2020 Election Live Updates: The Biden-Trump Town Hall Events Presented Parallel Universes

President Trump fielded questions during a telecast town hall event in Miami Thursday night.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The dueling town halls that aired on separate broadcast networks Thursday night were a microcosm of the parallel universes in which President Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. are running their campaigns.

The forums replaced what was to be the second debate between the two candidates, after Mr. Trump rejected the decision by the Commission on Presidential Debates to hold the debate virtually because of Mr. Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis.

Mr. Trump, who was interviewed by Savannah Guthrie on NBC before turning to audience questions in Miami, grew angry and defensive almost at the outset, as she challenged him for spreading falsehoods, confronted him about his openness to QAnon conspiracy theorists and coaxed from him that he couldn’t say for sure whether he had been tested for the coronavirus before his first debate with Mr. Biden. Mr. Trump was alternatively hostile and derisive to Ms. Guthrie, a popular “Today” show co-anchor.

Mr. Trump also all but confirmed that he owed about $400 million to creditors, as reported in a New York Times investigation about his taxes. “What I’m saying is that it’s a tiny percentage of my net worth,” Mr. Trump said when Ms. Guthrie pressed him on the specific dollar amount cited in the report.

Over on ABC News, at a very different octane and a very different volume, Mr. Biden answered policy questions from George Stephanopoulos. He also said he wanted proof that Mr. Trump had taken a coronavirus test before their next and last scheduled debate, on Oct. 22.

Mr. Biden’s outing was not completely easy. He again dodged a question on expanding the Supreme Court if he gets elected, though he did say, that he would offer an answer before Election Day but wanted to see how the nomination process for Judge Amy Coney Barrett plays out first.

Mr. Biden also made some news, saying that his support of the 1994 crime bill — which has been blamed for the large-scale incarceration of Black people — was a “mistake,” adding that parts of it had not been carried out properly by states.

Mr. Trump did settle into a rhythm when the audience questions began, and he engaged with some of the voters on policy questions like corporate taxes. Still, at the end of the day, the president may have been better off with a virtual debate after all.

After yet another week in the presidential race and on the heels of the Supreme Court confirmation hearings, there’s little evidence President Trump has improved his standing over Joseph R. Biden Jr. in polls.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

In the never-ending news cycle that is the 2020 presidential campaign, the polls have lagged behind. But for a moment on Thursday, before the candidates’ dueling televised town halls, the polls caught up, and they painted a clear picture: President Trump is trailing badly, even though negative developments like his performance at the first debate with Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his coronavirus hospitalization are well in the rearview mirror.

National polls
Pollster Margin Diff. from ’16 result

Morning Consult

Oct. 12-14, 15,499 L.V.

Biden +9




Oct. 10-14, 864 L.V.

Biden +8



U.S.C. Dornsife

Oct. 1-14, 5,433 L.V.

Biden +13



Whitman (Dem. pollster)

Oct. 8-13, 1,103 L.V.

Biden +12



Marist College

Oct. 8-13, 896 L.V.

Biden +11



University of Massachusetts Lowell

Oct. 5-12, 819 L.V.

Biden +11



NBC News/
The Wall Street Journal

Oct. 9-12, 1,000 R.V.

Biden +11



Edison Research

Sept. 25-Oct. 8, 1,378 R.V.

Biden +13



National polls released on Thursday showed Mr. Biden up by an average of more than 10 points. The most favorable one for Mr. Trump found him down by eight points. That would have been an above-average result for Mr. Biden just a few weeks ago.

Nor were there signs of improvement on the horizon for the president. The venerable NBC/WSJ poll did show Mr. Biden’s lead dropping from 14 points, right after the Sept. 29 debate, to 11 points. But that previous result looked as if it was running pretty hot for Mr. Biden, and it’s a lot easier to interpret the new result as expected movement back toward the overall average, rather than as an actual shift toward Mr. Trump.

At the start of this week, it had seemed like the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearings might offer the president a positive news cycle. Instead, we’ve gone yet another week without much evidence that the president’s standing has improved. With no immediate signs that last night’s town halls provided a big bump for Mr. Trump, he doesn’t have many opportunities left.

Polls of individual states were a little more encouraging for the president than his national numbers. In Arizona, for instance, two new polls found Mr. Biden ahead by four points and one found Mr. Trump ahead by one point. Some previous polls had shown Mr. Biden farther ahead in Arizona. But in several other swing states, Mr. Biden continues to retain comfortable leads.

A “Trump Collins 2020” sign, right, paid for by the Maine Democratic Party, stands alongside a “Susan Collins our senator” sign, paid for by the Maine Republican Party in Freeport, Maine.
Credit…Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

President Trump lashed out at the Republican senator Susan Collins of Maine on Friday for not supporting the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, adding that given their previous policy disagreements, winning her over was “not worth the work!”

