President Trump, eager to prove he is healthy and energetic despite his recent hospitalization for Covid-19, returned to the campaign trail on Monday night in Florida, a state his advisers think he must win in November, but where voters were overwhelmingly repelled by his performance at the first general election debate.
“It’s great to be back,” he declared upon taking the stage at Orlando Sanford International Airport.
His arrival in Florida took place only hours after the White House physician, Dr. Sean Conley, released a statement in which he said that Mr. Trump had tested negative “on consecutive days” using a rapid antigen coronavirus test not intended for that purpose. Experts cautioned that the test’s accuracy has not yet been investigated enough to be sure that the president is virus-free or, as his doctor claimed, “not infectious to others.”
Supporters and critics of the president were likely to focus as much on how the president looked and sounded at the rally as on anything he said. The question of whether he is healthy enough to make it through a full Trumpian performance — usually at least 90 minutes — without flagging is one that will hover over him until the election on Nov. 3.
On Saturday at the White House, in his first public appearance since returning from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Mr. Trump spoke for only 18 minutes, uncharacteristically cutting an appearance short. His aides had said he would speak for 30 minutes. But top campaign officials said on Monday that they had no concerns about his energy or overall health, only enthusiasm that the candidate was ready to return to the campaign trail.
“This morning, in our morning conversation, he was getting on my case for not having enough rallies,” said Jason Miller, the Trump campaign’s senior strategist. Mr. Miller said the president’s schedule would include “two to three events a day, and that will grow as we get closer to Election Day.”
The frenetic pace serves as a reminder that with three weeks left in the race, Mr. Trump is running behind his Democratic rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr. His polling numbers with seniors, a crucial constituency that has been disproportionately harmed by the coronavirus, have been flagging.
A strong showing of stamina less than two weeks after testing positive would help the president, who did not wear a mask as he boarded Air Force One to head to the rally on Monday, continue to play down the virus, just as he has done since March. And it is critical to the case that he has tried to mount against Mr. Biden, whom Mr. Trump has tried to portray as mentally and physically frail, unable to leave his basement or draw big, enthusiastic crowds.
Hours before President Trump was set to return to the campaign trail in Florida on Monday, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, warned that holding large rallies was “asking for trouble” with cases of the coronavirus surging in many states.
Dr. Fauci, in an interview with CNN, said that Americans needed to be more cautious in the fall and winter months, and warned that rising rates of infections in a number of states suggested Americans should be “doubling down” on precautions rather than casting them aside.
“We know that that is asking for trouble when you do that,” Dr. Fauci said of Mr. Trump’s decision to begin a full schedule of campaign rallies. “We’ve seen that when you have situations of congregate settings where there are a lot of people without masks, the data speak for themselves. It happens. And now is even more so a worse time to do that, because when you look at what’s going on in the United States, it’s really very troublesome.”
He noted that many states were now seeing increases in positive tests. “It’s going in the wrong direction right now,” he said.
He said that people should continue to wear masks and practice social distancing — and avoid large gatherings — to prevent new outbreaks. “That’s just a recipe of a real problem if we don’t get things under control before we get into that seasonal challenge,” he said.
Dr. Fauci’s comments came one day after he objected to a new Trump campaign television ad that portrayed him as praising the president’s response to the pandemic.
Dr. Fauci reiterated on Monday that the ad had taken his past remarks out of context, and called his inclusion in it “very disappointing.” He said he had been speaking more broadly about the collaborative efforts of the federal government and was “not a political person.” Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper whether the ad should be taken down, something the Trump campaign says it has no intention of doing, Dr. Fauci said, “I think so.”
In an interview with The Times on Monday, Dr. Fauci said that he had been unsuccessful so far in having the ad removed.
“I wouldn’t know who to contact in the campaign to tell them to pull it down,” he said. “I spoke to someone who I know well in the White House to figure it out for me and tell me how to get it down. I haven’t heard back from them yet.”
Dr. Fauci said that he did not want to be pulled into the fray of the campaign.
“I never in my five decades ever directly or indirectly supported a political candidate and I’m not going to start now,” he said. “I do not want to be involved in it.”
