The sun rose over the Capitol on Monday with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, exhorting an empty Senate chamber to reject Judge Amy Coney Barrett — the culmination of a largely symbolic all-night debate and beginning of a day that will reverberate through the 2020 campaign and far beyond.
Ms. Barrett’s confirmation is a certainty at this point. The only questions are procedural particulars. A vote is expected at around 7:30 p.m., according to the Senate’s administrative staff, followed by her swearing-in.
Early Monday, Senate Democrats asked Vice President Mike Pence not to preside over the final confirmation vote in the chamber after several of his close aides tested positive for the coronavirus.
“Not only would your presence in the Senate Chamber tomorrow be a clear violation of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, it would also be a violation of common decency and courtesy,” they wrote in a letter to the vice president, who said Saturday he would not “miss that vote for the world.”
The stakes of the presidential race, entering its final week, have been magnified by the imminent confirmation of a Supreme Court justice who might be called upon to rule in election cases.
The vote comes a day after Democrats unsuccessfully tried to filibuster the nomination to protest a decision they say should be left to the winner of the presidential election. Their anger rose, and with it grew suggestions from Democrats that they would take dramatic measures, such as adding additional justices to the court, if they reclaimed the Senate and the presidency.
“They expect that they’re going to be able to break the rules with impunity and when the shoe maybe is on the other foot, nothing’s going to happen,” Senator Angus King, a Maine independent who votes with Democrats, said of the Republicans.
The addition of Judge Barrett would give conservatives six of the court’s nine seats. Democrats argue it would threaten legal abortion and protections for millions of Americans under the Affordable Care Act.
“A vote for Barrett is a vote to strip health care from millions of people. It’s a vote to turn back the clock on reproductive freedom,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts. “To endanger Dreamers and immigrants. To let climate change rampage unchecked. To imperil efforts to address systemic racism. To place workers’ rights, voting rights, L.G.B.T.Q. rights, and gun violence prevention at risk.”
Judge Barrett’s impending confirmation also immediately calls into question whether she would recuse herself from ruling on lawsuits over the election, which seem to grow more likely each time Mr. Trump tries to cast aspersions on the integrity of voting.
“A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said on Sunday. “They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”
President Trump is likely to hold a swearing-in ceremony at the White House on Monday night for Judge Amy Coney Barrett following the vote to confirm her to the Supreme Court, officials said.
The prospect of a ceremony — which officials hope to hold outdoors — may serve to remind people of the last outdoor ceremony honoring Judge Barrett, when Mr. Trump selected her to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
That Sept. 26 event in the Rose Garden, and a smaller indoor White House ceremony the same day, have been connected to a coronavirus outbreak that sickened President Trump, the first lady and a half-dozen Trump aides and advisers.
Plans for Monday’s event come as Vice President Mike Pence’s office is dealing with another outbreak that has infected four aides, including his chief of staff, Marc Short, and a top outside adviser, Marty Obst.
Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, told reporters Monday, “Tonight we’ll be doing the best we can to encourage as much social distancing as possible.”
Mike Espy and Jaime Harrison, two of the five Black Senate candidates in the South this year, may belong to different political generations, but they both came up in a Democratic Party where African-American politicians didn’t talk directly about race in campaigns against white opponents.
But there was Mr. Harrison this month, speaking before more than 250 cars at a drive-in rally in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, explicitly urging a mix of white and Black supporters to right the wrongs of the state’s past.
“The very first state to secede from the union,” Mr. Harrison said to a cacophony of blaring horns, “because we will be the very first state in this great country of ours that has two African-American senators serving at the very same time — and you will make that happen.”
A day later, speaking to an equally diverse audience in northern Mississippi, Mr. Espy called his Republican opponent, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, “an anachronism.”
“She is someone who believes in going back to the old days,” he said, lashing his Republican rival for hailing the Civil War-era South and refusing to take a stand in the debate over Mississippi’s state flag, which until this summer included the Confederate battle emblem. “We need a Mississippi that’s more inclusive, that’s more diverse, more welcoming.”
