Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, said on Tuesday that he would support moving forward to fill the Supreme Court seat left open by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, all but assuring that President Trump has the votes he needs for an election-season confirmation to cement a conservative majority on the high court.
In a statement Tuesday morning, Mr. Romney echoed Republican leaders who have said that historical precedent supported filling the seat in an election year when the presidency and Senate were controlled by the same party.
“The Constitution gives the president the power to nominate and the Senate the authority to provide advice and consent on Supreme Court nominees,” he said. “Accordingly, I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the president’s nominee. If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications.”
Mr. Romney, the 2012 presidential nominee who is one of the few Republicans who have been willing to criticize Mr. Trump, had been closely watched as a potential defector given his past breaks with the president, including when he voted to convict him in the impeachment trial and remove him from office.
But with the rest of his party quickly swinging into line, it had become clear that Mr. Romney’s opposition would not have been sufficient to block a swift march toward confirmation.
Speaking with reporters, Mr. Romney indicated he would defer to party leaders on whether to try to hold a vote before Election Day or after, but said it was only fitting that Republicans have the chance to install a conservative on the nation’s highest court.
“My liberal friends have over many decades gotten very used to the idea of having a liberal court, but that’s not written in the stars,” he said. “I know a lot of people are saying, ‘Gosh, we don’t want that change.’ I understand the energy associated with that perspective. But it’s also appropriate for a nation that is, if you will, center-right to have a court which reflects center-right points of view.”
It appeared Tuesday that Republican leaders and Mr. Trump would hold defections within their own party to just two: Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, who have said they would not support filling the vacancy so close to the election. Given Republicans’ 53-to-47 majority, and Vice President Mike Pence’s ability to break a tie, Democrats would have needed four defectors to join them in defeating a nominee.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, made no mention of the timing of a confirmation vote in remarks Tuesday morning, instead excoriating his Democratic colleagues for “the outcry and hysteria that has already erupted.”
“I’ll tell you what really could threaten our system of government — it’s not Senate Republicans doing legitimate things squarely within the Senate rules and within the Constitution the Democrats happen to dislike,” Mr. McConnell said. “No, what could really threaten our system is if one of our two major parties continues to pretend the whole system is automatically illegitimate whenever they lose.”
Mr. McConnell’s top deputy, Senator John Thune of South Dakota, told reporters he believed it was “a good idea for us to move forward” before the election.
Playing down the dangers the coronavirus poses to young people, President Trump falsely told supporters in Ohio on Monday night that the virus “affects virtually nobody,” hours before the country reached the grim milestone of 200,000 recorded deaths linked to the pandemic, according to a New York Times database.
Mr. Trump, who has veered back and forth between claiming that he takes the crisis seriously and dismissing it as a transient problem that will disappear on its own, made his remarks during a rambling late-night rally at an airport hangar in Dayton. They were part of a chain of assertions Mr. Trump made about the virus centered around the misleading claim, made by the president and other Republicans, that the virus only sickens the old and the ill.
“It affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems, if they have other problems, that’s what it really affects, in some states thousands of people — nobody young — below the age of 18, like nobody — they have a strong immune system — who knows?” Mr. Trump said.
“It affects virtually nobody,” he added. “It’s an amazing thing — by the way, open your schools!”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has rejected that argument. He told CNN on Tuesday that 25 to 30 percent or more of the population has an underlying condition, like obesity, that contributes to their risk of severe illness.
“It can be serious in young people,” he said.
Mr. Trump’s comments, made in passing, were embedded in a long digression that began with a discussion of tax cuts and ended with his familiar exhortation for local officials to reopen their schools.
His mishandling of the virus, and his administration’s attempts to downplay or distort information about its severity, has emerged as a major vulnerability heading into the election, especially among educated suburban voters.
Mr. Trump continues to talk about the virus in dismissive terms, against the advice of advisers, who have urged him to talk less about the pandemic and more about the economy, law enforcement and other issues.
