Table of Contents
- 1 House Democrats Proposes Commission to Evaluate Trump’s Fitness to Govern
- 1.1 The Message
- 1.2 Fact Check
- 1.3 Where It’s Running
- 1.4 The Takeaway
Here’s what you need to know:
President Trump is planning to host hundreds of people on the South Lawn of the White House on Saturday for his first in-person event since he announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus, three people familiar with the plans said on Friday, and his campaign announced that he would hold a rally in Florida on Monday.
The president was expected to make remarks from one of the balconies at the White House to the crowd, which was expected to include people attending an event elsewhere in Washington staged by a Trump supporter, Candace Owens, one of the people familiar with the plans said. The event, which was first reported by ABC News, continues Mr. Trump’s pattern of using the White House for political events, as he did with his speech to the Republican National Convention.
Some in the White House and on the Trump campaign expressed concern about what the president might say in his remarks at the Saturday event, and feared the entire event would serve to underscore existing criticism that Mr. Trump has been cavalier about a virus that has killed over 210,000 Americans.
The event will come just two weeks after a Rose Garden celebration of the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, an event that White House officials are looking at as the possible source of an outbreak of the coronavirus that has infected Mr. Trump, the first lady and at least two dozen other people.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist, told CBS News Radio Friday that there had been “a superspreader event in the White House,” noting that people had crowded together there without wearing masks.
One person familiar with the planning for the White House event said that all attendees would be required to bring and wear a mask, and that they would have to submit to a temperature check and a fill out a questionnaire.
And Mr. Trump is planning to hit the campaign trail again, even as outside medical experts caution that doing so could pose risks to himself and others: The campaign announced that he would deliver remarks at a “Make America Great Again” event at Orlando Sanford International Airport on Monday at 7 p.m. Eastern time.
Attendees at the Florida event will be asked to sign a disclaimer stating that “you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to Covid-19.”
In a meeting after the Republican National Convention, where the president staged his acceptance speech on the South Lawn in front of supporters — many of whom had not been tested — the president joked about the agitation he had caused among his critics about how he may have violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activities while on the job, by using the White House grounds for political purposes. He said he thought he would do it more.
He pitched the idea of staging events and concerts on the South Lawn every week up through Election Day. He appeared to be half kidding, but half intrigued by the idea, aides said.
Mr. Trump had hoped to begin traveling to campaign rallies this weekend, even as outside medical experts expressed alarm, questioning whether ending the president’s isolation so soon met guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mr. Trump had called into Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News on Thursday night and said that he wanted to hold a rally in Florida on Saturday and another in Pennsylvania on Sunday. That came after the White House physician, Dr. Sean P. Conley, had announced that Mr. Trump could safely “return to public engagements” on Saturday, a timeline that was questioned by outside experts. Within the White House, aides argued against Mr. Trump traveling to rallies this weekend.
Outside medical experts said that an inappropriately expedited return to the public for Mr. Trump could risk infecting others. And resuming public duties might worsen his condition, which could still deteriorate in the next several days. Covid-19 patients can take turns for the worse during the second week of illness.
Based on the information provided, “No, I would not clear him to start public engagements on Saturday,” said Dr. Phyllis Tien, an infectious-disease physician at the University of California, San Francisco, where she conducts and advises on Covid-19 clinical trials.
If the president recently came off dexamethasone, a steroid normally administered only to severely sick Covid-19 patients, his well-being could take a dip in the next couple of days, said Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious-disease physician based in South Carolina.
Then there are the potential risks Mr. Trump could pose to others. According to C.D.C. guidelines, people with mild to moderate cases of Covid-19 most likely “remain infectious no longer than 10 days after symptom onset.” Dr. Conley’s statement cited Saturday as “Day 10 since Thursday’s diagnosis.”
Dr. Tien said she was skeptical of such an assessment. The slew of treatments Mr. Trump received, she said, suggest that his disease was severe, which could extend the duration of his recommended isolation to 20 days after the onset of symptoms.
Mr. Trump might be able to end his isolation early if he tested negative using a very accurate laboratory test, Dr. Tien said. But no such results were reported in Thursday’s memo, which mentioned only a “trajectory of advanced diagnostics.”
President Trump said Friday that it was a “disgrace” that there would not be public findings before Election Day from a Justice Department review of the origins of the investigation into possible conspiracy between his 2016 campaign and Russian officials.