It was an unusual attack: Ms. Collins has often sought to distance herself from the president and preserve her reputation as someone who is willing to break with her party, but she is locked in a tight re-election race that is one of the main reasons Republicans fear they may lose control of the Senate.

Mr. Trump’s tweet described “a nasty rumor out there” that Ms. Collins would not support Judge Barrett’s nomination. It is no rumor. On Thursday night, at a contentious debate with her Democratic challenger, Sara Gideon, Ms. Collins reiterated she would indeed not vote to confirm Judge Barrett because Republicans had blockaded Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s appointee, in 2016.

“It’s clearly not a political calculation since it does not make a lot of people happy,” Ms. Collins said. “It’s a matter of principle, it’s a matter of fairness. In a democracy, we should play by the same rules and the fact is that there has not been a confirmation of a Supreme Court justice in a presidential election year since 1932.”

Mr. Trump does not actually need Ms. Collins’s vote to confirm Judge Barrett: Enough members of the Republican Senate majority have said they would support her that her confirmation appears all but certain.

Mr. Trump also criticized Ms. Collins in his tweet for not supporting “Healthcare,” a likely reference to her joining Democrats to block the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017.

He made no mention, however, of her support for his two previous nominations to the Supreme Court, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, the latter of which has cost her politically. Her vote for Justice Kavanaugh has galvanized liberal voters in Maine and across the country to flood the race with donations to Ms. Gideon.

Several polls have found Ms. Collins, the last New England Republican, narrowly trailing Ms. Gideon, who chipped away at Ms. Collins’s reputation as a moderate Republican and tie her squarely with the national party.

At Thursday’s debate, Ms. Gideon pressed Ms. Collins on whether she would vote for Mr. Trump. Ms. Collins, who has repeatedly declined to say whether she would, dodged the question again.

Ms. Gideon, who does not support adding justices to the Supreme Court or imposing term limits, said she would support returning a 60-vote threshold, known as the filibuster, for judicial nominees as a way to ensure an independent judiciary. (Both parties have chipped away at the filibuster for nominations as a way to overcome partisan opposition.)

“I think we should go back to having a filibuster in place for judicial nominees,” she said.

In their televised town halls on Thursday night, President Trump continued his pattern of exaggerated, misleading and false statements on many topics, while former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. stuck closer to the facts.

Mr. Trump continued to state without any factual basis that the coronavirus pandemic will end soon, and repeated his false statements that most people who wear masks get sick. He also dodged repeated questions about whether he had a negative coronavirus test immediately before the first presidential debate.

The president’s characterizations of the economy’s performance under his administration were inflated, and he again claimed to have done more for African-Americans than any of his predecessors except for Lincoln, an assertion that historians say is not accurate.

Mr. Biden got his numbers wrong on troop levels in Afghanistan relative to when he left office four years ago and mischaracterized an element of the Green New Deal, but generally avoided clear misstatements.

A team of journalists from The New York Times fact-checked both candidates in their separate appearances, providing context and analysis.

Voters waited in line to vote Thursday in Weaverville, N.C.
Credit…Juan Diego Reyes for The New York Times

Election Day is always the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, but the day circled on the calendar every four years is no longer the singular time when American elections happen. That day, Nov. 3 this year, instead represents the end of a six-week sprint during a record number of Americans cast their ballots in advance.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a trend toward more early voting. In an effort to make polling places less crowded on Election Day, many states have encouraged absentee voting, opened more in-person early-voting sites and, in a few cases, mailed ballots to all registered voters.

In state after state, voters have waited hours to vote. While the long lines were a vivid symbol of longstanding efforts to make voting more difficult — particularly for people of color — they also demonstrated the intensity of the desire to vote in an election that millions of Americans have waited for since the last one, when President Trump won a victory that shocked the country, exhilarating his supporters and infuriating large parts of the country.

The election so far has been a public demonstration of civic devotion unseen in American life for generations, but also evidence of what in many places remains a broken voting system, damaged either by neglect or intent. Yet the voters keep coming, intent on exercising a constitutional right and in hopes of shaping a better future for their country.

Mark Kelly, the Democratic Senate candidate in Arizona, was among the candidates in his party who announced huge new fund-raising totals over the last three months.
Credit…Brian Snyder/Reuters

Democratic candidates in competitive Senate races received another surge in donations over the last few months, with some breaking fund-raising records in their states and many entering the final weeks of the campaign with significant stores of cash, according to new quarterly filings with election authorities this week.

ActBlue, the central platform for donations to Democratic candidates and causes, announced that from July 1 to Sept. 30, it had processed $1.5 billion in contributions — an amount roughly equal to what the site raised during the entire 2018 election cycle, and one far exceeding the $623.5 million that the equivalent Republican platform, WinRed, took in during the quarter.

