Campaign 2020 isn’t about hope or change. It’s about making it through.




Obama Rips Into Trump During Drive-In Biden Rally

Former President Barack Obama on Saturday joined Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, on the campaign trail in Flint, Mich. It was their first joint in-person appearance of 2020.

Here we are, the worst week, this week! I mean, we’ve been going through this now for months. The federal government has had an opportunity to respond — for months. And his closing argument this week is that the press and people are too focused on Covid! “Covid, Covid, Covid,” he’s complaining. He’s jealous of Covid’s media coverage. And now he’s accusing doctors of profiting off this pandemic. Think about that. He said this just yesterday. Said doctors are overblowing it because they’re going to make money off it — doctors! He cannot fathom, he does not understand the notion that somebody would risk their life to save others without trying to make a buck. There was just a study by Stanford University that just came out showing thousands of people are likely to have gotten sick because of these rallies he’s holding. What is his obsession, by the way, with crowd size? You notice that? He’s always worried — this is the one measure he has of success. He’s still worrying about his inauguration crowd being smaller than mine. It really bugs him. He talked about, he’s still talking about that. Does he have nothing better to worry about? Did no one come to his birthday party when he was a kid? Was he traumatized? What’s with crowds? Well you know, I’ve had crowds before, you know, had quite a few. But, you know, when a country is going through a pandemic, that’s not what you’re supposed to be worrying about!

Former President Barack Obama on Saturday joined Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, on the campaign trail in Flint, Mich. It was their first joint in-person appearance of 2020.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

FLINT, Mich. — Former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. tag-teamed President Trump in their first joint appearance of 2020, with the former president joking that Mr. Trump was “traumatized” by low turnout at his childhood birthday parties and Mr. Biden suggesting he would have bopped Mr. Trump in their younger days.

On the final weekend of the campaign, Mr. Biden and Mr. Obama began Saturday with a drive-in rally in Flint in a bid to maximize turnout. Later, they held another drive-in rally in Detroit, where Stevie Wonder performed. The Biden campaign also announced that Mr. Obama would campaign in Atlanta and South Florida on Monday.

Mr. Obama won Michigan twice, and Genesee County, home to Flint, is an example of a place where Democrats lost significant ground in 2016 compared with how the Obama-Biden ticket had fared.

In Flint, the former president began by praising Mr. Biden for his decency, then pivoted to offense, the task he has pursued with vigor in appearances over the past two weeks. He laced into his successor for suggesting on Friday that physicians are magnifying the severity of the pandemic to make money.

“He cannot fathom, he does not understand the notion that somebody would risk their life to save others without trying to make a buck,” Mr. Obama said.

The former president also took aim at Mr. Trump’s fixation on the size of the crowds that turn out for him. “What is his obsession, by the way, with crowd size?” he asked. “Did no one come to his birthday party when he was a kid? Was he traumatized?”

Mr. Biden criticized Mr. Trump for his reported comments about America’s war dead and noted that Mr. Trump “likes to portray himself as a tough guy.” Then he suggested he would have wanted to punch Mr. Trump back in the day. “When you were in high school, wouldn’t you have liked to take the shot?” Mr. Biden said. “Anyway, that’s a different story, but anyway. A macho man.”

Later, in Detroit, Mr. Biden mocked Mr. Trump for having written off as business expenses more than $70,000 paid to style his hair during “The Apprentice.”

“I tell you what, man,” Mr. Biden said. “I hardly have any hair, but I’d rather have what I have.”

Their visit to Michigan also included a clutch shot by Mr. Obama, who drained a 3-pointer in a school gym in Flint and then walked off the court. “That’s what I do,” he said.

Thomas Kaplan reported from Flint, and Glenn Thrush from Washington.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

President Trump predicted on Saturday that the presidential election would not be decided on Tuesday, warning that “you’re going to be waiting for weeks” and suggesting — with no evidence — that “very bad things” could happen while states are counting ballots in the days after Election Day.

The president’s comments came as he kicked off four Saturday campaign stops in Pennsylvania with a subdued speech to several hundred people, boasting about his accomplishments and attacking his rival while he predicted victory next week.

“So you’re going to be watching on Nov. 3. I think it’s highly likely you’re not going to have a decision because Pennsylvania’s very big,” Mr. Trump said at his first stop in Newtown. “We’re going to be waiting, Nov. 3 is going to come and go, and we’re not going to know. And you’re going to have bedlam in our country.”

The president’s campaign has aggressively sought to prevent Pennsylvania and other states from extending the time they are allowed to count mail-in ballots, which have been used in greater numbers than ever before because of concerns about in-person voting during the pandemic. On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that Pennsylvania officials can accept absentee ballots for three days after Tuesday.

“This is a horrible thing that the United States Supreme Court has done to our country,” Mr. Trump said. “And I say it, and I say it loud and I say it proud.”

Despite his concerns about ballots, Mr. Trump predicted that Republicans would win the presidency and do well in congressional elections, waving aside polls that suggest that Democrats are leading in battleground states across the country.

The president’s first speech took place in a field in front of the farmhouse where George Washington planned the crossing of the Delaware River. The small crowd sat close together, mostly unmasked. Mr. Trump did not have his typical backdrop of energetic supporters standing behind him.




Trump Predicts No Results on Election Day

During his rally in Newtown, Pa., on Saturday, President Trump warned that voters would be “waiting for weeks” to get final election results and called it “a terrible thing.”

“And I think we will win Minnesota. We’re very close last time. And we should win it, when they let Minneapolis burn, we should win it. But I think we’re going to win it. And again, 1972 was the last time. Can you believe that? I think we’re going to do it. We’ll find out. You’re going to know it about — Well I hope, based on the Supreme Court, they don’t delay it too long, this decision yesterday, I will tell you was not a good decision. You’re allowed to wait days to count and days to have the final count. You’re allowed to have time limits beyond Nov. 3. So what does this mean? The whole world, and our nation, is going to be waiting and waiting and waiting to hear who won. They’re going to — You’re going to be waiting. You’re going to be waiting for weeks and a very dangerous thing happens Nov. 3 and now you have to wait and wait. And very bad things can happen with ballots during that period of Nov. 3 to whatever date they gave them. Many many days. So you’re going to be watching on Nov. 3. I think it’s highly likely you’re not going to have a decision because Pennsylvania is very big. And as you know, there was another state. But perhaps other states as well. This is a terrible thing that they’ve done to our country. And that’s the United States Supreme Court I’m talking about. That is a terrible, political, horrible, decision that they made. We’re going to be waiting Nov. 3 is going to come and go. And we’re not going to know and you’re going to have bedlam in our country.” ”This is a horrible thing that the United States Supreme Court has done to our country. And I say it, and I say it loud, and I say it proud.” “Just three days from now and a great red wave is forming. As sure as you’re there. And sure as we’re here together that wave is forming and they see it. They see it on all sides and there’s not a thing they can do about it.”

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During his rally in Newtown, Pa., on Saturday, President Trump warned that voters would be “waiting for weeks” to get final election results and called it “a terrible thing.”CreditCredit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

He was more animated in his second rally of the day, in Reading, where he spoke before a boisterous crowd of several thousand supporters. The president called his rivals names, lashed out at the news media, made false assertions about his record and suggested again that the election would not be decided on Tuesday.

He played video clips on a large screen showing his rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., making verbal gaffes, with Sean Hannity, a Fox News host, calling him a “clear and present danger to this country.” The president also played a Halloween-themed television ad on the screen showing an adult trick-or-treater approaching a home wearing a Biden mask.

“Know who you’re voting for. Don’t get tricked,” the person said, taking off the mask to reveal the face of Senator Kamala Harris of California, Mr. Biden’s running mate.

Mr. Trump has two more rallies in Pennsylvania as he races to try to catch up to Mr. Biden, his Democratic rival, who has consistently led in polls in the crucial swing state.

