MIAMI – Presidential politics move fast. What we’re watching heading into a new week on the 2020 campaign:
Days to general election: 50
Days to first debate: 15
President Donald Trump is fighting to move past another bad week following revelations that he downplayed the threat of the coronavirus throughout the spring even though he knew better. Democrat Joe Biden and his allies have seized on the issue, although there are new signs that would-be supporters, especially in the Latino community, remain unenthusiastic about Biden's candidacy.
Meanwhile, as early voting in key states gets underway, Trump is embarking on an aggressive travel schedule backed by an army of on-the-ground canvassers. Democrats, by contrast, continue to do much of their voter outreach over the internet.
At the same time, another billionaire is stepping in to help Biden.
THE BIG QUESTIONS
How much more damage can Woodward do?
It may feel like old news by now, but Bob Woodward's new book is scheduled for official release on Tuesday. The formal release will include more rounds of publicity that will ensure damning revelations about Trump's leadership on the pandemic — among other issues — will continue to reach broad swaths of voters.
Trump's team was already worried about his standing with older voters in some states, largely because of his chaotic response to the devastating public health threat. The last thing the Republican president needs seven weeks before Election Day is continued reminders that he intentionally downplayed the deadly nature of the coronavirus.
Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., last week called him “a murderer.” The death toll is approaching 200,000 Americans, even though just five months ago Trump predicted that between 50,000 and 60,000 would ultimately die.
Will Democrats start knocking doors?
A growing chorus of Democrats in key states are worried that Republicans have an advantage in the election's closing days because of the GOP's willingness to show up on voters' doorsteps. Biden's team continues to resist in-person canvassing in deference to the pandemic, preferring to rely on the internet to host most of the Democrats' voter engagement efforts.
We went door knocking in south Florida late last week with volunteers from a conservative group, LIBRE Action, and we were surprised by how many voters were willing to have doorstep conversations about the election — from a safe distance with masked activists. There were certainly a few voters who waved off the canvassers, but based on our experience door knocking across several elections, the response rate seemed productive.
Javier Fernandez, a state Senate candidate in South Florida, told us that he joined a group of several Democratic candidates that began knocking doors in person over the weekend. Despite the risks, he said, “there's a lot of value with direct voter engagement.”
We'll see if Democrats in other states make similar moves, even if Biden's team does not.
How serious is Biden's Latino problem?
Just one poll last week suggested Biden may be underperforming among Florida's Latinos, but we spoke to several prominent Latino leaders and rank-and-file voters who report that Biden's struggle to energize the diverse voting bloc is real.
Biden's team has strengths elsewhere that could make up for any potential shortfall — particularly among older voters, suburbanites and African Americans — but any challenges with the nation's fastest-growing demographic should be cause for alarm. Biden's problem may be most apparent in Florida, but Latinos represent a significant voting bloc in other swing states such as Arizona, Pennsylvania and even Wisconsin.
Many Latinos are quick to say that Trump's rhetoric and actions are abhorrent, but they also say that Biden hasn't given them much to be excited about. On several issues like deportations, border security and health care, Biden has been to the right of his more liberal former Democratic presidential rivals. Also, there are signs that Latinos are particularly susceptible to Trump's focus on protest-related violence and false accusations that Biden is a socialist.
Biden will be in Florida on Tuesday. Trump, meanwhile, spent part of his Sunday courting Latinos in Nevada. He campaigns in Arizona on Monday.
Will Bloomberg's millions make a difference?
In case you're getting numb to big numbers in political advertising, we thought we'd provide some context for New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg's weekend pledge to spend at least $100 million in Florida to help Biden.
Should he follow through, and history suggests he will, Bloomberg's advertising investment will exceed the combined Florida advertising reserves of both presidential campaigns and all their allied super PACs, who have committed a total of $82.4 million through the next seven weeks, according to the ad tracking firm Kantar/CMAG.
There is no more expensive swing state on the 2020 map and there is no state more important to Trump's reelection than Florida. Polls suggest that Trump and Biden are locked in a close race there.
THE FINAL THOUGHT
With so much disinformation flying around about voting this fall, The Associated Press has created an incredibly useful interactive graphic to answer all your questions.
See it here: https://interactives.ap.org/advance-voting-2020/
Every state allows voters to cast ballots before Nov. 3, either in person or by mail. Our graphic will explain specifically when that process begins, how to participate and even how to request absentee ballots. We also include running tallies for how many ballots have been requested in each state and how many have been cast.
Mail voting is already underway in some states, and Pennsylvania begins offering no-excuse in-person absentee voting on Monday with Minnesota and Virginia following suit on Friday.
2020 Watch runs every Monday and provides a look at the week ahead in the 2020 election.
AP’s Advance Voting guide brings you the facts about voting early, by mail or absentee from each state: https://interactives.ap.org/advance-voting-2020/