While it has been overshadowed by the presidential race, a political shift is underway in the South that could have a lasting impact well past this election. Democrats have nominated several Black Senate candidates in a region where they’ve often preferred to elevate moderate whites, these contenders are running competitively in conservative states, and they’re doing so by talking explicitly about race.
Mr. Harrison, a onetime lobbyist and state party chair; Mr. Espy, the former agriculture secretary; and the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, the pastor of the storied Ebenezer Baptist Church and a Democratic Senate candidate in Georgia, are each making Republicans nervous about seats that have not been competitive in decades. Black Democratic Senate candidates have also emerged in Tennessee, where Marquita Bradshaw is competing for an open seat, and Louisiana, where Mayor Adrian Perkins of Shreveport entered late in the race.
With two Black Republicans vying for seats in Michigan and Rhode Island, there are a record seven major Black candidates running for the Senate this year.
It’s a remarkable roster in a part of the country that has both the highest concentration of African-American voters and a history of hostility to Black candidates running statewide — a resistance so strong that national Democrats for decades treated Black recruits as an afterthought at best.
As the presidential campaign begins its final week, early voting is shattering records, and some experts are predicting the highest turnout in decades. But if history is any indication, a significant portion of Americans will not participate, a signal of distrust and disillusionment with the political system that spans the partisan divide.
Voting is fundamentally an act of hope. But since the 1960s, between a third and a half of eligible voters have stayed home during presidential elections, giving America one of the lowest rates of national-election participation in the developed world.
Since the early 1900s, the high point for presidential turnout was in 1960, when 64 percent of eligible adults voted, according to the United States Elections Project, which tracks voting data back to 1789. Most recently, the highest peak was in 2008, when 62 percent turned out.
An analysis of Census Bureau survey data from the 2016 election shows a deep class divide: Americans who did not vote were more likely to be poor or unemployed, less likely to have college degrees, and more likely to be single parents compared to people who voted.
Not voting has been a feature of the American political landscape for decades. But with razor-slim margins in a number of swing states in 2016, nonvoters have taken on an outsize importance. For instance, in Pennsylvania, more than 3.5 million eligible voters in the state did not cast ballots for president in the 2016 election, a number that dwarfed Mr. Trump’s 44,000-vote margin of victory.
Keyana Fedrick of East Stroudsburg, Pa., in the northeast part of the state, sat out the 2016 elections and plans to again this year. She said not voting is something that she and a friend have started to hide from people they know.
“We said we’re just going to lie, like, ‘Oh yeah, I voted,’” said Ms. Fedrick, 31, who works two jobs, at a hotel and a department store, and said she did not trust Democrats or Republicans. “I don’t feel like getting crucified for what I think.”
The news over the weekend that another coronavirus outbreak had struck the White House, infecting Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff and four other top aides, further underscored the Trump administration’s cavalier approach to the worst health crisis in a century.
“We’re not going to control the pandemic,” Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning, essentially offering a verbal shrug in response to any effort to prevent an outbreak in the top echelon of the nation’s leaders. “We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations, because it is a contagious virus — just like the flu.”
The in-house outbreak, playing against the national backdrop of the biggest three-day total of new infections in the entire course of the pandemic, is also making it harder for the president to change the subject as he dashes through swing states in a bid to mount a come-from-behind victory.
“Covid, Covid. Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid,” Mr. Trump had groused at a rally in North Carolina on Saturday, hours before the revelation of the infections on his running mate’s staff. He made up a scenario: “A plane goes down, 500 people dead, they don’t talk about it. ‘Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid.’”
Mr. Trump made no reference to the new cases during campaign rallies in New Hampshire and Maine on Sunday.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, said Sunday that the statement by Mr. Meadows was “an acknowledgment of what President Trump’s strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away. It hasn’t, and it won’t.
“It’s sadly no surprise then that this virus continues to rage unchecked across the country and even in the White House itself,” said Mr. Biden, who has sought to make the administration’s handling of the coronavirus the centerpiece of his campaign.
Nine days before Election Day, President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. offered sharply divergent visions for the country — including the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and foreign policy — in wide-ranging interviews on “60 Minutes.”
