Wisconsin voters will head to the polls Tuesday, the second time voting will occur in the state during the coronavirus pandemic, giving election officials one final test run before November, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. In April, clerks were swamped with last minute requests for absentee ballots and many voters around the state reported that they did not receive their ballots by Election Day. There were also issues finding poll workers in April and some cities had to cut the number of polling sites, leading to massive lines. Most dramatically, Milwaukee was only able to operate 5 of its usual 180 polling locations.
Poll workers still proved difficult to find in August. The Wisconsin National Guard is providing more than 650 election workers around the state on Tuesday, after municipalities reported a shortage of more than 900 workers last week. Milwaukee has about 40 National Guard members on standby for Tuesday’s election in case there are workers who call out at the last minute, but the city is opening nearly 170 polling locations on Tuesday, according to Milwaukee Elections Commission executive director Claire Woodall-Vogg. “I think the disaster of April 7 was enough,” Woodall-Vogg said, when asked how the city found enough poll workers for the primary. Over 600 people applied and have been trained to be new election workers in Milwaukee, which will be nearly half of the poll workers in the city on Tuesday.
The August primary continued the trend of huge amounts of absentee voting. More than 900,000 voters requested absentee ballots around the state and over 500,000 had been returned as of Monday morning, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission. But one advantage for clerks this time around was that many people had already requested absentee ballots for the rest of the year during the April election rather than in the days leading up to the election. “I didn’t near see that kind of close to the deadline rush that we had seen in April,” said Racine City Clerk Tara Coolidge, though she noted her city has seen a lot more absentee ballot requests than a normal August primary. “I think that April kind of gave us a little bit of an idea of how to streamline the process a little bit more.”
One race to watch tomorrow is the Republican primary in Wisconsin’s 5th Congressional District to replace GOP Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, who is not seeking re-election. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and businessman Cliff DeTemple are fighting to secure the GOP nomination in the heavily Republican district. Another race to watch is in Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District, where Republican political newcomers Jessi Ebben and Derrick Van Orden are vying to take on Democrat Ron Kind. Cook Political Report rates the district as “likely Democratic” and it’s the only district in Wisconsin that Cook Political Report considers competitive in November.
More below on other races to watch Tuesday.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
Joe Biden returned to his Wilmington, Delaware, home on Monday after spending the weekend at his second home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. He is only scheduled to headline a “virtual fundraiser” on Monday evening, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson and political correspondent Ed O’Keefe report. While Biden continues to leave the world in suspense about his choice for a running mate, two people familiar with the vetting process say that several women up for consideration have been “on standby” for a potential in-person or virtual interview with Biden since the end of last week. One person familiar with the dynamics said an interview with Biden might not be the same for each contender: Some might meet with him in person, while others do so virtually. Late Friday, CBS News confirmed that Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer traveled to meet with Biden in Delaware on August 2, making it the only reported face-to-face meeting the former vice president has held with a potential running mate. When exactly Biden will make his announcement remains unknown. Some people familiar with the process have said it could come as early as Monday, while several others expect an announcement in the middle of the week, likely via text message to supporters who have signed up for alerts from the campaign. Biden is responsible for missing his self-announced deadlines for making a pick and announcing it publicly – so any further delay should come as no surprise.
And as Biden ponders his choice, he received a stark warning on Monday from more than 100 politically active Black male leaders, including civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs and former Obama Administration official Van Jones. The leaders wrote, “Failing to select a Black woman in 2020 means you will lose the election.” Their warning came after more than 700 Black female leaders wrote to Biden to say that an African American woman should be chosen because “we are qualified and ambitious without remorse.”
Whoever he picks, Biden’s decision matters to voters that are not currently backing him in the battleground states of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Seven in 10 of those who say they could consider supporting Biden say his running mate choice is important.
As we await Biden’s choice, several women’s rights leaders are calling for fair news coverage no matter who she is. The women wrote to news organizations saying they expect “a new way of thinking about your role in how she is treated and the equality she deserves relative to the three men running for President and Vice President.”
