What Turn Are We Really Rounding on the Virus?

      Oct. 29, 2020, 7:02 a.m. ET

      Trump continues to insist that a vaccine is coming, while the Supreme Court let stand decisions in two battleground states allowing more absentee ballots to be counted. It’s Thursday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

      What Turn Are We Really Rounding on the Virus?

        As the coronavirus surges in many states, including the battleground of Wisconsin, President Trump has been riding a strategy of denial down the homestretch. At a rally in Arizona yesterday, he said the country was “rounding the turn” on the virus, and promised that a vaccine would be available “momentarily.” (A widely available one is still months away, experts say.)

        Joe Biden’s message was starkly different in remarks he gave from Wilmington, Del., after meeting with public health experts. “Even if I win, it’s going to take a lot of hard work to end this pandemic,” he said yesterday before heading to a state office building to vote alongside his wife, Jill Biden. “I’m not running on the false promise of being able to end this pandemic by flipping a switch.” He added, “We’ll let science drive our decisions.”

        Biden sought to deflect Trump’s criticisms that the former vice president is eager to keep the economy shut down. “That’s how we’ll shut down this virus, so we can get back to our lives a lot more quickly than the pace we’re going at now,” he said.

        He also tweaked Trump over a rally he had held the night before in Omaha, where an organizing snafu stranded hundreds of attendees in the near-freezing cold for hours.

        The delay was caused when buses took longer than planners anticipated to take people back to their cars. The Omaha police said that roughly 30 people had sought medical attention during the episode, and half a dozen had been hospitalized.

        A batch of polls released yesterday offered good news for Biden, including a New York Times/Siena College survey of Michigan showing the Democratic nominee leading Trump by eight percentage points among likely voters. Biden was essentially tied with Trump among white voters in the poll, driven by nearly two-to-one support from white people with college degrees.

        That poll also showed Senator Gary Peters, a Democrat, fighting off what has been considered a surprisingly strong challenge from his Republican opponent, John James. The results were roughly in line with those of an ABC News/Washington Post poll of Michigan released yesterday that showed Biden up by seven points.

        A Marquette Law School poll of voters in nearby Wisconsin showed Biden maintaining a five-point advantage over Trump, consistent with the findings of its last poll. Marquette’s polling of the state has proved remarkably stable, even as the two campaigns have invested heavily in winning over voters.

        Pennsylvania is poised to accept mail-in ballots that arrive up to three days after Election Day, and North Carolina can keep counting for nine days, after the Supreme Court yesterday issued two rulings widely seen as favorable to Democrats.

        In the Pennsylvania decision, the court declined to expedite a Republican request to challenge a lower court’s ruling. In the North Carolina suit, the court let stand a lower court’s ruling allowing the state board of elections to extend the ballot-counting deadline.

        The decisions were both made without a vote from the newly seated Justice Amy Coney Barrett. She “did not participate in the consideration of this motion because of the need for a prompt resolution of it and because she has not had time to fully review the parties’ filings,” a court spokeswoman said of the Pennsylvania case.

        A week earlier, the court had deadlocked, 4 to 4, on an emergency application in that case. With Barrett joining the bench, Pennsylvania Republicans sought to revive their appeal by asking the court to hear an ordinary appeal from the state court’s ruling. This is not an unusual request, but fulfilling it before Election Day would have meant compressing a process that typically takes months into a few days.

        “I reluctantly conclude that there is simply not enough time at this late date to decide the question before the election,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote, adding that it was possible the court could hear the case after the election.

        Miles Taylor, the former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, revealed yesterday that he was the author who, writing simply as “Anonymous,” harshly criticized Trump in a 2018 New York Times Op-Ed article and a subsequent book. At the time, it was one of the most plain-spoken takedowns of the president by an active member of his administration.

        In his book, “A Warning,” published last year, he explained his rationale for publishing the Op-Ed article anonymously. “Issuing my critiques without attribution forced the President to answer them directly on their merits or not at all, rather than creating distractions through petty insults and name-calling,” he wrote.

        Taylor served for two years as a top aide to Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, before leaving the department last year.

        “I am a Republican, and I wanted this President to succeed,” he wrote in a statement released yesterday. “But too often in times of crisis, I saw Donald Trump prove he is a man without character, and his personal defects have resulted in leadership failures so significant that they can be measured in lost American lives.”

      Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

      Supporters listened to Trump during a campaign rally yesterday in Bullhead City, Ariz.

      A federal judge yesterday condemned two Republican operatives for sending out robocalls to 85,000 people in efforts to dissuade them from voting.

      Keep up with Election 2020

      That attempt, Judge Victor Marrero said, “cannot be described as anything but deliberate interference with voters’ rights to cast their ballots in any legal manner they choose.”

      He ordered the men, Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, who have been charged in Ohio and Michigan with voter fraud, to re-contact the voters and inform them that the original call “contained false information.”

      Not every attempt to sow disinformation is met with a swift delivery of justice — and those seeking to muddy the waters around voting have an increasing array of technologies to choose from.

      As our technology correspondent Cade Metz writes on the Daily Distortions blog, videos are being blasted out to voters via text message this year more than in elections past, creating new difficulties in keeping track of disinformation.

      Last week, a political action committee published a video on Twitter falsely claiming that Biden supported sex changes for 8-year-olds. Since Friday, a similar video has also appeared on Facebook as many as 100,000 times, mostly in Michigan.

      While the major social media companies have developed systems for tracking and thwarting disinformation campaigns, it’s far more difficult to gauge how widely a video has been shared via text message. The misleading video about Biden has been sent to people’s phones in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, according to researchers at the University of Texas at Austin.

      Jacob Gursky, a research associate at the university, said that text message campaigns like this one presented a unique problem for guardians of election integrity.

      “There is no way to audit this,” Gursky said. “Organizations are just collecting cellphone numbers from data brokers and mass-texting people.”

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