Reports of long voter lines and technical difficulties started to come in early Monday morning, as Georgia voters gathered at early voting sites across the state to cast their ballots in person on the first day of early voting for the upcoming general election. Before Monday, the mention of “long lines” as it pertained to Georgia elections brought flashbacks of the state’s June 9th primary, which was marked by technical issues with voting machines and reports of voters standing in line for hours. CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that as of Monday, the estimated wait time for voters casting their ballot early was up to eight hours at an elections office in Gwinnett County, the second largest county in the state, according to the county website. In a statement Monday, Georgia Secretary of State spokesperson Walter Jones said the state “is seeing record turnout for early voting because of excitement and enthusiasm of the upcoming election.” The statement went on to say that “long lines are to be expected” and that “voters need to be aware of all of their options including three weeks of early voting, no excuse absentee and in person voting day of the election.”
Mitchell notes that the Secretary of State’s office also said long lines are inevitable in part due to the amount of voters that began to gather at some early voting sites before the offices opened. Still, voters like Latreana Johnson, who lives in Garden City, Georgia, said she doesn’t think the long lines will turn voters away. “Enough is enough. People are tired…this is a life or death situation and that’s how everyone should view it, especially people of minority,” said Johnson, who added that she normally votes early. “Don’t let a long line stop you. You come and you bring your chair…you can bring whatever you want in there to assist you in voting to make sure that you vote for the right people.” Christopher Stephens Sr. who also waited in lines on Monday told CBS News, “Under the current administration, I think we have the strongest economy, we’ve had…in my lifetime. I’ve seen a lot of good for everybody with the way the economy is going.” Stephens, 44, added that he does recognize the impact that the pandemic has had on the economy. “I think Trump’s done a fine job. I’m more worried about the economy being our first priority.”
CBS News campaign reporter Cara Korte notes that more early in-person voting starts Tuesday in Kentucky and Texas.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
President Trump is back on the campaign trail Monday with a rally in Sanford, Florida, as the campaign launches a multimillion-dollar ad blitz to win the senior vote. On a call with reporters, senior adviser Jason Miller said the campaign is out with an eight-figure ad buy. The ads are airing nationally in all 50 states, including a number on Evangelical and conservative radio networks as well as other niche stations that reach Black and Hispanic voters. Miller said the campaign is also focusing on targeted local ads in 10 battleground states, including Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia. The Trump campaign is also adding more funds for ads in Michigan and Nevada. The president’s trip to Florida comes as his physician revealed just hours before the event that Mr. Trump had consecutively tested negative for COVID-19.
In Ohio, where Vice President Mike Pence campaigned Monday, and in Iowa, where Mr. Trump is set to visit later this week, the campaign is not airing any local ads, reports CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar. Miller said it is because they feel good about winning the two states and don’t want to waste money. A senior campaign aide told CBS News political correspondent Ed O’Keefe the campaign is beginning to make some national ad buys because they find it’s cheaper to reach certain battleground state voters that way. And as the campaign tries to shore up support among seniors, they are looking to advertise at times of the day that are cheaper – like daytime – than it is to reach younger voters, who mostly watch during expensive time slots. The campaign also believes their numbers among Black and Latino voters are holding steady and will target those communities with ads that knock Joe Biden.
The Trump campaign spent much of Monday criticizing Biden on the Supreme Court and his unwillingness to answer whether he would pack the court with more judges or not. Campaign manager Bill Stepien, who tested positive for coronavirus 10 days ago and is back at headquarters on Monday, claimed Biden is avoiding the question because his position is “out of step” with the American people.
Pence said Democrats are intent on packing the court and said it “would be nothing less than the biggest power grab in American history.” Pence said Biden and running mate Senator Kamala Harris need to provide a straight answer and “come clean with the American people.”
