Voter arrive to cast their ballots at the Moody Park Community Center polling station in Houston, Texas, U.S., on Tuesday, March 3, 2020.
Sharon Steinmann | Bloomberg | Getty Images
To find the forces fueling Democrats’ dream of a blue Texas in 2020, the Houston suburbs offer a good start.
The party flipped one U.S. House seat on the outskirts of the country’s fourth-most populous city in 2018. Democrats have set their sights in the Nov. 3 election on a couple of other area seats, including the state’s 22nd District, which spreads out to the south and southwest of downtown Houston.
Republican Rep. Pete Olson has won six straight elections there. He carried the district by nearly 20 percentage points in 2016. But his decision not to run for reelection has left a Republican, Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls, vying for the open seat with Olson’s 2018 opponent, Democratic former foreign service officer Sri Preston Kulkarni.
After Kulkarni lost to Olson by only about 5 percentage points in the midterms, the district became one of the most closely watched House battlegrounds in the country. The race has seen a flood of outside money — more than $12 million for and against Nehls and Kulkarni — putting it among the most expensive contests in the country.
Texas’ 22nd District is one of the most racially diverse congressional seats in the country. The presence of the energy sector, the health-care industry and NASA have sent the area’s education levels and median incomes soaring.
It’s exactly the type of place where Democrats have seen success in the Trump era. It’s also one of about a dozen potentially competitive U.S. House races in Texas where the party still has to overcome years of GOP success to win.
“Donald Trump’s presence in the White House has played a prominent role in converting what was once a safe Republican district as recently as 2016 into a toss up race in 2020,” Mark Jones, a political science fellow at the Baker Institute at Rice University in Houston, said in an email.
Nehls, 52, is a well known and generally liked local official who has twice won election in Fort Bend County, where most of the district’s voters live. Even so, political experts in the area said anti-Trump sentiment could drive more people toward the 42-year-old Kulkarni in what is expected to be a tight race.
Democrats aim to keep or even expand their House majority this year in an election where Republicans will struggle to keep control of both the Senate and White House. Success in the House races could go hand in hand with support for Democrats statewide, as the party reaches for a so far elusive goal of flipping the gargantuan state blue.
An average of recent Texas polls shows President Donald Trump leading Democrat Joe Biden by about 3 percentage points in a close 2020 presidential race. However, GOP U.S. Sen. John Cornyn has an average 8 percentage point edge in this year’s reelection bid — underscoring his favorability relative to Trump’s in the conservative-leaning state.
A supporter holds a campaign sign for former Vice President Joe Biden outside of the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center polling station in Houston, Texas, U.S., on Tuesday, March 3, 2020.
Sharon Steinmann | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Trump’s policies have contributed to making the 22nd District more competitive. Still, the president only amplified demographic forces at work over the last decade.
“CD 22’s population portends what Texas will look like in the coming decades with the nation following decades later,” Renee Cross, senior director of the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs, said in an email.
About 60% of the district’s population was White last year, while roughly 27% identified as Hispanic or Latino, according to Census data. More than 14% of the district’s residents were Black.
Asian Americans have most driven the 22nd District’s diversity. They made up about 18% of the area’s population in 2019, up from 11% in 2009.
“With these demographic factors in place, the Democratic Party will continue to gain ground in CD 22 and the rest of Texas unless the Republican Party’s positions begin to address the interests of non-white voters,” Cross said.
Asian Americans are generally considered more likely to support Democrats than Republicans now, but that was not always the case. Jones said fiscal conservatism among the bloc, and anti-communist sentiment among Vietnamese Americans in particular, have helped Republicans in Texas.
But Trump has appeared to damage the GOP’s prospects with Asian American voters. The president’s efforts to crack down on immigration appeal to many Republicans in the district, but may not help with other voters in an area where more than a quarter of the population was born outside of the U.S., according to Cross.
Jones and Cross both said Trump’s rhetoric around Covid-19, including repeatedly calling it the “Chinese virus,” could inflame disapproval of the president. Efforts to limit H1-B visas for high-skilled employees, which workers from India disproportionately claim, “have not gone over well” among the district’s Asian American voters, Jones said.
Kulkarni, the son of an Indian immigrant himself, aims to win in no small part by boosting turnout among Asian Americans in the district. In February, he told CNBC that his campaign has reached out to voters in 15 different languages.