In both substance and demeanor, the two presidential candidates cut strikingly different figures on Sunday during one of their last big opportunities to reach a national television audience during the campaign.
Mr. Trump was combative and testy during his prerecorded interview with the “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl, insisting, as he has done repeatedly in recent days despite surging coronavirus cases, that the country was “rounding the corner” on the pandemic.
“We’ve done a very, very good job,” he said at one point, falsely arguing that the increase in cases was because “we’re doing so much testing.”
Speaking at a time when family, business and government finances have been battered by the pandemic, the president also painted a rosy picture of the nation’s economy, which he said was “already roaring back.” Pressed to specify his biggest domestic priority, Mr. Trump responded that it was to “get back to normal” and “have the economy rage and be great with jobs and everybody be happy.”
But perhaps the biggest headline to emerge from his interview was his behavior. As he became increasingly irritated with the questioning, he cut off his interview with Ms. Stahl, which was taped at the White House on Tuesday, then taunted her on Twitter and posted a 38-minute clip of the interview on Facebook.
“Look at the bias, hatred and rudeness on behalf of 60 Minutes and CBS,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Thursday with a link to the clip.
Mr. Biden, for his part, was more measured in his interview with Norah O’Donnell of CBS News.
But Mr. Biden was direct in his criticism of Mr. Trump. Asked what the biggest domestic issue facing the country was, he responded “Covid.”
“The way he’s handling Covid is just absolutely, totally irresponsible,” he said about Mr. Trump.
As he has done before, he also rejected the suggestion from Mr. Trump and Republicans that he was a “Trojan horse” for the Democratic Party’s left wing.
“Mr. President, you’re running against Joe Biden. Joe Biden has a deep, steep and successful record over a long, long time,” he said.
Mr. Biden’s newsiest answer was about the Supreme Court. Asked whether he would expand the number of justices on the nation’s highest court if he were elected — a question that he has repeatedly faced since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month — Mr. Biden gave his clearest answer in weeks, saying he would establish a bipartisan commission of scholars to study a possible overhaul of the court system.
“I will ask them to, over 180 days, come back to me with recommendations as to how to reform the court system because it’s getting out of whack,” Mr. Biden said.
The president of Fox News and several of the network’s top anchors have been advised to quarantine after being exposed to someone on a flight who later tested positive for the coronavirus, two people with direct knowledge of the situation said on Sunday.
The infected person was on a charter flight to New York from Nashville with a group of network executives, on-air employees and other staff members who attended the presidential debate on Thursday, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal network matters.
Everyone on the flight has been told to get tested and quarantine.
Those who were exposed include Jay Wallace, the president of Fox News Media; Bret Baier, the chief political anchor; Martha MacCallum, the anchor of Fox’s 7 p.m. show, “The Story”; and Dana Perino and Juan Williams, two hosts of “The Five.”
A network representative would not confirm any details of the exposure, citing the confidentiality of health information.
Fox has been faster than other cable news and broadcast networks to resume in-studio programming. And it has had one of the largest in-person footprints of the news organizations that covered the presidential and vice-presidential debates. Several Fox shows are now regularly broadcast from its Midtown Manhattan headquarters.
The anchors who were potentially exposed are expected to host their shows from home for the time being.
Network personnel have been serious about taking precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, both in the studios and on the road for major events like the debates, network employees said. And Fox staff members on the ground in Nashville were regularly tested by the network and the Commission on Presidential Debates.
But on the air, Fox has not always treated the coronavirus like the serious and potentially fatal illness that it is.
In February and March, as the virus took hold in the United States, anchors and commentators like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham repeatedly echoed President Trump’s claims that the mainstream news media and Democrats were exaggerating the issue to harm him politically.
From some 250 miles above Earth, circling the planet at 17,500 miles an hour aboard the International Space Station, the American astronaut Kathleen Rubins cast her ballot in the election, joining millions of others across the country who have voted early.
“If we can do it from space, then I believe folks can do it from the ground, too,” she said in a video posted to NASA’s website.
An astronaut and marine biologist, Ms. Rubins, who goes by Kate, was the first person to sequence DNA in space during a 2016 mission. On her current mission, she is conducting experiments related to the cardiovascular system.