Fired-up voters across Georgia descended upon polling sites in record-breaking numbers on Monday — the first day of early, in-person balloting — as state and local officials reported glitches with the state’s new and troubled touch-screen voting system.
In Atlanta and its suburbs, long lines of socially distanced voters began forming in the pre-dawn hours, after a federal judge rejected a last-minute attempt to replace the $104 million system with paper ballots until its problems could be sorted out.
“It’s an awesome thing. We thought we were going to get here early,” said Norman Robinson III, as he stood in a line snaking more than a half-mile long outside his early voting site at The Gallery at South DeKalb, a mall near Atlanta.
“My parents were jailed in college during the 1960s for exercising their rights to vote,” added Mr. Robinson, an education administrator at a school specializing in science technology and math. “This is in my blood, to make sure I honor and continue their fight for voices to be heard.”
A spokesman for Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, said Monday that the state was seeing “record turnout for early voting because of excitement and enthusiasm about the upcoming election.”
But the lines were not entirely the result of voter fervor. As lines formed at State Farm Arena in metropolitan Atlanta, problems emerged with electronic equipment there, according to Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez, a spokeswoman for Fulton County, which includes the city.
Voters complained on Twitter of 90-minute delays as multiple machines had to be rebooted.
Aklima Khondoker, the Georgia director of the voting rights group All Voting Is Local, said that electronic poll pads on which voters check in had been creating problems around the state. “We’ve seen over 10 counties where this is happening,” she said.
In a ruling Sunday night, U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg acknowledged the equipment had problems, but held that it was too late to revamp the voting system.
The state did not have the capacity “to turn on a dime and switch to a full-scale hand-marked paper ballot system,” she wrote, rejecting arguments by the Coalition for Good Governance who said that potential security holes in the system endangered the election’s integrity.
Georgia’s new voting system is a hybrid. The machines do not actually store ballots; voters fill out their preferences on the touch-screen, the results are printed out and scanned, and then they are stored in locked boxes.
Judge Totenberg directed election officials to beef up efforts to review ballot images to ensure that software does not miss votes before expected runoff elections in January.
Jill Biden, the wife of the Democratic nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., appeared in DeKalb County on Monday with Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia lawmaker who founded a voting rights organization, to encourage Democrats to vote early.
“I want everyone, if you don’t already have one, to make a plan to vote,” Dr. Biden told a socially-distanced crowd gathered in a parking lot. “One vote could make the difference between winning and losing a precinct. One precinct could win this state, and this state could decide our future for generations to come.”
Georgians did not seem to need much coaxing to show up, however.
“I wish I had brought a chair,” said Everlean Rutherford, 39, a government employee, who stood in line for almost an hour outside of her polling place in Marietta before casting her ballot.
“One of the poll workers said this is the most that they’ve ever had for early voting,” she said.
President Trump has tested negative “on consecutive days” using a rapid antigen coronavirus test not intended for that purpose, the White House physician Dr. Sean Conley said in a statement released Monday before the president began a rally in Florida.
The memo said the president tested negative on a rapid test called Abbott BinaxNOW, but experts cautioned that the test’s accuracy has not yet been investigated enough to be sure that the president is virus-free.
“It doesn’t make much sense in my mind that they should be using the BinaxNOW test for this,” said Dr. Michael Mina, an infectious diseases expert at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “But it’s one additional piece of information.”
The BinaxNOW, which costs $5 and functions like a pregnancy test, looks for a protein produced by the coronavirus. It is most effective when the amount of virus in the body is high, but is much less sensitive than the P.C.R., the gold standard laboratory test. The Trump administration has purchased 150 million BinaxNOW tests and plans to ship them to states for use in schools and nursing homes.
In an announcement of the tests’ deployment to states on Sept. 28, the Department of Health and Human Services cautioned that “results from an antigen test may need to be confirmed with a molecular test prior to making treatment decisions; this may be particularly true for negative results if there is a high clinical suspicion that the patient is infected.”
“Infectiousness should be based more on symptom onset,” said Dr. Ranu Dhillon, a physician at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. The BinaxNOW, he said, “could be giving false negatives.”
According to guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with severe Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, may need to isolate for up to 20 days. But it has been unclear when exactly Mr. Trump’s symptoms began, or how severe they have been. On Monday, he departed for his Florida rally without a mask covering his face.
