The already downsized Democratic National Convention got even smaller on Wednesday, when the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) announced Joe Biden would not be traveling to Milwaukee to accept the Democratic nomination, according to CBS News political correspondent Ed O’Keefe and CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. Instead, Biden will be giving his acceptance speech from Delaware, but the location has not been released yet.
“The mayor has put in place a 225 person limit on people assembling in any one place,” Biden said at a fundraiser on Wednesday afternoon, according to CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson. “I think it’s the right thing to do. I’ve wanted to set an example as to how we should respond individually to this crisis.”
The DNCC said other speakers who were planning to come to Milwaukee will also not be traveling to the city. The decision was made to prevent risking the health of the “host community” and others planning to attend the convention, the DNCC said in a press release. “From the very beginning of this pandemic, we put the health and safety of the American people first,” DNC Chair Tom Perez said in a statement. “We followed the science, listened to doctors and public health experts, and we continued making adjustments to our plans in order to protect lives.”
The Democratic convention had already been dramatically reduced in size in June, when party officials announced most of the convention would be conducted virtually and state delegations were told to not plan on traveling to the event.
Wisconsin Republican Party Chair Andrew Hitt took a jab at Biden for not coming to Milwaukee and said in a statement, “Democrats have not learned from their mistakes in 2016 and are poised to repeat them again in 2020.” Milwaukee was awarded the convention in 2019, as Democrats tried to show their commitment to winning back Midwestern states that voted for President Trump in 2016. “Of course, we’re disappointed. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I’m very, very disappointed in this professionally and personally,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters on Wednesday. “We can’t forget the fact that we are in the middle of a pandemic. And in this country, over 155,000 people have lost their lives. Over four million people have gotten sick. Countless people have lost their jobs.”
The convention is still scheduled to start on August 17 with four nights of primetime programming. A “custom virtual video control room” has been built to take in hundreds of video feeds, the DNC said.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
Before the sudden Democratic convention U-turn, Joe Biden’s campaign planned to focus Wednesday on its big new advertising and messaging strategy ahead of the November election, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. Pretty soon it’ll be hard to escape Joe Biden on your television, your radio or your phone as his campaign is launching a $280 million advertising effort, which includes $220 million dollars for Biden television commercials. The Biden campaign called this TV ad buy the largest ever by a presidential candidate. The Biden ads are targeted to run mostly in 15 states that the campaign sees as most competitive, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona and Florida. The ads will focus on the former vice president speaking directly to American voters about the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic concerns, his campaign said, and will also address voter education and ways that individuals can vote early due to the pandemic.
The blitz also includes outreach to core constituencies of the “Biden coalition”, including African-Americans. Campaign officials confirmed to CBS News Correspondent Nikole Killion more than $20 million will be invested in its African-American paid media strategy, exceeding what Hillary Clinton spent in 2016. CBS News has also learned the campaign plans to use Black-owned firm, Truxton Creative, to help craft some of its advertising. The campaign will utilize African-American influencers, celebrities and key surrogates. Placements will be targeted across a range of Black media from television networks, like BET, to African-American owned newspapers and blogs, like the Shade Room and YBF. The outreach will also feature print ads and billboards to reach communities that lack broadband access.
Read more about the strategy from the CBS News Political Unit here.
Also on Wednesday, a new interview clip between CBS News national correspondent Errol Barnett and Biden clarified that he — unlike President Trump — has not felt the need to take an IQ test to prove his mental ability. “Why the hell would I take a test? Come on, man. That’s like saying you – before you got in this program, you’re taking a test whether you’re taking cocaine or not. What do you think? Huh? Are you a junkie?” Biden responded to Barnett. Adding he felt like the IQ question was meant to “goad” him, Biden pivoted to Trump: “If he can’t figure out the difference between an elephant and a lion, I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about.”
