buses from both campaigns made appearances in the battleground state as Arizonans began to cast their first early ballots. The “Team Trump on Tour” bus rallied supporters ahead of the debate on Wednesday with top Republicans in the state, including Senator Martha McSally. The Biden campaign rallied supporters starting in the Navajo Nation, though the stop appeared to violate the tribe’s COVID-19 restrictions.
Also in Arizona, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled late Wednesday against the Republican National Committee and the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, denying their request to undo a lower court’s decision to extend the cutoff of the state’s voter registration to October 23rd, reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. Arizona’s secretary of state, a Democrat, had said she does not plan to appeal the decision. However, the judges said they would “reconsider the request” to stay the lower court’s ruling from Arizona Attorney General Mark Bronvich, a Republican, who has moved to intervene as a defendant in the appeal. The case is among a handful of court battles still raging in the battleground state, even as Arizonans have since begun early voting. Brnovich recently persuaded the appeals court to stay a decision in their legal fight with the Arizona Democratic Party over whether voters will have time after Election Day to fix unsigned ballots.
Days after voting and civil rights groups filed a complaint against Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis and Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee regarding the state’s voter registration deadline, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker heard arguments from the parties involved in the lawsuit during a telephone hearing Thursday morning. CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that the complaint was filed Tuesday, the same day that Lee issued a directive extending the state’s voter registration deadline until 7 p.m. on October 6 following technical difficulties with the online voter registration portal hours before the state’s initial registration deadline on October 5. During the hearing Thursday, Walker made clear that voters were not at fault in this instance. “We keep focusing on the voter. The voters didn’t sabotage the Secretary of State’s website. It failed. It failed the people of Florida,” Walker said during a telephone hearing Thursday. “Somebody’s relying on the state’s promise ‘you can register online, you can register until midnight on October 5th,’ it’s a covenant between Secretary Lee and the people of Florida, and the system fails. Help me to understand why is that a minimum burden on their right?” Walker also listed factors like the pandemic, more absentee ballots being cast, and supervisors of elections’ resources being stretched as variables to be considered when determining whether to extend the voter registration deadline again ahead of the general election less than 30 days away. “Historically, Florida hasn’t managed to count the votes properly when there’s not a pandemic,” said Walker. However the representative for the plaintiffs noted that because registrations would be coming in electronically, they should be easier to process. The representative also conceded that either way there will be an issue whether it’s with election administration or voter confusion, “either way it’s people who are excluded for invalid reason [and] can’t participate.” Walker could make a decision as early as Thursday afternoon.
Federal and state authorities have unveiled charges against 13 people accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. According to a federal complaint unsealed on Thursday, six of those people face charges of conspiring to kidnap Whitmer. The affidavit alleges one of the accused men said Whitmer had “uncontrolled power right now.” Whitmer faced backlash from conservatives for her use of emergency powers to issue executive orders to fight COVID-19. Recently, the state Supreme Court ruled that one of the laws she used to issue those executive orders was unconstitutional. Michigan Attorney Dana Nessel also announced charges at the state level against seven more people. She said they are linked to a militia group known as the Wolverine Watchmen. Nessel said the individuals “made threats of violence to instigate a civil war” and “engaged in the planning and training” of an operation to “attack the state Capitol building and kidnap government officials, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.” Whitmer said she hopes there are convictions to bring “these sick and depraved men to justice” and said now should be a time for national unity. Whitmer slammed President Trump not denouncing far-right groups like The Proud Boys, whom he told to “stand back and stand by” during last week’s debate. “Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry, as a call to action,” Whitmer said. “Hatred, bigotry and violence have no place in the great state of Michigan. If you break the law or conspire to commit heinous acts of violence against anyone, we will find you, we will hold you accountable and we will bring you to justice.”
Top aides for the Biden campaign in Nevada say they are mounting a concerted push to turn out Latino voters in the battleground state over the final weeks before Election Day, blanketing the state with Spanish-language volunteers, campaign events, and new television and radio ads, reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. Only the Biden campaign has any future reservations on Spanish-language television stations in Nevada, booking more than $275,000 in advertising according to Kantar/CMAG data.