In Newtown, Mr. Trump’s teleprompter appeared to have problems at one point, but for the most part he tried to stick to a speech that seemed designed to present him in a more “presidential” light, avoiding some of the angry and defensive rants that have been central to his rallies.

In Reading, Mr. Trump seemed impressed by the size of his crowd, suggesting that the passion among his supporters would save the day for his re-election campaign.

“This doesn’t seem like someone who is going to come in second, do you?” Mr. Trump asked. “I don’t think so.”

AUSTIN, Texas — Multiple vehicles bearing Trump flags and signs surrounded a Biden-Harris campaign bus heading from San Antonio to Austin on Friday, forcing campaign officials to scrap two campaign events, according to reports by Democratic officials on Saturday.

The vehicles surrounded the bus on busy Interstate 35 and appeared to be attempting to slow it down and force it to the side of the road, according to social media posts from witnesses and accounts by party activists. In one instance, the vehicles pulled in front of the bus and tried to stop in the middle of the highway.

Katie Naranjo, chair of the Travis County Democratic Party, tweeted that Trump supporters also “ran into a person’s car, yelling curse words and threats.” The bus was occupied by campaign staff workers, who notified local law enforcement, which assisted the vehicle in reaching its destination, party officials said.

Out of “an abundance of caution,” they said, the campaign canceled an event scheduled for later that day at a parking lot belonging to the Texas A.F.L.-C.I.O. in downtown Austin. A campaign event in suburban Pflugerville was also scrapped.

“Rather than engage in productive conversation about the drastically different visions that Joe Biden and Donald Trump have for our country, Trump supporters in Texas instead decided to put our staff, surrogates, supporters, and others in harm’s way,” Tariq Thowfeek, the Texas communications director for the Biden for President campaign, said in a statement.

“Our supporters will continue to organize their communities for Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Democrats up and down the ballot,” Mr. Thowfeek said, “and to the Texans who disrupted our events: We’ll see you on November 3rd.”

A spokesman for the Texas Republican Party could not be immediately reached for comment. Efforts to contact the Texas Department of Public Safety to determine the possibility of any law enforcement action also were not immediately successful.

During his final rally of the day on Saturday, in Montoursville, Pa., President Trump cackled about his supporters “taunting” Mr. Biden at his outdoor events by driving by and honking horns, and then cheered on his supporters who surrounded the bus in Texas.

“Anybody see the picture of their crazy bus driving down the highway, they are surrounded by hundreds of cars, they are all Trump flags all over the place,” Mr. Trump said, chuckling.

Credit…Mario Tama/Getty Images

You could be forgiven for feeling déjà vu after looking at Ann Selzer’s latest poll of Iowa.

The survey, released Saturday, showed a late shift toward President Trump, after months in which he and Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, had been running neck-and-neck in her polling of the state.

The most respected political polling operation in Iowa, Selzer & Company was the rare firm to pick up on the last-minute shift in support toward Mr. Trump in 2016 that would ultimately deliver him Iowa, other Midwestern states and the Electoral College.

The new survey, conducted as usual on behalf of The Des Moines Register, showed 48 percent of likely Iowa voters supporting Mr. Trump, and 41 percent backing Mr. Biden. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

Selzer polls conducted in June and September had found the candidates locked in a statistical tie, most recently at 47 percent each.

When pressed, an additional 5 percent of likely voters in the new poll said they knew whom they would vote for — or already had — but didn’t want to tell. Altogether, 94 percent of likely voters said they had either cast their ballots already or come to a firm decision on whom to support, meaning there are few persuadable voters left in the race’s final days.

Four years ago, Ms. Selzer’s pre-election poll in early November found Mr. Trump ahead, also by seven points. That poll was conducted in the days after the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, informed Congress about a new review of the Hillary Clinton email case. It was not the only survey taken of Iowa voters during this time period, but it was the only one capturing the shift toward Mr. Trump. And it was pretty close to accurate: He ultimately beat Mrs. Clinton by nine points — two points more than in the Selzer poll.

Among battleground states, the heavily white and heavily rural Iowa is one of the more favorable to Mr. Trump this year. Still, any poll showing a seven-point Trump lead in a contested state — especially from such an esteemed pollster — is bound to turn heads.

The poll also found Senator Joni Ernst with the edge over her Democratic challenger, Theresa Greenfield, in a highly competitive race that will help determine control of the Senate.

Mr. Trump regained his strength in the new Iowa poll largely by flipping independent voters back to his camp; it showed him winning independents in Iowa 49 percent to 35 percent, something he’s been failing to do almost everywhere else. Along the way he cut deeply into Mr. Biden’s lead among women in the state, which dropped to nine points from 20 points in September.

Still, the Selzer poll is just one poll of the state; a survey released Thursday by Quinnipiac University found Mr. Trump with just a one-point lead. And while poll watchers will certainly wonder what the Selzer poll might indicate about trends in the Midwest, Mr. Biden does not need Iowa itself, with its six electoral votes, to win the presidency. His campaign has not made a major investment in the state.

When given a list of six possible electoral issues, Trump supporters said that the economy and taxes were driving their support of him; 37 percent of the president’s voters selected that topic. Iowa’s unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent last month, the fifth best in the country.

Among Biden supporters, the most commonly referenced subject was “his ability to restore what is good about America,” with 26 percent choosing it.

Over all, just 9 percent of all likely voters supporting one of the major nominees said that his approach to the pandemic was their main area of focus. That’s despite the fact that Iowa currently has one of the nation’s highest per capita case rates.

Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

A federal judge in Texas has called an election-eve hearing for Monday in a Republican lawsuit that seeks to dismantle Houston’s drive-through voting system and invalidate more than 120,000 votes that have already been cast.

The lawsuit contends that the 10 drive-through voting sites in Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, are operating illegally and arranged in locations that favor Democrats.

The system was implemented for the first time this year by Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, with unanimous approval by county commissioners, after being tested in a pilot program over the summer.

More than 127,000 voters have cast ballots at the sites and the number could grow to more than 135,000 through Election Day on Tuesday, said Susan Hays, an attorney for Harris County. She said county officials planned to vigorously challenge the suit, which she described as an act of “voter suppression.”

“It’s nuts,” she said. “Votes should count.”

The case will be heard Monday morning by Judge Andrew S. Hanen of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

In a motion on Friday asking to intervene in the case, Democrats said it threatened to “throw Texas’ election into chaos by invalidating the votes of more than 100,000 eligible Texas voters who cast their ballots” at the drive-through sites. The motion was filed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the campaign of M.J. Hegar, who is running for the U.S. Senate.

The plaintiffs, who include State Representative Steve Toth and the conservative activist Steve Hotze, argue that drive-through voting “is a violation of state and federal law and must be stopped.”

In a telephone interview on Saturday, Mr. Toth said that only the legislature had the authority to implement a drive-though voting system. He also said the arrangement of the sites was tilted toward Democratic voters, noting that Mr. Hollins is vice chairman of finance for the Texas Democratic Party.

“If Hollins is really concerned that everybody is accurately represented, why is it that nine of the 10 are set up in predominantly Democratic areas?” said Mr. Toth, who represents part of neighboring Montgomery County.

He denied that the lawsuit was aimed at blunting Democratic momentum amid record rates of early voting in Houston and other strongly Democratic areas in the last days before the election.

“We’re not the ones who are disenfranchising anybody,” he said. “This is Hollins who did this.”

In a statement on Twitter on Saturday, Mr. Hollins said drive-through voting “is a safe, secure and convenient way to vote. Texas Election Code allows it, the Secretary of State approved it, and 127,000 voters from all walks of life have used it.”

He said his office was “committed to counting every vote cast by registered voters in this election,” and that voters would be notified if court proceedings required them to take any additional steps.