Mark Kelly, the Democratic Senate candidate in Arizona, was among those who reported raising another enormous sum. Mr. Kelly’s campaign took in more than $38.7 million in those three months, and polls in the state show him with a widening advantage over the Republican incumbent, Senator Martha McSally. His campaign indicated that it had entered October with $18.8 million in cash on hand.

Senator McSally’s campaign reported raising $22.6 million in the period, with nearly $12.2 million in the bank.

In the Kentucky Senate race, the Democratic candidate, Amy McGrath, raised $36.9 million in the quarter. Her campaign, seeking to unseat Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, reported having nearly $20 million in cash on hand. Senator McConnell’s campaign raised less than half of that, $15.8 million, and reported $13.9 million in cash on hand.

In Maine, the Democratic challenger, Sara Gideon, took in $39.4 million in her effort to unseat Senator Susan Collins, the Republican incumbent, whose campaign raised $8.3 million. Ms. Gideon reported $22.7 million in cash on hand, compared with nearly $6.6 million for Senator Collins, who received an endorsement from former President George W. Bush in August.

Jaime Harrison, the Democrat challenging Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, shattered the record for Senate campaign fund-raising in a quarter, taking in more than $57 million in the period in question. Mr. Harrison’s campaign reported having nearly $8 million in cash at the start of the month.

Senator Graham’s campaign reported having raised $28.5 million over the same time. As he leads slightly in polling in South Carolina, and as his leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee has drawn particular attention in his push to confirm President Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee, his campaign indicated that it had nearly $14.8 million in cash on hand.

Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, spoke at a town hall event in Philadelphia on Thursday.
Credit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

On Thursday, the internet felt compelled to weigh in on the stark difference in tone between the two presidential forums, Savannah Guthrie’s performance moderating the discussion with President Trump on NBC, and other assorted Easter eggs that surfaced during all of the questions and answers.

Here’s a quick look at what the online world deemed important.

NBC and ABC, the television networks broadcasting the events, carried them both at 8 p.m. Eastern. So viewers were left with a choice: Watch one candidate exclusively, or flip back and forth?

Among those who periodically switched between the two broadcasts, a consensus emerged: The difference in tone was jarring.

Mr. Trump’s detractors found his loud voice, frequent interjections and rhetorical meandering to be overwhelming and incoherent.

At times, Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s penchant for long-winded responses and deep policy dives left the voters who posed questions to him appearing perplexed, a point quickly noted by pundits.

Mercedes Schlapp, a senior adviser for the Trump campaign, echoed a criticism from the right about Mr. Biden’s more mellow town hall, essentially arguing that the moderator, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, and the voters posing the questions were being too soft on the former vice president.

But her particular assertion that Mr. Biden’s town hall felt “like I am watching an episode of Mister Rodgers Neighborhood” was quickly turned into its own social media moment, as people pointed out that, in fact, most people liked Fred Rogers, and that Mr. Rogers was known for preaching kindness on his children’s show.

There was also much discussion of Ms. Guthrie, who questioned the president bluntly on his coronavirus diagnosis, his views on white supremacists, the false QAnon conspiracy theory and his taxes.

Some praised her for pressing Mr. Trump on issues he has tried to evade. Others criticized her style, sometimes in pejorative or misogynistic terms, as overly aggressive and partisan.

At one point, Ms. Guthrie insisted that Mr. Trump explain why he had retweeted a conspiracy theory about Mr. Biden.

“I don’t get that,” she said. “You’re the president. You’re not, like, someone’s crazy uncle who can retweet whatever.”

That comment was widely transcribed and reposted. And it did not take long for social media users to remember that Mr. Trump does have one highly visible niece.

And finally, no roundup of the night’s internet moments would be complete if we did not include the video of one voter’s unprompted appraisal of the commander in chief.

President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani has long waged a campaign to attack former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

The intelligence agencies warned the White House late last year that Russian intelligence officers were using President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani as a conduit for disinformation aimed at undermining Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential run, according to four current and former American officials.

The agencies imparted the warning months before disclosing publicly in August that Moscow was trying to interfere in the election by taking aim at Mr. Biden’s campaign, the officials said. Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani have promoted unsubstantiated claims about Mr. Biden that have aligned with Russian disinformation efforts, and Mr. Giuliani has met with a Ukrainian lawmaker whom American officials believe is a Russian agent.

Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser, presented the warning about Mr. Giuliani to Mr. Trump in December. Two former officials gave conflicting accounts about its nature. One said the report was presented to Mr. Trump as unverified and vague, but another said the intelligence agencies had developed solid and credible information that Mr. Giuliani was being “worked over” by Russian operatives.