Meanwhile, the district’s median income jumped above $100,000 in 2019 from just under $70,000 a decade earlier. More than 43% of residents older than 25 had bachelor’s or advanced degrees last year, up from about 33% in 2009.
Statewide polls in Texas this year have repeatedly found both Trump and Cornyn fare worse among voters with college degrees than those without them.
Despite the demographic changes in the district, Nehls has a couple major advantages over Kulkarni. The district has supported the GOP in the last six U.S. House elections and still leans red overall.
In addition, his name recognition as a local elected official gives him an edge over Kulkarni, who has had to work harder to introduce himself to voters. That could help Nehls’ campaign as it faces a huge fundraising deficit: Nehls has raised $1.5 million during the 2020 cycle, less than a third of the nearly $4.9 million taken in by Kulkarni’s campaign.
The district includes most of Fort Bend County, one of the more populous in the state. Nehls has won two previous countywide elections.
It also holds a sliver of Harris County, the state’s most populous county where Houston sits, and part of Brazoria County.
Jones expects Nehls to carry the Brazoria portion of the district and Kulkarni to win the Harris piece. Therefore, he believes the winner of the Fort Bend area will prevail in the election.
Olson won the Fort Bend portion of the 22nd District by more than 4 percentage points in 2018. Democrat Beto O’Rourke defeated Republican Sen. Ted Cruz by about 12 percentage points in the county as he narrowly lost statewide.
Early voting rates have exploded in Fort Bend during the coronavirus pandemic. By Monday, more than 54% of the county’s registered voters had cast ballots with four days of early voting remaining, according to the Texas Tribune. Total early turnout was about 53% in the county in 2016.
It is unclear now whether the high turnout portends increased voting rates overall, or is a result of people who would normally cast ballots on Election Day doing so ahead of time.
The Nehls and Kulkarni campaigns did not respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.
Kulkarni has for the second straight election run with health care as his leading issue. He most recently targeted Trump after the president, during an interview on the CBS program “60 Minutes,” repeatedly would not detail what he would do to replace the Affordable Care Act if the Supreme Court strikes it down.
“Today, the president revealed what many of us have known for a long time now: there is no plan to replace coverage for pre-existing conditions if the Affordable Care Act is repealed,” the Democrat said in a statement Friday. Kulkarni backs a public health-care option, which Democrats will likely pursue if they control both chambers of Congress and the White House next year.
Nehls has said he will work to keep the ACA’s protections for people with preexisting conditions. Republicans have made the issue a point of emphasis this year after Democrats hammered the GOP over Obamacare repeal attempts on the way to flipping the House in 2018.
Access to health-care coverage has become a bigger issue during the coronavirus pandemic. The outbreak has hit the Houston area particularly hard. Harris County’s nearly 160,000 cases are fourth most in the U.S., while only eight counties have seen more than the 2,783 deaths in Harris, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Cross said Covid-19 has also received more attention in the 22nd District than in many other parts of the country because the health-care industry is a major employer. She added that the economic downturn caused by the outbreak compounded issues already created by lower oil prices before the pandemic.
Biden threw in one more potential wild card in the race when he said during the last presidential debate that he would transition away from oil. He later tried to clarify that he wants to get rid of fossil fuel subsidies.
Both Kulkarni and Nehls have tried to balance the often competing interests of protecting a major industry in their area and slowing climate change that has left Houston vulnerable to extreme weather. The region saw catastrophic flood damage from Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
Biden’s oil comment could have created difficulties for Kulkarni. Still, experts say the top of the Republican ticket poses a formidable challenge for Republican candidates in the 22nd District and other areas of the state Democrats hope to turn blue this year.
“If Nehls loses, it will be largely due to the burden imposed on his candidacy by Donald Trump,” Jones said.
The COVID-19 response specialist Alexandra Vizcarra prepares to administer a nasal swab test at Public Health Madison & Dane County as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues in Madison, Wisconsin, October 19, 2020.
Bing Guan | Reuters
The United States, which has reported more cases and deaths from Covid-19 than any other country, is now in the midst of its third surge in cases since the pandemic began earlier this year. More than 8.7 million cases and at least 225,739 deaths from the virus have been tallied in the U.S., data from Johns Hopkins University show.
The latest wave of cases appears to be crashing hardest over states in the West and the Midwest, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Johns Hopkins and the Covid Tracking Project.
