Hard to believe, but it’s the final day of July, meaning presidential candidates and political parties were making their final pitches before the monthly filing period closed, according to CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. In fundraising emails over the past couple of days, the Biden campaign was racing to raise $8 million more to close the month while the Trump campaign said it wanted to see $25 million more in donations before July came to an end.
This comes after the Biden campaign and Democrats outraised the president and Republicans in the last two monthly filings for May and June. Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee had its best online fundraising day and its third best online fundraising day ever Thursday. The online cash haul came in the same day that President Trump tweeted about delaying the election and former President Obama spoke at the funeral of John Lewis. Committees are required to file with the Federal Election Commission by August 20.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
Joe Biden zeroed in on why he has mostly stayed mum on President Trump’s election date change tweet on Thursday, stating the president was trying distract from the funeral of Rep. John Lewis. “By the way, as these numbers have gotten worse, what did he do today,” Biden asked the donors who joined him and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn virtually. “He called for not having the election on November 3. He wants to postpone the election…He doesn’t want to focus on what’s going on today with our buddy and your close friend, Jim, who you just buried.”
The fundraiser was also hosted by potential veep pick Rep. Karen Bass, who Clyburn urged Biden to consider, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. “Clearly Trump has dusted off the ‘George Wallace for President’ playbook and over the next few weeks we are going to see hatred and division like we haven’t seen in a long time,” Bass said last night. Friday evening he will be joined by another potential running mate: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, at a “grassroots” fundraiser.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
The Trump campaign has temporarily paused TV ad spending as it undergoes a “review and fine-tuning of the campaign’s strategy,” according to a Trump campaign official. CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga confirms the reevaluation under new campaign manager Bill Stepien does not extend to digital advertising. The Trump campaign has spent more than $84 million on television advertisements alone since the outset of the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, including a whopping $17.6 million in political battleground Florida and $10.4 million in Pennsylvania.
Two weeks ago, Mr. Trump promoted Stepien into the top job at the campaign, ousting Brad Parscale. After he was bumped up from political director to deputy campaign manager in late May, Stepien initiated a review of the operation’s infrastructure and spending. NBC News first reported the television ad pause.
So far, there’s little indication of change in strategy. A new digital ad released Friday falsely claims opponent Joe Biden supports defunding of police. Biden has said he supports redirecting some police resources to address mental health or to change the prison system, but he told CBS News he opposes defunding the police. The ad also utilizes images of protests taking place under President Trump’s leadership to make the argument that a Biden administration would not keep Americans safe.
While the campaign may be reevaluating its ad strategy, Mr. Trump is still forging ahead, announcing by tweet, “We are doing a new ad campaign on Sleepy Joe Biden that will be out on Monday.” A Trump campaign official told CBS News, “After the campaign reviewed ad strategy, we are going back up on the air with a focus on states that begin voting early. The 2020 calendar is different from past years and there are many states where a majority of votes will be cast before election day. This is a smarter strategy.”
CBS NEWS COVID CHRONICLES
FLORIDA INTERNET & TECHNOLOGY GAP
CBS News is chronicling what has changed in the lives of residents of some of the biggest battleground states in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. Less than a month out from schools restarting in districts across the country, COVID-19 has forced school administrators to incorporate distance learning in the upcoming semester. In this edition of CBS News COVID Chronicles, CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell explored how education leaders and local stakeholders are assessing the internet and technological gaps facing students who want to opt for remote learning but can’t afford technology, or live outside of the range of internet connectivity.
“When they can’t connect because they lack the technology, it instantly means they’re not learning,” said Whitney Johnson, a math teacher in Broward County. “If I’m teaching a class and it’s via Zoom, they’re missing that instruction. If they have questions that they need to ask me but they don’t have technology, they can’t ask me those questions…there’s a complete disconnect.”
In Leon County in Tallahassee, South City Foundation partners with the local school district to ensure that the south side of town, a particularly vulnerable community, has the educational information and resources needed. “This digital divide that we talk about, it spans rural and urban areas,” said South City Foundation co-chair Loranne Ausley, a state representative whose district includes Leon County. Ausley noted that high-speed internet is a “basic essential right” in today’s learning environment.
“It is something that families need not just for kids to access homework, but for families to access telehealth, to be able to work remotely, to be able to find out information about the health pandemic.” Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hannah said his team is tackling the digital divide by offering creative solutions like WiFi buses that were dispatched to low-income neighborhoods in the spring, to provide internet to students who didn’t live near internet access points.
His district has also spent $11 million to buy enough laptops for every student in the county. “This may be the future of education…but it’s not the future if our kids don’t have the devices, and they don’t have access, and then they get left behind,” said Hannah. “And that’s unacceptable.”