Credit…Julia Wall/The News & Observer, via Associated Press

Police officers and sheriff’s deputies in Graham, N.C., deployed a chemical spray and arrested eight people at a march and rally on Saturday that were intended to honor George Floyd and encourage people to vote, according to the police and participants.

“I am truly disturbed by the fact that people who are charged to protect and to serve” sprayed a chemical agent on marchers who were taking people to the polls, said the Rev. Gregory B. Drumwright, an organizer of the event, who was among those arrested.

“We never got to the polls because the sheriff’s office worked overtime to find a way to quell our efforts and suppress our voices,” he said in an interview.

The Graham police said in a statement that officers had deployed a “pepper-based vapor” after the marchers blocked traffic in the street, “causing a traffic and safety hazard.”

Eventually, the march moved on to a courthouse for a speaking program, where the police also intervened. Officers once again sprayed a “pepper-based vapor onto the ground to assist in dispersing the crowd,” the police said, adding that several people had ignored commands to leave.

The people arrested were charged with offenses including failing to disperse and one count of assault on a law enforcement officer, the police said. Video of the incident posted by The Raleigh News & Observer showed people shouting at deputies, who deployed spray from canisters.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat who is up for re-election on Tuesday, said on Twitter that the confrontation was “unacceptable.”

“Peaceful demonstrators should be able to have their voices heard and voter intimidation in any form cannot be tolerated,” Mr. Cooper wrote.

Mayor Ian Baltutis of nearby Burlington, N.C., who marched and spoke at the event, said it had drawn a multiracial crowd of about 150 to 200 people in Graham, a city of about 15,000 located 50 miles northwest of Raleigh.

Mr. Baltutis said that after a sheriff’s deputy ordered the crowd to disperse within five minutes, deputies used the spray and tried to push people across the street.

“As an elected leader, it’s not an example of the professional policing and de-escalation we would expect,” Mr. Baltutis said.

The Alamance County Sheriff’s Office, which also used the spray, according to participants, did not respond to requests for comment.

Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

More than 90 million votes have already been cast in the 2020 presidential election — about 65 percent of the total turnout in 2016, according to data updated Saturday afternoon by the U.S. Elections Project, an effort led by Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who specializes in American elections.

The number of early votes cast has already shattered the previous early turnout record set in 2016, thanks in large part to expansions of mail and absentee voting put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. More than 91 million ballots have been sent to voters through the mail, and as of Saturday, 57 million of them have been returned. Over 32 million votes have been cast early and in person, according to the Elections Project.

A New York Times analysis of polling and ballot-request data shows that more Democrats have requested absentee ballots than Republicans have, and that most Republicans are likely to vote in person on Election Day. Experts have warned against drawing conclusions about the outcome of the race from early vote data for that reason and others. (Indeed, Hillary Clinton’s apparent edge in the early vote was widely reported in 2016 in the days before she ultimately lost the Electoral College.)

Still, experts have acknowledged that the early vote data so far does suggest turnout may exceed the 139 million votes cast in 2016.

The early vote is being watched particularly closely in crucial swing states like Florida, a state the president narrowly carried against Mrs. Clinton in 2016 and where polling is showing Joseph R. Biden Jr. slightly ahead. Data from the Elections Project shows that about 8.3 million ballots have been cast in Florida, a total representing roughly 59 percent of the registered voters in the state.

In Texas, more than 9.6 million ballots had been cast as of Friday, more than the roughly 8.9 million Texans who voted statewide four years ago. Polling averages there show a tight race in which President Trump is ahead.

Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

PITTSBURGH — In 2016, Allegheny County, which includes the city of Pittsburgh, voted for Hillary Clinton by a 16-point margin. At the same time, it gave Donald Trump more votes than he received in any other county in the state.

The battle over these margins is a matter of suburban geography, as a solidly blue city pushes further out against an ever-reddening western Pennsylvania, a shoving match that will go far in determining the winner of the state.

On the front lines of that Democratic push is an army of “resistance” groups formed immediately after the 2016 election, mostly consisting of midcareer women who were electrified by Mr. Trump’s election. Marie Norman, 55, a professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, is one of them: Her group, called the Order of the Phoenix, has been churning out postcards and deploying door-to-door canvassers since forming nearly four years ago.

On Saturday morning, Professor Norman was canvassing in the suburbs south of the city for statehouse candidates, including a state senator trying to hold a seat in hotly contested territory on the frontiers of the Democrats’ post-2016 suburban advance. “I feel a lot of energy this time canvassing — different from 2018,” she said. “I’m sure there’s more energy for Trump, too.”

A few minutes later, an S.U.V. driving down the quiet street proved her point: It was covered with Trump decals and flying Trump flags.

Along three suburban blocks, Professor Norman met Biden voters who were fervently hoping that he wins and others who were somewhat skeptical of him; a Trump voter who ripped up Professor Norman’s fliers at the door; and another who had a friendly discussion about not wanting to brainwash his children with his own political opinions. That she would be meeting all of these people while campaigning for a state house candidate would have been unthinkable before the 2016 election.

Professor Norman said she felt confident in a Biden victory in the county in terms of votes already cast — the Democrats currently hold a nearly 4-1 advantage in returned mail-in and absentee ballots — but she worried about whether the ballots would all be counted. A Trump win will be hard to recover from, she said, but win or lose, she plans to keep the Order of the Phoenix going, with a future focus on judicial elections.

The 2016 election, she said, “totally changed my life.”

Credit…Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

MIAMI — The biggest pool of votes in Florida is in Miami-Dade County, where turnout has been lagging among Black and Hispanic voters, both key demographics for Democrats.

So Senator Kamala Harris spent Saturday in South Florida, trying to shore up votes in the final weekend of early voting, which has traditionally been when Democrats here close the gap with Republicans.

“Everybody needs to vote,” Ms. Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, told reporters in Palm Beach County. “We’re here to say, ‘Listen, everything is at stake.’”

Democrats have plenty of work to do: Black voters and Puerto Rican voters, who tend to lean Democratic, have been casting ballots at a lower rate than the rest of the electorate in Miami-Dade, according to an analysis by Hawkfish, a Democratic technology and data firm.

About 50 percent of Black voters and 45 percent of Puerto Rican voters have voted, compared with 58 percent of other Hispanic voters, 61 percent of white voters and 62 percent of Cuban-American voters, who tend to lean conservative.

Miami-Dade has about 1.5 million registered voters. Hillary Clinton won the county in 2016 by some 300,000 votes, a margin that Joseph R. Biden Jr. is not expected to match — and that was not enough to win Mrs. Clinton the state.

Voters of Cuban, Colombian, Nicaraguan and Venezuelan descent have appeared particularly receptive to the Republican narrative that Mr. Biden, who has a long record as a centrist, and Ms. Harris are socialists. At her first event of the day in Miami, Ms. Harris flicked at that concern.

“Joe and I are proud, patriotic Americans,” she said.

But the message has stuck.

“We’re not leftists, as Cubans,” said Gloria Davis, a 59-year-old Republican, after voting for President Trump on Saturday at the library in Westchester, a conservative stronghold that as of Friday had the most early votes cast in the county. “I see the leftists in the Democratic Party.”

Republicans kept hammering away at the line outside the Coral Gables Library, another voting site. Under the blazing sun, Senator Marco Rubio, Representative Mario Diaz-Balart and other local Republicans denounced Democrats as closet socialists.

“In Washington, they vote just like Bernie Sanders,” Mr. Rubio said in Spanish as salsa music blared in the background.

Mr. Biden’s troubles with Black voters came up on Friday in a phone call between the campaign and local Democratic members of Congress ahead of Ms. Harris’s visit. Representative Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens, who is African-American, raised concerns about the campaign’s ground game, according to a person briefed on the call. Ms. Wilson appeared with Ms. Harris at an event on Saturday, and the Biden team has planned a slew of Souls to the Polls events targeting Black voters on Sunday.