Meanwhile in Florida, hundreds of supporters lined up in anticipation of Mr. Trump’s return to the campaign trail tonight. David Costello, a retired ICU nurse, told CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga his “deep concern” for the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis did not last long. “He recovered. And I said, take that, COVID. Because I guess you messed with the wrong president.” Costello, who called Mr. Trump “immune” from the virus, said he did not fault the commander-in-chief for receiving “top notch” care. The Birmingham, Alabama, resident has been waiting in a crowded line – with no mask – since 8 a.m., but said he felt “totally comfortable.” Costello said, “First of all the coronavirus has a very low fatality rate.” He added, “Second of all, the contagious rate is dropping in this country.” The observed case-fatality rate for coronavirus is 2.8% in the United States, but America also ranks sixth worldwide in deaths per population (65.64 per 100,000.) “COVID is not the issue. The economy is the issue,” said Martha Courier, a 68-year-old retired nurse from Orlando, Florida. “So get off the fricken’ COVID. Start talking about things that matter to us, like taxes.” Asked if she felt vulnerable given her age group, Courier – who wore a mask slung below her chin – added, “You’ve got to take care of yourself. You’ve got to stay healthy. I’m 68. I’ve got health issues. But I keep myself healthy.” Bill Cerelli from Tampa returned Monday after the president canceled his last Florida rally due to his diagnosis. Asked about the White House’s COVID-19 protocols and large gatherings, he shrugged. “Seems like everyone was tested. It’s an invisible plague. I’m not sure how much more you can do.” Probed on whether or not the president should wear a mask, he added, “I don’t know how much masks help to be honest with you.” Melissa Osborne from Orlando, Florida told CBS News, “Do you see me wearing a mask? No way.” Osborne said, “I have faith in God. We’re outdoors.” She gestured to the crowds around her. “There’s a breeze.” Nearby, former registered nurse Debbie decried mask-wearing. “For Joe Biden to come out and say he’s going to mandate masks, I’m asthmatic. You put me in a mask, I’m not going to be able to breathe.”
Biden made his second trip to Ohio in two weeks on Monday, reports CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman. The former vice president gave remarks with United Auto Workers Local 14 in Toledo, Ohio, hitting that media market and a media market in Michigan. Biden pitched an economic message to Ohio voters as many Americans are facing economic hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The times are hard,” Biden declared. “Unemployment is way up due to the pandemic and the terrible way in which it’s been handled. The economic outlook remains uncertain. Across Ohio and the country, folks are worrying about making the next mortgage payment or the rent payment, whether or not they can purchase prescription drugs or put food on the table.” Biden reiterated a frequent campaign line to draw a contrast with Trump on economic messaging. “I view this campaign, as I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, between Scranton and Park Avenue, between Toledo and Park Avenue.” Biden also attended a voter mobilization event in Cincinnati, where there is a close congressional race that Democrats hope to flip. Biden’s trip to the Buckeye state comes as a recent CBS News Battleground Tracker poll shows the race tied between Biden and Trump among Ohio likely voters. While the poll showed that the race is tied among likely voters, the poll also highlighted that a majority of Ohioans believe the president will do a better job handling economic issues, including protecting manufacturing jobs.
Harris took time off the campaign trail Monday and delivered a stinging rebuke to her Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the first day of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing, according to CBS News campaign reporter Tim Perry. “This committee has ignored commonsense requests to keep people safe – including not requiring testing for all members – despite a coronavirus outbreak among senators of this very committee,” Harris said. “By contrast, in response to this recent Senate outbreak, the leaders of Senate Republicans rightly postponed business on the Senate floor this week to protect the health and safety of senators and staff. Mr. Chairman, for the same reasons, this hearing should have been postponed.” Harris joined her Democratic members saying that the future of the Affordable Care Act is on the line with Barrett’s nomination. “Republicans finally realized the Affordable Care Act is too popular to repeal in Congress, so now they are trying to bypass the will of voters and have the Supreme Court do their dirty work,” Harris said.