ISSUES THAT MATTER
Top Democratic senators are demanding answers from the U.S. Postmaster General Louis Dejoy about reported changes to mail delivery, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Michigan Senator Gary Peters, Delaware Senator Tom Carper and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar wrote a letter to DeJoy raising concerns about changes, which they called “questionable,” especially as more Americans say they plan to vote by mail in November. “Your failure to provide Congress with relevant information about these recent changes or to clarify to postal employees what changes you have directed as Postmaster General, undermines public trust and only increases concerns that service compromises will grow in advance of the election and peak mail volumes in November,” the senators wrote.
At an Arizona mask production site in May, President Trump thanked factory workers, GOP elected officials, and the owners of Sammy’s Mexican Grill. “I think most of us, all of us, all the Latinos are going to vote for you,” Jorge Rivas told the president.
Now Rivas is lending his voice to Trump campaign ads that have blanketed the state, arguing in Spanish that the president’s Democratic rival “doesn’t have the energy or capability to be the great leader this country needs.” The spot is among more than $400,000 in ads that have aired on Spanish-language TV channels in Arizona in recent weeks, according to Kantar/CMAG ad tracking data, outpacing spending in battleground states like Florida, which has nearly three times the number of Spanish speakers. Though Arizona awarded its 11 electoral votes to Donald Trump in 2016, Biden has tied or topped the president in nearly every recent poll here. If the former vice president were to win the Grand Canyon state, he’d be the first Democrat in three decades to do so.
Much of Biden’s lead comes from Hispanic voters, who comprise a third of Arizona residents. Sixty-nine percent support him in the latest CBS News Battleground Tracker poll. In 2016, 61% of Hispanic voters cast ballots for Hillary Clinton here. “In 2016, we left too many young Latino votes on the table. In 2018, a lot of us put local investment here to turning out younger Latino voters and they did,” said Congressman Ruben Gallego. Exit polls reported Hispanic or Latino voters cast 19% of all Arizona ballots cast in 2018, up from 15% in 2016. The Phoenix-area Democrat serves on the Biden campaign’s “Latino leadership committee” of surrogates attending virtual Zoom events and fundraisers. “The fact that they are investing this much time and money and effort in Arizona this early is impressive,” Gallego added. Read more here from CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin about President Trump and former Vice President Biden’s fight for Arizona’s Hispanic vote.
Meme 2020 is working on a political campaign aimed at getting out the vote predominantly among Gen Z and Millennials leading up to the 2020 election, according to CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. The goal is to help give them the tools that they need to register to vote and cast their ballot come November. The effort is especially focused on informing people on how to vote by mail in their state given the coronavirus pandemic.
“Humor is a really amazing vessel to get someone to engage with content and also think about stuff that they might not want to think about on a daily basis like voting or politics, especially given today’s state,” said Meme 2020 chief of staff Ryan Patrick Kelley of their approach. “The goal is to engage and then direct them to the website to get them all the information that they need, starting with how to vote by mail.”
Meme 2020 is partnering with names like @MyTherapistSays which has 5.5 million followers on Instagram, @TankSinatra with its 2.6 million followers on IG and @Betches with its 7 million followers. It’s now also teaming up with the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, which has attracted attention for some of its more traditional ads that have gone viral, and others, like Rhyme Combinator, including on an animation project released Friday on YouTube. The campaign financing comes through tech entrepreneur Reid Hoffman. This week, Meme 2020 also filed paperwork for the creation of a super PAC called Meme America PAC.
Senator Ron Wyden slammed President Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying the president “will go down in history for turning a public health crisis into a culture war.” Wyden added, “What a mess Donald Trump has made of coronavirus policy.” The Oregon Democrat made the comments in an interview with CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett for this week’s episode of “The Takeout” podcast. “Donald Trump will go down in history as turning a public health crisis into a culture war. I just believe that’s led to the needless deaths of so many of our friends and neighbors.” You can listen to the full podcast here.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Ohio and the Lawyers’ Committee are suing the state of Ohio over its system of matching signatures on absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications. The federal lawsuit was filed as more voters are turning to vote-by-mail as the COVID-19 pandemic continues across the nation, reports CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman. Alora Thomas, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement that county election officials may not be equipped to assess matching signatures and ballots, and therefore could toss out ballots. “Ohioans’ fundamental right to vote is at risk here, and state officials can and should fix this broken system immediately, especially given the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
Pennsylvania will pay the postage for mail-in ballots in the November election, Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar announced Friday. The state’s move to provide every county with funds to pay for prepaid postage comes after over 1.5 million Pennsylvanians voted by mail in a June primary, about 15 times the number in the 2016 general.
“Our goal is to make voting as accessible, safe, and easy for eligible voters as possible,” Boockvar said in a statement. “Mail-in or absentee voting with prepaid postage means Pennsylvanians can vote from the comfort of their own home, without having to make a trip to the post office to buy a stamp, during the COVID-19 pandemic.” CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak says this is the first year all Pennsylvania voters are eligible to send their ballots through the mail, following bipartisan legislation in the fall.
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