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Biden, Trump battle over prospect of coronavirus vaccine delivered before Election Day

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Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump agreed Monday on the need for a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.

But the two presidential contenders clashed during dueling Labor Day events over just how much Trump can be trusted to deliver.

Reporters asked Biden at a campaign stop in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, whether he would take a COVID-19 vaccine if the Trump administration offered one before Election Day. On Sunday, his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., had said she would not solely trust Trump’s word about the safety of any vaccine that was rolled out to the public before the election — comments Biden echoed.

“I would want to see what the scientists said,” Biden said, insisting that he would want “full transparency” from the administration about any potential vaccine. He said he is “worried if we do have a really good vaccine people are going to be reluctant to take it,” because Trump “is undermining public confidence” in the process.

“If I could get a vaccine tomorrow, I’d do it,” Biden added. “If it cost me the election, I’d do it. We need a vaccine, and we need it now. As quickly as we can get it. We have to listen to the scientists.”

Trump, speaking at a news conference from the North Portico of the White House, demanded that Biden and Harris apologize for their remarks and again pledged to “produce a vaccine in record time.”

Biden and Harris “should immediately apologize for the reckless anti-vaccine rhetoric that they are talking right now, talking about endangering lives, and it undermines science, and what’s happening is all of the sudden you’ll have this incredible vaccine, and because of that fake rhetoric — it’s a political rhetoric, that’s all it is, just for politics,” Trump said.

“This could have taken two or three years, and instead, it’s going to be, going to be done in a very short period of time,” Trump said. “Could even have it during the month of October.”

He added, “The vaccine will be very safe and very effective, and it will be delivered very soon.”

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Experts have cast doubt on the idea that a vaccine could be turned around as quickly as Trump has suggested.

Speaking Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Harris was asked whether she would trust a vaccine Trump said was ready before the election.

“I think that we have learned since this pandemic started, but really before that, that there’s very little that we can trust that can comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth,” she said, adding that Trump “has created false expectations for the American people and American families.”

The president, she said, has prioritized what is “politically expedient” over public health.

“And so, no, I would not trust his word,” she said. “I would trust the word of public health experts and scientists, but not Donald Trump.”

But she said she thinks public health experts won’t have the final word.

“If past is prologue, that they will not, that will be muzzled, they will be suppressed, they will be sidelined, because he’s looking at an election coming up in less than 60 days, and he’s grasping for whatever he can get to pretend that he has been a leader on this issue, when he has not,” she said.

Trump has promoted his administration’s Operation Warp Speed program, which is designed to help get a vaccine candidate across the finish line more quickly. But his predictions for when a vaccine could be widely available run counter to when most scientists and medical experts believe a vaccine will be ready for widespread use. In addition, as Biden and Harris have pointed out, Trump has made a litany of false statements and assertions about the coronavirus and treatments for the disease it causes, limiting his credibility on such matters.

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Speaking with NPR last week, Moncef Slaoui, Operation Warp Speed’s chief scientific adviser, said that he believes a vaccine will be available by the end of the year for some high-risk groups and that it is “extremely unlikely” that a vaccine will be ready by late October — although even a small chance is worth properly preparing for. Immunizing the entire U.S. population would take until the middle of next year, Slaoui projected.

Biden and Harris participated in Labor Day events, and the president’s White House news conference dominated his holiday schedule. Biden spoke at a roundtable of union workers in Lancaster before appearing at an event alongside AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka at the union’s headquarters in Harrisburg. Harris visited Milwaukee, where she toured an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers facility and took part in a roundtable with Black business owners.

During his Harrisburg event, Biden again slammed Trump over remarks attributed to him last week in The Atlantic, which reported that he called dead U.S. service members “losers” and “suckers” in 2018.

Biden called the remarks “downright un-American,” saying his late son, Beau Biden, a veteran, “wasn’t a loser or a sucker.”

“If that’s how you talk about our veterans, you have no business being our president,” he said, adding that organized labor would “never have a better friend” in the White House should he be elected.

Trump and both current and former administration officials have denied the report’s accuracy, with Trump saying Monday that only an “animal” would say such things. But Trump also suggested at his news conference that military leadership was loyal only to the military-industrial complex, while service members “loved” him.

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At tonight’s debate, it’s the incumbent vs. the frontrunner

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WASHINGTON — While both have their strengths, neither President Trump nor Joe Biden is a virtuoso debater. And each of them have their challenges at tonight’s first general-election debate in Cleveland, Ohio.