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
President Trump said Monday he plans to deliver his speech accepting the Republican nomination for president at either the Gettysburg battlefield in Pennsylvania or the White House, reports CBS News digital White House reporter Kathryn Watson. “We have narrowed the Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speech, to be delivered on the final night of the Convention (Thursday), to two locations – The Great Battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and the White House, Washington, D.C. We will announce the decision soon!” Mr. Trump tweeted early Monday afternoon. Mr. Trump had already floated the White House as a possibility for the speech, but Gettysburg is a new, and unusual, possibility. Gettysburg is the site of the bloodiest battle in the Civil War, a war which divided Americans and families. The battle, which spanned three days in July 1863, resulted in 51,000 casualties and the defeat of the invading Confederate army under General Robert E. Lee. The battlefield at Gettysburg is now a national military park administered by the National Park Service. The president has come under fire from Democrats for potentially delivering such a high-profile political speech on federal property. Mr. Trump spent part of the summer tweeting messages that members of his own party described as unhelpful in the wake of the protests about racial inequality and police brutality. Top Trump campaign official Lara Trump spoke to CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga about the possibility of a Gettysburg speech during a Trump campaign bus tour stop in the Keystone state Monday. “It is a battleground state obviously. But also, if you think back, the president very early on in his administration gave a great speech from Gettysburg,” she said. “And it was a really unifying speech. And maybe, I guess a lot of people saw it as a promise to America of what he wanted to do. And I think that’s the goal. Look, we want to unify as a party and this administration, this president wants to unify the American people. He wants to remind people, it’s not about the color of your skin or your gender. We’re all Americans at the end of the day and we are all fighting for our shot at the American dream.”
In another battleground state and on the heels of an eventful weekend for Trump Victory Florida that featured office openings and door-knocking throughout the state, CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that 2016 Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi encouraged voters to register to vote by mail during the first stop of the Trump campaign bus tour, which launched in Pennsylvania and the Sunshine State Monday. “The president loves Florida, I love Florida, this is now his home. This state has been so good to us. Register to vote by mail in the state of Florida. It works. Make sure you register to vote!,” said Lewandowski in a video message posted on Twitter. “It’s absentee in Florida,” clarified Bondi. “It’s not the mass mail-in voting so it’s safe to vote in Florida. Please do that…” The Florida leg of the tour also included appearances from Eric Trump and the state’s Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Núñez. As Sganga previously reported, the campaign has said the bus tours “are the perfect opportunity to travel the country and speak with everyday Americans about the issues impacting their communities.” Kissimmee is a part of the famed I-4 corridor and is located in Osceola County, a county Hillary Clinton won with more than 35,000 votes in the 2016 general election. Osceola County is one of the top 20 largest counties in state, boasting more than 375,000 Floridians and a voter turnout rate of 72% in the 2016 general election. According to data from the Florida Division of Emergency Management, Osceola County has reported nearly 10,000 positive COVID-19 cases as of Monday–2% of the state’s total number of cases. Ahead of the bus tour, Democratic Congressman Darren Soto, who represents Florida’s 9th district that encompasses Kissimmee, said during a virtual press conference that thousands of Hispanic families in Kissimmee are “sick, out of work, and desperate for us to come together” amid the coronavirus pandemic. “Today the Trump campaign begins their Magical Mystery Tour, where they pretend the coronavirus will just go away and leave voters guessing as to the president’s national testing plan,” said Soto. “Meanwhile back in reality, a pandemic and recession rages on in Florida, and Trump’s selfish and incompetent leadership is fanning the flames.”
THE HORSE RACE
BIDEN V. TRUMP
The latest CBS News Battleground Tracker poll finds that Joe Biden leads Donald Trump by six points in both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, according to the CBS News Polling Unit. An analysis by Anthony Salvanto, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus, Kabir Khanna and Elena Cox in the CBS News Elections Unit found the majority of voters in these two states think things in the U.S. are “going badly” and Biden would do a better job of handling coronavirus by significant margins, washing out any edge Mr. Trump has on the economy. In both states, views on the pandemic are more strongly connected with vote than economic views are. Biden is cutting into Mr. Trump’s margins with White, non-college educated voters who have been a key part of Mr. Trump’s base. Mr. Trump won White voters without college degrees in Wisconsin by 28 points in 2016, but the latest poll shows him with only a 10 point lead over Biden in this category. In Pennsylvania, Biden is leading Mr. Trump by 20 points among White voters with college degrees, outdoing Hillary Clinton’s 2016 performance with these voters. On Biden’s impending choice for a running mate, about half of those voting for him or thinking about doing so say the running mate choice is important. Of those not voting for him but who say they would consider him, seven in 10 say the vice presidential pick is important to them. As the president continues to raise concerns about mail-in voting and Democrats raise concerns about the Postal Service, about half of registered voters in both states think voting by mail should be made easier in their state. But the president’s voters may be getting his message: Republicans are generally opposed to making it easier to vote by mail and instead prefer keeping the system as it is.