Doctors said it’s somewhat reassuring that Mr. Trump has tested negative more than once, but said without more details from the more sensitive P.C.R. tests, it’s impossible to be sure that he is past the point of infectiousness.
BinaxNOW’s “real power lies in marking someone who is transmissible, not the other way around,” Dr. Mina said. “I think they’re mixing things up a bit.”
In a memo released Saturday night with limited information, Dr. Conley said that Mr. Trump was “no longer considered a transmission risk to others.” That memo did not explicitly categorize the president as “negative” for the coronavirus.
California’s Republican Party revealed on Monday that it was responsible for placing unofficial drop boxes for mail-in ballots in Los Angeles, Fresno and Orange counties — sites that could be used to identify and eliminate the ballots of unsuspecting voters.
The disclosure came a day after state election officials opened an investigation into the use of the unofficial boxes, which they said were illegal and should be removed.
A spokesman for the state G.O.P. said Republicans had no plans to remove the more than 50 boxes that have been set up already in the state, and said they represented only half of the 100 boxes that the party bought to use during the election.
The spokesman, Hector Barajas, disputed that the drop boxes violated state election laws and deflected criticism toward Democrats.
“If Democrats are so concerned with ballot harvesting, they are the ones who wrote the legislation, voted for it, and Governor Jerry Brown signed it into law,” Mr. Barajas said. “California Republicans would be happy to do away with ballot harvesting.
California’s secretary of state, Alex Padilla, a Democrat, sent a memo late Sunday urging county elections officials to find and remove unauthorized boxes in order to “guarantee the security and chain of custody of vote-by-mail ballots deposited.”
In his memo, Mr. Padilla reminded local officials that creating an illegal polling site was a felony punishable by up to four years in prison.
“Operating unofficial ballot drop boxes — especially those misrepresented as official drop boxes — is not just misleading to voters, it’s a violation of state law,” Mr. Padilla said in a statement.
“Never hand your ballot over to someone you don’t trust,” he warned voters. “Official county drop boxes are built with specific security protections, and ballots are retrieved only by designated county personnel.”
Mr. Padilla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Republicans’ statements on Monday.
Mr. Padilla’s office previously said that it had received a report on Saturday that a metal box with a misleading sign suggesting that it was an official site to drop off mail-in ballots had been placed in front of the Freedom’s Way Baptist Church in Castaic, northwest of Los Angeles.
And last week, a supporter of the Orange County Republican congressional candidate Michelle Steel posted a picture of himself on Twitter dropping off a ballot at a gray metal cabinet onto which someone had taped a sign reading “Official Ballot Drop off Box.”
It was not an official site, elections officials said.
In the post, the supporter of Ms. Steel, Jordan Tygh, a regional field director for the California Republican Party, flashes a thumbs-up over the caption, “Doing my part and voting early,” according to the Orange County Register, which first reported on the use of the boxes. The post has since been deleted.
The Register also reported that the Fresno County Republican Party had posted on its website a list of “secure” ballot collection locations — including the party headquarters and local gun shops — that were not on the state’s list of official county drop box sites. The page has been removed.
The secretary of state’s office has not suggested that operatives from either party have engaged in the selective harvesting of ballots placed in the illegal boxes.
Almost four years after Ohio so fully embraced President Trump that many Democrats wrote off the state for the 2020 election, Joseph R. Biden Jr. headed there on Monday, aiming to energize the Democratic base and engage suburbanites, and also to court white working-class Americans who supported Mr. Trump last time, powering his wins in Ohio and across the Industrial Midwest in 2016.
In an address brimming with populist fervor, Mr. Biden lashed his opponent as an out-of-touch plutocrat who repeatedly betrayed union workers while playing up his own Irish Catholic, middle-class background and stressing the Obama administration’s work on behalf of the auto industry.
“He turned his back on you,” Mr. Biden said of his opponent. “I promise you, I will never do that.”
And Mr. Biden escalated his criticism of Mr. Trump’s stewardship of the coronavirus — and of the president’s own diagnosis — accusing him of “reckless personal conduct” since testing positive for the coronavirus that has been “unconscionable.”