Mr. Trump, speaking during a two-hour radio interview with the conservative host Rush Limbaugh, also revealed that his doctors had said at one point that he was entering a “very bad phase” in his battle with the coronavirus.
The interview was billed as a “virtual rally,” in lieu of the ones that Mr. Trump is not holding as he fights the virus. It was intended to show him as able to sustain a long interview.
When Mr. Trump was told by Mr. Limbaugh about the lack of findings from an investigation into the origins of the Russia inquiry before Election Day, Mr. Trump said, “If that’s the case, I’m very disappointed.”
“I’ll say it to his face,” he said of Attorney General William P. Barr, whom he has been pressing to indict several adversaries, including former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his election opponent. “That’s a disgrace. I think it’s a disgrace. It’s an embarrassment.”
Mr. Trump also complained about the Pulitzer Prizes given to The New York Times and The Washington Post for coverage of the investigation by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into possible conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The two-hour event began with the song that Mr. Trump usually uses to open his signature rallies, “God Bless the U.S.A.” Mr. Limbaugh almost immediately said to Mr. Trump when he came on, “We love you!”
Early into their interview, Mr. Trump said he was not in “great shape” when he fell ill with the coronavirus. Then he said something that contradicted an earlier claim that he thought he would have gotten better even without medicine: After he was treated with a cocktail of medicine, including an experimental antibody cocktail produced by Regeneron, “I recovered immediately, almost immediately,” Mr. Trump said, adding, “I might not have recovered at all from Covid” without the drugs.
The radio interview was supposed to be a town hall-style forum, but Mr. Limbaugh ultimately asked only three or four questions. One was about health care, and people’s fears about being covered during a pandemic. Mr. Trump responded by complaining about an article in The Atlantic last month alleging that he had disparaged members of the military.
Mr. Trump acknowledged he had “lingering” impact on his voice from the coronavirus, but he sounded mostly like he usually does.
Mr. Limbaugh, who had tried to coax the president to end the interview by saying “I know you’ve got a jam-packed day left on your schedule,” ended up cutting Mr. Trump off with end-of-program music.
A similar thing happened when Mr. Trump was interviewed by Sean Hannity on Fox News last night.
President Trump’s blunt-force 2020 strategy is less about improving his own image outside of his relatively small mosh pit of diehard supporters than about degrading confidence in the American political system — and stoking negative sentiment about Joseph R. Biden Jr.
It worked in 2016, when he was able to damage the standing of Hillary Clinton, who had come into the race with high disapproval ratings.
Yet one of the most important shifts in the dynamics of the 2020 campaign — and one of the most overlooked — is the fact that Mr. Biden’s standing among voters has steadily risen over the summer and fall, despite Mr. Trump’s relentlessly caustic attacks.
While Mr. Trump’s shrinking share of the electoral pie has dominated coverage, Mr. Biden’s slice — as measured by his percentages of the vote in polls and voter approval surveys — has been quietly and consistently expanding. It is an unmistakable sign that the race is not following Mr. Trump’s seek-and-destroy script.
The president’s approval rating is underwater by about 10 percentage points, roughly 53 to 43 percent, according to various averages of polls. The former vice president, by contrast, has held steady in the high 40s and low 50s in both voter favorability and his share of the vote in head-to-head matchups with Mr. Trump.
Even though the race is still highly competitive in many battleground states, Mr. Biden now holds a near-double-digit national lead, and is peeking above the critical 50 percent threshold, a number experts see as an indicator of a race playing out in the challenger’s favor.
“It’s hard to stress how rare it is for a presidential candidate in the modern era to have such a high share of the vote at this stage,” Nate Cohn wrote in his daily analysis of the polling on Friday. “Just go back through the last decade of Real Clear Politics averages, and you’ll find there’s only one instance when a candidate eclipsed Mr. Biden’s 52 percent over the final few months of a race: Barack Obama on the day of the 2008 election.”
Mr. Biden’s increasing approval ratings have been noted across a range of national and state polls, and were the centerpiece of a polling update provided by the largest Democratic super PAC, Priorities USA, on Friday.
Since September, Mr. Biden’s net approval rating among registered voters has grown from 42 percent to 51 percent, according a survey of 2,019 likely voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin from Oct. 2 to Oct. 7 by two Democratic polling firms working with the PAC.