Among the most hotly contested swing states, Wisconsin is facing the largest increase in cases and deaths. In the past week, the Badger State reported a proportionally higher number of cases than nearly anywhere else in the country, except for in North Dakota and South Dakota, according to the CDC.
Since mid-September, Covid-19 deaths have increased 47% in Wisconsin, Johns Hopkins data show.
“We’ve been preparing for this for months,” Reid Magney, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said in a phone call with CNBC.
Wisconsin has applied numerous safety measures to its voting processes. Poll workers are outfitted with masks and face shields, and they are required to regularly sanitize pens, touch screens and other surfaces. Voters are offered hand sanitizer at intervals, and painter’s tape is used at polling locations to mark where voters should stand in line.
But Magney noted that voters cannot be forced to wear face coverings at the polls, per state laws. He suggested that people may be contracting the virus “because they’re not following the things that are recommended by the CDC.”
“Certainly anybody would have concern for the rise in cases,” Magney said, but “we don’t believe that it will impact the election itself.”
Trump, who in 2016 narrowly beat then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin, traveled to the state Tuesday to host a large, in-person campaign rally. Health experts, including those in his own administration, have warned that the events could greatly increase the spread of the virus.
The president was taken off the campaign trail earlier this month after revealing he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for Covid-19. But he has since resumed a busy travel schedule in an effort to catch up to Biden, who has maintained his lead in the national polls.
Biden’s campaign has been careful to comply with the social distancing guidelines recommended by the CDC and other health experts. The former vice president has traveled less and hosted relatively few in-person events, none of which allowed for large crowds to gather, in the final days of the campaign.
Trump’s campaign, meanwhile, has disregarded some of those guidelines with regard to the rallies. While masks have been provided to attendees, swaths of the tightly packed crowds at the events have refused to wear them.
At the same time, Trump has mocked Biden for speaking to smaller numbers of people, contrasting the images from their respective campaign events as evidence that the Democratic nominee is failing to drum up enthusiasm.
The president has also complained in recent days that too much attention has been paid to the coronavirus by the media, and he has suggested that the focus on the pandemic is politically motivated.
Numerous states have expanded mail-in voting access in order to allow people to cast their ballots without fear of contracting the virus while standing in a long line. The president has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that such rules will lead to widespread voter fraud. His campaign is encouraging Americans to vote in person.
Trump has also claimed that the recent rise in Covid-19 cases is merely due to an increase in tests being performed. But that’s not true: Cases have risen this month even when testing rates have slightly dipped. The United States in mid-October recorded the highest number of hospitalizations in nearly two months, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
Fewer voters remain undecided than at this point in the 2016 cycle. But the recent surge in cases might be enough to push some of those swing-state voters toward Biden, who has consistently received higher marks than Trump on the question of which candidate would better handle the pandemic.
Other swing states, including Michigan and North Carolina, are also seeing an upswing in cases. And outbreaks in some states could affect down-ballot races there, as well — such as in the tight Montana Senate race between Republican incumbent Sen. Steve Daines and and Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Gastonia, North Carolina, U.S., October 21, 2020.
Tom Brenner | Reuters
A group of Michigan-based health-care workers denounced President Donald Trump‘s planned rally in Lansing on Tuesday amid record daily new coronavirus cases, saying it “threatens to make things worse.”
With only a week until the Nov. 3 election, Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are traveling to states across the U.S. in a final push to woo voters. Their approaches have differed, however, with Trump choosing to host large, crowded rallies that go against the advice of his top coronavirus advisors compared with Biden’s drive-in events.
“It’s a choice between a Trump boom or a Biden lockdown, but you’re already locked down,” Trump said to a packed crowd in Lansing, Mich. “It’s a choice betwen our plan to kill the virus or Biden’s plan to kill the American dream.”
Trump, who was hospitalized with the coronavirus earlier this month and has since recovered, downplayed the outbreak in the White House as well as his own infection. His son Barron, who also tested positive, recovered in “about 12 minutes,” Trump said.
Michigan was among 16 states reporting record-high daily new Covid-19 cases on Monday, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University that uses a weekly average to smooth out fluctuations in daily reporting. The state is now reporting roughly 2,220 new cases daily, a 22% increase compared with a week ago.
“Covid-19 is not disappearing. Trump’s rally in Lansing only threatens to make things worse,” said Dr. Stephanie Markle, a critical care surgeon in Kalamazoo and member of the Committee to Protect Medicare, during a press call organized by the Committee to Protect Medicare.