For Trump, maybe his biggest challenge is simply being the incumbent president — that, for the first time in four years, you have to share a stage with your opponent and get treated like an equal. Think what happened to Barack Obama in his first debate in 2012. Or George W. Bush during his showdowns in 2004.

“It’s the trap of presidential incumbency,” longtime GOP debate expert Brett O’Donnell told one of us.

For Biden, the challenge is two-fold: One is handling all of Trump’s verbal slings and arrows and keeping the debate focus on the coronavirus and Trump’s record.

And two is simply being the frontrunner and having the most to lose tonight.

In fact, as the challenger who’s leading in the polls against a sitting incumbent, Biden has both the most to gain and most to lose.

Don’t expect the debates to change many minds

Yes, debates have mattered in past presidential cycles.

But the polling shows that most voters’ minds are already made up heading into tonight’s first debate.

This month’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found 71 percent of voters saying that the debates aren’t very important in making their choice.

And yesterday’s national Monmouth poll showed that while 74 percent of voters say they plan to watch the debates, only 13 percent said they are “very” or “somewhat” likely to influence their votes.

Tweet of the day

Lots of coronavirus-related news

If tonight wasn’t Debate Night, the biggest story in the country might be the coronavirus.

The worldwide death toll passed 1 million. Cases in the U.S. are on the rise or holding steady. And the New York Times reports how the White House pressured the CDC to downplay the risks of sending children back to school.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

7,183,186: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 35,479 more than yesterday morning.)

206,295: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 355 more than yesterday morning.)

102.34 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

More than 1 million: The number of deaths worldwide from COVID-19.

More than 40: The number of states that have seen an increase in opioid-related deaths since the pandemic began.

$427 million: How much President Trump made from his stint on The Apprentice and related marketing deals, according to a new New York Times story.

Just 29 percent: The share of American adults who want to see Roe v. Wade completely overturned, per a new NBC News|SurveyMonkey online tracking poll.

2020 Vision: Trump’s big problem in the Great Lakes states

Here are the some of the high-quality battleground polls among likely voters over the last 48 hours:

WaPo/ABC of Pennsylvania: Biden 54 percent, Trump 45 percent

NYT/Siena of Pennsylvania: Biden 49 percent, Trump 40 percent

NBC/Marist of Michigan: Biden 52 percent, Trump 44 percent

NBC/Marist of Wisconsin: Biden 54 percent, Trump 44 percent.

On the campaign trail today: President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden debate tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Biden’s different debate approach

We don’t know much about how President Trump and Joe Biden have been preparing for tonight’s debate, but NBC’s Mike Memoli and Marianna Sotomayor report from Biden world:

“In part because Trump is the sparring partner and in part because of the stubbornly stable state of the race, the former vice president has taken a different approach to preparing for this debate (compared to his 2008 and 2012 vice presidential debates) – and his team is majorly downplaying just how important it will be.”

“Asked Sunday what he needs to do, Biden answered simply: ‘Just tell the truth.’”

Ad Watch from Liz Brown-Kaiser

Today’s Ad Watch turns to South Carolina, where Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison is running a stronger-than-expected race against GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Senate Majority PAC, the main Democratic outside group for Senate contests, says it’s dropping $5 million on TV ads and $1.5 million on digital advertisements to boost Harrison and target Graham.

The new TV spot hitting airwaves Tuesday accuses Graham of failing to lower prescription drug prices during his more than 20 years in Congress.

“If we want lower drug prices, we need to clean out the swamp,” the narrator says. “Lindsey Graham: Gone Washington, gone bad.”

The Democratic Super PAC’s ad push comes as polls show Harrison and Graham virtually tied, and after Graham repeatedly appealed to Fox News viewers for campaign donations during interviews.

The Lid: Who run the world?

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we checked in on how women view the president. (Spoiler alert: It’s a big, big gender gap.)

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

A recording of the grand jury in the Breonna Taylor case will now be made public after a judge’s ruling.

The White House put pressure on the CDC to play down the risks of reopening schools, the New York Times writes.

Here’s the latest on accusations that an ICE-contracted detention center performed unnecessary gynecological procedures on detainees.

The battle over when the Census should wrap up its work is still ongoing.

Are Florida’s seniors in play now?



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‘Labour’s politics is MEDIAEVAL’ – Voters in Blair’s old seat on why they REJECTED Corbyn

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VOTERS in Sedgefield, County Durham, have lambasted “mediaeval” Labour MPs who were booted out from the so-called northern Red Wall as they explained why they turned Blue at the last general election.

