Of the three states that President Trump captured to the surprise of overconfident Democrats in 2016, Michigan has long seemed to Republicans the most at risk of slipping away this year.
Mr. Trump suspended his television advertising in the state over the summer, and several polls suggested that Joseph R. Biden Jr. had established a decent lead there over the president.
But it looks as if Michigan is back on the Trump battleground map. Mr. Biden is heading to Warren, Mich., a Detroit suburb, today to talk about the economy. The president is planning a campaign trip to the state on Thursday.
More revealingly, Mr. Trump resumed his television advertising in Michigan this week, this time with an ad trumpeting the “Great American Comeback.” The ad claims that the “finish line is approaching” in the race for a coronavirus vaccine (certainly that is Mr. Trump’s election season hope; whether it actually happens is an entirely different matter) and that the economy is on the rebound despite the ongoing pandemic.
The advertisement also selectively edits an interview with Mr. Biden to make it appear, incorrectly, that he wants to shut down the economy to contain the pandemic.
For now Mr. Biden — whose campaign is flush with cash — is notably outspending Mr. Trump in Michigan. Mr. Trump has bought just under $1.1 million in time on Michigan television stations for the week, compared with $2.4 million for Mr. Biden, according to data from Advertising Analytics.
But for the duration of the fall, Mr. Trump has reserved almost as much time on television in Michigan as Mr. Biden. Those numbers will almost certainly change as the campaigns adjust their advertising strategies based on polls and other data in the weeks ahead. As of now, though, Mr. Trump has purchased $13.1 million in television time, compared with $13.9 million for Mr. Biden.
Joseph R. Biden Jr., taking on President Trump over protecting American jobs, announced plans on Wednesday to change the tax code to discourage moving jobs overseas and to reward companies for investing in domestic production.
Mr. Biden, who was expected to discuss his proposals during a trip to Michigan on Wednesday, is also promising to take a series of executive actions in his first week in office to ensure the purchase of American goods in the federal procurement process.
As part of the new plans, Mr. Biden would create a tax penalty aimed at American companies that move jobs to other countries, known as offshoring. Mr. Biden has already proposed raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, from 21 percent. The penalty would apply to “profits of any production by a United States company overseas for sales back to the United States,” bumping up the tax rate to nearly 31 percent on those profits.
Mr. Biden would also create a tax credit for companies that make domestic investments, such as revitalizing closed manufacturing plants, upgrading facilities or bringing back production from overseas.
Mr. Biden is scheduled to give a speech Wednesday afternoon in Warren, Mich., a city in Macomb County — a place associated with white working-class voters who traditionally voted Democratic but embraced Ronald Reagan and, later, Mr. Trump.
Mr. Biden has intensified his efforts in recent months to unveil more populist policies aimed at boosting American workers.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s lead over President Trump among likely voters in Pennsylvania has widened slightly, according to an NBC News/Marist poll released on Wednesday that shows Mr. Biden with 53 percent support to Mr. Trump’s 44.
Mr. Biden’s lead is due in part to strong support from suburban voters — which were key to Mr. Trump’s victory in 2016 — and voters with college degrees, according to the poll of 771 likely Pennsylvania voters, which was conducted from Aug. 31 to Sept. 7. Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump among suburban voters by nearly 20 percentage points.
Among independents, Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump 57 percent to 35 percent. The two are tied with white voters, but Mr. Biden has a commanding lead among nonwhite voters, 75 percent to 19 percent. Mr. Biden also leads among women, 59 percent to 38 percent.
The poll has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.
Many strategists view Pennsylvania as the most crucial battleground of 2020, and both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump have campaigned hard in the state. Though Mr. Biden’s appearances have largely been virtual during the pandemic, he made in-person campaign stops on Labor Day.
Mr. Trump held a rally near Mr. Biden’s hometown of Scranton hours before Mr. Biden accepted the Democratic presidential nomination last month, and another one near Pittsburgh last week.
Mr. Biden has led nearly all recent public polls of Pennsylvania, a state Mr. Trump narrowly won in 2016, and Democrats are optimistic that Mr. Biden can flip the state back.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious diseases expert, expressed concern Wednesday morning about the example President Trump had set the night before when he held a large campaign rally in North Carolina without wearing a mask.
Appearing on “CBS This Morning” to talk about the hunt for a coronavirus vaccine, Dr. Fauci was asked whether the sight of such rallies was frustrating for him.