Those changes were particularly stark when it came to specific issues, where Mr. Biden has shown strong gains on his approach to the pandemic, Social Security, health care and the economy, the poll showed.
Guy Cecil, the PAC’s executive director, told reporters that Mr. Biden’s approval surge was, simply, a matter of his modeling “responsible behavior” in contrast to Mr. Trump, and that that advantage has been fortified by a barrage of pro-Biden ads emphasizing the contrast between the two men.
Making a stop in Las Vegas during a two-day Western swing, Joseph R. Biden Jr. called President Trump’s efforts to undermine trust in the election results an attempt to “scare us” that could be countered only by giving Mr. Biden an unassailably large mandate.
“We can’t just win, we have to win overwhelmingly,” Mr. Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, said. “So he can’t be in a position where he can put the phony challenges that he’s talking about.”
Mr. Biden’s remarks, to a group of Latino leaders, came as Mr. Trump used his Twitter platform to highlight that Franklin County, Ohio — a swing state — had sent voters nearly 50,000 incorrect absentee ballots. “A Rigged Election!!!” Mr. Trump wrote.
Mr. Biden was not responding to that tweet, but instead to Mr. Trump’s broader attempts to sow mistrust ahead of an election that public polls show him trailing by making unfounded claims that mail-in voting is rife with fraud. Ballot glitches that have been reported so far have been overwhelmingly caused by incompetence or negligence that does not advantage either side.
“He tried to continue to convince everybody there’s ways they can play with the vote and undermine the vote. They can’t,” Mr. Biden said. “If we show up, we win.”
President Trump has yet to release specifics about his coronavirus infection or details of his care, but he plans to appear on Fox News Friday night for a medical “evaluation” on Tucker Carlson’s TV show — in what will likely be among the most watched tele-health sessions in history.
It will be Mr. Trump’s “first on-camera interview appearance” since disclosing his coronavirus diagnosis last week, according to a statement on Fox’s website.
The event is being pretaped; the president is not appearing live, a spokeswoman for the network said.
The physician conducting the exam is Dr. Marc Siegel, a Fox contributor who suggested in 2016, without evidence and without conducting a personal exam, that Hillary Clinton might be suffering from lingering effects of a concussion that could compromise her fitness to serve.
Dr. Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, “will conduct a medical evaluation and interview during the program,” Fox said in a statement.
“It is virtual,” Dr. Siegel told FOX Business Network on Friday. “But I’ve been doing tele-visits for months and I’m getting quite good at them.”
Still, he said the exam could not be categorized as an “official” tele-health session and, when asked if he would be able to clear Mr. Trump for rallies and other public events, answered, “I don’t know.”
The network did not say how Dr. Siegel would be able to accurately assess the president’s condition without employing the sorts of procedures used at in-person exams, or if he intended to discuss the kind of sensitive information that typically passes confidentially between doctor and patient.
A spokesman for NYU Langone said that Dr. Siegel’s comments “do not reflect the opinion of” the hospital and that “in his role as senior medical correspondent for Fox News, Dr. Siegel expresses his own personal opinions.”
Mr. Trump has not appeared live in public since he returned home Monday from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Many on his West Wing staff, including his press secretary, have also come down with Covid-19, and those remaining at work have put the sunniest possible spin on his condition.
Dr. Sean P. Conley, the president’s physician. predicted in a memo released Thursday that he could safely “return to public engagements” on Saturday, having completed his “course of therapy for Covid-19” and “remained stable and devoid of any indications to suggest progression of illness.”
The president plans to hold a rally outside the White House on Saturday with hundreds of people in attendance, people familiar with the plans said on Friday.
Risking the ire of its best-known user, President Trump, Twitter said on Friday that it would turn off several of its routine features in an attempt to control the spread of misinformation in the final weeks before the presidential election.
Twitter will make several notable changes.
It will essentially give users a timeout before they can hit the button to retweet a post from another account. A prompt will nudge them to add their own comment or context before sharing the original post.
It will disable the system that suggests posts on the basis of someone’s interests and the activity of accounts they follow. In their timelines, users will see only content from accounts they follow and ads.
If users try to share content that Twitter has flagged as false, a notice will warn them that they are about to share inaccurate information.
Most of the changes will happen on Oct. 20 and will be temporary, Twitter said. Labels warning users against sharing false information will begin to appear next week. The company plans to wait until the result of the presidential election is clear before turning the features back on.
