US election 2020: Top 5 stories to watch this week

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5. Trump and Pence on the move

The Tulsa rally didn’t go according to plan, and there are no official in-person events on the campaign’s calendar this week. But President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are still getting out of Washington.

Over the next week, Pence is traveling Arizona and Florida (plus Sunday’s visit in Texas). They’re technically stops made in Pence’s function as VP, so he can “get a ground report” of three states reeling most from the pandemic right now. There are signs things are being scaled back (because, y’know, the pandemic): Pence’s adjacent campaign events in Arizona and Florida have now been canceled.

Bonus: Trump gets his fireworks

On Friday, Trump makes his long-awaited trip to Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota for a military flyover and fireworks on July 3. It’s not a packed indoor rally, but there is still cause for concern for coronavirus spread: There’s a ticket raffle for 7,500 attendees and there won’t be any social distancing protocols.

4. Russia is back

A bombshell report from The New York Times — that Russians had tried to bribe Taliban fighters to kill US troops — has brought Russia roaring back into the political conversation.

US intelligence concluded months ago that Russian military intelligence offered the bounties amid peace talks. Trump was briefed on the intelligence findings and the White House’s National Security Council held a meeting about it in late March, according to the Times, citing officials briefed on the matter.

Trump denies ever being briefed about it, but there’s already pushback on both sides of the aisle. Third-ranking House Republican Liz Cheney is demanding answers from the White House, while Democrats say this fits Trump’s pattern of behavior with Russia.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday that Congress is seeking a report on the situation and that the “Gang of Eight” top intelligence lawmakers on Capitol Hill were not briefed about it.

Consider what Joe Biden tweeted on Sunday afternoon: “Donald Trump’s entire presidency has been a gift to Putin, but this is beyond the pale.”

3. Coronavirus is still here

With rising coronavirus cases in nearly every state, the pandemic’s grip is tightening. And without a vaccine, the nation’s resources to combat it is limited to two tried-and-true things: Mask-wearing and social distancing.

Biden, last week, said he would require masks by law, and has criticized Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

“He hasn’t done any of what needs to be done,” Biden said during a Saturday night virtual fundraiser. “And now he’s sending even more people back to work without a plan to safely reopen, hanging the open sign in the economy, crossing his fingers and telling his staff to slow down testing.”

Pelosi also doubled down on mask-wearing (and Trump’s reluctance to be seen wearing one) on Sunday, calling a federal mask mandate “long overdue.”

Trump and Pence have consistently punted mask regulations to cities and states, rather than issue a federal mandate. On Sunday in Texas, Pence encouraged Americans to wear masks, but again deferred to local ordinances on mask requirements.

Trump has long been reluctant to wear a mask in public even as efforts to protect the President’s health ramp up. But don’t hold your breath on Trump changing course … even if other Republicans say “it would help” if he wore a mask.

2. Another health care election?

President Trump’s administration is forging ahead with its efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act — a move that would take away health care for Americans in the middle of a pandemic.

The Republican-led battle against the ACA is a decade old, but even more Americans are turning to the health care option amid job losses and the coronavirus. New federal data shows nearly half a million Americans turned to the federal Obamacare exchanges after losing health insurance coverage this year.
President Trump is digging in, tweeting on Saturday that “Obamacare is a joke,” and “I will ALWAYS PROTECT PEOPLE WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS,ALWAYS!!!”

As a result, health care is again proving to be a central fight of the presidential race. Priorities USA Action, a major Democratic super PAC supporting Biden, is already airing a television ad in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan arguing that Trump is “failing on health care” by highlighting both the impact of the pandemic and the administration’s effort to nullify the ACA.

1. Things look really bad right now for Trump

Right now, nearly every poll paints the same picture for Trump — If voters headed to the polls today, he’d lose. Significantly. Like, landslide loss.

Biden is leading nationally and essentially every swing state that matters.

And consider the backdrop: The economy is down, the pandemic is raging, many Americans are being confronted by just how insidious and deep the racism that exists in this country truly is.

The President is focused on responding in his own way. That includes issuing an executive order protecting monuments and retweeting a video in which a man driving a golf cart with Trump campaign posters is seen chanting “white power” at counter protesters in Florida. The President thanked the “great people” shown in the video. He later removed the tweet.
Of course, there’s still five months until Election Day. That means there are likely at least 128 news cycles until then, and Trump has faced unpopularity before. Just … never like this.



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