“The longer Donald Trump is president, the more reckless he seems to get,” Mr. Biden said.
Mr. Biden’s remarks came as part of a speech in Toledo, delivered at what the campaign called a “drive-in rally” outside the United Auto Workers’ Local 14 union hall.
Later Monday, he headed to Cincinnati, where he sought to both energize voters in the city and to appeal to to those who live in the suburbs, which have historically favored Republicans but appear more competitive this year. Reprising many of the themes he hit in a speech in Gettysburg, Pa., last week, Mr. Biden urged national unity, denounced racial injustice and stressed his continued belief in the possibility of bipartisanship even in a polarized environment.
“Those Republicans who are willing to cooperate get punished by this president,” he said. “I refuse to let that happen. We need to revive the spirit of bipartisanship in this country. I know that sounds bizarre in light of where we are.”
He also warned in stark terms about the possibility of voter intimidation.
“Don’t be intimidated by talk of having some of these Proud Boys stand there with their rifles in lines, where you can open carry, try to intimidate people without saying anything,” he said, referencing concerns that far-right supporters of Mr. Trump could be organizing for Election Day. “You, the American people, decide our future.”
In his earlier remarks, Mr. Biden discussed his economic plan and also, as he often does, laced into Mr. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus. And he swiped at the Trump campaign’s decision to use Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, in an campaign ad without Dr. Fauci’s consent.
“Trump and his campaign deliberately lied,” Mr. Biden said. “It was a knowing lie, like we’re being told about everything about this Covid consequences.”
His trip to Ohio is his latest effort to cut into the margins of Mr. Trump’s base. After the first presidential debate, in Cleveland, Mr. Biden launched a train tour that took him through eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, regions that swung heavily to Mr. Trump in 2016.
But many Democrats still view flipping Ohio as a stretch compared with other places, and the state has not been a central focus of Mr. Biden’s team throughout the race, even as officials stress that they want to create as many pathways to electoral victory as possible.
The Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, began along predictable partisan lines, with Democrats emphasizing abortion and health care and Republicans sticking to their prepared rebuttals even when they did not correspond to what Democrats were saying.
Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Senators Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Josh Hawley of Missouri, accused Democrats of attacking Judge Barrett on the basis of her religion, suggesting that they were anti-Catholic and wanted to impose an unconstitutional religious test for Supreme Court nominees. But no Democrat on the committee mentioned religion at all.
Instead, the Democrats focused on how Judge Barrett might rule on cases involving major issues like abortion and the Affordable Care Act. And, as they have done consistently since Justice Ginsburg died last month, they accused Republicans of hypocrisy for holding the hearings at all after blockading President Barack Obama’s election-year nominee in 2016.
Senators Dianne Feinstein of California and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota argued that confirming Judge Barrett could amount to overturning the Affordable Care Act, whose constitutionality the court will consider in a case scheduled for oral arguments just a week after the election. Others noted the prospect of reversing Roe v. Wade, which anti-abortion and abortion-rights groups alike expect that Judge Barrett would vote to do.
And Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut argued that Judge Barrett should commit to recusing herself from any cases related to the election: the elephant in the room given that Mr. Trump’s efforts to delegitimize mail-in voting have made legal challenges to the results more likely, and because some Republicans have expressly argued that she must be confirmed before the election precisely so that a full nine-member court can rule on such challenges.
The threat of the coronavirus hung over the hearings on Monday, especially given that two members of the Judiciary Committee tested positive this month. Judge Barrett and most senators on the committee who appeared in person wore masks, except during their statements, but the chairman, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, generally did not. Senator Mike Lee of Utah, one of the members who tested positive, removed his mask when it was his turn to speak.
Donald J. Trump’s surprise victory in 2016 centered on the Midwest — particularly the ambivalent voters there who chose him at the last minute as the lesser of two evils.
But many of these voters, often political independents, soured on the president’s leadership early in his term.
And according to a pair of newly released New York Times/Siena College surveys from Michigan and Wisconsin, Joseph R. Biden Jr. has been consolidating his support among these same voters in the final weeks of the race — putting him in a commanding position and forcing President Trump to make up last-minute ground in the region that carried him to victory four years ago.