“Well, yes it is, and I’ve said that often,” he said. “We want to set an example.”
Some North Carolina Republicans had apparently hoped that the president would wear a mask as well.
Before the rally, Dave Plyler, the Republican chairman of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, was quoted by The Winston-Salem Journal as saying that he believed Mr. Trump should wear a mask.
“It’s been ordered by the governor,” Mr. Plyler said, noting the state’s virus orders. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in North Carolina, do as the governor says.”
But Mr. Trump, who has worn masks in public only a handful of times, and who mocked his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., for wearing one just last week, appeared at the rally without a mask. Scott Sexton, a columnist at The Journal, wrote after the rally that “red hats outnumbered masks and face coverings by at least a 100-to-1 ratio.”
Dr. Fauci said that public health measures such as wearing masks, keeping physical distance, avoiding crowds and moving activities outdoors rather than indoors “are the kind of things that turn around surges and also prevent us from getting surges.”
“So I certainly would like to see a universal wearing of masks,” he said.
A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that Texas’s procedure for reviewing — and in some cases rejecting — mail-in ballots was unconstitutional and ordered the state to change its process before Election Day.
The state’s process for verifying signatures on mail-in ballots “plainly violates certain voters’ constitutional rights,” the judge, Orlando L. Garcia of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, wrote in his ruling, describing it as “inherently fraught with error with no recourse for voters.”
“In light of the fundamental importance of the right to vote, Texas’s existing process for rejecting mail-in ballots due to alleged signature mismatching fails to guarantee basic fairness,” Judge Garcia wrote.
In a lawsuit filed last year, two voters said that their mail-in ballots were arbitrarily rejected because Texas officials did not believe the signatures on the voters’ ballot envelopes matched those on their applications. The lawsuit claimed that the state’s procedures, including failure to give “meaningful pre-rejection notice” to voters, violated the Fourteenth Amendment.
In his ruling, Judge Garcia ordered the Texas secretary of state to notify local election officials within 10 days that it was unconstitutional to reject a voter’s mail-in ballot because of a perceived signature mismatch if the voter is not first informed of the mismatch and given an opportunity to address the issue.
The judge also ordered the secretary to advise local election officials of new requirements for rejecting mail-in ballots because of perceived signature mismatches, including for informing voters.
Texas currently allows voters to request a mail-in ballot if they are 65 or older, disabled, planning to be out of their county during the election, or in jail but otherwise eligible to vote. The Supreme Court ruled in June that it would not require Texas to let all eligible voters vote by mail.
Dan Feltes, the New Hampshire State Senate majority leader, defeated a candidate endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders in a tight Democratic primary for New Hampshire governor, a display of enduring — if tenuous — strength for the party’s establishment wing.
The race between Mr. Feltes and Andru Volinsky, a lawyer and education activist, resembled other recent primaries this year that have pitted progressives against establishment Democrats.
But while the support of Mr. Sanders, who won the New Hampshire presidential primary, helped rally progressive voters in the contest, that was not enough: Though the race was closer than expected, Mr. Feltes bested Mr. Volinsky, 52 percent to 48 percent, according to The Asssociated Press, which made the call Wednesday morning.
Mr. Feltes will take on Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, who easily won his primary on Tuesday. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, easily won hers, too, reinforcing the state’s status as a battleground eight weeks ahead of the general election, when the top two down-ballot races will now feature popular incumbents, one from each party.
President Trump visited New Hampshire the day after accepting his renomination last month, and his campaign has identified the state as a possible pickup opportunity after Mr. Trump lost it in 2016 by fewer than 3,000 votes, or less than one percentage point.
Mr. Sununu, whose favorability has been lifted all year by his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, and Ms. Shaheen, a former governor and two-term senator, both faced nominal opponents in their own parties.
Most of the campaign-season intrigue centered on the contests to select their November challengers: the Democratic governor’s primary that Mr. Feltes won and the Republican Senate primary, in which Mr. Trump made an endorsement.
Corky Messner, the Trump-endorsed Senate candidate, held off a rival in the Republican primary, Dan Bolduc, who had blasted Democrats as “a bunch of liberal, socialist pansies,” a remark criticized as being homophobic.
