Trump’s Big (Risky?) Return

Fauci smarts over a Trump ad as voters surge to the polls in Georgia. It’s Tuesday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

Where things stand

Dr. Anthony Fauci said yesterday that the Trump campaign was “asking for trouble” by beginning to host crowded outdoor rallies again. Just hours later, President Trump hit the stage at his first rally since testing positive for the coronavirus less than two weeks ago. He also has rallies planned for tonight in Pennsylvania and Wednesday in Iowa.

“We know that that is asking for trouble when you do that,” Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, told CNN, referring to Trump’s plans to hold campaign rallies. “We’ve seen that when you have situations of congregate settings where there are a lot of people without masks, the data speak for themselves. It happens. And now is even more so a worse time to do that, because when you look at what’s going on in the United States, it’s really very troublesome.”

Fauci also directly called for the Trump campaign to take down an ad it recently released that uses a statement from him out of context. The ad falsely frames comments Fauci made in March to suggest that he is praising Trump’s overall pandemic response.

In Fauci’s conversation yesterday with CNN’s Jake Tapper, he called the ad “disappointing.” Asked whether he thought the ad should be taken down, Fauci said, “I think so.”

It was probably Fauci’s most direct repudiation so far of Trump’s conduct. He has sought throughout the pandemic (and throughout his career) to avoid political statements.

At the rally in Central Florida, Trump spoke for just over an hour and went to some very great lengths to convey that he was fully recovered. “I feel so powerful,” he said. “I’ll walk into that audience. I’ll walk in there, I’ll kiss everyone in that audience.”

The president continued, “I’ll kiss the guys and the beautiful women and the — everybody, I’ll just give you a big fat kiss.”

Given the virus’s rapid spread among Trump’s inner circle, some major publications (including The Times) decided against sending reporters to join the president’s entourage on the trip to Florida.

Trump’s doctor, Sean Conley, said yesterday that the president had tested negative for the virus “on consecutive days,” an important step in the process of recovery. But experts questioned why Conley had used the Abbott BinaxNOW test, which is considered less effective than the gold-standard P.C.R. lab test.

At the contentious first day of hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Democratic senators warned in their opening speeches that a 6-to-3 conservative majority on the court would imperil the Affordable Care Act, and they blasted their Republican colleagues for trying to quickly push through Barrett’s confirmation.

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut demanded that, if confirmed before the election, Barrett recuse herself from any case regarding the result.

Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee emphasized Barrett’s religious faith and attacked Democrats for past statements questioning whether her conservative Christian beliefs affect her political thinking.

In her own statement, Barrett referred obliquely to the issue as she expressed pride in her faith. “I believe in the power of prayer, and it has been uplifting to hear that so many people are praying for me,” she said.

Two New York Times/Siena College polls showed Joe Biden leading Trump by eight percentage points among likely voters in Michigan, and by 10 points in Wisconsin. His leads were powered in part by his strength among voters who had reluctantly picked Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016 or, frustrated with their options, had cast third-party ballots.

Weak support from the Democratic base was a factor in Clinton’s losses in Midwestern states four years ago, and Biden has struggled to ensure that he has the full support of liberal voters and other consistently Democratic demographics.

But in both the Wisconsin and Michigan polls, he commanded an overwhelming 97 percent support from self-identified Democrats, besting Trump’s nine in 10 among Republicans. Since a Wisconsin poll in September, Biden widened his lead among women from 13 points to 24 points.

Stand there staring, chitchat, check your phone? Those were the available options in a mundane picture of democracy whipping itself into action in Georgia yesterday, as in-person early voting began and voters flocked to the polls in huge numbers.

With state and local officials reporting glitches with the state’s new touch-screen voting system, long and socially distanced lines formed early in parts of Atlanta and its suburbs, and persisted throughout the day. Some people reported waiting eight hours or longer.

A federal judge had rejected a last-minute attempt to replace the troubled, $107 million electronic balloting system with paper ballots until its problems were fixed. Twitter users in Atlanta reported 90-minute wait times at State Farm Arena after machines there malfunctioned.

A spokesman for Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, said the state was seeing “record turnout for early voting because of excitement and enthusiasm about the upcoming election.”

Photo of the day

President Trump at his campaign rally yesterday in Sanford, Fla.

The Trump administration is funneling vast sums of money to farmers before Election Day.

By Alan Rappeport

The stimulus talks between the White House and Congress might be stymied, but President Trump’s farmers are getting their cut.

The Trump administration has been ramping up payments to the agriculture sector in recent weeks, funneling money that was left over from the relief legislation signed in March to make sure that the president’s rural base is taken care of before Election Day. The payments come as Trump has refused to provide additional support to states and cities, arguing that their Democratic leaders have mismanaged their finances.

Between the coronavirus pandemic and Trump’s trade wars with China and Europe, farmers have been hit particularly hard. But they have also received unprecedented government subsidies. In 2020, they are projected to get a record $46 billion, which is about 40 percent of their total income.

Critics say that Trump has been using the money to buy votes from crucial constituencies, noting that the president has also announced $13 billion in aid for Puerto Rico to please Floridians and $200 prescription drug cards to millions of seniors. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was even hit with a Hatch Act violation last week after he pitched Trump’s re-election bid during an August trip to North Carolina.

Whether the outreach will help Trump remains to be seen. Polls of rural voters show that his support remains above 50 percent — higher than his standing with the general public. However, many small farmers have said that the payments have mostly helped big corporate agriculture companies, while family farms struggle to stay afloat.

“One hundred percent of these dollars will go to service debt,” said Graham Boyd, the executive vice president of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina.

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The Latest

President Trump held a rally in Florida and Joe Biden campaigned in Ohio as the confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett got underway. Read live updates.

How to Vote

Many rules have changed during the pandemic, making it harder to figure out how to cast your ballot. This interactive guide can help you ensure your vote is counted.

Paths to 270

Joe Biden and Donald Trump need 270 electoral votes to reach the White House. Try building your own coalition of battleground states to see potential outcomes.

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