One encouraging sign for Democrats has been increased turnout in Broward County, the most Democratic in the state, where Caribbean-American voters have been enthusiastic about Ms. Harris, whose father is Jamaican.

“When we talk about African-American and Caribbean voters in Florida, they want to know they have a president who understands the commonality between all of us,” Ms. Harris said. “They want a president who speaks to our higher purposes and our better angels, as opposed to speaking to hate and division.”

Credit…Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

ROSWELL, Ga. — On Saturday afternoon, Senator Kelly Loeffler held a rally in the northern Atlanta suburbs, an affluent area that used to be a Republican safe space until Donald Trump lost it in 2016.

If some voters in these suburbs have determined that the Republican Party has gone too far to the right — or fear that Trumpism has twisted the party — Ms. Loeffler had not come to change those kinds of minds.

Standing on the back of a pickup in the parking lot of a mid-rise office building, Ms. Loeffler, who was appointed to the seat 10 months ago by Gov. Brian Kemp, bragged about her support for the president. She warned of the rise of socialism, the “fake news” and “the deep state” (“It’s all real,” she said). She gave a warm-up speaking spot to Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia Republican congressional candidate best known for her embrace of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory.

Ms. Loeffler also indicated that she had no plans to move to the center. And that could serve as a preview of the tenor of the complicated special-election contest for her seat, one that could help determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

The Nov. 3 ballot is a crowded one, and if no candidate gets a majority of votes, the race will go to a January runoff. Leading in the polls is a Democratic candidate, the Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached. Ms. Loeffler has been mostly duking it out with a rival Republican, Representative Doug Collins.

The two Republicans have been engaged in a virtual primary of sorts, throwing mud and striving to out-conservative each other. And while some Republicans thought Ms. Loeffler, a wealthy businesswoman, might take a moderate path to win over suburban women, she instead tacked hard right as a campaigner, enthusiastically accepting the endorsement of Ms. Greene.

In Roswell, before an outdoor crowd of about 100 people, Ms. Loeffler issued an awkwardly phrased sentence or two whose message was nonetheless clear: This is who she is. And she is not changing.

“I’ve had people give me feedback and say, you know, maybe you’re, you know, maybe you’d do more, get in the middle, whatever,” she said. “I am who I am because of my values.”

Credit…Gregory Pace/Shutterstock

PHILADELPHIA — Add Debra Messing and Kathy Najimy to the thousands of canvassers spread out across Philadelphia for the Biden campaign on Saturday.

The two actors went knocking door to door with Sharif Street, a state senator, as the Biden campaign’s turnout operation kicked into high gear in this epicenter of Democratic support in the critical battleground state.

“Everything is on Pennsylvania, this is it,” said Ms. Messing as she rallied a group of canvassers on the corner of North Carlisle Street and West Susquehanna Avenue.

Throughout the city, the Biden campaign has been deploying volunteers to the doors of likely Democratic voters who either have not returned their absentee ballot or never requested one. Nearly two million registered Democrats requested absentee ballots, compared with fewer than 790,000 Republicans.

The message on Saturday from the canvassers was to make sure voters know how to navigate either the absentee ballot drop-off process, or voting on Election Day, with the focus on making a “plan to vote.”

“I’m going to vote, and vote for Biden,” said Kevin Robinson, 66. Ms. Messing let out a whoop and told Mr. Robinson, who was favoring his left knee, that if he was physically unable to stand in line, he could move ahead in the line. “I’ll need that,” he said.

Ms. Messing and Ms. Najimy, who have long been politically active, said that even after having volunteered in previous elections, this one felt different and more urgent.

“There is a feeling of unrest that I’ve never experienced before,” Ms. Najimy said. “It’s like Donald Trump has taken a hammer to whatever unity we had and smashed it.”

Of course, having celebrity canvassers can help a door-knocking operation’s success. While most canvassers are lucky to see half of the doors they knock crack open, nearly every resident came out to see Ms. Messing and Ms. Najimy.

Vendetta Sample, 56, saw the two women and ran down her stoop to greet them. “I voted, I voted early,” she said.

“Did you vote for —” Ms. Messing started to ask before she was cut off.

“You dang know I did,” Ms. Sample said.

The Biden campaign app also had a man named Sean on its list who lived at Ms. Sample’s address. Ms. Messing asked about Sean and if he voted.

“Sean’s not here, he’s working,” said Ms. Sample. “I don’t know if he voted.”

“You’re going to call Sean and you’re going to say we came to see him, and you’re going to say you promised us that you would kick his ass if he doesn’t vote.”

Ms. Sample smiled, pantomiming a kick, when her young grandson, wearing a Spider-Man mask, poked his head out.

“What you say about my daddy?” he asked. “Say that again and I’ll punch you in your face.”

The entire canvassing team laughed.

“That’s Philly,” one said.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

SUN CITY, Ariz. — Don’t believe the polls. Don’t believe the media. And definitely do not believe the Democrats.

That was the message from Republican leaders to the party’s foot soldiers gathering Saturday in Sun City. The volunteers were getting ready to fan out in this retirement community in Maricopa County, where Donald Trump won in 2016 with 49 percent of the vote, to rally voters for Mr. Trump and Martha McSally, the Republican senator whom polls have consistently shown running behind her Democratic challenger, the former astronaut Mark Kelly.

“You all know why this is the most consequential election in our life,” Ms. McSally told the crowd inside the local Republican headquarters, flanked by cardboard cutouts of Mr. Trump and former President Ronald Reagan. “They’re coming after our county. They’re coming after our state.”

Still, Ms. McSally tried to strike a cheerful tone.

“We’re on the verge of a great American comeback,” she said to a round of cheers.

There was little need to convince the crowd, who appeared to be optimistic about the party’s chances.

“I’ve never seen energy like we’re seeing now,” said Patti Thompson, a 72-year-old party activist who wore a Women for Trump T-shirt emblazoned with an image of a stars-and-stripes stiletto. “People care about saving our country. You can’t let the liberals take — we cannot let them run our country.”

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

MILWAUKEE — Mary Beth Mathes brought her ballot to a drop box outside a public library on Milwaukee’s South Side on Saturday, but she was missing one thing: the witness signature required by Wisconsin state law.

So Ms. Mathes, a flight attendant for United Airlines, went inside the library to find Carol Dohm, the supervisor for the city’s early voting site at the library.

On top of the drop box, Ms. Dohm signed Ms. Mathes’s ballot, then Ms. Mathes signed it too. Then both women engaged in a brief celebration, shimmying, throwing their arms in the air and yelling “yeaaaaah!”

“I was just so excited to vote,” said Ms. Mathes, 50, who voted for President Trump. “I’m going to be back in town on Election Day, but I didn’t want to deal with the long lines.”

While Milwaukee is heavily Democratic, its South Side, filled with a mix of Hispanic and older white voters, is the most Republican part of the city.

A slow procession of voters came to the Tippecanoe branch of the Milwaukee Public Library on Saturday. Just five voters at a time were allowed inside the area within the library set aside for voting, where two machines were in use. Officials on site said the foot traffic had been much busier during the week, and the line had moved slowly last weekend, too.

Milwaukee is one of just a few Wisconsin municipalities with in-person early voting this weekend. State law allows in-person early voting from Oct. 20 through Sunday, though most communities held their last early voting day on Friday.

Voters who have received an absentee ballot but have yet to return it have until the polls close Tuesday night to either deposit the ballots in a drop box or hand deliver them to a municipal clerk or a polling place.

Ms. Mathes’s experience demonstrates one last hurdle to absentee voting that Wisconsin Republicans put in place when they enacted a series of electoral reforms in the last decade — finding a witness signature, which can be difficult for people who live alone during the pandemic, which is raging across Wisconsin.

Ms. Mathes said she voted for Mr. Trump because of his economic record and his stance opposing abortion rights. In a second term, she said, she hopes he would end many of the pandemic-related restrictions that have been put in place.