Mr. Biden leads the president by 10 points in Wisconsin, twice his margin from a Times/Siena poll there last month, and by eight points in Michigan.
In both states, Mr. Biden leads by close to 20 points among independent voters. He is also well ahead of Mr. Trump among those who said they supported a third-party candidate in 2016.
Partly because he has lost so many people who voted for him out of sheer antipathy to Hillary Clinton, the president’s support now runs slightly stronger among members of the Republican Party than it does among all voters who cast a ballot for him in the last election.
Across recent Times/Siena surveys of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Iowa and Ohio, Mr. Trump retained the support of only 87 percent of those who voted for him in 2016. Mr. Biden is holding on to considerably more of Mrs. Clinton’s supporters.
Both Wisconsin and Michigan could be on track for very high voter turnout this year, based on a comparison of the polls’ findings with actual requests made to date for mail-in ballots.
In Wisconsin, the number of absentee ballots already requested represents roughly 43 percent of all votes expected to be cast there this year, according to state estimates. But only 24 percent of Wisconsin voters told the pollsters they planned to vote by mail.
If the poll figure turns out to be anywhere near accurate, that would mean an even greater increase in turnout than state officials were already predicting. It also provides potentially good news for Democrats, who make up an outsize share of mail-in voters.
Similarly, in Michigan, the number of mail ballots requested exceeds 50 percent of expected turnout, even though just 38 percent of the state’s voters told Times/Siena interviewers they planned to vote by mail.
In both states, the Times/Siena polls found Republicans more than twice as likely as Democrats to plan on voting in person on Election Day. This all sets up a complex voter-turnout calculus on Election Day, when Republicans will potentially have far more get-out-the-vote work to do than Democrats, a reversal of the typical scenario.
The first debate on Monday between Senator David Perdue, Republican of Georgia, and his Democratic challenger, Jon Ossoff, spoke to the degree to which state races have been nationalized in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the struggling economy and President Trump’s gravitational pull.
Mr. Perdue used attack lines essentially identical to the ones Mr. Trump has used against Joseph R. Biden Jr., claiming falsely that Mr. Ossoff supported the Green New Deal, open borders and defunding the police. He used the words “radical socialist agenda” at least seven times, prompting Mr. Ossoff to respond at one point, “We can see you’re reading from your notes that your staff has prepared for you.”
For his part, Mr. Ossoff, who narrowly lost a special election in 2017 in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, sought to tie Mr. Perdue to the Trump administration’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, noting several times that Mr. Perdue had echoed the president’s false characterization of the virus as no worse than the flu.
When pressed on specific policies, Mr. Perdue promoted the Paycheck Protection Program — which had provided some initial support for small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic but has not been renewed since relief negotiations stalled in Congress — and argued that the best way to prepare for future pandemics was to build up the country’s strategic reserve of medical supplies and to “knock out” regulations to allow vaccines to be developed faster. (Many of the regulations that slow down the development process exist to ensure vaccine safety.)
Mr. Ossoff said he supported a large infrastructure program that would “make Georgia the leading producer of renewable energy” in the Southeast and called for a series of racial justice policies, including a new Voting Rights Act and a national standard for use of force by the police.
Also participating in the debate was Shane Hazel, a Libertarian, who said the government should have imposed no restrictions at all on movement or commerce in response to the coronavirus and suggested that Congress had almost no authority beyond “war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce.”
Just days after facing off against Vice President Mike Pence at the vice-presidential debate, Senator Kamala Harris was again in the spotlight as she delivered her opening remarks on the first day Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
It was one of the most high-profile appearances in the political career of Ms. Harris, a former prosecutor who was first elected to federal office just four years ago, and who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination before being chosen as the party’s vice-presidential nominee.
Appearing remotely to deliver her opening remarks, Ms. Harris largely stuck to the party line, lashing Senate Republicans for rushing through a Supreme Court nomination even as millions of Americans were still suffering from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This hearing should have been postponed,” Ms. Harris said. “The decision to hold this hearing now is reckless and places facilities workers, janitorial staff and congressional aides and Capitol police at risk. Not to mention that while tens of millions of Americans are struggling to pay their bills, the Senate should be prioritizing coronavirus relief and providing financial support to those families.”
