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Suzanne Lynch’s US Election Diary: With two weeks to go, Trump is faced with a dilemma

Debate commission announces moderator of Thursday night’s event may mute microphones

With exactly two weeks until election day, Donald Trump still has time to turn the race around as polls show him trailing Joe Biden. But the president has been presented with a new predicament after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced last night the moderator of Thursday night's presidential debate may mute the microphones of the two candidates for some parts of the debate.

Trump has railed against the commission for weeks, accusing the independent body of pro-Biden bias – and refusing to take part in the scheduled debate last week in Miami because it changed to a virtual format following his diagnosis with Covid.

Now the president is faced with a dilemma – will he or won’t he take part in a debate where he can’t dictate the terms? Given that current polls suggest he is losing, Trump needs all the air time he can get to convince the dwindling number of undecided voters to back him, and a statement by his campaign last night suggests he will take part.

Worryingly for Trump, more people tuned into Joe Biden’s ABC “town hall” last Thursday than his event with NBC, suggesting his fabled ratings-power may be fading.


The president held two rallies in Arizona yesterday. Both saw a combative and defiant performance by the president. He was particularly critical of the media and his crass language could indicate the growing frustration of a president who knows he is losing.

Arguing that cable news organisations only want to cover coronavirus, he remarked: “People aren’t buying it, CNN you dumb b***tards.” Evidently heartened by the strong turnout at both events, however, he repeated his belief the high number of supporters meant he is going to win on November 3rd. “You don’t have events like this and come in second in Arizona,” he said to cheers. “We’re in first place in Arizona. These fake people back there, the press, they’re fake.”

Mr Trump also renewed his attack on Dr Anthony Fauci, dismissing him as a "disaster" in a campaign phone call yesterday – a dubious strategy given that the infectious disease expert remains popular among the American public.

As early voting got under way in Florida and today in Wisconsin, there was good news for Democrats in Pennsylvania – a key state in this election. The supreme court weighed in favour of a lower-court ruling on postal voting to allow absentee ballots to be counted up to three days after election day, a blow to Republicans who had requested a stay.

The decision was a reminder of the role the supreme court can play in resolving election disputes as Amy Coney Barrett prepares to join the bench if confirmed by the Senate this month as expected.

Quote of the day

"We are aware of the president's statement regarding a hypothetical call with our CEO . . . and just so we're all clear, it never happened" – the official Twitter account of Exxon Mobil, after Trump told supporters in Arizona he could call the CEO of the oil giant and secure a multimillion-dollar donation (Trump's first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, was the company's long-time chief executive).

On the campaign trail

Melania Trump will make a rare public appearance on the campaign trail when she visits Pennsylvania with her husband on Tuesday. She has not been seen in public since contracting coronavirus along with her husband and son earlier this month.

The Trumps will visit Erie County, one of three counties in Pennsylvania that voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and flipped for Trump in 2016.  Here's my recent article from Pennsylvania, outlining why this state is so important in this election.

Meanwhile, Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris will participate in a virtual Milwaukee rally to mark the first day of early voting in the key state of Wisconsin. Jill Biden, wife of the former vice-president, will visit Michigan.

As the Senate returns to session in Washington, there could be some movement on a coronavirus stimulus package, with signs of deep differences between what the White House and the Republican leadership are willing to accept in terms of spending.

Recommended reads

I report on Trump's attacks on Dr Fauci that dominated the news cycle yesterday.

Writing from New York, Dave Hannigan reminds us that loyal Trump supporters are not just limited to moral rural conservative states but can be found in apparently liberal enclaves like New York.

Politico reports on the first day of voting in Florida, and how singer Ariana Grande kept voters entertained.

A Guardian article this week discusses the importance of Joe Biden's Irish roots, though it questions if an Irish-American voting bloc really exists.

Sign up to get Suzanne Lynch's US Election Diary by email every weekday morning of the campaign here.