“I don’t know if we can resolve it,” she said of the virus. “Hopefully we can open things up again and keep people working.”

COLUMBUS, Ohio — President Trump won Ohio by eight percentage points in 2016, but multiple polls have painted a troubling new picture for Mr. Trump in a state that no Republican has ever won a presidential race without.

In Ohio, as in much else of the nation, Mr. Trump has bled support from suburban voters. And so with Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s hold on Ohio’s metro centers, and Mr. Trump’s commanding lead in its rural areas, the tossup state could come down to voters like Amy W., a white college-educated Republican from Westerville, a suburb northeast of Columbus.

On Saturday afternoon, she stood in line at her Franklin County polling station, located in a shopping center. The line ran through much of the parking lot but moved swiftly. Amy, 55, would only whisper that she planned to vote for Mr. Biden and declined to give her last name because she was afraid, she said, of Mr. Trump’s supporters.

That was also why she was voting early: “When Trump said he was going to have people out watching, that scared the heck out of me,” she said.

Amy, a payroll coordinator, said she was voting for Mr. Biden in honor of her mother, who died earlier this year in a nursing home after contracting the coronavirus. She blamed Mr. Trump for playing down the virus threat.

“She was alone, and I couldn’t be with her,” she said of her mother, and began crying softly. “I feel like I let her down.”

Credit…Lynsey Weatherspoon for The New York Times

In the final days of an historic campaign season, Democrats in Georgia are searching for people like Linda Wingfield.

On Friday, Ms. Wingfield left her shift as a fast-food cook and cast a ballot for the very first time — at 59 years old.

“It means a lot to me,” Ms. Wingfield said as she lined up along with about 15 other Black voters outside the Adams Park Library in Atlanta.

After decades of staying away from the polls, Ms. Wingfield was spurred to vote by a strong dislike for President Trump.

“We need somebody to help us, not destroy us,” she said, calling on “God’s faith” to elect Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Friday was the final day for early, in-person voting in Georgia. And as the numbers were posted on Saturday, some experts saw worrying signs in the numbers for Democrats.

Of the nearly 2.7 million people who cast their ballots in early, in-person voting, only 709,000, or 26.4 percent, were identified as Black.

The number does not include absentee ballots, and thousands of those have not been received.

Even so, Charles Bullock, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia in Athens, said the percentage of Black voters was in line with the numbers in the state during Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential race in 2016. “I believe Democrats would be concerned about the Black turnout where it is,” he said.

Hoping to make sure the scales tip in their favor, Democrats are mounting a last-minute push, urging not only their loyal supporters to vote, but also reaching out to the apathetic and even chronic nonvoters, such as Ms. Wingfield.

“I don’t have to tell you the stakes,” Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate running against the incumbent, Senator David Perdue, said during a Zoom call on Saturday with college students running a get-out-the-vote phone bank.

He also announced that former President Barack Obama would be coming to Atlanta on Monday in an effort to “turn out voters and get everybody out to the polls on Election Day.”

And on Saturday, Raphael G. Warnock, the pastor who is running against Senator Kelly Loeffler, was holding get-out-the-vote rallies with Democrats in DeKalb County and with South Asian voters in Suwanee, Ga.

Credit…Michelle Gustafson for The New York Times

PHILADELPHIA — The corner of Limekiln Pike and East Pastorius Street was bustling with people bundled for a chilly day of door-to-door canvassing here in northwest Philadelphia.

Wearing masks with the word “vote” on them and clutching signs reading “African Americans for Biden,” they fanned out across this predominantly Black neighborhood, knocking on the doors of likely Democratic voters who had not yet returned their absentee ballots, or who hadn’t requested one at all.

The city, which is the beating heart of Democratic support in this crucial battleground state, has been returning absentee ballots at a relatively high rate, with 74 percent returned as of Saturday, according to data from the U.S. Elections Project, an effort led by Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who specializes in American elections.

But Philadelphia, where 38 percent of registered voters requested absentee ballots, did not embrace the method as strongly as Allegheny County — home to Pittsburgh and the other major Democratic county in the state — where 44 percent of registered voters requested absentee ballots.

That is partly because the Democratic Party in Philadelphia began telling voters this month that they should instead focus on voting in person. The city has a strong tradition of Election Day voting, which was evident on Saturday as canvassers knocked on numerous doors and were greeted with supportive fist pumps and pledges to vote early on Election Day.

“I’ll be there,” said Edward Tomlin, 70, as he leaned out of his door to greet a Biden canvasser.

His neighbors, members of the Griffin family, are all planning to vote in person on Election Day, including one person who will be voting for the first time.

When Mr. Tomlin was told that there might be a line and he might want to bring a chair, he waved it off.

“I’ll be fine,” he said.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

In the homestretch of the presidential election, the Biden campaign has dominated the paid media landscape.

On television and radio, the Biden campaign spent $66.2 million over the past week — from Oct. 23 to Oct. 30 — while the Trump campaign spent only about $19.4 million, according to Advertising Analytics, an ad tracking firm. The Republican National Committee has helped to pick up some of the Trump campaign’s slack and has run about $16 million worth of ads during the same period.

The spending advantage for Democrats holds on Facebook, where the Biden campaign has spent roughly $9 million over the past week, and the Trump campaign has spent $4.4 million during the same stretch on the platform.

The yawning spending gap between the two campaigns with just 72 hours to go until Election Day has persisted during the final weeks of the presidential race, as the Biden campaign has enjoyed an influx of donations at a time when the Trump campaign has experienced a cash crunch.

President Trump had at one point raised more than $1 billion for his re-election and had a fund-raising head start on Democrats. But that financial advantage has disappeared, and Joseph R. Biden Jr. entered October with roughly triple the funds at his disposal as Mr. Trump: $177 million to $63.1 million. The Biden campaign has leveraged that cash advantage on the airwaves, going up with ads as Mr. Trump’s team has slashed its ad spending budget.




Trump’s Campaign Is Building an Army of Poll Watchers. What Can They Actually Do?

President Trump and his campaign have been calling for an army of poll watchers on Election Day. What is poll watching, and when does it cross the line? We look at how a federal consent decree restricted the Republican Party for decades, and why its expiration could make a difference in 2020.