And just as Democrats before her did, she elevated the Affordable Care Act as a crucial issue, warning Americans that the health care law was at stake.
“I do believe this hearing is a clear attempt to jam through a Supreme Court nominee who will take health care away from millions of people during a deadly pandemic that has already killed more than 214,000 Americans,” she said.
In her dual role as a member of the Judiciary Committee and vice-presidential nominee, Ms. Harris has faced pressure from Democrats to carry the mantle of the Democratic ticket while also upholding her reputation as a skilled cross-examiner. On Monday, several Senate Republicans used the hearing on Monday to criticize the Democrats who are calling to expand the size of the Supreme Court if Judge Barrett is confirmed — a particularly thorny issue for Ms. Harris and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who have both refused in recent weeks to answer whether or not they support the proposal.
Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, a Democrat facing a competitive race for re-election in Michigan, became one of only a handful of members of Congress on Monday to share a personal experience with abortion.
In an interview with Elle magazine, Mr. Peters said that in the late 1980s, his wife at the time, Heidi, had an abortion at four months’ gestation because the pregnancy was not viable and her life was in danger.
Her water had broken, Mr. Peters told Elle, leaving the fetus with no chance of survival. When she did not miscarry naturally, she became ill and was told that without an abortion, she would lose her uterus and would be at risk of dying from sepsis. She had to go to a second hospital to get an abortion, Mr. Peters said, because the first hospital had an anti-abortion policy and would not make an exception.
“My story is one that’s tragically shared by so many Americans,” Mr. Peters wrote on Twitter. “It’s a story of gut-wrenching and complicated decisions — but it’s important for folks to understand families face these situations every day.”
His campaign said he was not available for an interview Monday afternoon.
Mr. Peters is one of only two Democratic senators up for re-election who are vulnerable this year, the other one being Senator Doug Jones of Alabama. His Republican challenger, John James, is a vocal opponent of abortion, which has become a bigger issue in this year’s elections since Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death increased the chances of a Supreme Court majority against Roe v. Wade.
A spokeswoman for Mr. James’s campaign said Monday that he supported exceptions in situations where the woman’s life is in danger.
The Census Bureau, long the gold standard for nonpartisan probity and statistical rigor in the federal government, is rushing toward the close of the most imperiled and politicized population count in memory with two huge issues in dispute.
The first is the overall accuracy of a hurried count, buffeted by the coronavirus on the one hand and partisan interventions by the White House on the other. The second is whether the use of that count will result in figures for congressional reapportionment shaped by political considerations instead of an objective count of all the nation’s residents as the Constitution requires.
The second is who calculates the allocation of seats in the House of Representatives using the census’s fresh population totals. For decades, the Census Bureau has overseen reapportionment. The process has been walled off from partisan influence, its methodology set by law and its results available for anyone to double-check.
But this time, court documents indicate that, as one Justice Department legal filing stated, the bureau “will provide the President with information” for the calculations.
That has further fueled fears that partisan politics will taint a reapportionment process that the White House already has vowed to recast by removing unauthorized immigrants from state-by-state population totals. Analysts say that probably would increase Republican ranks both in the House and in state legislatures.
Neither the Census Bureau nor the Commerce Department, its overseer, responded to questions about the bureau’s role in the next reapportionment.
“The only interpretation I can give you is that the Census Bureau itself will not control the allocation of population numbers for apportionment,” Kenneth Prewitt, a Columbia University professor who ran the bureau during the 2000 census, said. “The Census Bureau is simply not in charge of what it has been in charge of.”
When Vicki Simon passes the rare fellow Biden supporter in her small town in western Pennsylvania, she quietly flashes a covert hand signal.
“There’s a secret society of us,” said Ms. Simon, 54, of Scottdale, Pa. “We give each other the peace sign.”
Standing near Ms. Simon as they waited to catch a glimpse of Joseph R. Biden Jr. in nearby Latrobe recently, Mike Sherback, 55, said that he, too, was not typically outspoken about his political views. The two cited the vocal Trump supporters in their conservative communities who sometimes shout down dissenters.
