With less than two weeks to go in the presidential race, the heaviest hitter on the Democratic bench, former President Barack Obama, returns to the campaign trail on Wednesday to make the case for his former vice president, Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Mr. Obama will make the first of a series of homestretch appearances at a “drive-in rally” in the parking lot of the stadium where the Philadelphia Phillies play. Pennsylvania, with its deep-blue cities, deep-red rural areas, purple suburbs and cache of 20 electoral votes, is a deeply divided state and one of several Mr. Biden must win if he is to wrest the White House from President Trump.
Both candidates have criss-crossed the state in recent weeks — Mr. Trump spoke in Erie Tuesday night — and while Mr. Biden has maintained a steady lead in the polls there, surveys released in recent days show the race tightening.
In a video posted to Twitter on Tuesday evening, Mr. Obama offered a preview of the rally, telling young people that they can create “a new normal” in American politics by going to vote.
“One of the most inspiring things about this year has been to see so many young Americans fired up, organizing, marching and fighting for change,” Mr. Obama said. “Your generation can be the one that creates a new normal in America. One that’s fairer, where the system treats everybody equally and gives everybody opportunity. We can come out of this moment stronger than before.”
Mr. Obama has been a presence of sorts throughout the race: Mr. Biden seldom makes a campaign stop without reminding voters of the things that he and Mr. Obama accomplished together. For the next two weeks, he will make the case for Mr. Biden in the flesh. His aides have not revealed his itinerary for the rest of the campaign, but last week a person familiar with the planning said that Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida were also on his short list.
For most of Mr. Trump’s term, Mr. Obama refrained from criticizing his successor, even as Mr. Trump worked to systematically demolish many of Mr. Obama’s achievements.
But he briefly came out of retirement during the midterm campaign in 2018 and returned to the public stage again this summer, issuing a scathing indictment of the Trump presidency at the Democratic National Convention.
Mr. Obama decried “the meanness and the lies and crazy conspiracy theories” and argued that democracy itself was on the ballot. “Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t,” he said.
This evening’s rally at Citizens Bank Park begins at 5:45 p.m. Eastern time.
There are 13 days until Election Day. Here are the schedules of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates for Wednesday, Oct. 21. All times are Eastern time.
7 p.m.: Holds a rally in Gastonia, N.C.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
No events scheduled; preparing for Thursday’s debate.
Vice President Mike Pence
1:30 p.m.: Holds a rally in Portsmouth, N.H.
6 p.m.: Holds a rally in Cincinnati.
Senator Kamala Harris
11:55 a.m.: Speaks at an early-vote event in Asheville, N.C.
6:45 p.m.: Speaks at an early-vote event in Charlotte, N.C.
Evening: Hosts virtual fund-raising events.
On Monday, President Trump picked a fight with Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. On Tuesday, it was Lesley Stahl, the “60 Minutes” correspondent, who was caught in the president’s cross hairs, after he cut short an interview in frustration and then mocked her on Twitter for not wearing a mask at the White House after the interview.
Feuding with individuals who are not actually Mr. Trump’s opponent, in a race that is two weeks away, has struck many in his orbit as a waste of limited time when he should be singularly focused on making the race a referendum on Joseph R. Biden Jr., the person he is actually running against.
But his advisers saw gleams of hope, nonetheless.
For one, their internal numbers over the past three weeks have stabilized after the double whammy of the first presidential debate, in which Mr. Trump’s aggressive performance hurt him, and then his subsequent hospitalization for the coronavirus.
And while Mr. Biden continues to lead in places like Wisconsin and Arizona, he has also done so without breaking decisively into a double-digit lead, leaving open the possibility that the race will tighten on Election Day, when in-person ballots come in.
Trump campaign officials are also watching the mammoth early voting numbers come in with some skepticism, because there’s nothing to compare them to. They think Democrats are not close to reaching the number of mail ballot requests they need if more than 40 percent of their voters plan to vote by mail.