This year, as the president has been talking about— “Fraud like you’ve never seen. They have these fake ballots. They’re trying to rig an election, and we can’t let that happen. I hope you’re all going to be poll watchers.” “His language has taken on an almost militaristic tone.” “Go into the polls and watch very carefully. Be poll watchers when you go there. Watch all the thieving and stealing and robbing they do.” There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in U.S. elections. Still, the president talks about recruiting an army of poll watchers. “It’s taken on such an aggressive nature in a way that we’ve kind of never seen before. It’s very frightening to election officials.” “It paints poll watching with a veneer of antagonism, combat and not in the spirit of protecting our elections.” But it’s more than just rhetoric. This year, the Republican Party can throw its full weight behind the president’s poll watching operations in ways we haven’t seen for nearly 40 years. To understand why, let’s take a trip back in time — “Wherever I go, people ask me what a New Jersey vacation is like” — to a governor’s race in New Jersey in 1981. “When I ran in that election, it was a very interesting election, to say the least.” This was the Democratic candidate James Florio. And here he is now. “That’s a long time ago, that’s 40 years ago.” The race was an early referendum on the Reagan administration. “I like Tom Kean.” “Kean has endorsed Reaganomics and proposed cuts in state taxes on business. The Democratic candidate, Congressman James Florio, attacks both Reagan’s and Kean’s economic plan.” “We thought it would be an election on the merits of the issues” — “revitalizing our railroads, cleaning up toxic waste, strengthening law enforcement” — “turned out that was not all involving the merits.” It was the closest fought election in the history of the state. But as it turns out, it wasn’t a clean fight. “Election day yielded some surprises to a lot of people who went to the polls because people saw off duty policemen with armbands that said ‘members of the Ballot Security Task Force.’” “That’s the Republican group, which according to state Democrats, intimidated some minority voters.” “It looked very official. And they were standing there with their guns.” “They obstructed voters from casting ballots. But also they obstructed access by poll workers.” More than 200 task force members showed up at the polls, confronting voters in Democratic strongholds. They were in Newark but not in Short Hills. They were in Trenton but not Princeton. And Camden but not in Cherry Hill. “If you look at the demographics of the neighborhoods that were targeted for these efforts, they were all predominantly Black and Latinx neighborhoods. White voters were not targeted in the same way at all.” “So it was clear that they’re not concerned about ballot integrity. They’re concerned about intimidation. It was a very clever, sinister initiative.” In the end, Florio lost by a razor thin margin. “1,797 votes out of 2.3 million votes. The intimidation had an impact on the outcome of the election.” “It’s a case of sour grapes from Democrats that don’t know how to take defeat.” But this wasn’t just a local effort. Investigations suggested that the task force was organized and paid for by the Republican National Committee. “A covert operation that was at the very least intentionally misleading and resulted in technical violations of our election laws.” Democrats sued the R.N.C. for violating the Voting Rights Act. The R.N.C. was forced to enter into a federal consent decree that would restrict them for years to come. “For the better part of the past four decades, the Republican National Party has been under a consent decree that has limited their ability to coordinate some of these poll watching activities.” “So it created a mechanism that deterred any additional voter intimidation and also created a check on future R.N.C. efforts that might target minority communities.” Under the terms of the consent decree, the R.N.C. had to get court approval for poll watching plans. The party tried unsuccessfully to get out of it for many years. “And they were found to be in violation of the consent decree at least three times since it was put into place.” Then in 2017, the court allowed the consent decree to expire, setting up a different kind of fight in 2020. “This will be the first presidential election where we will see the Republican National Party operating a poll watching operation without the consent decree hovering over their heads. Now that it has been lifted, it looks like there is going to be a more organized and a bigger poll watching operation coming out of the Republican National Party.” Republicans say they’re training more than 50,000 poll watchers in at least 15 battleground states. They’ve released a series of carefully worded training presentations for volunteers. “Poll watchers are the first line of defense for President Trump. Be courteous to county staff and other watchers. Yes, even our Democrat friends. Do not speak with voters and do not interfere with the orderly conduct of the voting process.” Their presence at the polls is perfectly legal if they follow the rules. In early voting this year, there have been a few potential violations. Pennsylvania’s attorney general called out illegal surveillance of a ballot dropbox in Philadelphia. And local news in Florida reported on two armed private security guards who posted themselves near an early voting site. “Two armed security guards showed up outside of the downtown St. Pete early voting location.” “Pretty much ever since the president has been calling on his supporters to watch the polls, election officials and law enforcement agencies across the country have kind of been preparing for what may be an influx of people who don’t know the rules and regulations of poll watching.” In a statement, the R.N.C. said its poll watchers have received rigorous training to follow state laws and are not there to be intimidating. “The big unknown is exactly how big and how widespread the deployment of these poll watchers will be and whether they will have any kind of marching orders from the Republican Party or the Trump campaign to really question a bunch of voters’ eligibility or whether they’ll just kind of follow the more traditional ways.” Ultimately, the consent decree offered a legal shortcut to stop the R.N.C.’s poll watching operations if they crossed the line. “What’s important to keep in mind is that the tactics that were unlawful in 1980 are just as unlawful in 2020. There has never been permission for any political party or any private party to engage in racially targeted voter intimidation or voter intimidation of any sort. And so we’re not without protection. We’re not without tools to combat it. But we do have one less in our arsenal.” “If we see a resumption of the same type of thing this time, we’ll have to go back to court. I can be authoritatively the person that can be definitive and say that small margins make a big difference.”

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President Trump and his campaign have been calling for an army of poll watchers on Election Day. What is poll watching, and when does it cross the line? We look at how a federal consent decree restricted the Republican Party for decades, and why its expiration could make a difference in 2020.

President Trump and his campaign have been calling for an army of poll watchers on Election Day. And with the expiration of a decades-old court order, the Republican Party can throw its full weight behind the president’s poll-watching operations nationwide.

The Republican National Committee says its poll watchers are carefully trained, but the campaign’s rhetoric has raised fears of voter intimidation, like the kind that led to the original court order. Back in 1981, the R.N.C. paid and organized armed, off-duty police officers to patrol polling stations in minority neighborhoods in New Jersey. Democrats sued, and got the R.N.C. to enter into a consent decree in 1982, restricting the party’s poll watching efforts for 35 years.

It expired in 2017, making 2020 the first presidential election without this extra layer of protection. Voter intimidation remains illegal, but without the consent decree the main challenge is litigation, which could take years.

“The Daily,” The Times’s morning podcast, will have its first-ever live broadcast on Election Day. Michael Barbaro, the host of the podcast, and Carolyn Ryan, a New York Times deputy managing editor, will talk to reporters and voters across the country to make sense of what’s happening on a history-making day.

Over the four-hour broadcast, you can expect to hear from dozens of Times reporters. Our correspondents will be on the ground in key battleground states, speaking to voters as they head to the polls. Our technology reporters will keep an eye on social media — and potential disinformation — while our polling experts will discuss the latest on the state of the race.

Tune in on Tuesday, Nov. 3, from 4 to 8 p.m. Eastern time at

Credit…Eve Edelheit for The New York Times

TAMPA, Fla. — Across the country, President Trump faces staggering challenges with well-educated, upscale voters who have rejected the Republican Party under his leadership.Here in Hillsborough County, Democrats hope those national trends extend to affluent and traditionally conservative corners of this city, as Joseph R. Biden Jr. seeks to drive turnout among early voters in Florida ahead of a big Republican push on Election Day.

But on Saturday afternoon, three days before Election Day, there were reminders at an early-voting site in south Tampa that some areas might not be changing as rapidly as Democrats might like. Plenty of longtime Republican voters said they still separate Mr. Trump’s character from the policies of the Republican Party that they have always supported.

“I’ll be disappointed and I’ll be concerned for the economic future of our country and very concerned for the next generation” if Mr. Biden wins, said Don Blair, 53, who works in investment banking. Mr. Blair also stressed his support for Mr. Trump’s policies on issues from the Supreme Court to “his support of people of faith.”

Irene Tran, 34, an accountant, said she was deeply concerned about another lockdown and the economic fallout that would result, even as virus cases soared and many Americans remained out of work on Mr. Trump’s watch.

“Everybody needs someone like him to boost the economy, move this country forward,” she said. “There can’t be a lockdown. The country has to be still somewhat open.”

Voters at this early-voting site offered just the briefest of snapshots of the state of play in a broadly Democratic-leaning county that Hillary Clinton won in 2016, and where plenty of Biden supporters might have voted early or mailed in their ballots. But some of the Democrats arriving did not dispute the idea that the area remained an uphill battle in the race.

Jennifer, 57, would only confess in a whisper that she supported Mr. Biden.

“Look at this neighborhood,” she said, suggesting that it was Republican territory as she declined to give her last name. Asked about the idea that it was changing politically, moving away from its conservative tilt, she said, “Not as quickly as I would have hoped to have seen it.”

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — In the final three days of the election, one of the most desirable billboards on the internet — YouTube’s home page — will be devoted exclusively to promote the re-election of President Trump.

It is the conclusion of a yearlong tug of war between the two presidential campaigns for the ad space on YouTube’s home page, the front door to the internet’s second-most visited website. The Biden campaign secured the so-called masthead on the days after the presidential debates and the Republican convention. But it was the Trump campaign that landed the coveted ad property for the most critical days of the election cycle, starting Sunday and going through Election Day. How Google allocates the home page on important election dates has become a source of tension between the company and the Democratic National Committee.