Mr. Messner, a wealthy lawyer who built his law career in Denver and did not register to vote in New Hampshire until 2018, fended off accusations of carpetbagging during the primary. He said he had bought a second home in the state a dozen years ago. He may face a similar attack in the general election.
In a Granite State Poll last week, Ms. Shaheen held nearly a 20-point lead over Mr. Messner.
As in other states’ primaries since the coronavirus outbreak, the election was marked by a huge spike in absentee ballots: More than 75,000 absentee ballots had been returned as of Monday, according to the New Hampshire secretary of state, an eightfold increase over the 2016 primary.
Benjamin L. Ginsberg is one of the top election lawyers in the nation, the go-to attorney for Republicans in nearly every major election law battle over the past 38 years — most famously, the Florida recount in 2000 in the disputed presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Mr. Ginsberg won that one. His reputation as an expert in this (often deliberately) complicated field of law crosses party lines.
Which makes an op-ed that Mr. Ginsberg wrote in The Washington Post striking. Mr. Ginsberg — who perhaps not coincidentally has the freedom that comes from having just retired from his law firm — flatly disputed President Trump’s assertions that mail-in voting is “very dangerous” and that “there is tremendous fraud involved and tremendous illegality.”
“The lack of evidence renders these claims unsustainable,” Mr. Ginsberg wrote. “The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there’s no proof of widespread fraud. At most, there are isolated incidents — by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged.”
These are “painful conclusions for me to reach,” Mr. Ginsberg said, noting his own work in a catalog of redistricting and voter recount cases on behalf of his party, and that he served as the counsel to the Republican National Committee and to four of the past six Republican presidential nominees.
“The president’s rhetoric has put my party in the position of a firefighter who deliberately sets fires to look like a hero putting them out,” he wrote. “Republicans need to take a hard look before advocating laws that actually do limit the franchise of otherwise qualified voters. Calling elections fraudulent’ and results ‘rigged’ with almost nonexistent evidence is antithetical to being the ‘rule of law’ party.”
How significant is this? Well, imagine if Jerry Brown, the former Democratic governor of California and longtime environmental warrior, wrote an op-ed for The Sacramento Bee arguing that global warming doesn’t exist.
In a highly unusual legal maneuver, the Justice Department moved on Tuesday to replace President Trump’s private lawyers and defend him against a defamation lawsuit brought in state court by the author E. Jean Carroll, who has accused him of raping her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s.
Lawyers for the Justice Department said in court papers that Mr. Trump was acting in his official capacity as president when he denied ever knowing Ms. Carroll.
Citing a law called the Federal Tort Claims Act, the lawyers asserted the right to take the case from Mr. Trump’s private lawyers and move the matter from state court to federal court. The tort claims act gives employees of the federal government immunity from lawsuits, though legal experts say that it has rarely, if ever, been used to protect a president, especially for actions taken before he entered office..
“The question is,” said Steve Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor, “is it really within the scope of the law for government lawyers to defend someone accused of lying about a rape when he wasn’t even president yet?”
Ms. Carroll’s lawyer said in a statement issued Tuesday evening that the move by the Justice Department to intervene in the case was a “shocking” attempt to bring the power of the United States government to bear on a private legal matter.
“Trump’s effort to wield the power of the U.S. government to evade responsibility for his private misconduct is without precedent,” the lawyer, Roberta A. Kaplan, said in the statement, “and shows even more starkly how far he is willing to go to prevent the truth from coming out.”
The Justice Department’s motion came only a month after a state judge in New York issued a ruling that potentially opened the door to Mr. Trump being deposed in the case before the election.
Ms. Carroll, a writer, sued Mr. Trump last November, claiming that he lied by publicly denying he had ever met her. In a memoir published last summer, she maintained that Mr. Trump sexually assaulted her nearly 30 years ago in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman.
A powerful but little-known group of Republican donors installed by President Trump to oversee the United States Postal Service has helped raise more than $3 million to support him and hundreds of millions more for his party over the past decade, prompting concerns about partisan bias at the agency before the November election.
The largest amount of fund-raising has been by Robert M. Duncan, who continues to sit on the boards of two super PACs pushing for Republicans to win in 2020, one of which has spent more than $1 million supporting the president’s re-election.
But he is only one of five Republican members Mr. Trump has named to the board — most of whom have given generously to the party — who have taken a hands-on role in trying to defend the embattled agency against accusations that it is trying to help the president win a second term by sabotaging voting by mail.