An ABC News poll released Tuesday showed a one-point race in the battleground state of North Carolina, with Mr. Biden leading Mr. Trump 49 percent to 48 percent, and was heralded as good news for a campaign that has invested heavily in the swing state.
And they think the Thursday night debate offers Mr. Trump one last chance to reset the dynamics before Election Day. Some of his advisers have told him to try and employ some humor, even acknowledging the reality that many of the suburban women voters and older voters he needs are turned off by his tone and his Twitter feed. One person advised him to pledge to tweet less in a second term.
Mr. Trump, however, has never been easy to coach, and is already coming in fuming, not only at Mr. Fauci and Ms. Stahl, but at the Presidential Debate Commission, for changing the rules, and at the moderator, Kristen Welker of NBC News, who he has been trying to claim is biased despite having praised her work in the past.
People in Florida and Alaska reported receiving menacing and deceptive emails on Tuesday that used false claims about public voting information to threaten voters: “Vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you.” (There is no way for any group to know for whom individual voters cast their ballots.)
One of the emails, obtained by The New York Times, came from an address that suggested an affiliation with the Proud Boys, a far-right group. But metadata from the email shows that it did not come from the displayed email address — “firstname.lastname@example.org” — but instead originated from an Estonian email server.
The email obtained by The Times had been sent to a voter in Gainesville, Fla., and was nearly identical to dozens of others that had been reported in the city. Voters in Brevard County, Fla., and Anchorage, Alaska, also reported receiving similar emails.
Mayor Lauren Poe of Gainesville said in an interview that the emails were “a very brutish way of trying to intimidate people from going to the polls,” but that none of the voters he had talked to seemed to have been fooled.
Federal and local law enforcement authorities in Florida are investigating the emails, and have put out alerts on social media to warn voters.
“We here at the Sheriff’s Office and the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections are aware of an email that is circulating, purported to be from the Proud Boys,” the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office wrote on Facebook. “The email appears to be a scam and we will be initiating an investigation into the source of the email along with assistance from our partners on the federal level.”
Don Schwinn, 85, a retired environmental engineering consultant and snowbird who is registered as a Democrat in Melbourne Beach, Fla., said in an interview that he received one of the emails on Tuesday afternoon and reported it to the sheriff’s office.
He said it was troubling that Mr. Trump had not condemned the Proud Boys when he was asked about the group during his debate last month with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee.
“I actually thought it was real. The message was so threatening that it took over,” Mr. Schwinn said.
Mr. Schwinn said that he and his wife, who were both registered Republicans before the 2016 election, had already voted by absentee ballot.
To help spur voters to the polls, most politicians conduct in-person canvassing or send mass emails. But Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took a novel approach: She asked her nine million Twitter followers to watch her play a video game.
“Anyone want to play Among Us with me on Twitch to get out the vote?” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, tweeted on Monday afternoon, referring to the popular livestreaming platform. She added that she had never played it “but it looks like a lot of fun.”
Among Us is a multiplayer game in which players try to stay alive on an alien spaceship. In a nutshell: Players who are designated as “crewmates” must run around completing a set of tasks while trying to root out and avoid getting killed by other players who are acting as “impostors.”
The game was created in 2018 and has soared to popularity during the pandemic. Major streamers, YouTube stars and TikTok influencers now play it for millions of fans.
At the peak on Tuesday night, more than 400,000 users were watching Ms. Ocasio-Cortez play Among Us with a handful of popular streamers, making her debut one of the most-watched streams in the service’s history.
Her fellow gamers included Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, who suggested in several tweets she was enjoying herself.
As Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s pink “aoc” avatar bounced around the spaceship, a video beneath the action showed the headphone-clad congresswoman smiling as she played — and occasionally gasping when her avatar ran into trouble.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez talked a little about politics — including health care and transgender rights — and the presidential election. She said that she planned to vote in person, rather than by mail, because she wanted her vote counted on Election Day.