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Five things to watch for

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CLEVELAND — The first debate of the 2020 presidential election is one of President Donald Trump’s last best chances to shake up a race that Democrat Joe Biden is leading.

The polling has so far seemed largely impervious to news events, with Biden’s lead staying consistent through a pandemic, Supreme Court fight and more, and the president is running out of time to change that dynamic with just five weeks left until Election Day.

The debate is expected to draw an audience of up to 100 million, making it a rare political moment in which the public’s attention will be fixed to the same political event for 90 minutes, largely unfiltered by partisan or ideological media outlets.

Here are five things to watch:

1. Clash of styles

Biden and Trump have, in some ways, been preparing for this moment their entire adult lives — just in very different ways.

Biden spent decades in the Senate, with its rules and reverence, while Trump came up in the world of tabloids and reality TV, with its ruthless irreverence. Biden has cleared his schedule to prepare diligently with binders and mock debate sessions with advisers, while Trump is reported to have proudly eschewed traditional debate prep. He and his advisers say he prepares for the event every day on the job as president and in his frequent and often contentious press conferences.

Trump’s untraditional style was what drew many Americans in the first place, and he’s often mocked stiff-shirted politicians by joking at rallies that he could be presidential — if he wanted to.

But Biden’s camp believes voters are growing tired of the Trump show and the former vice president is hoping to model a more stable, experienced and compassionate alternative to Trump, believing the contrast in styles will speak as loudly as anything either candidate says.

2. Senior moments

Either Trump, 74 or Biden, 77, would be the oldest president in American history on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2021, and both have accused the other of losing a step.

Trump has made an issue of Biden’s verbal flubs and malaprops, with the president and his allies essentially suggesting that the former vice president is in mental decline and can barely string together a coherent sentence without a teleprompter. A major senior moment from Biden could be devastating.

Biden allies have fired back at Trump by making similar, if less pointed, claims, singling out moments such as his unannounced visit to Walter Reed medical center last year. But Trump has been far more visible than Biden in recent months, holding regular campaign rallies and appearing at the White House nearly every day, while Biden has been holding fewer and more virtual events, so it’s been harder for Democrats to sell the idea that Trump is not physically up to the job.

3. New attack lines?

The president has spent the past few months trying out different narratives against Biden, but nothing has seemed to stick.

He went after Biden’s son, Hunter, and the work he did in Ukraine that Trump insists is corrupt and nepotistic, though fact-checkers have undercut those claims. He made Biden’s mental fitness a centerpiece for a while. Then he accused the former vice president of being a “trojan horse” for far-left radicals.

As racial justice protests broke out in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, Trump made law and order the main message of the Republican National Convention. When polling showed that broadside falling flat, Trump accused Biden of being too soft on China.

The Trump campaign released a list of 17 questions Tuesday morning that they say Biden needs to answer during the debate, the first of which was on Hunter Biden.

Campaigns are often most effective when they pick one of attack on an opponent and hammer it incessantly. Will Trump just throw the kitchen sink at Biden? Or will he have something new?

4. Below the belt

Nothing is out of bounds for Trump, especially when his back is against the wall. He brought women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault to a debate with Hillary Clinton days after the release of the Access Hollywood tape that recorded Trump joking about grabbing women’s genitalia.

The president is now behind in the polls and faced another bombshell on the eve of the debate when The New York Times obtained his tax information and reported he paid next to nothing in income tax and owes over $400 million in debt.

For his part, Biden has his own temper — especially when his family is attacked, and Democrats have argued about whether he should show restraint or let his righteous indignation fly. While many Democrats would like to see the latter, it would undercut Biden’s desire to contrast with Trump’s style.

“They asked me would I like to debate this gentleman (Trump), and I said no. I said, ‘If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him,'” Biden joked to a crowd of college Democrats two years ago.

5. A referendum or a choice?

Biden wants to make the election a referendum on Trump and his handling of the coronavirus crisis. Trump wants to make the election a choice between him and Biden, which gives him a chance to discredit Biden.

Both camps have been trying to bend the election in either direction for months, but this will be the first time the two men will directly confront each other. Trump will try to downplay the COVID crisis and turn attention to Biden’s record, while Biden will try to brush aside those attacks and keep the focus on the person who has power now.

Who will succeed in setting the terms of the debate?



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