The changes could have a direct impact on Mr. Trump’s online activity. Since returning to the White House Monday after being hospitalized with the coronavirus, he has been on a Twitter tear. On Tuesday evening, for example, he tweeted, or retweeted posts from other accounts, about 40 times.
Social media companies have moved in recent months to fight the spread of misinformation around the election. Facebook and Google have committed to banning political ads for an undetermined period after polls close on Nov. 3. Facebook also said a banner at the top of its news feed would caution users that no winner had been declared until news outlets called the presidential race.
The companies are trying to avoid a repeat of the 2016 election, when Russian operatives used them to spread falsehoods and hyperpartisan content in an attempt to destabilize the American electorate.
Over the last year, Twitter has slowly been stripping away parts of its service that have been used to spread false and misleading information. Jack Dorsey, the chief executive, announced last year that the company would no longer allow political advertising. Twitter has more aggressively fact-checked misinformation, including from the president. Earlier this week, after Mr. Trump went on Twitter and misleadingly compared the coronavirus to the flu, Twitter appended a note saying that the post had violated its rules about spreading false and misleading information about the virus.
Those fact-checks have led to a backlash from the Trump administration. Mr. Trump, who has 87 million followers on Twitter, has called for a repeal of legal protections Twitter and other social media companies rely on.
The second Biden-Trump debate, originally scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami, will be held virtually or not at all, the Commission on Presidential Debates said on Friday, citing safety concerns about the coronavirus.
President Trump, who has contracted the virus, has demanded that the debate be restored to its original, in-person format. Because Mr. Trump rejected a virtual debate, Joseph R. Biden Jr. committed to attending an ABC News town hall that evening in Philadelphia.
So the Miami debate is, for now at least, effectively canceled.
The third debate is still scheduled for Oct. 22 in Nashville. The Trump campaign is on board. Mr. Biden’s campaign has agreed to participate, either as a one-on-one matchup with Mr. Trump, or in a town-hall-style format where both candidates take questions from voters.
Aides to Mr. Trump claim that the debate commission changed the Miami event to a virtual format to aid Mr. Biden. The co-chairman of the commission, Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., said on Friday that was not the case. He said that officials at the Cleveland Clinic, which is advising on health protocol, believed a remote format was safest given Mr. Trump’s illness and the uncertainty about his health.
“Our crew, our cameramen, our lighting people, were very, very upset,” Mr. Fahrenkopf said in an interview with the Fox News Radio host Brian Kilmeade. “They were onstage with the president in Cleveland. He wasn’t wearing a mask. They’re upset, they’re concerned about their families.”
Mr. Kilmeade asked Mr. Fahrenkopf if the debate commission would consider an in-person debate in Miami next week if Mr. Trump was recovered by then. Mr. Fahrenkopf said the president’s doctors were in contact with the Cleveland Clinic and that Mr. Trump’s condition remained in doubt.
“We’re talking about something that would happen in less than a week,” Mr. Fahrenkopf said of the Miami debate. “At this point and time, there is no evidence whatsoever whether or not the president tested negative.” He also said the commission could have difficulty finding voters “who aren’t afraid” to share a stage with Mr. Trump at a Miami town-hall event.
“We decided we’re going to do what’s safe,” he said.
On Friday, Mr. Trump tweeted an attack on the scheduled moderator of the Miami debate, Steve Scully of C-SPAN, calling him “a Never Trumper” and adding, “Fix!!!” There is no evidence that Mr. Scully is biased against the president.
Some supporters of Mr. Trump seized on a post that appeared overnight on Mr. Scully’s Twitter account, in which the moderator appeared to be communicating with Anthony Scaramucci, Mr. Trump’s former communications director and now a sharp critic of the president.
C-SPAN said in a statement that Mr. Scully “believes his account has been hacked” and that the debate commission “is investigating with the help of authorities.”
The moderator for the Oct. 22 debate in Nashville is Kristen Welker of NBC News.
A much-anticipated South Carolina Senate debate that was in limbo just hours before it was scheduled to begin is back on again.
Earlier, Senator Lindsey Graham refused a request by his Democratic challenger to take a coronavirus test before their joint appearance. The debate is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. Eastern Time.
The tussle was a reminder — as if any was needed — how the coronavirus pandemic continues to shape nearly every aspect of the race for control of the Senate this fall. Mr. Harrison has used the health crisis and economic fallout to unexpected advantage, fighting Mr. Graham to a statistical tie in polls despite South Carolina’s deep red hue.