The true number of Americans killed by the virus — including thousands of people under 65 and some victims who seemed to be in good health before the illness struck — exceeds official death counts and is likely much higher than 200,000 already, according to a recent analysis of deaths in excess of normal levels compiled by The New York Times.
The United States has recorded about 20 percent of the world’s fatalities even though the country is home to just 4 percent of the global population.
President Trump will announce his Supreme Court nominee on Saturday, he wrote in a tweet on Tuesday morning.
“I will be announcing my Supreme Court Nominee on Saturday, at the White House! Exact time TBA,” Mr. Trump wrote.
Mr. Trump had said Monday that he would wait until after funeral services for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had ended before naming her replacement, but that it could come as soon as Friday.
Even ahead of Mr. Trump’s announcement, Senator Mitch McConnell has started locking down Republican votes — all as Election Day looms in six weeks.
The three Republican senators seen as possible holdouts in the push to quickly fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Mitt Romney of Utah, all signaled they were unlikely to stand in the way of replacing her.
But one of the thorniest questions is on timing. Mr. Trump himself declared that there was “a great deal of time before the election” before departing for a campaign trip to Ohio on Monday. But he notably deferred to Mr. McConnell about when any vote would be set. “Up to Mitch in the Senate,” he said.
On Tuesday, Mr. Trump suggested he might favor an even faster process, retweeting a segment from Rush Limbaugh’s radio show in which the conservative host suggested “it would be great” if Republicans “skipped” committee hearings on the pick altogether.
Republicans have watched as Democratic Senate candidates and incumbents have experienced a tremendous outpouring of donations in recent days. Pressing through a nominee in the lead-up to the election could even further inflame the Democratic grass-roots and put at risk Republican senators who will face voters in battleground states, including Mr. Gardner, Joni Ernst of Iowa and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who is up for re-election this year, is one of two Republicans who have objected to a pre-election vote, leaving Mr. McConnell with limited room to maneuver.
Waiting has severe risks, too, especially if Mr. Trump is defeated or Republicans cede their majority.
But while the Supreme Court fight consumes Washington, the Democratic nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., made no reference to it in a speech in Wisconsin on Monday that he delivered while wearing a face mask.
He addressed the deaths of nearly 200,000 Americans from the coronavirus.
“I worry we’re risking becoming numb to the toll that it has taken on us and our country and communities like this,” he said. “We can’t let it happen.”
In the wake of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, Democratic strategists working on Senate campaigns from Alaska to Maine to North and South Carolina described a spontaneous outpouring of donations the likes of which they had never seen.
The influx of cash will allow Democrats the financial freedom to broaden their map of pickup opportunities, or press their financial advantage in top battlegrounds already saturated with advertising.
By Monday, Democratic contributors had given more than $160 million online through ActBlue, the leading site for processing digital donations. ActBlue broke one record after another — its biggest hour in 16 years, its busiest day, its busiest weekend — after Justice Ginsburg’s death.
An estimated tens of millions of dollars went toward efforts to retake the Senate, where the acrimonious confirmation fight to replace Justice Ginsburg will occur.
At least 13 Democratic candidates or senators raised more than $1.3 million each since Friday from a single fund-raising effort, which included Dr. Gross, a former orthopedic surgeon.
And in a closely contested race in North Carolina that could tip the balance in the chamber, Cal Cunningham, the Democrat challenging Senator Thom Tillis, enjoyed a $6 million influx of cash.
As impressive as Mr. Cunningham’s haul was, the Democratic candidates in Maine, Arizona, Kentucky and South Carolina are believed to have fared even better.
“Righteous anger is being translated into political action,” said Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, who helped raise $122,000 in online donations for Mr. Cunningham over the weekend.
President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. are tied for support, 47 percent to 47 percent, among likely voters in Iowa, a state Mr. Trump won by 9 percentage points in 2016, according to a poll released on Tuesday and conducted for the Des Moines Register by Selzer & Co.