“Justin Amash just texted me, saying he’s highly entertained,” she said, referring to the former Republican representative from Michigan who left the party last year after clashing with President Trump.
“I’m so excited by this upcoming election,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez added a few minutes later. “We can overwhelm the polls, and we can get things back on track.”
For the most part, though, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was absorbed in the game itself, and the spaceship where her avatar was competing. At one point she observed that some of its features seemed anachronistic.
“What kind of futuristic spaceship still runs a combustion engine?” she asked. “I mean, really?”
Sam Elliott, a veteran character actor with a signature cinematic drawl, has voiced a new ad portraying Joseph R. Biden Jr. as a healer who believes in “one America” — a stripped-down patriotic appeal likely to become one of the more memorable messages of 2020.
The 30-second ad, which aired Tuesday on the first night of the World Series, shows a fluttering American flag as “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays on a piano.
“There is only one America — no Democratic rivers, no Republican mountains,” Mr. Elliott says in the soothing tone of Zen-master reassurance he adopted in “The Big Lebowski.”
“There is so much we can do, if we choose to take on problems, and not each other. And choose a president who brings out our best,” Mr. Elliott says. “Joe Biden doesn’t need everyone in this country to always agree. Just to agree we all love this country, and go from there.”
The spot, reminiscent of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 ad set to Simon & Garfunkel’s “America,” is emblematic of Mr. Biden’s core closing strategy — projecting an image of decency, reunification and optimism — as President Trump continues to go scorched earth on his political opponents, Republican dissenters and the media.
One of Mr. Biden’s enduring advantages over Mr. Trump is his relatively high personal approval rating, which has hovered in the mid-to-high 40s, roughly at par with his disapproval numbers.
The president, whose disapproval ratings remain stuck above 50 percent in many polls — was able to win four years ago, in part, by degrading his opponent Hillary Clinton’s standing with voters rather than increasing his own popularity.
President Trump and his allies have tried to paint Joseph R. Biden Jr. as soft on China, in part by pointing to his son’s business dealings there.
But Mr. Trump’s own business history is filled with overseas financial deals, and some have involved the Chinese state. He spent a decade unsuccessfully pursuing projects in China, operating an office there during his first run for president and forging a partnership with a major government-controlled company.
And it turns out that China is one of only three foreign nations — the others are Britain and Ireland — where Mr. Trump maintains a bank account, according to an analysis of the president’s tax records, which were obtained by The New York Times. The foreign accounts do not show up on Mr. Trump’s public financial disclosures, where he must list personal assets, because they are held under corporate names. The identities of the financial institutions are not clear.
The Chinese account is controlled by Trump International Hotels Management L.L.C., which the tax records show paid $188,561 in taxes in China while pursuing licensing deals there from 2013 to 2015.
The tax records do not include details on how much money may have passed through the overseas accounts, though the I.R.S. does require filers to report the portion of their income derived from other countries.
In response to questions from The Times, Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, said the company had “opened an account with a Chinese bank having offices in the United States in order to pay the local taxes” associated with efforts to do business there. He said the company had opened the account after establishing an office in China “to explore the potential for hotel deals in Asia.”
“No deals, transactions or other business activities ever materialized and, since 2015, the office has remained inactive,” Mr. Garten said. “Though the bank account remains open, it has never been used for any other purpose.”
Mr. Garten would not identify the bank in China where the account is held. Until last year, China’s biggest state-controlled bank rented three floors in Trump Tower, a lucrative lease that drew accusations of a conflict of interest for the president.
China continues to be an issue in the 2020 presidential campaign, from the president’s trade war to his barbs over the origin of the coronavirus pandemic. His campaign has tried to portray Mr. Biden as a “puppet” of China who, as vice president, misread the dangers posed by its growing power. Mr. Trump has also sought to tar his opponent with overblown or unsubstantiated assertions about Hunter Biden’s business dealings there while his father was in office.
