Power Up: It’s a toss up in North Carolina races that are key to White House and Senate control – Washington Post

20October 2020

Former vice president Joe Biden is at 49 percent and President Trump is at 48 percent among likely voters:

The gap widens slightly among registered voters, with Biden is at 48 percent, Trump at 46 percent and third-party candidates a combined 3 percent.

In the Senate race, 49 percent of likely voters support Cal Cunningham (D) versus 47 percent who support Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). And the gaps in both races are well within the survey’s 4.5 percentage-point margin of sampling error. 

  • Far more – 81 percent majority of registered voters – say that partisan control of the Senate is “extremely” or “very” important to their vote. That includes nearly 9 in 10 Democrats and Republicans as well as about 7 in 10 independents.
  • And a 56 percent majority say that Tillis’s support for Trump matters to them, including majorities of Republicans and Democrats and just under half of independents.

Trickle down: A GOP strategist close to the race told Power Up that the top of the ticket will ultimately determine who wins the down ballot in the state. “If Biden wins, Cunningham wins,” said the strategist, who acknowledged that Cunningham’s numbers are unlikely to “plummet so far that Tillis can outrun whatever happens with Trump.” 

Indeed, the poll shows the two races are closely aligned: 89 percent of likely voters in North Carolina are supporting the same party in both the presidential and Senate elections. Independents, meanwhile, split right down the middle in their support for Cunningham (48 percent) and Tillis (45 percent). 

  • “The president has desensitized voters to this sort of thing,” the Republican strategist said of the apparent indifference to Cunningham’s affair, noting that Republicans despite their concerted attacks to draw attention to the issue are also not tracking much pickup.
  • “It’s a Tillis problem, too,” the strategist continued. “He hasn’t done enough to separate himself from Trump or define himself. He was in a massive hole before this scandal and most Republicans and Democrats would have previously considered him a long-shot.”

While Cunningham’s personal approval ratings took a hit in the wake of revelations he exchanged illicit texts with a woman this summer, as seen in a New York Times/Siena College poll released last week, female voters have apparently not been turned off enough by the indiscretions to support his Republican opponent. Cunningham and Biden hold significant leads with women. 

  • “Cunningham is fueled by a 16 percentage-point advantage among female voters while Tillis holds a 14-point edge among men,” Scott and Dan report. “That gender gap is slightly wider than in the presidential race in North Carolina, where Biden leads by 11 points among women and Trump leads by 10 points among men.” 
  • When both candidates are disliked, the strategist added, the change candidate – Cunningham in this case – generally “benefits from the anti-status quo.”

North Carolina is a critical battleground: Republicans currently are defending their 53 to 47 majority in the Senate. Democrats need at least three seats to wrest control if Biden wins and four if Trump is re-elected since the vice president can break a tie.

And in the presidential, Trump won North Carolina by four percentage points in 2016 – it’s considered one of the more conservative leaning swing states of the batch. Without the state’s 15 electoral votes, the president’s path to 270 is far more difficult. 

Trump, whose approval rating among registered voters in North Carolina is 47 percent positive and 52 percent negative, is slightly above where it is nationally. 

But while North Carolina voters are also “notably less critical of the president” on the issue of the coronavirus than the country as a whole, our colleagues Dan, Scott, and Emily Guskin report, Trump’s handling of the pandemic still a vulnerability there. A majority of registered voters in North Carolina disapprove of the way Trump has handled the coronavirus crisis – 53 percent who disapprove versus 45 percent who approve. 

  • Biden is trusted to handle the coronavirus crisis over Trump (51 percent to 43 percent), while voters trust the president more to deal with the economy (51 percent to 45 percent):
  • “Biden’s margin on trust on the pandemic is smaller than nationally, while Trump’s margin on the economy is better than his national number,” our colleagues write.

The coronavirus diagnoses of both Trump and Tillis make the issue even more pronounced. The Times/ Siena poll released shows that Tillis and Trump both suffer from a trust deficit with likely voters.  