On Thursday, Mr. Graham’s Democratic challenger, Jaime Harrison said that he would not participate in a second debate with Graham unless everyone involved was tested. Mr. Graham had been in proximity of at least two Republican senators who tested positive for coronavirus last week, and Mr. Harrison said he would not “allow politics to put my family, my campaign staff, Sen. Graham’s staff, and members of the media at unnecessary risk.”
In a statement, Mr. Graham implied he was listening to the advice of his doctors and said he would not be cowed by Mr. Harrison when he did not need a test. He accused the Democrat of “demanding special treatment” when other South Carolinians could not be tested so frequently, and of trying to use a stunt to avoid a direct showdown that would expose how liberal his views were.
But late Friday afternoon Mr. Harrison tweeted that he planned to participate in the debate, saying that he felt comfortable with format changes the debate organizers would make for his safety. Mr. Harrison had shown up to last week’s debate with a large plexiglass shield.
Democrats spent Friday speculating that Mr. Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was refusing to take a test because he was worried a positive would imperil his ability to convene Supreme Court confirmation hearings set to begin on Monday. Mr. Graham and his fellow Republicans are trying to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett before Election Day — a 180-degree reversal from their position four years ago, when they blocked President Obama’s nominee to the court on the ground that it was a presidential election year — and they cannot afford any delay.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, elevating questions about President Trump’s fitness to govern, introduced legislation Friday morning that would create a bipartisan group of outside experts to evaluate his mental and physical health and advise Congress whether his powers should be forcibly removed under the 25th Amendment.
The measure has no chance of enactment under Mr. Trump, whose signature would be needed to make it law. A version was introduced before the president was hospitalized with the coronavirus, but in publicly presenting it now, Ms. Pelosi, who has suggested that drugs the president has received to treat the virus may have affected his mental state, is moving to call attention to the issue.
“A president’s fitness for office must be determined by science and facts,” Ms. Pelosi said. “This legislation applies to future presidents, but we are reminded of the necessity of action by the health of the current president.”
The president has raged against the idea, calling Ms. Pelosi “Crazy Nancy” and accusing her of staging a coup. Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, called the measure “an absurd proposition” on Friday and countered that Ms. Pelosi was “projecting.”
“The only one who needs to be looking at the 25th Amendment is Nancy Pelosi herself,” Ms. McEnany said on “Fox & Friends.” (The 25th Amendment only applies to presidents, not members of Congress.)
The measure, introduced by Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, would create an 11-member commission of health experts, doctors and former senior executive branch officials, such as a former president, to report to Congress on the president’s competence. Top Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate would each select members.
Republicans have blasted the legislation as an attempt to overturn the results of the November election.
“Right here in this last three weeks before the election, I think those kinds of wild comments should be largely discounted,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said on Friday.
MIAMI — Even though the crash of Florida’s voter registration website in the hours before Monday night’s deadline may have prevented thousands of new voters from signing up, a federal judge declined on Friday to order the state to reopen registration to make up for lost time.
The judge, Mark E. Walker of Federal District Court in Tallahassee, harshly criticized Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee, Florida’s top elections official and an appointee of Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican.
But he concluded that extending the deadline would overwhelm county elections supervisors with the vote already underway, pointing to the state’s notorious elections history.
“Notwithstanding the fact that cinemas across the country remain closed, somehow, I feel like I’ve seen this movie before,” Judge Walker’s 29-page ruling began. “Just shy of a month from Election Day, with the earliest mail-in ballots beginning to be counted, Florida has done it again.”
Judge Walker, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, harshly criticized the state for “hastily” implementing what he called a “half measure”: announcing, at noon on Tuesday, that the deadline would be extended only until 7 p.m. that day.
“This left less than seven hours for potential voters to somehow become aware of the news and ensure that they properly submitted their voter-registration applications, all while also participating in their normal workday, school, family and caregiving responsibilities,” the judge wrote.
The website crashed Monday evening after 49,000 unique users tried to register, creating a bottleneck that gave them error messages. The users then hit refresh over and over, leading to more than a million requests, which overwhelmed the system.
Judge Walker compared new registrations with figures from 2018 and found that the combined totals from Monday and Tuesday were about 21,000 submissions short of what would have been expected if the website had not experienced technical problems.