As for the former vice president, his public financial disclosures, along with the income tax returns he voluntarily released, show no income or business dealings of his own in China. However, there is ample evidence of Mr. Trump’s efforts to join the myriad American firms that have long done business there — and the tax records for him and his companies that were obtained by The Times offer new details about them.
Jo Becker contributed reporting.
Until a month ago, the biggest-spending Democratic super PAC in the general election had aired only a single television ad during the campaign. Now the group, Future Forward, is on pace to spend more than $108 million on television ads supporting Joe Biden and two Senate candidates, according to Advertising Analytics, an ad tracking firm.
The group is barreling into the race a month after Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City and presidential candidate, pledged to spend $100 million to support Mr. Biden — exclusively in Florida. And Priorities USA, one of the biggest and oldest Democratic super PACs, has already spent $66 million since the start of the general election.
The result is yet another yawning advantage on the airwaves for Mr. Biden, who has already outspent President Trump in TV advertising by a nearly 2-to-1 margin since the general election kicked off in earnest in April. With outside groups factored in, Democratic spending in the presidential campaign has reached nearly $400 million for the final month of the race, compared with nearly $200 million in Republican spending, according to Advertising Analytics.
Here is a visual comparison of spending on advertisements by the Biden and Trump teams.
President Trump falsely insisted on Tuesday that the United States is “rounding the turn on the pandemic” and distorted Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s position on fracking as he sought to close ground in the battleground state of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Trump hammered his Democratic opponent’s energy policies, repeating a false claim that Mr. Biden supports a total ban on fracking, a major industry in the state. In what Mr. Trump said was a first for one of his campaign rallies, he played on large video screens a montage of several clips in which Mr. Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California, talked about phasing out fossil fuels to combat climate change.
“If Biden is elected, he will wipe out your energy industry,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump also offered a litany of false claims about Mr. Biden’s position on the coronavirus, saying that the former vice president would “delay therapies, postpone the vaccine, prolong the pandemic, close your schools, shut down our country.” But his claim that under his own leadership, the country was “rounding the turn” on the pandemic was sharply at odds with the reality that the virus was surging both nationally and in Pennsylvania, where cases are at a level the state has not seen since April.
Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump by an average of 7 percentage points in the state, according to the Upshot’s calculator. Mr. Trump, seeming to acknowledge that deficit, pined for the days earlier this year when his electoral standing looked brighter. Before “the plague” arrived, he said, “I wasn’t going to Erie. I mean, I have to be honest, there’s no way I was coming. I didn’t have to.”
He added, “We had this thing won.”
Mr. Trump had one other warning for voters during his rally: that Mr. Biden would fail to entertain them as he has. “If you want depression, doom and despair, vote for Sleepy Joe,” he said. “And boredom.”
Many college towns have looked a lot different this fall, their campuses quiet as universities adopted online instruction to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
With that change came a new political wrinkle: Some House candidates, typically Democrats, can usually count on support from students living on college campuses in their districts — but many of those students are now living back home, tied to their computers for classes.
For Representative Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, a Democrat who beat an incumbent Republican in 2018 and flipped the Eighth Congressional District blue for the first time in 20 years, the switch to largely virtual teaching means the potential loss of thousands of reliably Democratic voters at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
In a House district that was decided last time by 13,098 votes out of more than 340,000 ballots cast, the loss of any votes this year keeps Ms. Slotkin up at night. She can no longer pitch herself to a captive audience of students hanging out in dorms, because almost all of them are shut down. And hitting the tailgate parties during football games on Saturdays with campaign literature, handshakes and smiles? Forget about it. Michigan State’s delayed football season is just starting this Saturday, and only the families of football players will be allowed into the stadium.
“I’m having trouble figuring out how to factor it in,” Ms. Slotkin said. “In a normal year, you’re out talking to people, you’re at the doors and everybody’s telling you their feedback. When you have a normal field campaign, you have polling, which we still have, but we don’t have a model for this. Literally, I don’t have an algorithm to explain to me what missing 50,000 potential voters does to my race.”