BATTLEGROUNDS IN THE BATTLEGROUNDS
NEVADA – *CLARK COUNTY*
The CBS News Battleground Tracker published Sunday is the latest poll to show Biden leading Mr. Trump by more than 5 points in Nevada, more than double Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory there in 2016. But campaigning in southern Nevada this weekend, the Trump campaign urged supporters not to be discouraged by what they dismissed as “fake polls,” reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. “They’re trying to get inside your heads because that’s what propaganda is,” Matt Schlapp, head of the American Conservative Union, said at a stop for the “Team Trump on Tour” bus outside the campaign’s Summerlin office. Few parts of the country have been hit harder by the economic devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic than Clark County, where casinos shuttered entirely as cases spiked earlier this year. The metropolitan area last posted the nation’s fifth worst unemployment rate of anywhere in the country. And no issue ranks higher for likely voters in Nevada, with 83% citing the economy as a major factor in their vote to the CBS News Battleground Tracker. Trump campaign surrogates here have repeatedly denounced the state’s Democratic governor for the shutdowns. Democrats have blamed Mr. Trump for worsening the pandemic and blocking needed aid from Congress. Blame for the outbreak that triggered the collapse, and views of an economic recovery under the Trump or potential Biden administrations, break down in the survey largely along party lines in Nevada. There is little doubt this year that Clark County, the majority-minority community that spans the Las Vegas Strip and makes up nearly three-fourths of Nevada’s population, will continue its decades-long record of backing Democratic presidential candidates. As of September, Democrats made up 40.9% of registered voters in southern Nevada, compared to just 28.5% Republicans. But Republicans insist a path to victory remains for the president in Nevada, relying in large part on turning out his supporters throughout Clark County from the wealthier master-planned or retirement communities that encompass much of the Las Vegas suburbs, like in Summerlin, to the more rural outposts of Clark County like Boulder City, which garnered a recent visit by Pence. Democrats have admitted they faced some challenges of their own reaching their largely working-class, non-White base here amid the pandemic. The Biden campaign says it has devoted significant resources to voter contacts among their supporters, from pouring money into Spanish-language advertising and canvassing to phone banking targeted at Tagalog speakers among the area’s booming Filipino-American community.
ISSUES THAT MATTER
More Than A Vote, a voting rights organization organized by professional athletes, including NBA superstar LeBron James, released a new video encouraging Americans to make a plan to vote and to cast their vote early. CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman says the video features Major League Soccer players and was done in collaboration with Black Players for Change, which is an organization of more than 170 professional soccer players, coaches and staff dedicated to eradicating racial inequality. The soccer players cited the COVID-19 pandemic, social injustices in society and climate change as reasons to urge Americans to register to vote. “By changing the culture around civic engagement and really taking ownership of our ability to influence the electoral process, we can begin to build a society inclusive of all of our diverse backgrounds,” said Portland Timbers forward Jeremy Ebobisse, who’s also an executive board member on BPC, in a statement. “This summer, we’ve taken our energy to the streets, and now it’s time to be heard through our vote.”
A group of high-profile California Democrats, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Congressman Jimmy Gomez, are hosting a virtual fundraiser tomorrow to support Democrats in South Carolina, CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar has learned. The fundraising effort by Democrats is aimed at regaining control of the state senate in South Carolina. Tickets start at $50 and go as high as $1,000 for the grassroots fundraiser. Michael Ceraso, a former New Hampshire director for Pete Buttigieg and current candidate for Claremont City Council in the Los Angeles area, is organizing the event. The speaker line-up also features New Mexico State House District 45 Democratic candidate Linda Serrato and New Hampshire Democratic State Senate candidate Rebecca Perkins Kwoka. Notable co-hosts include Los Angeles Councilman Gil Cedillo; El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero; Claremont Councilman Jed Leano; Sonal Shah, a former senior policy adviser to Pete Buttigieg; Viktoria Cornelius, a former deputy southwest finance director to Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign and Nina Smith, former traveling press secretary for Pete Buttigieg.
IN THE SENATE
Democratic Senate candidate Jaime Harrison announced Sunday his campaign raised $53 million in the third quarter of fundraising, breaking the record for the highest single quarter fundraising haul in U.S. Senate history. Beto O’Rourke’s $38 million third quarter haul in 2018 held the previous record, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson. A handful of other Democratic candidates have released their numbers as well, including Theresa Greenfield in Iowa with $28.7 million, Barbara Bollier in Kansas with nearly $13.5 million, and Cal Cunningham in North Carolina with $28.3 million. Cunningham announced his fundraising haul the night before news broke about his exchanging flirtatious texts with the woman who is not his wife, and the campaign has since confirmed their authenticity. Republican challenger John James also had an impressive quarter. He raised more than $14 million this quarter, according to his campaign. James is challenging incumbent Democratic Senator Gary Peters in a race that has tightened in recent polls. The most recent CBS News Battleground Tracker poll found Peters ahead by three points, and the New York Times/Sienna poll released Monday has Peters up by just 1 point.