The survey, one of the most highly regarded polls in a perpetual battleground state, found a dramatic and widening gender divide: Mr. Trump leads, 57 to 36 percent, among men, while Mr. Biden holds a virtually identical advantage, 57 to 37 percent, among women.
“I don’t know that there’s any race in the history of presidential polling in Iowa that shows this kind of division,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., told the Register.
Mr. Trump carried men in Iowa by 28 percent four years ago. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, won women voters by 7 percent, a much smaller margin than what the poll found for Mr. Biden.
“If Biden wins, it’s because women are steering the ship,” Ms. Selzer said.
The poll represents a static race likely to be decided by relatively small movement on the margins. Only 3 percent of respondents were undecided, with 4 percent throwing their support to third-party candidates.
The survey of 658 likely voters was conducted Sept. 14 through 17, and has a margin of error of 3.8 percent.
Iowa, known for its role at the start of the presidential primary process, has carved out a unique niche at the end of this general election.
Virtually every race in the state this year, from the presidential race, to the Senate contest between the incumbent Republican, Joni Ernst, and her Democratic opponent, Theresa Greenfield, to the fight over its four House seats, is more or less deadlocked, polls have found.
With six weeks until Election Day, more than 61.4 million absentee ballots have already been requested by or sent to voters in 28 states and the District of Columbia for the general election, a New York Times analysis found.
The data offers yet another indication that the number of Americans who plan to vote early or by mail this year will set records.
Concerns that the coronavirus could spread at polling places provoked a huge shift to mail-in ballots this year. Many states have expanded their absentee voting eligibility rules, and requests for absentee ballots have already surpassed total 2016 requests in at least 11 states.
The pandemic has also altered the voter registration process, cutting opportunities for in-person events. On Tuesday, as groups around the country participated in National Voter Registration Day, a mass effort to register voters before the Nov. 3 election, many — though not all — of their efforts moved to online campaigns.
Although deadlines vary, many states allow voters to request mail ballots less than two weeks before Election Day. The Postal Service has recommended that voters request them by Oct. 19 to ensure that ballots are returned on time. Early voting has also started in a handful of states this month.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers urged their party leaders on Tuesday to keep the House in session in Washington until Congress passes another pandemic relief bill, underscoring the simmering frustration among centrist lawmakers in both parties — many of whom are facing difficult re-election battles — about the failure to reach agreement on another round of aid.
“It has been suggested by some that Members of Congress are anxious to return to their districts to campaign in advance of the November 3rd election, even if that means leaving Capitol Hill without passing another COVID-19 relief bill,” the lawmakers, led by Representative Jared Golden, Democrat of Maine, wrote.
“We want to be very clear that we do not in any way agree with this position,” they continued, adding that “our constituents do not want us home campaigning while businesses continue to shutter.”
20 Democrats and 14 Republicans signed onto the letter, which was addressed to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader.
Facing complaints from moderate Democrats frustrated by the lack of progress, Ms. Pelosi last week pledged to keep the House in session until there was a deal.
But under the remote voting rules the House adopted during the pandemic, representatives have largely stayed at home in their districts while waiting for a vote to be called. That posture is untenable for many politically vulnerable members, who prefer the optics of being seen working toward a solution in Washington rather than campaigning at home.
Many lawmakers and aides on Capitol Hill have all but given up on passing a new relief bill into law before Election Day, a stance that has unnerved those facing re-election who dread returning to their constituents without having approved more aid.
Joseph R. Biden Jr. declined on Monday to say whether he would consider adding seats to the Supreme Court, sidestepping an idea being pushed by some progressives after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
In an interview on Monday with WBAY, a Wisconsin television station, Mr. Biden was asked if he would consider adding justices to the court if President Trump succeeded in appointing a successor to Justice Ginsburg, Mr. Biden won the election and Democrats won the Senate.