Mr. Trump shrugged it off, officials said, but the first former official cautioned that his reaction could have been colored in part by other information given to him not long before that appeared to back some of Mr. Giuliani’s claims about Ukraine. The specifics of that material were unclear.

Mr. Giuliani did not return requests for comment. The Washington Post reported the intelligence agencies’ warning to the White House earlier on Thursday.

 Nicole Flaherty’s 7-year-old daughter helped insert a ballot in a drop box ahead of Election Day in New Jersey. Ballots can also be mailed or delivered in person.
Credit…Christina Paciolla/Associated Press

With less than three weeks to go before a pandemic-era election that is being conducted mainly by mail, Democrats in New Jersey are returning ballots at rates that outpace Republicans in some of the state’s most conservative strongholds.

In the rural north, on the Jersey Shore and in horse country, Democrats are beating Republicans to the mailbox — and the drop box — in an election where every voter was mailed a paper ballot to turn in by Nov. 3.

In Ocean County, home to more Republicans than any other part of the state, nearly 39 percent of registered Democrats had voted as of Wednesday, compared with 25 percent of Republicans, county records show. Rural Sussex County had a nearly identical split: More than 39 percent of Democrats had returned ballots by Wednesday, compared with 24 percent of Republicans.

While many states have seen a surge in mail-in voting, New Jersey is one of only four states where the rate of return has already eclipsed 25 percent of the state’s total turnout four years ago.

Pollsters, lawmakers and campaign consultants see it as a sign of intensity among Democrats eager to show their displeasure with a polarizing president and a measure of distrust among Republicans toward mail voting — a method President Trump has attacked, without evidence, as being ripe for fraud.

Republican leaders say they expect a surge of in-person ballot delivery closer to Election Day.

“They’re very suspicious of the mail,” said State Senator Joseph Pennacchio, a Republican chairman of the president’s re-election campaign in New Jersey who is recommending voters use drop boxes. “If you had a $100 bill, would you trust putting $100 in the mail? Of course not.”

President Trump at a rally in Greenville, N.C., on Thursday
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

There are 18 days until Election Day. Here are the schedules of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates for Friday, Oct. 16. All times are Eastern time.

President Trump

1:30 p.m.: Speaks about protecting older Americans in Fort Meyers, Fla.

4 p.m.: Holds a rally in Ocala, Fla.

7 p.m.: Holds a rally in Macon, Ga.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

2:30 p.m.: Speaks in Southfield, Mich, on affordable health care.

4:30 p.m.: Meets virtually with faith leaders.

6:30 p.m.: Appears at a voter mobilization event in Detroit, Mich.

Vice President Mike Pence

1:30 p.m.: Delivers remarks at a campaign event in Selma, N.C.

Senator Kamala Harris

Participates in a virtual event on finance; time T.B.D.

Ad Watch

President Trump’s rude and demeaning comments to and about women are no secret. Just last week, he called Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, a “monster.” A new ad from the Lincoln Project urges voters to consider what it would be like to have a different kind of president — a man, it suggests, who actually respects women.

[embedded content]

The ad sharply contrasts Mr. Trump with Joseph R. Biden Jr., elevating Mr. Biden’s selection of Ms. Harris as his running mate as proof that he “doesn’t just value a female voice but chooses one to be his right-hand woman.”

The 90-second ad opens with two directives: “Imagine a young girl looking in the mirror, searching for role models in the world to give her hope that one day she, too, can make a difference. Now imagine how she feels when she watches women being verbally attacked.” Cue a series of clips that show Mr. Trump belittling women, including female reporters. “Your daughters are listening,” the ad says.

Then as the music soars, the ad encourages viewers to “imagine a different future for her” — one with Ms. Harris as Mr. Biden’s “right-hand woman.” It closes with a note of hope that doubles as a warning: “Your actions on Nov. 3 will define who she sees.”

The ad does not cover the sharply divergent views both men — and both parties — have on issues that affect women, including women’s reproductive rights.

Mr. Trump is known for his sexist remarks, and the clips the ad shows are real. Mr. Biden, on the other hand, has long styled himself a champion of women. He still refers to the Violence Against Women Act as his proudest legislative achievement and he said months before he selected Ms. Harris as his running mate that he would name a woman to his ticket.

A slightly modified 60-second version of the ad is running nationally on Fox News, MSNBC and CNN, according to Advertising Analytics. It began airing on Thursday morning.

The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, ran a similar ad four years ago. It did not work.

And the Lincoln Project is a group of Never Trump Republicans founded almost exclusively by men, so this ad has a tone somewhat equivalent to when men stand up and say “as a father of daughters” to denounce bad behavior by other men.

Still, the juxtaposition between the two candidates is powerful and likely to resonate with voters who are tired of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric.

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