CBS News associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice reports that Biden’s campaign announced on Wednesday that it, along with the Democratic National Committee and joint fundraising committees, raised $140 million in July, just $1 million less than its monthly fundraising record set in June. But the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s campaign war chest continues to grow heading into the final quarter before the election. According to the campaign, the combined entities now have more than $294 million cash on hand, a $50 million increase from what Biden’s campaign revealed it had in mid-July. The campaign said 97% of last month’s cash haul comes from grassroots donors. The average donation to the campaign was $34.77.
“The Biden campaign is on the march, building off the incredible momentum from this summer with another lights-out fundraising month, banking another $50 million for the final stretch to election day,” said Biden’s campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillion in a statement. “Fueled by our growing community of grassroots supporters, we are rapidly expanding our operations around the country to create many paths to the 270 electoral votes we need to defeat Donald Trump this fall and win the battle for the soul of our nation.”
In June, Mr. Trump and his joint committees were outraised by the Biden campaign and Democrats for a second month in a row, racking in $131 million. Unlike Biden who has not attended in-person fundraisers since the pandemic shut down much of the country in March, the president began attending in-person fundraisers again in June. Both campaigns and political parties are required to file monthly with the Federal Election Commission by August 20.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
President Trump is now mulling the White House as a locale for his Republican National Convention acceptance speech. He has already canceled plans to host festivities in Jacksonville, Florida and Charlotte, North Carolina. “Well we are thinking about it. It would be easiest from the standpoint of security,” he told “Fox and Friends” Wednesday. But his suggestion has raised legal and ethical questions about hosting campaign activity on the federal government grounds. The Hatch Act forbids the use of government buildings and employees for campaign activities, with few exceptions. While the president and vice president are exempt, any White House or government employee who helps facilitate campaign activity risks breaking federal law.
“Is that even legal?” GOP Senator John Thune said to reporters when asked about the president’s plans. The Republican Party would also be responsible for covering the cost of any political event. “How does the campaign reimburse for expenses like the cost of the White House lawn?” Kedric Payne, general counsel and senior director of ethics at the Campaign Legal Center raised in an interview with CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga. Payne also noted federal criminal law prohibits the president and vice president from utilizing White House staff to engage in political activity.
“If government employees help facilitate a political event because the boss tells them to, that implicates President Trump.” President Trump defended the idea in his Wednesday afternoon White House briefing. “Well it is legal,” Mr. Trump said. “There is no Hatch Act because it doesn’t pertain to the president. But if I use the White House, we save tremendous amounts of money for the government in terms of security.” The Trump campaign deferred to the White House on questions of ethics and legality. White House officials told CBS News, “The president is not subject to the Hatch Act” but did not address potential implications for administration staff.
According to CBS News associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice, President Trump’s campaign, along with the Republican National Committee and joint fundraising entities, raised a combined $165 million in July, a record monthly total for the 2020 cycle so far and $25 million more than Joe Biden’s campaign and joint fundraising committees raised last month. But the president’s lead with cash on hand is narrowing heading into the final stretch before the election.
The Trump campaign last month surpassed the billion dollar mark with $1.1 billion raised this cycle to date. The president and Republican entities now have more than $300 million cash on hand.
“The enthusiasm behind President Trump’s re-election continues to grow as July’s massive fundraising totals prove,” said Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien in a statement. “Voters express their support for President Trump in many different ways and donating to his campaign is one of the most personal, because they feel invested in his successes and the future success of the country. The President’s support continues to increase while Joe Biden just posted a down fundraising month from his basement.”
At a campaign stop in Clearwater, Florida, Vice President Mike Pence said voters in November will have to decide between “freedom and opportunity” or “socialism and decline.” CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar says Pence accused the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden of advancing a socialist agenda and declared the foundation of the country is on the ballot this election cycle. “The choice we face is whether America remains America,” Pence said. “It is whether we will leave a country to our children and grandchildren, a country grounded in our highest ideals,” he added. Pence said the choice voters make in November will have a global impact as well. “The American people need to remember that Joe Biden was a leading voice of appeasement toward Iran and the Iran Nuclear Deal,” Pence said. “President Trump got us out of the Iran Nuclear Deal and Qassem Soleimani is gone,” he added. Pence also attacked Joe Biden for reversing his long-time support of the Hyde Amendment. Pence said the former vice president is “deeply out of step with the American people” on abortion and “issues important to people of faith in America.” He added that because of “pressure from the radical left,” Biden abandoned his support of the Hyde Amendment and will increase funding for Planned Parenthood.
