By LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — With 13 days to go until Election Day, and President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden racing toward Nov. 3, voters are turning out in record numbers to cast their ballots early.
Roughly 38 million Americans have already voted in the 2020 election, reflecting an extraordinary level of participation and interest despite unprecedented barriers brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
In the final weeks of campaigning, the president remains on defense as his approval rating drags. He’s hosting rallies this week mostly in states he won in 2016 including Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia.
Biden, maintaining a lead in national polls — his largest of the election, according to FiveThirtyEight’s average — has no public events on his schedule this week so far ahead of Thursday’s final presidential debate with Trump. Staying off the trail ahead of debates is a pattern for the former vice president.
Polls indicate a huge pre-Election-Day edge for Biden and a sizable Trump advantage among those who plan to vote on Nov. 3 itself. Trump has sowed doubt in the mail-in ballot process — and imminent election results — for months.
The rhetoric between candidates is expected to heat up ahead of their second and final showdown in Nashville.
All 50 states plus Washington, D.C., currently have some form of early voting underway. Check out FiveThirtyEight’s guide to voting during the COVID-19 pandemic here.
Here is how the day unfolded Wednesday. All times Eastern:
Oct 21, 9:28 pm
Trump urges North Carolina to open up despite surging cases
President Donald Trump spoke to a jam-packed crowd of supporters Wednesday evening during a campaign rally in Gastonia, North Carolina, pleading for them to get out and vote.
“So get your friends, get your family, get your neighbors, get your co-workers, get your boss — rip him out of the seat. And get out and vote. Gotta get out and vote,” he said.
Speaking for over an hour, the president made it clear that he needs the support of North Carolina to win the election in 13 days.
“With your help, your devotion, and your drive, we are going to keep on working, we are going to keep on fighting, and we are going to keep on winning, winning, winning,” Trump said.
North Carolina is surging with COVID-19 cases and is among 31 states where cases are high and remaining high, according to an analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project. But the president is still putting public pressure on Gov. Roy Cooper to open the state and once again claiming that Democrats are playing politics with the pandemic and will reopen if they win on Election Day.
“I love this state. You gotta get your governor to open up your state here,” he said. “Got to get him to open up — open up your state, governor. It’s time. It’s been long enough. Watch, Nov. 4, ‘North Carolina, we are opening up.’ Nov. 4. They are only doing this for political reasons.”
Trump is also still running with his viewpoint that cases are spiking because there is more testing being done in the U.S., however, test positivity numbers are also surging in many areas of the country.
“That’s all they put on because they want to scare the hell out of everyone,” he said. “And you know, the more testing you have, the more cases. They say ‘cases are up.’ Yeah, testing is up. We have more testing than India, China and almost every other country put together. You could say it’s ridiculous. At the same time, we did a good job.”
In an odd moment, he also downplayed the severity of son Barron Trump’s diagnosis with coronavirus, saying he recovered “12 seconds later.”
“In fact, you know, Barron had it,” he said. “Like about 12 seconds later, ‘How’s he doing?’ ‘Oh, he’s recovered."”
The president also referenced his predecessor’s return to the campaign trail Wednesday, ridiculing him for his delayed endorsement of Joe Biden during the Democratic primary.
“You know, [Barack] Obama is now campaigning,” he said, drawing boos for the 44th president. “Even though he refused to support Biden. I mean … even after Biden sort of semi-won — he semi-won — he wouldn’t do it. He just — it took forever but now he’s campaigning for him.”
Oct 21, 8:46 pm
Supreme Court blocks curbside voting in Alabama
The U.S. Supreme Court moved to block curbside voting in Alabama Wednesday night, suspending — for now — a lower federal court order that had mandated state officials provide the accommodation for voters with disabilities during the pandemic.
The decision came from the court’s five conservative justices who voted to grant the stay. The liberals — Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan — dissented.
“Plaintiff Howard Porter, Jr., a Black man in his seventies with asthma and Parkinson’s Disease, told the District Court: ‘(S)o many of my (ancestors) even died to vote. And while I don’t mind dying to vote, I think we’re past that — we’re past that time.’ Election officials in at least Montgomery and Jefferson Counties agree,” wrote Sotomayor in a written dissent.
“They are ready and willing to help vulnerable voters like Mr. Porter cast their ballots without unnecessarily risking infection from a deadly virus. This Court should not stand in their way,” she wrote. “I respectfully dissent.”