At least one of the governors expressed concerns in an interview like those voiced by the president about possible voter fraud, citing an anonymously sourced news report circulated by the Trump campaign and the president’s son Eric Trump about how mail-in ballots can be manipulated.
“If any doubt is ever raised — like in the New York Post article, or by any other reputable publication — we want to get to the bottom of that,” said John M. Barger, one of the Republican board members named by Mr. Trump and a participant in a newly formed election mail task force.
Other governors have done little to hide their loyalty to the president, even as the board meets behind closed doors to plot a strategy for handling what is expected to be a record crush of mail-in ballots this fall.
The National Rifle Association continues to lose ground in Congress, with the last remnants of its Democratic support vanishing and its still-high Republican support eroding slightly, according to a New York Times analysis of the candidate grades and endorsements it released last week.
As is typical, most representatives and senators running for re-election received the same grade from the N.R.A. this year as in 2018. But among the small number whose grades changed, nearly three times as many have been downgraded (14) as upgraded (5). This is true among both Democrats (8 to 3) and Republicans (6 to 2).
Of the 416 incumbents running this year, 43 percent received “A” ratings and 49 percent received “F” ratings. Of the 919 candidates total — both incumbents and non-incumbents — who have received grades, 36 percent have A’s and 42 percent have F’s.
About 30 grades are still to come from Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, which held late primaries. Every congressional incumbent in those states received an F in 2018, and several are running unopposed, which suggests that the percentage of F’s will probably increase slightly and the percentage of A’s will decrease slightly once the last grades are released.
This means that for the second election in a row, F’s will outnumber A’s. Before 2018, that hadn’t happened in well over a decade, at least.
The grades are divided strongly along party lines, with most Republicans receiving A’s and most Democrats receiving F’s, but there are more than twice as many defectors on the Republican side: Nine Republicans got D’s or F’s, while only four Democrats got A’s or B’s. (Five Republicans and three Democrats got C’s.)
After the 2008 elections, there were 63 A-rated Democrats in the House and at least eight in the Senate. After this year’s elections, there will be no such Democrats in the Senate and, at most, one in the House.
Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota is the last A-rated Democrat in Congress and is in a close re-election race. The last B-rated Democrat, Jared Golden of Maine, is also in a tight race, raising the possibility of a Congress in which not a single Democrat has an N.R.A. grade higher than a C.
When the current Congress convened in January 2019, Mr. Peterson was one of three A-rated Democrats, along with Representatives Sanford Bishop of Georgia and Henry Cuellar of Texas. But in the newly released ratings, both Mr. Bishop and Mr. Cuellar have been downgraded to C’s after supporting some gun restrictions.
The new ratings also show a significant defection on the Republican side: Representative Michael R. Turner of Ohio, whom the N.R.A. endorsed in the past five elections. He went from an A to a D after calling for restrictions on military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines in the wake of last year’s mass shooting in Dayton, which he represents.
The N.R.A. has been embroiled in a series of legal and reputational battles, and gun control groups have begun to catch up in terms of political clout. A previous Times analysis of six cycles of N.R.A. grades found that, despite the group’s huge influence on policy, voters did not generally punish lawmakers who broke from it.
President Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. are tied in the perennially close state of Florida, according to an NBC News/Marist poll released Tuesday, and there were signs that some of the state’s old alliances were shifting.
Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden had the support of 48 percent of likely voters according to the poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. It was released on a day that Mr. Trump traveled to Florida, now his home state, to court voters.
But if the poll’s top line seemed familiar — Florida has come to define close presidential elections at least since the contested 2000 race between George W. Bush and Al Gore — the poll suggested that the sources of each candidate’s support were evolving this year.
The candidates are virtually tied among likely voters 65 and older, with Mr. Biden edging out Mr. Trump by 49 percent to 48 percent, it found. That was a big shift from four years ago, when Mr. Trump won a majority of the age group in Florida, according to exit polls.
The candidates were tied among likely voters under 45, the poll found. Four years ago Hillary Clinton carried young voters in the state by double digits, according to exit polls.
In another major shift, the poll found Mr. Trump was narrowly leading Mr. Biden among likely Latino voters, by 50 percent to 46 percent. Mrs. Clinton won among Latino voters in Florida four years ago by 62 percent to 35 percent, according to exit polls.