Amid climbing cases in Michigan, Markle said that her hospital has had to reopen Covid-19 units to prepare for additional patients. She said hospitals have their surge plans in place and “are bracing for the next wave that we know is already here.”
“We are extremely concerned that the President’s rallies will affect people in our communities. This will cause uncontrolled spread to worsen the pain and suffering we’re already seeing across the state,” she said.
Dr. Rob Davidson, an emergency room physician in west Michigan and the executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare, criticized the president for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus and using his rallies to “hide the fact that he threw in the towel.” .
“Those of us who see for ourselves what Covid-19 looks like up close with patients who can’t breathe, know that Covid-19 is not going anywhere, anytime soon,” Davidson said. He added that visitors and patients in his emergency department have grown frustrated when told they must wear a face covering.
“Every time he mocks people for wearing masks he signals to supporters that they shouldn’t wear masks,” Davidson said.
Trump’s reelection team has previously defended the rallies, saying that they conduct temperature checks for attendees and providing them with hand sanitizer and masks upon entry, though they’re not required to wear them.
A spokesperson for Trump’s campaign was not immediately available for comment.
A woman poses as people line up in the rain to vote at an early site at Madison Square Gardens in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., October 26, 2020.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters
Weeks before the start of the fall semester, Duke University senior Lindsay Maggioncalda found out she would no longer have a place to live on campus. The university decided to limit campus housing to underclassmen to reduce the potential for coronavirus spread. Faced with the option of purely online schooling, Maggioncalda chose to take the semester off.
At the time, she hadn’t considered how her decision could impact her ability to vote in the 2020 election.
Maggioncalda had registered at her Duke address for the 2018 midterms. A Bay Area native, she was looking forward to voting in North Carolina in the presidential election because she felt her ballot could be more influential in a battleground state than in California. Now away for a semester, she didn’t know if she would be eligible to vote in North Carolina this fall.
After extensive online research, correspondence with student organizers and two phone calls with the Durham County Board of Elections, Maggioncalda secured an absentee ballot.
“On campus, people will give you all the information you need,” Maggioncalda said. “Not being on campus, you really have to figure out yourself how to vote.”
The coronavirus pandemic has introduced additional barriers to voting for young people, a population that isn’t known for turning out in large numbers. Only 43% of citizens ages 18-24 voted in the 2016 election compared to 61.4% of eligible citizens who voted overall, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
Despite Covid-19 challenges, however, young voters are poised to be a decisive force in the 2020 election with data suggesting record turnout from the group.
A national poll of Americans ages 18 to 29 released Monday by the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School found that enthusiasm for voting in 2020 is on par with 2008, a historic election for youth turnout as Barack Obama swept into the White House with a Democratic Congress. This year, Democratic nominee Joe Biden leads Republican President Donald Trump 63% to 25% among young voters most likely to vote, the poll showed.
“Young people could either not show up and decide a toss-up race in favor of almost always a Republican candidate. Or they could show up in large numbers and help a Democrat win,” said Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, or CIRCLE, at Tufts University.
Kawashima-Ginsberg and colleagues have identified states and districts where young voters can have a deciding impact on presidential and congressional election outcomes. The locales include historic swing states that were crucial to Trump’s victory in 2016, like North Carolina, as well as areas that have become increasingly competitive, like Georgia.
Wisconsin is the state where youth can have the most influence in the presidential election, according to CIRCLE. Trump won the swing state by less than a percentage point in 2016, ending Wisconsin’s seven-election streak of backing Democratic candidates.
Universities have historically played a role in turning out youth voters, Kawashima-Ginsberg said. Research from Tufts found that counties with a high presence of college students played a crucial role in Wisconsin’s 2018 gubernatorial race, where Democrat Tony Evers narrowly defeated incumbent Republican Scott Walker by about one percentage point.
With many schools using virtual or hybrid instruction this semester, student voting mobilization efforts have had to adapt. Even when students are on campus this semester, facilities are not always open in the same way, which can affect students’ ability to obtain voting requirements such as college IDs.
Wisconsin is one of the most difficult states for students studying away from home to vote, due to voter ID laws. At UW-Madison, the largest university in the state, 46% of 31,654 undergraduate students are not from Wisconsin, according to the university’s fall 2020 enrollment report.