“It’s a legitimate question, but let me tell you why I’m not going answer that question,” responded Mr. Biden, who had previously expressed opposition to expanding the court. “Because it would shift all the focus. That’s what he wants. He never wants to talk about the issue at hand. He always tries to change the subject.”
Instead, Mr. Biden said, “the discussion should be about why he is moving in a direction that’s totally inconsistent with what the founders wanted.” The former vice president added that filling the seat now, as votes are already being cast, would be a “fundamental breach of constitutional principle.”
In a speech on Sunday, Mr. Biden urged Senate Republicans to “follow your conscience” and refrain from rushing a nominee through the Senate in the final six weeks before the election.
Mr. Biden and other Democrats are facing pressure from some progressives to add seats to the court if Mr. Trump succeeds in installing a nominee and pushing the court’s ideological tilt further to the right.
Before Justice Ginsburg’s death, Mr. Biden had firmly opposed adding more justices.
“We’ll live to rue that day,” he said last year.
The North Carolina Republican Party spent $213,000 on glossy mailers sent out in August to voters believed to be supporters of President Trump.
“Urgent Notice,” the mailers warned, alongside a photo of the president. On the flip side, voters found a tear-off application for an absentee ballot.
“Are you going to let the Democrats silence you?” the mailers asked, urging Republicans to fill out the application and send it in to obtain a mail-in ballot.
Similar appeals have flooded mailboxes in Georgia, Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin and other battleground states, part of a multimillion-dollar effort by state Republican parties to promote absentee voting, reinforced by text-message blasts and robocalls from Mr. Trump’s campaign and its surrogates.
Yet those efforts may have been undercut by Mr. Trump himself, whose repeated assertions that the mail-in voting is rigged, including several focusing on North Carolina, may have scared away his own supporters. His messaging could be one reason Republicans lag far behind Democrats in requesting mail ballots in North Carolina and elsewhere, experts said.
“It’s unbelievable and obviously at cross purposes with maximizing the Republican vote,” said Bill Weld, a former Republican governor of Massachusetts who challenged Mr. Trump for the Republican nomination this year. “The president is definitely inflicting a leak below the water line.”
Senator Bernie Sanders is planning to mount an aggressive campaign to counter potential attempts by President Trump to delegitimize the results of the November election, warning that Democrats and Republicans alike must do “everything that we can to prevent that from happening.”
In a phone interview on Monday evening, Mr. Sanders said he would spend the next six weeks urging the country to prepare for a “nightmare scenario” in which Mr. Trump declares himself the winner of the election and refuses to step down even if he loses.
As part of his effort, he is set to deliver a speech in Washington on Thursday — his first in-person appearance related to the election since before he dropped out of the presidential race — to outline in stark terms the danger that he says Mr. Trump poses to the nation’s democracy.
“We are living in an unprecedented and dangerous moment — extremely dangerous moment — in American history,” Mr. Sanders said. “And what this speech is going to be about is whether or not the United States of America will continue to be a democracy and a nation ruled by law and our Constitution.”
In the interview, Mr. Sanders said that he thought there was an “excellent chance” that Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, would win the election, but that he was worried that the Biden campaign was not doing enough to reach “nontraditional voters,” including young people and Latinos.
He said he was planning to hold a virtual town hall event on Tuesday with Julián Castro, the former housing secretary under President Barack Obama.
Mr. Trump, who has consistently trailed Mr. Biden in national and swing-state polls, has spent months trying to sow doubt about voting and the election. The president has claimed without evidence that mail voting will lead to “the greatest Rigged Election in history”; has urged people in North Carolina to illegally vote twice to stress-test the election system; and has even suggested delaying the election, which he cannot do on his own.
Here’s where the presidential and vice-presidential candidates will be today. All times Eastern.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
4:45 p.m. — Hosts virtual fund-raising reception.
Evening — Hosts virtual fund-raising reception.