As it turns out, Ms. Rubins may have had an easier time voting from space than if she were back on Earth.
In New York, where early voting began on Saturday, tens of thousands of voters waited hours to cast ballots, with lines stretched for blocks outside polling sites. Similar scenes have been reported in other states.
With Election Day still eight days away, more than 59 million Americans have already voted, surpassing 2016’s early turnout record.
Astronauts have been voting from space since 1997, when Texas legislators set up a technical procedure that enabled them to cast ballots. Many astronauts opt to register in Texas, since they train at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Ms. Rubins skipped the queues, but had to take a few extra steps to vote from space. First, before her rocket launch, she signaled her intent to participate in the election by filling out a Federal Postcard Application, the same form completed by military members who are serving outside of the U.S., NASA said in a post on its website.
The next step, like most things at NASA, involved a trial run. The county clerk sent a test ballot to a team at the space center in Houston, where officials checked whether they could fill out the ballot and send it back.
After the test, the space center’s mission control center uplinked Ms. Rubins’s ballot. From space, she cast her ballot, which officials downlinked and delivered back to the county clerk’s office by email.
Ms. Rubins’s vote, cast last week, arrived well before the 7 p.m. Election Day deadline for astronauts.
There are eight days until Election Day. Here are the schedules of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates for Monday, Oct. 26. All times are Eastern time.
11 a.m.: Speaks to workers in Allentown, Pa.
1:30 p.m.: Holds a rally in Lititz, Pa.
4:30 p.m.: Holds a rally in Martinsburg, Pa.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
No events announced.
Vice President Mike Pence
2 p.m.: Holds a rally in Hibbing, Minn.
Senator Kamala Harris
No events announced.
If President Trump pulls off a come-from-behind victory on Nov. 3, it’s likely to run through Pennsylvania — one of the three states he won by less than one percentage point in 2016, and arguably the one that’s still within range for him.
Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, has built a polling lead in Pennsylvania that is now considerably stronger than Hillary Clinton’s was on the eve of the election four years ago. But the president’s weakness is driving the race more than Mr. Biden’s strength. Mr. Biden has only recently achieved a positive overall favorability rating among voters in Pennsylvania, according to various surveys.
High-quality polls of Pennsylvania conducted this month have put Mr. Biden up by anywhere from five to 13 points among likely voters. But they have also shown 5 percent to 10 percent of those voters declining to express support for either major nominee.
A Trump comeback will probably depend on his winning over a good share of those undecideds while driving down Mr. Biden’s support among demographics that have long since turned against the president — such as older voters and suburbanites — but that have not swung as heavily to the Democrat. It’s a possibility that Democrats and pollsters alike are unwilling to rule out, especially given the lingering shock from Mrs. Clinton’s loss in 2016.
That year, a late swing tilted the race in Mr. Trump’s favor — and laid bare the problems with battleground state polls, most of which had not taken into account the difference in vote preference between white voters with or without college degrees.
This year, views of the president are much firmer, meaning there is less volatility in the race, and pollsters have tried to adjust for their mistakes from four years ago. It is now the industry standard for state polls to take into account education level, ensuring a fair representation of voters without college degrees. But survey researchers have other uncertainties to worry about this year — particularly the potential for widespread voter suppression, which polling has no established method of accounting for.
Just over a week before Election Day, The Upshot’s polling average shows Mr. Biden with a six-point lead in Pennsylvania. That’s slightly narrower than his polling leads in Michigan and Wisconsin, the other two states that put Mr. Trump over the top in 2016, but wider than his leads in the Sun Belt battlegrounds of Florida, Arizona and North Carolina. As a result, if the election comes down to one state, there’s a good chance it will be Pennsylvania.
Political tensions over the election escalated on New York City’s streets on Sunday as supporters of President Trump clashed with counterprotesters during a day of demonstrations.
Eleven people were arrested, the police said, during skirmishes between opposing sides in Manhattan, where Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and the city’s former mayor, encountered protesters targeting a caravan of cars organized by a group that identifies itself as Jews for Trump. All have been released except for a 36-year-old man who threw eggs in the faces of two police officers, the police said.