The Franklin County Board of Elections held a press conference to provide an update on some voters receiving incorrect ballots in the mail. The board still does not know how many voters were affected. Elections director Ed Leonard told reporters that one of the functions of one of the scanners was disabled and that was determined to be the “root cause” of the issue that led to some voters receiving an incorrect ballot. Leonard said that Bluecrest, the system vendor for the county, told the board that the issue occurred on October 3 at 2:24pm. At this moment, CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman reports the board said there is no indication or belief that there was nefarious intent behind the issue. The board added that Bluecrest will be able to determine who was logged in to the machine while the switch was disabled. “Let me assure you no vote will be counted twice and every voter will receive an accurate ballot and that ballot will be counted,” Leonard said. Voters who received an incorrect ballot and who do not want to wait for their replacement ballot can vote in person at the early vote center in the county. Leonard added that once there is a finalized list of impacted voters, the timeline for replacement ballots to be issued and produced is 72 hours. Leonard added that the issue does not appear to be related the volume of ballots requested and processed. “We are confident that we can handle the number of ballots that are being requested and the number of ballots that are being returned,” he said.
With less than a month until Election Day, Pennsylvania lawmakers are still trying to fix a logistical challenge that local officials statewide have repeatedly warned could delay results. Pennsylvania state House Representative Kevin Boyle, a Democrat, on Thursday introduced a bill that would let counties begin pre-canvassing mail ballots 10 days before Election Day rather than waiting until Nov. 3. Early mail ballot processing is allowed in three dozen states according to CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak, but Pennsylvania makes counties wait until Election Day to begin even the earliest stages of ballot processing. Pennsylvania’s governor and secretary of state, both Democrats, have each asked the legislature to allow counties three weeks of pre-canvassing, which refers to a time when they can open envelopes, check signatures and scan ballots, but not record or publish totals. At the start of last month, compromise appeared near as the GOP-controlled state House moved to pass a bill that would give counties three days or pre-canvassing. Governor Tom Wolf had initially touted the bill as a sign the two sides would reach an agreement. But because Republicans attached provisions that would drastically limit the use of drop boxes for returning mail ballots and allow campaign representatives to serve as poll watchers outside their own counties, Wolf changed course and said he would veto the bill. In Pennsylvania’s June primary, the first when voters could cast ballots by mail without an excuse, over 1.5 million residents did so. The influx of mail voting coupled with still running an in-person election left counties overwhelmed and still counting ballots in some cases two weeks after Primary Day. The effect was that the leading candidate in 10 down ballot races changed after Election Day. In the upcoming general election, nearly a million more Pennsylvanians have already applied to vote by mail with over two weeks remaining to do so.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals put a stay on a decision from a district court judge to extend Wisconsin’s absentee ballot deadline by six days, reports CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. In September, a district court judge ruled that ballots should be counted if they are postmarked by November 3 and arrive by November 9. Normally, absentee ballots are due when the polls close on Election Day. The Republican-controlled legislature appealed that decision and the 7th Circuit initially ruled that the Legislature didn’t have standing to bring the case, which left the extended deadline in place. After a decision from the Wisconsin Supreme Court found that the Legislature could bring the appeal, the 7th Circuit put a stay on the lower court’s decision, meaning the normal deadline is in place for absentee ballots. Democrats could appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The 7th Circuit judges said that the decision came too close Election Day and that political leaders should make these decisions, not judges. In a dissent, Judge Illana Rovner said he decision could mean “thousands of Wisconsin citizens will lose their right to vote despite doing everything they reasonably can to exercise it.” She added “Good luck and G-d bless, Wisconsin. You are going to need it.”