7 p.m. — Delivers remarks at a campaign rally in a hangar at Pittsburgh International Airport.
Senator Kamala Harris
Afternoon — Tours small businesses that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic in Flint, Mich.
4:30 p.m. — Participates in “Shop Talk” round-table conversation with Black men in Detroit.
6:25 p.m. — Participates in a voter mobilization event to mark National Voter Registration Day in Detroit.
Vice President Mike Pence
3 p.m. — Delivers remarks at a campaign rally at the AutoServ Hangar in Gilford, N.H.
MIAMI — As a young associate in a prestigious Miami law firm, Barbara Lagoa took on an unusual pro bono case taking on the Clinton administration, representing a relative of a 5-year-old boy found off the Florida coast after his mother had drowned trying to cross over from Cuba. His name was Elián González.
Federal agents would eventually seize Elián and return him to his father in Cuba, setting off political shock waves that arguably cost former Vice President Al Gore the 2000 presidential election when he lost Florida.
That formative episode helped shape Judge Lagoa’s career as a federal prosecutor and appellate judge and thrust her into South Florida’s political culture, dominated by Cuban-American Republicans.
It is an electoral dynamic that remains powerful two decades later and has helped Judge Lagoa, who now sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, emerge as an attractive choice for President Trump as he considers whom he will name to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.
“She’s highly thought of,” Mr. Trump, who is scheduled to travel to Miami this week, told reporters on Monday. “I’m getting a lot of phone calls from a lot of people. She has a lot of support. I don’t know her, but I hear she’s outstanding.”
Democrats up and down the ballot have been focusing on health care in their paid advertising campaigns. Now, with a vacancy on the Supreme Court upending the presidential and Senate races, Priorities USA, a major Democratic super PAC, is using a new ad to remind voters that the Trump administration is seeking to invalidate the Affordable Care Act in a case heading to the Supreme Court.
The ad begins with a different focus, aimed at undercutting the support Mr. Trump has been seeing in polls regarding his ability to rebuild the economy. It frames the 2017 tax law as one that helped “the rich get richer” and states that his proposed budget would have included cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. “But that’s not all,” a deep-voiced narrator intones.
The ad claims that the Trump administration “asks Supreme Court to Strike Down Affordable Care Act,” a reference to a current lawsuit that the court has not yet decided. The ad continues to another repetition of a common Democratic attack: that the gutting of the Affordable Care Act, whether through the courts or legislation, would end coverage for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions. The ad concludes its focus on health care by noting that all these efforts are ongoing “in the middle of a pandemic.”
It is true that billionaires paid a lower tax rate than the working class in 2018. While the 2017 federal tax law wasn’t the sole cause of the tax rate, it was “the tipping point” by lowering the top income tax rate and cutting corporate taxes, according to a study by economists at the University of California at Berkley.
It is also true that the president’s budget in 2020 sought to cut many safety net programs. But perhaps with an eye toward the coming election, Mr. Trump’s budget avoided some hot-button issues — notably by not reducing Social Security or Medicare benefits. Most of the administration’s initiatives to save money on Medicare are cost-reduction proposals first offered under President Barack Obama. Earlier this year, Mr. Trump suggested to an interviewer at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland that he would “at some point” look at cutting entitlement programs.
The Trump administration is seeking to eliminate the Affordable Care Act in court, which would also eliminate provisions in the law that protect people with pre-existing conditions. In the past, Mr. Trump has expressed support for a bill sponsored by Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, that would prohibit insurers from denying coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions. However, it would allow certain states to request an exception that would allow insurers to charge more based on a person’s health status.
Where It’s Running
On television in Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona, and Pennsylvania.
The 2018 midterms were a windfall for Democrats largely over the issue of health care and prescription drug costs. In the midst of many crises of 2020, from the coronavirus to natural disasters to the sudden vacancy on the Supreme Court, it appears many Democratic groups will keep the message, at least somewhat, on health care.