Not all of the 49,695 students enrolled at Michigan State would have registered to vote in East Lansing for this election, but about 6,000 of them were registered in August when the university announced that most classes would be taught online, Jennifer Shuster, the city clerk, said. Many of those students are now changing their registration to vote in their hometowns, she said.
“The numbers are going to go down in certain precincts,” Ms. Shuster said. “I definitely think it could impact certain races.”
A federal appeals court ruled that North Carolina election officials can continue to accept absentee ballots up to Nov. 12, provided they were postmarked by Election Day.
The ruling, issued by the Fourth Circuit of Appeals late Tuesday night in a 12-3 ruling, rejects a Republican appeal to block a ballot deadline extension issued in late September by the North Carolina Board of Elections, which changed the day ballots must be received by election officials from Nov. 6 to Nov. 12.
Republicans in the state had argued that the extended deadlines created two sets of rules for voting in North Carolina, an argument the court rejected.
“As for applying different rules to different voters, again, the Board’s change does no such thing,” Judge James A. Wynn wrote. “All voters must abide by the exact same restriction: they must cast their ballots on or before Election Day. The change impacts only an element outside the voters’ control: how quickly their ballots must be received to be counted.”
“This change, of course, may have its own important consequences for the health of our citizenry — in terms of unnecessary infections avoided — and our democracy — in terms of lawful ballots cast and counted,” Judge Wynn added.
The ruling comes after the Supreme Court of the United States declined to rule on a ballot deadline extension in Pennsylvania, which kept in place a ruling that allowed for ballots to be counted if they were received three days after Election Day.
LeBron James, fresh off the Los Angeles Lakers’ championship, is stepping up his political activities on behalf of More Than a Vote, a voter mobilization group that debuted a rapid response operation on Wednesday to combat misinformation among young Black voters.
In an interview, Mr. James talked about the organization’s initiatives, including its recruitment of more than 40,000 poll workers, its efforts to restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated people and a push for N.B.A. arenas to be converted into polling locations.
But there was one topic Mr. James had little appetite to address: President Trump, who dismissed his activism and even his intelligence in a baseless and insulting tweet in 2018 and went on to call him “nasty” during an interview with Rush Limbaugh earlier this month.
“I don’t go back and forth with anybody,” Mr. James said. “And I damn sure won’t go back and forth with that guy. But we want better, we want change in our community. We always talk about, ‘We want change,’ and now we have the opportunity to do that.”
More Than a Vote’s latest partnership, a collaboration with the political organization Win Black, will seek to fight the spread of misinformation with voter education campaigns that are headlined by athletes and celebrities and amplified through Snapchat. The announcement came on the same day the group announced new investments in groups that register formerly incarcerated persons in Michigan, Florida, and North Carolina.
Mr. James, who campaigned on behalf of Hillary Clinton in 2016, said has been focused more on issues than candidates in this cycle — less a political decision than a strategy dictated by the rapid pace of events.
“We’ve been talking about voter suppression, we’ve been talking about police brutality, systemic racism,” he said. “We’ve had so many things going on, and voter suppression in our communities happens to be at the forefront. So that’s something we wanted to educate our people on.”
The rapid-response initiative will seek to educate younger Black voters on how to spot false political statements spreading on social media. The goal is to provide advice that culminates in young people making a plan to vote — either by absentee ballot or in person.
Called “Under Review,” the effort will be featured on Snapchat through Election Day, and will include videos from celebrities and activists like Desus and Mero, Jemele Hill and the athletes involved in More Than a Vote.
“We believe that Black people, our community, we’ve been pushed away from our civic duty. We’ve been fed misinformation for many years,” added Mr. James, who said his goal is to get young more Black people to the polls.
“You know, there’s so many stats out there, you can see it every time,” he said. “Who didn’t vote? What counties didn’t vote? What communities didn’t vote? And a lot of that has had to do with our Black people. So, hopefully, we can get them out and educated and let them understand how important this moment is.”