  • “Asked if they trusted the Trump administration to provide accurate updates about the president’s health after his positive coronavirus test, 41 percent of voters surveyed said they did and 52 percent said they did not. Even nine percent of Mr. Trump’s supporters in the state said they did not trust his administration to state true facts about his health,” per the New York Times’s Reid Epstein and Matt Stevens.
  • Tillis contracted the coronavirus after attending the reception for Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Amy Coney Barrett, at the White House earlier this month.

Then and now: Currently, Trump’s margins with white voters and likely senior voters over the age of 65 do not rival the lead he enjoyed against Clinton in 2016. “Trump holds a clear lead among white voters in North Carolina by a margin of 58 percent to 39 percent. Exit polls in 2016 showed Trump winning 63 percent of white voters compared with 32 percent for Hillary Clinton,” per Dan, Scott and Emily.

  • With seniors: “The president minimally tops Biden among likely voters age 65 and above by 55 percent to 45 percent, which is better than his standing among seniors nationally, where he and Biden are about even. His current margin is not as big as the 23-point margin he enjoyed against Clinton in 2016 in North Carolina.”

Yet Biden’s lead with non-White voters does not match Clinton’s 81-point lead over Trump in 2016 with that voting bloc. 

  • “Biden holds a lead of more than 50 points among all non-White voters and by 70 points among Black voters (84 percent to 14 percent). But that 70-point margin is less than Hillary Clinton’s 81-point margin over Trump in 2016, according to network exit polls.”
  • Biden is outperforming Clinton in other places: “Regionally, Biden is outperforming Clinton in the Raleigh/Durham triangle, by 68 percent to 30 percent, a 38-point margin that is larger than Hillary Clinton’s 22-point advantage there in 2016,” our colleagues write.

The people

THURSDAY’S DEBATE IS ON: Trump reaffirmed to reporters on Air Force One last night that he will participate in the final presidential debate in Nashville, but echoed his campaign’s complaints that it is “unfair.”

  • How that will work:

The debate on the debates (part 3): Trump and his allies have continued to attack NBC News’s Kristen Welker, the debate’s moderator, and his campaign manager Bill Stepien slammed the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates.

  • “Stepien — who mockingly referred to the nonpartisan commission as the ‘Biden Debate Commission’ in a tweet — claimed the commission had ‘promised’ that the Nashville debate would be about foreign policy and asked for it to discard the six subjects announced last week by Welker. They are ‘fighting covid-19,’ ‘American families,’ ‘race in America,’ climate change, national security and leadership,” the New York Times’s Michael M. Grynbaum reports. Past presidential cycles have included a foreign policy-focused debate, but such plans were not made this time around.

From the courts

SCOTUS DENIES GOP REQUEST ON MAIL-IN BALLOTS: “The Supreme Court last night allowed Pennsylvania election officials to count mail-in ballots received up to three days after Election Day, refusing a Republican request to stop a pandemic-related procedure approved by the state’s highest court,” Robert Barnes reports.

The high court tied 4-4 with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s liberal justices: “Neither side explained its reasoning, which often is the case with emergency requests. But the outcome underscored the decisive role Judge Amy Coney Barrett could play if she is confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate — with a vote there expected as soon as next week,” our colleague writes.

  • Court watchers say this Democratic victory could be short lived: “It means that we have no guidance from the court as to when and whether a state Supreme Court can rely on a state Constitution when it expands or changes state voting rules in a presidential election,” Election law expert Rick Hasen writes in Slate. “This lack of guidance could be a huge problem in the two battleground states—North Carolina and Pennsylvania—with Democratic state Supreme Courts and Republican legislatures who could battle over any post-election voting rules.”

At the White House

TRUMP ATTACKS FAUCI: “Trump dismissed precautions to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and attacked the nation’s top infectious-disease expert as a ‘disaster,’ arguing that people are getting tired of all the focus on [the pandemic],” Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey report.