Alabama officials had opposed implementation of curbside voting, which has not been common practice during elections. The state argued in court documents that it would “cause confusion and much harm” and potentially compromise ballot secrecy.
The ruling signals the high court’s continued deference to state legislatures and local election officials in setting election policy and an aversion to having federal courts impose new rules so close to Election Day.
Oct 21, 8:37 pm
DNI: Russia, Iran have obtained voter data in election interference campaign
Senior national security officials alerted the American public Wednesday that Iran and Russia have both obtained voter data in their efforts to interfere in the 2020 U.S. election.
“This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos, and undermine your confidence in American democracy,” Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said in a surprise news conference Wednesday evening.
Ratcliffe also announced that Iran was separately behind a series of threatening emails that were found to be sent this week to Democratic voters, which he said was “designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President Trump.”
Oct 21, 6:59 pm
Obama warns against Democratic complacency
At the drive-in rally, Obama also issued a stern warning against Democratic complacency and said that the election has to be a decisive win as Trump sows doubts in its results.
“I don’t care about the polls. There were a whole bunch of polls last time. Didn’t work out,” Obama said. “Because a whole bunch of folks stayed at home and got lazy and complacent. Not this time. Not in this election.”
He went on to outline his belief that voting is the only remedy to right the wrongs of the Trump administration.
“In the end, Pennsylvania, that’s what voting is about. Making things better, not making things perfect. But putting us on track so that, a generation from now, we can look back and say ‘things got better starting now,"” Obama said. “Voting is about using the power we have and pooling it together to get a government that’s more concerned and more responsive and more focused on you and your lives.”
“I’m asking you to believe in Joe’s ability, in Kamala’s ability, to lead this country out of these dark times and help us build it back better because we can’t abandon those who are hurting right now,” he added.
Obama left the stage to Bruce Springsteen’s “Land of Hope and Dreams” and put back on his mask which read “vote.”
“Honk if you’re fired up. Honk if you’re ready to go,” Obama said to blaring horns as he closed out the rally. “Are you fired up? Are you ready to go? Let’s go make it happen. I love you, Philadelphia.”
It was Obama’s most critical speech of Trump yet.
Oct 21, 6:19 pm
Supporters blare horns as Obama takes the stage in Philadelphia
Former President Barack Obama arrived at a drive-in rally at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies, to encourage early voting and emphasize down-ballot races in the battleground state.
“Man, it is good to be back in Pennsylvania,” Obama said in his first day of in-person campaigning for Biden. He immediately took a swipe at Trump, speaking to his rally in Erie Wednesday night in which Trump delivered a shorter-than-usual speech before urging voters to turnout early.
“Apparently he complained about having to travel here. Then he cut the event short. Poor guy. I don’t feel that way. I love coming to Pennsylvania,” Obama said. “You guys delivered for me twice, and I am back here tonight to ask you to deliver the White House for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”
Obama went on to criticize Trump’s leadership, hitting the administration’s attacks against the Affordable Care Act without having a replacement health care plan and what he called its mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Presidents up for re-election usually ask if the country is better off than it was four years ago. I’ll tell you one thing, four years ago, you’d be tailgating here at the LINC instead of watching a speech from your cars,” Obama said.
“Donald Trump isn’t suddenly going to protect all of us. He can’t even take the basic steps to protect himself,” he added.
The former president weaved insults of the president in with compliments of his former vice president.
“Now, he did inherit the longest streak of job growth in America, but just like everything else he inherited, he messed it up,” Obama said. “Joe sees this moment not just as a chance to get back to where we were but to finally make long overdue changes so that our economy actually makes life a little easier for everybody.”
Obama’s remarks were met with honks of approval as roughly 200 cars sat parked in a semicircle around the stage. Several attendees moved to sit on top of and around their cars to get a better view of the stage.
Prior to the event, Obama also made a brief stop at a community organizer event, where Biden-Harris supporters were handing out signs, buttons and hand sanitizers to a local North Philadelphia neighborhood.
Oct 21, 5:45 pm
Trump on muted debate mics: ‘I think the mute is very unfair’
President Trump continued to complain about Thursday night’s debate, saying it’s “very unfair” that the candidates’ mics will be muted at points, when he spoke briefly to reporters as he departed the White House Wednesday on his way to North Carolina for another campaign rally.