IN THE SENATE
Democratic Senate hopefuls are spending big on ads in key battleground states. In some cases, the Democrats have outspent Republican incumbents by as much as 2 to 1, according to CBS News political unit associate producers Sarah Ewall-Wice and Eleanor Watson. Democrats face a friendlier map than in 2018 and have been gearing up for a battle to take control of a chamber that had been under Republican leadership since 2015. The late inning addition of a Supreme Court vacancy has only added fuel to the fire and cash to their war chests. In North Carolina, a race now upended by both a scandal involving Democrat Cal Cunningham’s flirtatious text messages and Republican Senator Thom Tillis testing positive for coronavirus, about $130 million has already been spent on ads and another $35 million at least is expected by Election Day according to tracking by Kantar/CMAG. Cunningham alone has spent nearly $18 million already in comparison to Tillis’ just $5.5 million on a race that has them neck-and-neck before word of the scandal broke. The match-up between Democrat Mark Kelly and incumbent Republican Senator Martha McSally in Arizona has netted an eye-popping $116 million in ads, including spending from outside groups. In Kelly’s quest to take the seat, he has spent $37 million on ads compared to McSally’s $18.6 million so far. And in the two-woman race in Maine, where polls show Senator Susan Collins trailing Democrat Sara Gideon as the Senator campaigns between a rock and a hard place thanks in part to the recent Supreme Court vacancy. Gideon has also spent more than double what Collins has on ads to date with more than $17 million to Collins’ less than $8 million. Read more about battleground ad spending here.
Republicans incumbents facing tough reelection challenges have taken to the airwaves this week to say they support protecting patients with preexisting conditions even though there is still not comprehensive health care plan to replace the Affordable Care Act if it is repealed, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson. The Affordable Care Act ensures that health insurance providers cannot refuse coverage based on a condition a patient had before the start of their health care coverage, and estimates show that about 54 million people have preexisting conditions. Protecting patients with preexisting conditions has been a top issue on the campaign trail since Mr. Trump led the call for repealing and replacing the ACA upon entering office in 2017. This week, Senator Joni Ernst, facing reelection in Iowa, released an ad highlighting that her sister has diabetes. “No one messes with my sister, not bullies or insurance companies,” Ernst says in the ad. Highlighting a family member who has a preexisting condition is a tactic successful Republican Senate campaigns used in the 2018 midterms. Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley released an ad sharing that his son has a preexisting condition, and Florida Governor Rick Scott recounted how a family member had a rare hip disease. Hawley defeated incumbent Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, and Scott beat Democratic Senator Bill Nelson. As attorney general, Hawley joined the Texas lawsuit to overturn the ACA that is now headed to the Supreme Court on November 10, notes CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice.
IN THE HOUSE
Several of the House races to watch in Pennsylvania are those taking place in areas that were pivotal to Mr. Trump’s upset win in 2016. But in 2018, many of those districts were won by Democrats. And after protests and riots against police brutality, an ongoing fight over mail ballots and a Supreme Court vacancy, the main issue at the top of candidates’ and constituents’ minds is still the coronavirus and its economic blowback. CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro wrote about three races that overlap with crucial parts of the state to watch election night, such as the 8th district race in the Northeast, a blue collar area which swung dramatically to support Trump in 2016, and the 6th district race in the West Philadelphia suburbs, which have seen a strengthened Democrat base since 2016. But the state’s most competitive House race in the 10th district, between Democrat Eugene DePasquale and Republican incumbent Scott Perry, could be a place where Democrats could flip this year– or at least shave off Trump’s margin of victory in the more rural, central parts of the state. Read the full story by Navarro here.
One competitive House races not mentioned in the story is the 17th district race between incumbent Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Sean Parnell. Just north of Pittsburgh, Mr. Trump was involved early in this race, endorsing Parnell and giving him a speaking slot at August’s Republican National Convention. Lamb was one of the first Democrats to pull off the feat of flipping a Trump-won district during a 2018 special election. Since the redistricting, and Lamb’s win in the midterms, he’s been slightly favored to hold this seat. The Cook Political Report rates this race as “Lean Democratic.” Other House competitions to watch in the state include the 7th district election between freshman Democrat Susan Wild and Lisa Scheller, and the 1st district race between Democrat Christina Finello and Republican Brian Fitzpatrick, one of only two House Republicans seeking re-election in a district Hillary Clinton won in 2016.