Rapper Kanye West has filed as an independent presidential candidate in Ohio and Colorado, adding to the scattershot list of states he’s working to get on the ballot in November. West has filed in ten states thus far, reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro: Oklahoma, Illinois, Missouri, West Virginia, Arkansas, Vermont, Wisconsin, Ohio and Colorado. West also filed in New Jersey, but dropped his bid after an attorney filed an objection to his signature list. While he has filed in multiple states, many of West’s filings are still under review or are being challenged. So far, the only two states where West will for sure be on the November ballot are Oklahoma and Vermont. Some of these filing documents showed ties between Republican operatives and West’s campaign. In Wisconsin, it was reported that the woman that turned in West’s ballot filings is a Republican election lawyer. In Missouri, a GOP consultant and former chair of the Missouri Victory Committee, Gregg Keller, was listed as a contact in West’s filing. Nine electors signed onto West’s papers in Colorado, but none answered calls for comment.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed an executive order on Wednesday restoring voting rights to Iowans who have completed their felony sentences, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. Iowa was the last state that permanently banned felons from voting unless the governor approved restoring someone’s right to vote. Reynolds first promised to sign the executive order back in June under intense pressure from Black Lives Matter activists and others in the state. As of 2016, about 10% of the state’s African American population was unable to vote because of a prior felony conviction. The Executive Order covers Iowans who have already completed felony sentences. In a press release, Reynolds’ office said the governor will continue to restore voting rights each day for Iowans who complete their sentences in the future. Individuals who were convicted of felony homicide offense are excluded from this, however, and need to continue to apply individually to have their voting rights restored.
President Trump’s reelection campaign is suing Nevada over a newly passed bill that expands mail-in voting for the November general election, marking the president’s latest attack on efforts to broaden the use of mail ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic, CBS News digital reporter Melissa Quinn and campaign reporter Nicole Sganga report. The lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and the Nevada Republican Party against Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, on Tuesday takes aim at Assembly Bill 4, under which all active registered voters in Nevada will be sent mail ballots for the November 3 election. The Trump campaign claims the measure “makes voter fraud and other ineligible voting inevitable.”
The legal challenge from the Trump campaign and the GOP claims several of the bill’s provisions are unconstitutional, including one that requires election officials to count ballots received up to three days after Election Day even if the date it was postmarked is unclear. They are also targeting two sections of the bill that dictate the number of in-person polling places for early voting and day-of voting, claiming the provisions will lead to more polling places for voters in urban counties than rural counties. Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy II slammed the GOP’s lawsuit, calling it a “sham meant to intimidate the states from pursuing voting access expansions.” In a joint effort, the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign have vowed to pour $20 million into voting-related fights nationwide, opposing vote-by-mail initiatives in battleground states. Senior RNC officials told CBS News Wednesday that while they don’t anticipate a “2000 Bush-Gore situation,” the GOP anticipates this year’s election litigation could reach the Supreme Court.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers announced on Wednesday that he’s mobilizing the Wisconsin National Guard to serve as poll workers in next week’s primary, reports CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Elections Commission revealed that there was a shortage of more than 900 poll workers around the state. Over 2,400 Wisconsin National Guard members were mobilized to serve as poll workers during the April election when the state faced a massive shortage of workers. In the May special election, 160 members served as poll workers. It’s not clear yet how many National Guard members will be used in next week’s primary, but those who are needed will receive training before Election Day.
IN THE SENATE
Rep. Roger Marshall won the GOP Senate primary in Kansas Tuesday, fending off 10 other challengers including former Secretary of State Kris Kobach, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson. Marshall received the support from allies of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee and former senator Bob Dole. According to initial results on the Secretary of State’s page, Marshall won 40% of the vote compared to Kobach’s 26%.