“I think the mute is very unfair, and I think it’s very bad they’re not talking about foreign affairs, they’re supposed to be talking about foreign affairs, and I think the anchor is a very biased person — her parents are very biased — but that’s my life,” Trump said.
Asked about his preparations for the debate, the president said, “I do prep, I do prep” but did not elaborate.
-ABC News’ Jordyn Phelps
Oct 04, 4:37 pm
Obama holds roundtable in Philadelphia with Black leaders
Ahead of this evening’s drive-in rally, Obama made his campaign debut at a roundtable with Black community leaders in North Philadelphia to talk about what’s at stake in this election and encourage voter turnout.
“The answer for young people, when I talk to them, is not that voting makes everything perfect, it’s that it makes things better,” Obama said, wearing a mask while he spoke.
“The government’s us, of, by, and for the people. It wasn’t always for all of us. But the way it’s designed, it works based on who’s at the table. And if you do not vote, you are not at the table,” Obama said. “If you’re at the table, then you’re part of the solution.”
“I really want to emphasize to young people as much as possible, look, in ‘08 when I was elected, we had the highest African American turnout in history. But it was still only about 60%. When people say voting doesn’t make a difference, we’ve never tried what it would look like if it was 80% voting or 90% voting,” he added.
Black voters remain an overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning constituency, but a notable reduction in their support could still be a problem for Biden, according to an analysis from ABC’s partners at FiveThirtyEight. Older Black voters look as if they’ll vote for Biden by margins similar to Clinton’s in 2016, while Trump’s support among young Black voters has jumped from around 10% in 2016 to 21% in UCLA Nationscape’s polling.
Oct 21, 4:05 pm
Obama touches down in Philadelphia to campaign for Biden
Former President Barack Obama has touched down in Philadelphia ahead of a drive-in rally at Citizens Bank Park at 6 p.m. to campaign for Biden in-person for the first time in the 2020 cycle.
In 2016, Obama delivered Hillary Clinton’s final pitch in Philadelphia as well — at a rally for thousands the night before Election Day on Independence Mall. Amid this year’s pandemic, Obama will speak to a much smaller crowd.
The event is ticketed without public access and is expected to draw over 200 cars, which will be assembled in a semi-circle around the stage. Supporters will be able to listen to Obama speak over their car radios.
Obama is expected to emphasize down-ballot races, encourage early voting and offer an appeal to Black voters.
Oct 21, 3:12 pm
FiveThirtyEight launches interactive election map
ABC’s partners at FiveThirtyEight have launched an interactive map where users can pick the winner of each state or district to see how FiveThirtyEight’s election forecast changes.
Take Florida as an example. If Biden wins Florida, his chances of winning the Electoral College shoot up to greater than 99%, which could be important on Nov. 3 because Florida generally counts its votes quickly and election offices might be able to determine who won the state on election night. But if Trump wins Florida, his Electoral College chances rise to 39% making the race practically a toss-up.
ABC’s partners at FiveThirtyEight have launched an interactive map where users can pick the winner of each state or district to see how FiveThirtyEight’s election forecast changes.
Here’s an example of what that looks like, and Nate Silver’s write up on how to use the tool here.
Oct 21, 12:35 pm
Maryland man charged for threats to kidnap and kill Biden and Harris
A Maryland man has been charged for making threats to kill and kidnap Biden and Harris.
James Dale Reed, of Frederick, Maryland, allegedly left a threatening note on the doorstep of a home displaying Biden/Harris signs in the front yard.
Reed was captured by the home’s ring camera. He is charged for making threats against a major candidate for president and vice president.
-ABC News’ Jack Date
Oct 21, 11:15 am
More than 75,000 votes cast in-person in Wisconsin’s 1st day of early voting
Early in-person voting continues in Wisconsin after a record first day with 75,519 votes being cast Tuesday and some voters showing up to their polling sites before dawn with folding chairs, snacks and medication to stand in line.
The early voting period in Wisconsin lasts through Oct. 30, though the schedule is different in every municipality and is expected to bring a surge of absentee ballots in a state already boasting strong turnout: As of this morning, Wisconsin voters have cast nearly 40% of the total votes counted in the state in 2016.
Because Wisconsin voters fill out absentee ballots in-person, election clerks in the state won’t start counting these votes until Election Day, so the timing of the results could vary depending on the staff available to each municipality.