The dates just before Election Day were decided almost a year ago, months before Mr. Biden secured the Democratic nomination. Working closely with Google, the Trump campaign locked in the key dates, including Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, with special early access that it was granted as part of an incentive program for big advertisers.

Without a nominee, the D.N.C. on behalf of the eventual candidate had not spent enough in 2019 to be part of the program, meaning its nominee would have to settle for the leftover days in the 2020 election. It is not clear how much an advertiser has to spend with Google in order to participate in the early sales period.

The cost of controlling the ads on the masthead of the site is about $2 million a day, according to some advertisers, and is available to only one advertiser per day.

After the early sales period ended, the D.N.C. requested to reserve specific dates that were still available, including Election Day. A D.N.C. official said it authorized its Google sales representative to put a hold on Nov. 3 but was told a few hours later that the date had gone to another customer. The Trump campaign said it followed YouTube’s rules to grab the ad inventory first.

“Our campaign planned early, partnering with Google in 2019 to secure the YouTube masthead for the most important dates this cycle, and thanks to our forward thinking, we’re ensuring the president’s message is reaching voters across the nation before they cast their ballots,” said Courtney Parella, deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign.

Unlike the nearly century-old broadcast radio and television laws that require equal time for each candidate’s ads, internet ads are largely unregulated. Internet companies write their own political ad policies.

“At best, the process lacked transparency and clarity,” Chris Meagher, a spokesman for the D.N.C. said. “At worst, it intentionally cut Democrats out of the process, making the advertising inventory open only to Donald Trump and Republicans.”

Google, which owns YouTube, has said that it does not treat political advertisers any differently than brands like Verizon — meaning candidates who spend more in the past are given a leg up.

Charlotte Smith, a spokeswoman for Google, said altering the masthead reservation system or adjusting the process for a specific election or political party would be “inconsistent and unfair” to YouTube’s other advertisers.

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

American presidential elections always seize international attention, but this year is exceptional: Mr. Trump has dominated news cycles and frayed nerves in almost every corner of the earth like few leaders in history. Having lived through his impulsiveness, and his disdain for allies and dalliances with adversaries, the world is on tenterhooks waiting to see whether the United States will choose to stay that rocky course.

No country has watched the American election unfold with greater anger and grievance than China — and few have more at stake. Tensions over trade, technology and the coronavirus have brought relations to their worst level since Washington first recognized the People’s Republic in 1979.

Even so, few Chinese officials appear to harbor much hope that a defeat for Mr. Trump would usher in any improvement.

In Russia, which the C.I.A. has accused of mounting a clandestine effort to re-elect Mr. Trump, pro-Kremlin news organizations have played up the possibility of violence and chaos, allowing commentators who depict American democracy as rotten to the core to declare the campaign an I-told-you-so moment.

To the Europeans, a Trump re-election would confirm that the United States has abandoned its leadership role in the western alliance. Beyond questioning membership in NATO, Mr. Trump has labeled the European Union a competitor and rival, tried to drive wedges among European countries and promoted right-wing populism.

Many Europeans fear a more radical and even less constrained Mr. Trump in a second term, freer to act on his instincts — like those that guided his response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the Middle East, where Mr. Trump’s foreign policy has had the biggest impact, the biggest impact of a Democratic victory could be to leave the autocratic leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey with few friends in Washington, said Hisham Melhem, a columnist for the Lebanese newspaper Annahar Al Arabi.

Israel’s right-wing government has been showered with political favors by the Trump White House and backed to the hilt, culminating in normalization deals with three Arab countries that made the Middle East suddenly feel a bit less hostile to the Jewish state.

But a Trump victory offers Israel no guarantees. A second-term President Trump, unfettered of his need to please pro-Israel evangelical voters, might rush into an overly forgiving new deal with Iran, many Israelis fret.

In the course of human events that should probably be taking place virtually this year, in a house so divided that talk of jailing opponents registers as typical fare, in a country asking not what can be done, exactly, but whether anything can at this point, an election is happening on Tuesday.

By the standards of the times, the election’s very arrival can feel like a feat. But a tour of these final, furious campaign days makes clear that the abiding theme of 2020 is something like survival: getting to 2021 in one piece, individually and collectively.

“At this point, civil war is one bad joke away from happening,” said Jorge Puertas, 21, in Hialeah, Fla. “One misunderstanding.” He said he worked for a local Democratic group and cast his ballot for President Trump anyway to avoid disappointing his grandfather.

On one side, campaign rallies have often been reduced to car-bound honk-fests, for epidemiology’s sake. On the other, they are undimmed — and discouraged by public health authorities.

Taken together, the snapshots from the campaign in its final days can double as a sort of rolling testament to national contradiction, rendered often in dizzying succession: the swagger and the nihilism, the faith and the faithlessness (“Jesus 2020: Our Only Hope” is a popular sign choice), the blithe invocation of outright fracture.

“Guillotine 2020,” read another sign displayed on a West Philadelphia porch recently, among the wind chimes and planters. “No More Presidents.”

Most conversations across the ideological expanse tended toward such fatalism almost immediately.

There is the virus to outlive, the opponent to outlast, the threats that must be outrun, many say — eroding liberties, police violence, institutional rot — if the whole enterprise is to endure in recognizable form.

At stake, in their accumulated telling: “Freedom,” said one person. “Our liberation,” said another. “Kind of feels like everything,” said a third.

Credit…Mark Makela for The New York Times

Masks, and the mandates over wearing them, have become the focus of lawsuits in several states, yet another illustration of how the coronavirus has upended campaigning and voting — and in many cases deepened partisan divisions.

One complaint that made it to the Supreme Court this week involves a challenge by a conservative voter-rights group in Minnesota against the governor’s order mandating face masks in public places.

It was one of numerous cases that are testing the boundaries of health directives in public and at polling places, just as the number of coronavirus cases rises toward a third peak.

Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota, a Democrat, had issued an order mandating masks in public in July. In August, a group called the Minnesota Voters Alliance, along with five voters, sued state officials, claiming that the order violated the First Amendment and contradicted an older law that banned disguises in public.

This month Judge Patrick J. Schiltz, a federal district judge in Minnesota, ruled against the plaintiffs, writing, “There is no question that Minnesota has the constitutional authority to enact measures to protect the health and safety of its citizens.”

But this week, the plaintiffs asked the Supreme Court to intervene, according to their lawyer, Erick Kaardal. Their emergency application said that “Minnesota’s conflicting mask policies are the constitutional problem” and asked Justice Neil M. Gorsuch to block the governor’s order before Election Day. Justice Gorsuch may rule on the application himself or refer it to the full court.

Other clashes over face coverings and voting are playing out elsewhere.

In Maryland, a Harford County man was arrested on charges of violating a state emergency order and trespassing after he refused to put on a mask at an early-voting precinct on Monday, the county’s sheriff said in a Facebook post on Tuesday. He filed a lawsuit that was dismissed by a county judge on Friday.

In Wisconsin, a poll worker in La Crosse sued Tony Evers, the state’s Democratic governor, and the city clerk last month after he said that he had been stopped from working during the state’s partisan primary in August because he would not wear a mask. The man said he had a medical condition that exempted him from the state’s mask order.

And in Texas this week, a federal judge blocked Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, from exempting voters and poll workers at election precincts from the requirement to wear masks.

Adam Liptak and Neil Vigdor contributed reporting.

Credit…Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via Associated Press

Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, whose early efforts to lift pandemic restrictions in his state were deemed too hasty even for President Trump, has quarantined himself after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said.

The governor spoke at a mask-optional “Make America Great Again” event on Tuesday in Manchester, Ga.; another speaker at the rally, Representative Drew Ferguson, Republican of Georgia, announced on Friday that he had tested positive for the virus.