In one video, Mr. Giuliani could be seen in the passenger side of a vehicle with the window rolled down as anti-Trump protesters screamed at him.
In an interview, Mr. Giuliani said that he had encountered the caravan and the protesters while driving down Fifth Avenue after taping his radio show.
“I would love to have had a campaign commercial of it,” he said, “and put it on in the middle of America and say, ‘Who would you prefer for the next four years? This group of foul-mouthed people who don’t seem to have a vocabulary beyond three words, or these very nice Jewish people who are driving in the car and not saying anything back and not doing anything other than exercising their right to say they’re for Donald Trump.’”
According to the police, the pro-Trump caravan passed through Times Square, where it converged with a group of anti-Trump protesters who had marched from Brooklyn. The cars in the convoy were then blocked by counterprotesters, and some drivers got out of their cars to confront the anti-Trump demonstrators.
The two sides hurled political slurs — calling each other “fascists” and “anarchists”— traded blows, and fought over the Trump supporters’ flags before the police broke them apart, according to videos posted online.
Separately, a police officer was suspended without pay on Sunday after he used a police loudspeaker to voice support for the president.
Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s $2 trillion plan to fight global warming is the most ambitious climate policy proposed by a leading presidential candidate, a political lightning rod spotlighted on Thursday night when the Democratic nominee acknowledged during a debate that it would “transition” the country “from the oil industry.”
But no one knows better than Mr. Biden, the former vice president, that it almost surely will not be enacted, even if his party secures the White House and the Senate. Thirty-six years in the Senate and the searing experience of watching the Obama administration’s less ambitious climate plan die a decade ago have taught him the art of the possible.
Still, a President Biden could have real impact: solar panels and wind turbines spread across the country’s mountains and prairies, electric charging stations nearly as ubiquitous as gas stations and a gradual decrease in the nation’s planet-warming greenhouse pollution.
“The oil industry pollutes significantly,” Mr. Biden said at the final presidential debate, adding, “it has to be replaced by renewable energy over time.”
Mr. Biden’s advisers insist that climate change is not just a political slogan. And on Capitol Hill, his team is already strategizing with Democratic leaders on how they can realistically turn at least some of those proposals into law.
If Mr. Biden wins the White House but Republicans hold Senate control, Mr. Biden’s loftiest climate pledges will certainly die.
In that scenario, “All Biden can try to do is cobble back together the Obama environmental agenda,” said Douglas Brinkley, a historian who focuses on presidents’ environmental legacies. That would include, he said, rejoining the international Paris accords — the agreement between nations to fight climate change, which President Trump is withdrawing from — and reinstating Obama-era climate regulations. And with a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court, even that could be thwarted.
But even a narrow Democratic majority in the Senate would leave a President Biden with options. And this time around, Mr. Biden wants to do it differently, not with a stand-alone climate bill but by tucking climate measures into broader, popular legislation to insulate them from partisan attack.
Early voting in this election has surpassed records in states across the country, including California, where more than 6.5 million ballots have already been returned.
The New York Times spoke with Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state, about what voters should know in the homestretch, especially if they plan to vote in person. Here’s part of the conversation, which was lightly edited for clarity:
How are things going? What’s the biggest challenge on your mind right now?
Californians are voting in big numbers. We’re about 2.5 times where we were at this point in 2016, if that’s any indicator.
We’ve been planning and preparing for months. And if voter registration and early returns are any indication, it’s going to be a big turnout.
What’s the latest on the unauthorized “official” ballot boxes that Republicans placed in three counties, which you demanded they remove?
The unofficial boxes have been removed, but other elements of our requests for information have not been complied with. So the attorney general has issued subpoenas and we’re taking the matter to court.
Any thoughts for voters who are planning to vote in person?
Expect to see the signage for physical distancing, equipment being wiped down between voters, hand sanitizer everywhere. We want to keep in-person voting as safe, healthy and accessible as possible — for voters and election workers alike.
Watch the final episode in the Stressed Election series, which examines how Americans are borrowing from Russia’s 2016 playbook, using disinformation on social media against each other.