Several voter-rights groups had argued that the extension was too short for people to be properly notified. “Confidence in the election requires that people who are eligible and follow the rules be able to vote,” Stuart C. Naifeh, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said during the hearing.
But in the end, Judge Walker wrote that he worried about causing chaos. Two county elections supervisors submitted declarations on behalf of the state saying that another extension could be problematic.
“Another extension under the circumstances will serve to reinforce the confusion and mistrust voters have surrounding this election, further strengthening the rampant misinformation and disinformation campaigns that are already undermining the November general election,” wrote Mark Earley, the supervisor in Leon County.
The voting-rights groups said in a statement Friday morning, “Sadly, this is another episode in Florida’s long history of voter suppression.”
The Democratic group MoveOn is going up with a pair of ads in the battleground state of… South Carolina? Yes, that’s right. Buoyed by an influx of cash after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, MoveOn will air two ads supporting Jaime Harrison, the former chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, as he challenges Senator Lindsey Graham.
That MoveOn is targeting South Carolina with less than a month until Election Day underscores how optimistic Democrats are about Senate races across the country. As part of its $2 million buy, MoveOn is also targeting races in Maine and Arizona.
MoveOn’s two South Carolina ads have a nearly identical message: That Mr. Graham is “phony,” that he has changed and that he is no longer the best choice for South Carolinians. “We deserve a senator with integrity, a senator who knows the community he serves,” the voice-over says. “Lindsey Graham isn’t that senator.”
The ad plays on a consistent theme among Democrats regarding Mr. Graham, once known for his ability to broker bipartisan deals but more recently one of President Trump’s most loyal backers and a reliable Democrat-basher. Mr. Graham leads the Senate Judiciary Committee and asserted in 2016 that he would refuse to confirm a Republican’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year. Now he is working to ram through a Trump-backed nominee before the election.
The ad includes headlines about Mr. Graham’s vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and about how survivors of Covid-19 could lose their insurance or pay more if the act is overturned.
Both of these headlines are true.
“If we can get the House back and keep our majority in the Senate, and President Trump wins re-election, I can promise you not only are we going to repeal Obamacare, we’re going to do it in a smart way where South Carolina would be the biggest winner,” Mr. Graham told a South Carolina radio station in 2019. And if the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions could be disqualified from buying health insurance or pay much higher premiums. Pre-existing conditions could include the coronavirus, which can have long-term health consequences.
Where It’s Running
A spokesman said the television commercials were expected to “be up shortly” in South Carolina markets.
Mr. Graham was once regarded as a safe incumbent, but recent polls show a tightening race that the nonpartisan Cook Political Report called a toss-up on Wednesday. Mr. Harrison drew attention last week for bringing his own plexiglass shield to his first debate with Mr. Graham; the two are set to debate again tonight.
New polls show that President Trump’s support is collapsing nationally, as he alienates women, seniors and suburbanites.
He is trailing not just in must-win battlegrounds but according to private G.O.P. surveys, he is repelling independents to the point where Mr. Biden has drawn closer in solidly red states, including Montana, Kansas and Missouri, people briefed on the data said.
Nowhere has Mr. Trump harmed himself and his party more than across the Sun Belt, where the electoral coalition that secured a generation of Republican dominance is in danger of coming apart.
“There are limits to what people can take with the irresponsibility, the untruthfulness, just the whole persona,” said Jeff Flake, the former Republican senator from Arizona. Mr. Flake is crossing party lines to support Mr. Biden, who made his first visit of the general election to Arizona on Thursday.
Many of the Sun Belt states seemingly within Mr. Biden’s reach resisted the most stringent public-health policies to battle the coronavirus. As a result, states like Arizona, Georgia and Texas faced a powerful wave of infections for much of the summer, setting back efforts to revive commercial activity.
Mr. Biden is mounting an assertive campaign and facing rising pressure to do more in the historically Republican region. He is buttressed by a fund-raising gusher for Democratic candidates, overwhelming support from people of color and defections from the Republican Party among college-educated whites in and around cities like Atlanta, Houston and Phoenix.
“Cities in states like Arizona and Texas are attracting young people, highly educated people, and people of color — all groups that the national Republican Party has walked away from the last four years,” said Mayor David F. Holt of Oklahoma City, a Republican. “This losing demographic bet against big cities and their residents is putting Sun Belt states in play.”