  • Doubting the doc: “People are tired of hearing [Anthony S.] Fauci and all these idiots,” Trump said in a call with his campaign staff. He baselessly suggested that Fauci’s advice on how best to respond to the outbreak was so bad it would have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands more people. “And yet we keep him,” Trump continued, calling in from his Las Vegas hotel. “Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him. But Fauci is a disaster.”

A rank closing: “Trump aides said they had hoped the last-minute call with staffers would not become a story about the coronavirus,” our colleagues write. 

  • What the want the message to be: “Senior advisers to the president say they still want the closing message to be about the economy and what they say would be the negative effects of a Biden victory, with a campaign focus on Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina and Florida.”

Meanwhile, the president is mocking Biden for saying he would “listen to the scientists”: The former vice president’s campaign cut a digital ad highlighting the comments and poked back on Twitter.

On the Hill

PELOSI’S DEADLINE APPROACHES: “House Democrats and the Trump administration remained far apart in economic relief negotiations, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said there were signs of progress in the ongoing talks,” Erica Werner and Jeff Stein report.

  • Where things stand: “The two ‘continued to narrow their differences’ on Monday and ‘the speaker continues to hope that, by the end of the day Tuesday, we will have clarity on whether we will be able to pass a bill before the election,’ Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said on Twitter.” It’s unclear what he meant by “clarity” and what that might mean for the speaker’s self-imposed deadline of tonight for any relief plan to pass before Election Day.
  • Key quote: “There isn’t a single Democrat who could vote for a bill with those provisions,” Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.) told fellow Democratic lawmakers on a conference call about the party’s opposition to the administration’s push for liability protections for businesses among other proposals.

Pelosi on why she wants a deal now:

It’s not even clear if a deal could get through Congress: “Republicans’ ‘natural instinct, depending on how big it is, and what’s in it, is probably going to be to be against it,’ Senate Majority Whip John Thune told reporters, Politico’s Burgess Everett and Marianne LeVine report. “I think we’re going to have a hard time finding 13 votes for anything.”

  • There’s a very odd dynamic at play: “It is quite unusual for the Trump administration to negotiate legislation that turns off most members of Congress in Trump’s own party. If all Senate Democrats supported the legislation, it would still need more than a dozen Republicans to clear the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster.”

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is going his own way: He said senators will vote later today on a bill to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program and Wednesday on a much narrower $500 billion proposal that includes money for schools, vaccines, some new unemployment insurance and more.

In the media

IN OTHER NEWS: 

Communities and companies made money off George Floyd’s imprisonment: “Floyd’s time in Bartlett State Jail only furthered his downward spiral. Behind its walls, Floyd found few opportunities to better himself, friends and relatives said, and the experience only exacerbated his depression, drug dependency and claustrophobia — the very issues that would play a role in the final moments of his life nearly a decade later,” Cleve R. Wootson Jr. reports from Bartlett, Tex. in the fourth installment of The Post’s “George Floyd’s America” series.

Trump’s lawyers and the DOJ are back in court today to block access to his tax records: “The Supreme Court this summer said the president is not immune from congressional investigation, but the justices put the subpoena on hold. The case is now back before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for a more detailed review of Congress’s request to access Trump’s personal financial records held by his longtime accounting firm,” Ann Marimow reports.

New Yorker suspends writer Jeffrey Toobin after accidental Zoom exposure: “The magazine, which has employed Toobin since 1993, did not comment further about the nature of the incident or the length of the suspension,” Jeremy Barr reports.

  • “Toobin, who could not immediately be reached for comment, told Vice.com, who first broke the story, in a statement that he ‘made an embarrassingly stupid mistake’ during the Zoom call. ‘I believed I was not visible on Zoom,’ he said. ‘I thought no one on the Zoom call could see me. I thought I had muted the Zoom video.’”

Source: washingtonpost.com

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