Mr. Kemp was exposed “within the last 48 hours to an individual who recently tested positive” and will be quarantining, the governor’s office said in a statement on Friday. The governor tested negative for the virus, the statement said.

It is not clear if Mr. Ferguson was the infected individual the governor’s statement was referring to, but he interacted with Mr. Kemp more than once this week, according to local news.

Pictures of the pro-Trump event, during which Mr. Kemp voiced his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, show dozens of attendees standing close together at an outdoor venue, with many not wearing masks.

The event was intended to counter Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s socially distanced campaign appearance in nearby Warm Springs. No infections have been reported after the Biden event.

Mr. Trump has mocked his opponent for using social-distance circles at his speeches, including the one at the spa town in Georgia, which was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s favorite vacation and rehabilitation site.

Mr. Ferguson said he had cold-like symptoms on Thursday night, but he played down the danger to people he had encountered since contracting the illness. The LaGrange Daily News reported that Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Kemp had appeared together again on Thursday night at an indoor campaign event for a local candidate in Hogansville.

“While the vast majority of my recent schedule has been virtual, we are beginning the process of reaching out to anyone I have seen in recent days,” Mr. Ferguson said, adding that he was well enough to work from home.

Credit…Jim Mone/Associated Press

Secretary of State Steve Simon of Minnesota said on Friday that his office will not oppose a federal appeals court decision ordering election officials to set aside any ballots that arrive after 8 p.m. on election night, effectively tossing out a seven-day grace period that had been in place for ballots postmarked by Election Day.

The state, however, has not ruled out the possibility of bringing a lawsuit after the election to “protect voters,” Mr. Simon said.

“We disagree with the court’s decision, and there may be cause for litigation later,” Mr. Simon said. And while he agreed that the state will segregate ballots received after the 8 p.m. deadline, he added that “there is no court ruling yet saying those ballots are invalid.”

Thursday’s decision, issued just five days before the election, came as an estimated 578,000 absentee ballots that had been requested in the state have not been returned, according to the U.S. Elections Project. Many of those ballots could already be in the mail, and voters can still return ballots in person.

Citing the ruling, several officials urged voters to return their ballots in person. “DO NOT put your ballots in the mail,” Representative Ilhan Omar wrote on Twitter.

In its 2-to-1 ruling, the court said that the Minnesota secretary of state had “extended the deadline for receipt of ballots without legislative authorization.”

“The consequences of this order are not lost on us,” the court majority wrote. “We acknowledge and understand the concerns over voter confusion, election administration issues, and public confidence in the election.”

But, the court said, “we conclude the challenges that will stem from this ruling are preferable to a postelection scenario where mail-in votes, received after the statutory deadline, are either intermingled with ballots received on time or invalidated without prior warning. Better to put those voters on notice now while they still have at least some time to adjust their plans and cast their votes in an unquestionably lawful way.”

Judge Jane L. Kelly, in a dissenting opinion, said that the decision “will cause voter confusion and undermine Minnesotans’ confidence in the election process.” She said it also risked disenfranchising voters in Minnesota.

Elections officials in the state have been instructing voters who had not mailed their ballots by Tuesday to return them by drop box or to vote in person. But the decision still puts the fate of an unknown number of ballots at risk.

Democrats in Minnesota denounced the decision.

“In the middle of a pandemic, the Republican Party is doing everything to make it hard for you to vote,” Senator Amy Klobuchar, the senior senator from Minnesota and a Democrat, said on Twitter. “Stand up for YOUR rights.”

Credit…Bridget Bennett for The New York Times

A federal judge on Friday ordered the U.S. Postal Service to implement “extraordinary measures” in 22 districts across the country — including several in battleground states — where on-time delivery of ballots has dipped below a rate of 90 percent for two days this week.

The postal districts in need of extra measures, according to Washington, D.C., District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, included Atlanta, central Pennsylvania, Detroit, Greater Michigan, and Greensboro in North Carolina — all key battleground areas in the presidential race between President Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Nationally, more than 57 million mail ballots have been returned to election officials, while more than 33 million remain outstanding, according to the nonprofit U.S. Elections Project.

In a filing on Friday, the Postal Service said that staffing issues resulting from the coronavirus pandemic were causing problems in some facilities, including in Detroit where only 78 percent of employees are available.

On Saturday, the Postal Service reported its weekly rate for delivering ballots on time was now at 94 percent for delivery from voters and 89 percent for delivery to voters.

Judge Sullivan also instructed the Postal Service to look into a video purportedly taken inside a Homestead, Fla., post office in disarray that went viral Friday, after Kionne McGhee, a candidate for Miami-Dade County commissioner and the Democratic minority leader in the Florida House of Representatives, posted it on Twitter. The video showed numerous bins of undelivered mail piled on top of one other.

Katherine Fernández Rundle, the Democratic state attorney in Miami-Dade County, said she had requested an audit of all the county’s postal distribution centers.

On Saturday, the Postal Services’s Inspector General reported that a search of the Princeton Post Office in Miami-Dade County discovered 48 delayed ballots. Six of the ballots were completed by voters, while 42 were being mailed to voters, said Scott A. Pierce, the special agent in charge of the operation.

“The U.S. Postal Service immediately arranged for the delivery of the election mail,” Mr. Pierce said. He added that federal prosecutors have been briefed on the situation.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy — a megadonor to President Trump who has disputed criticism from Democrats that he is trying to sabotage the election — has authorized new measures this week that include “expedited handling and extra deliveries” to accelerate ballot delivery. The Postal Service said it had authorized about 3.5 million hours of overtime over the last week to help get out election mail.

Patricia Mazzei contributed reporting.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

At a rally in Michigan on Friday, President Trump repeated an extraordinary and unfounded claim that American doctors were profiteering from coronavirus deaths.

“You know our doctors get more money if somebody dies from Covid,” Mr. Trump said, adding that in Germany and other countries, deaths are characterized differently if there appear to be multiple causes.

“With us, when in doubt, choose Covid,” he said.

Medical professionals and organizations quickly decried those comments and lauded the work of nurses, doctors and other health care workers, many of whom have risked their lives and worried about the health of their families as they cared for people who were infected with the coronavirus.

“The suggestion that doctors — in the midst of a public health crisis — are overcounting Covid-19 patients or lying to line their pockets is a malicious, outrageous and completely misguided charge,” said Susan R. Bailey, the president of the American Medical Association, in a statement on Friday.

“Rather than attacking us and lobbing baseless charges at physicians, our leaders should be following the science and urging adherence to the public health steps we know work — wearing a mask, washing hands and practicing physical distancing,” she added.

At a stop in Minnesota on Friday, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. brought up Mr. Trump’s accusation as he assailed the president over his handling of the pandemic.

“Doctors and nurses go to work every day to save lives,” Mr. Biden said “They do their jobs. Donald Trump should stop attacking them and do his job.”

The United States recorded over 99,000 coronavirus cases on Friday, a level reached for the first time since the pandemic began, as well as more than 970 deaths.

Michigan is one of a number of Midwestern states, including Illinois and Ohio, that are experiencing swift, alarming rises in case counts. This week, it recorded a 88 percent increase in new cases from the average two weeks earlier.

On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump has often declared that the virus was vanishing — even as case counts soared — and attacked Democratic governors and other local officials for keeping public-health restrictions in place.

Last weekend in Wisconsin, another state with a surging caseload, Mr. Trump said that “doctors get more money and hospitals get more money” for reporting more deaths linked to the coronavirus.

That prompted a backlash from organizations including the Society of Hospital Medicine, the Council of Medical Specialty Societies and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

“These baseless claims not only do a disservice to our health care heroes but promulgate the dangerous wave of misinformation which continues to hinder our nation’s efforts to get the pandemic under control and allow our nation to return to normalcy,” the American College of Emergency Physicians said in a statement.

Mitch Smith contributed reporting.

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