In Madison, the City Clerk said 6,000 poll workers are signed up, compared with 3,000 for the 2016 election, and they “do not anticipate running any later than usual.” Meanwhile, over in Milwaukee, the chair of the Milwaukee Democrats has been telling voters they should be prepared to wait until Nov. 11 so that people aren’t concerned by delays.
-ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett
Oct 21, 12:00 pm
Early voting turnout shatters records, more than 40 million cast
With less than two weeks until Election Day, early voting continues to hit record numbers across the country.
More than 40 million votes have already been cast and at least 84 million ballots have been requested in the 2020 general election, according to the United States Elections Project, spearheaded by University of Florida political expert Michael McDonald.
At this point in 2016, 5.6 million votes had been cast.
The unprecedented early voting numbers can be attributed to the coronavirus pandemic as well as an increase in voter interest. Voters are more eager to cast a ballot ahead of Election Day where polling sites could be viewed as overcrowded during pandemic standards.
-ABC News’ Kelsey Walsh
Oct 21, 10:31 am
Trump campaign trailing behind Biden in funding, new filings show
Trump’s reelection campaign committee is entering the critical final stretch with just $63 million left in the bank — a significant financial deficit for the incumbent compared to his cash-flushed challenger, Biden, the latest campaign disclosure reports show.
The sum was a stunning reversal for a campaign that in the spring boasted $180 million more on hand than Biden and Democrats as the former vice president was coming out of a competitive primary.
Seven months later, Biden’s campaign committee closed out September with $177 million in the bank, which is nearly triple his rival’s total.
Trump’s money supply also reflects how dramatically his fundraising is withering.
In all, the president’s campaign, the RNC and their joint committees raised a total of $248 million in September and ended the month with $251 million on hand, compared with the $325 million they had at the end of August.
The Biden campaign, the Democratic National Committee and their joint operations in comparison, raised a total of $364.5 million in September and entered the crucial last month of the race with $432 million on hand, which is nearly twice as much as Trump and Republicans.
-ABC News’ Will Steakin, Kendall Karson and Soo Rin Kim
Oct 21, 8:58 am
DNC launches multilingual ad campaign to reach AAPI voters in battleground states
The Democratic National Committee is launching a multilingual print, digital and radio advertising campaign to reach roughly one million Asian Americans and Pacific Islander or AAPI voters in battleground states, making a clear play for voters of color less than two weeks from Election Day. Earlier in the month, they released ads targeting African American voters.
The ad buy is the first multilingual ad campaign targeting AAPIs that the DNC has launched this cycle and will run in Chinese, English, Hindi, Korean, Telugu/Urdu and Vietnamese. Ads will run in national publications such as the Korea Times, Nguoi Viet and World Journal, as well as local outlets in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin.
“Democrats are meeting AAPI voters where they are and in the language, they speak by making historic investments to ensure AAPIs across the country have the information they need to make their plan to vote,” DNC Chair Tom Perez said in a statement to ABC News.
The six-figure targeted ad buy, is a part of a larger investment by the DNC focused on get-out-the-vote ads in constituency media.
Oct 21, 8:57 am
Why Obama still matters to both Biden and Trump
It’s a classic political moment — the still-popular former president hitting the trail for his loyal former deputy, helping to close strong for the man he wants to see continue his legacy.
But even if former President Barack Obama was filling a stadium as opposed to its parking lot on Wednesday, this would not be a moment for nostalgia among Democrats.
As Obama makes his first in-person campaign visit on behalf of Biden on Wednesday in Philadelphia, it’s worth remembering how vital the former president is to the political identity of both Biden and Trump.
Obama has been an omnipresent force this campaign, if often slightly off-stage. Biden’s references to “Barack and I” helped carry him through primaries where Obama stayed neutral, and Trump’s rants about “Obamagate” and other exaggerated alleged transgressions are part of his greatest-hits rally rotation.
Obama on Wednesday is expected to emphasize down-ballot races and speak directly to Black men, amid signs that Biden is underperforming in that demographic. Younger Black voters in particular are a concern for the Biden campaign, which sees potential victory in turnout in Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee — to say nothing of Charlotte, North Carolina and Atlanta.
A “drive-in car rally” with honks and high beams do not make the visuals anyone could have predicted for Obama’s return to the trail.
But the former president is a potent political force — something both Biden and Trump can agree on.
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