After a massive influx of mail-in voting in Pennsylvania’s June primary election, some of the state’s largest counties are taking steps to make it easier for voters to cast ballots in person ahead of election day. Act 77, a bipartisan bill passed last fall that allows any Pennsylvania resident to vote by mail without an excuse, also stipulates that voters can request and cast absentee ballots in one trip to any county elections office in the state 50 days before election day, reports CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak. Philadelphia, the most populous city in the state, hopes to up their count of elections offices from two to 17 by election day to facilitate early voting, said Deputy City Commissioner Nick Custodio. The city’s largest suburban area, Montgomery County, is putting together a plan to expand to five sites, a spokesperson said. Allegheny County, the most populous area in the state after Philadelphia, is looking at potentially adding satellite offices, but hasn’t made a decision yet, a spokesperson said.
IN THE SENATE
In the Tuesday’s primary for Minnesota’s Senate seat, Democratic incumbent Senator Tina Smith and Republican candidate Jason Lewis are not facing competitive challenges in their advancement to November, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson. The Cook Political Report rates this seat as solidly Democratic in the general election.
In a call with reporters Monday, Democratic pollsters argued that Democrat MJ Hegar has room to grow in her race against GOP incumbent Senator John Cornyn, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson. One of the pollsters, Jefrey Pollock of the Global Strategy Group, said Hegar is currently under-performing Biden among Latinos, African Americans and women, but those numbers move quickly when voters learn more about Hegar. She won the nomination in July in a primary runoff against state Senator Royce West. None of the candidates reached the 50% threshold in March, so the top two, Hegar and West, advanced to July’s runoff. Pollock argued that as more Democrats and Independents learn about Hegar, she’ll attract more voters in those key demographics. The DSCC announced last week it would spend at least $1 million in the Texas race, making it the first time the committee has invested in a Senate campaign in Texas. According to Pollock and fellow pollster Albert Morales of Latino Decisions, this announcement combined with the Biden campaign’s investment in Texas as well as the presence of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democrats’ House campaign arm, in the state help Democratic efforts up and down the ballot. Polling by Pollock and Morales commissioned by the DSCC found Cornyn ahead of Hegar by one point – 43% to 42%. Recent public polling which was conducted by Morning Consult showed Cornyn with more of a lead – 44% to 38%.
IN THE HOUSE
The Republican runoff to watch Tuesday is in northwest Georgia, where a neurosurgeon is looking to beat a controversial QAnon supporter that won most of the June primary vote, reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. Republicans condemned Marjorie Taylor Greene after past racist comments were unveiled by Politico. Greene won just over 40% of the vote in June, with John Cowan coming in second with 21%. While the two are unabashedly pro-Trump, pro-gun and pro-police candidates, Cowan’s campaign has recently tried to draw contrasts by pointing to Greene’s “unhinged behavior” and having closer ties to Atlanta rather than the district. Cowan was backed by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, but there has not been an influx of outside help involved in this race. Congressman Doug Collins’ seat in Georgia’s 9th district also has a Republican runoff Tuesday. Two-term state representative Matt Gurtler is facing veteran and firearm business owner Andrew Clyde. Gurtler has been backed by the Club for Growth PAC.
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar faces a well-funded challenger in Tuesday’s primary in Antone Melton-Meaux, according to CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. Their Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party primary in the state’s 5th district has gradually turned into one of the most expensive in the nation. Omar is a member of the progressive “squad” of four minority Congresswomen that were elected in 2018. While other “squad” members Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib both cruised past their primaries, the race between Omar and Melton-Meaux has grown to become expensive for both sides. Both Omar and Melton-Meaux have raised over $4.1 million each, according to the latest FEC reports. Melton-Meaux has tried to paint Omar as more concerned with national politics rather than the district, pointing to missed votes (though Omar’s camp has previously pointed to being away to do work in the district and the her father’s death in June). Another notable primary in Minnesota is the Republican race in the state’s 7th district. Congressman Collin Peterson holds a seat Trump won by 30 points in 2016. This is the largest margin for any House Democrat in a Trump district, but Petersen has held his seat for about 30 years. Five Republicans are looking to be the nominee to take him on in November, including veteran Dave Hughes, who ran as the GOP candidate against Peterson twice and lost by less than five points in 2018. Former state Lieutenant Governor Michelle Fischbash is also running, and is part of the Republican House campaign arm’s “Young Guns” candidate program.