Republicans feared that a win from Kobach who lost the Kansas gubernatorial race in 2018 would make Kansas a target for Democrats. Kansans have not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932, but the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has endorsed Kansas State Senator Barbara Bollier who has posted strong fundraising in recent quarters. Bollier won the Democratic primary easily Tuesday and will face Marshall in November. President Trump did not weigh in on the GOP primary race ahead of the primary even though he endorsed Kobach in his 2018 gubernatorial run, but Mr. Trump called Marshall to congratulate him after the race was called, according to a twitter video posted by Rep. Marshall.
IN THE HOUSE
The win by Cori Bush in Missouri’s 1st District Democratic primary adds to the pattern of progressive-backed Democrats upsetting established incumbents, and the increased volatility of incumbents this cycle, reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. Bush, a Black Lives Matter activist involved in the Ferguson protests, beat longtime Congressman William Lacy Clay by roughly three points. Bush lost by about 20 points in her 2018 run against Clay. She was backed by Senator Bernie Sanders and the Justice Democrats group, who notably helped propel Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in her 2018 run. The Justice Democrats group has now backed three winning incumbent challengers in Bush, Marie Lipinski in Illinois and Jamaal Bowman in New York. They have two losses so far this cycle, for challengers facing incumbents, with Jessica Cisneros in Texas and Morgan Harper in Ohio.
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In addition to Clay, freshman Republican Congressman Steve Watkins was upset by challenger Jake LaTurner in Kansas’ 2nd district. Watkins was recently charged with counts of voter fraud, and lost to LaTurner by roughly 15 points. LaTurner will be facing Topeka, Kansas Mayor Michelle De La Isla in November. Watkins is now the 7th incumbent House member, Democrat or Republican, to lose their primary this cycle. By comparison, only five incumbents lost their primary in 2016. Internal polling from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee showed De La Isla down by roughly a point against LaTurner, and Vice President Biden trailing Trump by 9 points. Trump won this eastern Kansas district by 18 points in 2016. The DCCC also conducted polling in Arizona’s 6th District, where Hiral Tipirneni won her Democratic primary and will face Republican David Schweikert in the general election. The poll showed Tipirneni down 3 points, and Biden leading Trump by 4 points. Trump won this seat by 10 points in 2016.
Other notable winners from Tuesday night include Democrat Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who cruised through her rematch with Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones. Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, another member of “the squad” alongside Tlaib, has a contested primary herself next week. Antone Melton-Meaux, one of her challengers, has kept the fundraising and spending race relatively close. Omar recently released her first campaign ad this cycle.
Staying in Michigan, State Representative Jon Hoadley won his Democratic primary in the state’s 6th District and will challenge Republican Congressman Fred Upton. Hoadley is part of the DCCC’s “Red-to-Blue” list of competitive challengers to GOP incumbents. A recent New York Post report uncovered blog posts from 2004 and 2005 by Hoadley, including a poem in which he refers to a sexual partner as a “victim”. Another post was about a wedding conversation on flower girls, in which Hoadley quotes a friend saying he shudders “every time I see a four-year-old wearing a thong.” The campaign confirmed the authenticity of the posts and dismissed the story as a “type of false attack” that is “what’s wrong with Washington politics.” Hoadley Communications Director Brittany Bodenheimer added, “While Upton’s Republican allies are slinging mud to distract from Upton’s record, Jon is focused on protecting affordable health care and lowering the cost of prescription drugs – issues that he hears about every day from voters in South West Michigan.”
Democrat Nicole Galloway has been actively campaigning against Republican incumbent Governor Mike Parson in Missouri, and the race is heating up now that the primaries are over reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. A pro-Parson PAC already launched a $2 million ad campaign for the governor, touting his background as a county sheriff and being “tough on crime.” A fundraising ad from Galloway’s campaign says, “Not only are they filled with false and misleading attacks against Nicole — they also attack you.” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Democratic Governors Association and the pro-Democrat AB PAC are also launching campaign ads this week, targeting Parson.