“The Biden supporters don’t like to come out as Trump supporters do,” Mr. Sherback said. “Usually I wouldn’t do this, either. But it’s the biggest election in my lifetime. He needs the support because the Trump people, Trump supporters, show their support whether through radical ways or not.”
As a divisive presidential campaign enters the final stretch, there is evidence that some Democrats deep in Trump country — the kind of voters who avoided political discussions with their neighbors, tried to ignore Facebook debates and in some cases, sat out the last election — suddenly aren’t feeling so shy.
It’s a surge in enthusiasm that reflects the urgency of the election for Democrats desperate to oust President Trump, one that could have significant implications for turnout in closely fought battleground states that the president won in 2016.
The task for Mr. Biden is to cut into the overwhelming margins that Mr. Trump posted in 2016 in working-class regions while expanding on the advantage that Hillary Clinton had in the cities and suburban areas.
“Even if we just cut the margin,” Mr. Biden said on his recent train tour through eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, “it makes a gigantic difference.”
With many traditional volunteers — especially older people who have long been the main pool of poll workers — reluctant to spend hours in direct contact with large groups, thousands of high school students and other young people are stepping forward.
“I’m sure from whatever side of the political spectrum someone comes from, they can agree that currently in our country and in our world, there are a lot of problems that need solving,” said Jacob, 17, who plans to work at a polling place in Milwaukee on Election Day. “For me, that’s being a poll worker.”
The pandemic has only accelerated the impending need to replace those who have long worked the polls, 58 percent of whom in 2018 were 61 or older, a group for whom the virus is a high risk. In an effort to prevent long lines at polling locations across the country, some jurisdictions have offered hazard pay to compensate poll workers. And even before the pandemic, 70 percent of jurisdictions reported in 2018 that they faced at least some difficulties recruiting the necessary number of poll workers.
Many states and counties allow 16- or 17-year-old high school students to help others cast their ballots even if they cannot do so themselves. Some have additional requirements, such as a minimum grade point average, to qualify. Tired of simply posting on social media, young people have volunteered in droves after many watched the chaotic primary election season that shed light on the demand for new poll workers.
Ben Hovland, the chairman of the Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency that provides support to state and local election authorities, called the new generation one of the potential “silver linings” of an election season filled with new challenges. The critical need caused by the pandemic prompted an outpouring of volunteers, many of whom would have never known otherwise about the impending poll worker crisis, he said.
As early voting begins, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s most-aired television ad last week was a grab-bag of his 2021 agenda that also featured his willingness to listen and consult with “the nation’s top health experts” on the coronavirus, drawing an unstated contrast with President Trump.
The ad is a bit of a mish-mash. With seemingly disparate elements of the Biden agenda strung together over 60 seconds, the ad amounts to a list of some of the more politically persuasive messages for Democrats in general — cutting taxes for the middle class, creating jobs, managing the pandemic — and highlights Mr. Biden’s willingness to listen to all sides.
The ad begins with the coronavirus, touting how Mr. Biden followed the advice of experts, before pivoting to his role in listening to doctors and patients when crafting a health care plan, making sure to highlight the key Democratic point that the party will protect coverage of those with pre-existing conditions.
The ad then pivots to the economy, before touting Mr. Biden’s promise to cut taxes for the middle class while raising them for the wealthy and to create “18 million jobs in his first term.”
“For Joe, it’s never been about ego,” the narrator says.
Mr. Biden has listened closely to experts in crafting his own response to the coronavirus, sharply limiting his travel and working to ensure proper social distancing at his events when on the trail, in contrast to Mr. Trump, who has mostly disregarded recommendations from health experts.
Mr. Biden’s ad pledges that his economic plans would create 18 million jobs in his first term, but job creation is mostly done in the private sector, and such job gains are notoriously hard to achieve. The ad also vaguely mentions “raising wages by as much as $15,000 a year” without specifying for whom or why that number is featured.
Where It’s Running
Just about everywhere that is a 2020 battleground. The ad had nearly $5 million in airings in the last week, with some of the heaviest rotation in Philadelphia, Phoenix and Detroit.
The ad is a positive spot about Mr. Biden that casts him as a Democrat who cares about the economy and who listens to the experts on the pandemic.