“There are things directly related to Covid that are making it a little bit more difficult for students from out of state to exercise their right to vote here,” said Kristin Hansen, Wisconsin coordinator for non-partisan Fair Election Center’s Campus Vote Project.
Tamia Fowlkes is a junior at UW-Madison and an organizer with Badger Votes, a campus-wide initiative helping students cast their ballots in the 2020 election. She’s been leading virtual events and social media campaigns to get out the vote. While there have been significant challenges this election season, she said she has also seen an unprecedented amount of energy around voting and social issues among peers.
“As college students, we’re living in this state nine out of the 12 months of the year. The people who are making policies in the state will ultimately impact the budget that impacts our university,” Fowlkes said. “It expands beyond just what’s happening when you’re electing a president.”
With coronavirus surging in Wisconsin, voters face yet another hurdle. For students in quarantine, solutions vary. UW-Milwaukee, for example, is lining up sanitized taxis that will take students to curbside voting and back, Hansen said. Others are leaving it up to students to figure it out themselves.
Across the country, in-person early voting is well underway. In Wisconsin and North Carolina, residents can register to vote and cast their ballot at the same time, a popular option among young voters. Duke’s on-campus early voting site has drawn the highest turnout so far in Durham County, according to local election data updated Tuesday.
“The energy is definitely there and you can see that it’s different from other elections,” said senior Jessica Sullivan who spearheads Duke Votes, a student voting coalition. “People are so engaged and excited about this and really wanting to make sure that their vote counts.”
As of last Wednesday, more than 3 million voters ages 18 to 29 have already cast their ballot in the 2020 elections, according to Tufts data. The number of young voters has far outpaced that of 2016. In North Carolina and other states, early votes cast by young people have already exceeded the 2016 margin of victory. Still, young people’s share of total voter turnout is modest in comparison to other age groups.
“Young voters tend to vote later and are more likely to vote in-person than by mail. As we get closer and closer to Nov. 3, we’re going to continue to see that share of the votes tick up to levels that we haven’t seen before,” said Rachel Webber, a spokesperson for progressive youth voting initiative NextGen America.
A generation galvanized by youth-led coalitions from the anti-gun violence group March for Our Lives to the climate-focused Sunrise Movement, many young people have embraced a model of activism that emphasizes movement politics.
“The energy that we’re seeing from young people right now is not just a blip,” Webber said. “It’s going to continue beyond Nov. 3.”
Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa.
Bill Clark | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
In a year when Democrats have high hopes of expanding their House majority, the task starts with defending the ground they gained in flipping the chamber in 2018.
A rematch in swing-state Iowa will offer clues about whether forces that drove the party’s success two years ago will hold up on Nov. 3.
Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne, 55, aims to win a second term in Iowa’s 3rd District in the southwestern portion of the state. She faces Republican David Young, the former two-term congressman whom she narrowly beat in 2018.
In the district and in many others around the country, highly educated suburban voters — and White women in particular — showed signs of moving away from President Donald Trump and the GOP and toward Democrats who pledged to forge an independent path in Washington. With Trump at the top of the ticket again, 2020 will start to test whether the midterm results point to a longer-term trend.
“Much of the story of 2018 (and 2020) is a story of suburbanites, particularly white suburban women with a college education who cite community security, health care and education as important policy concerns,” Rachel Paine Caufield, a professor of political science at Drake University in Des Moines, wrote in an email to CNBC. Des Moines, the Iowa capital, sits in the northeast corner of the 3rd District.
She added that suburban voters are generally more likely to disapprove of the president’s immigration policies and handling of the coronavirus pandemic, along with Trump’s overall “tone and tenor.” Republicans such as Young have tried to regain seats they lost in the Trump era by pledging to recapture the strong pre-pandemic economy and bolster small businesses.
The geographically diverse 3rd District includes young city dwellers and rural farming communities to whom Axne and Young have tried to appeal, forcing them to walk an at times tricky political line. But for political observers looking in Iowa for signs of how the rest of the country could vote, the suburbs to the north and west of Des Moines may hold the most clues.
The electoral intrigue in Iowa this year goes well beyond the southwest corner of the state. Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer also aims to defend a northeast Iowa seat she flipped in 2018. The state’s other two House elections — contests to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack and succeed racist Republican pariah Rep. Steve King — also appear competitive based on recent polling.
Statewide, Iowa could play a major role in shaping the U.S. policy path for the next two years. Incumbent Republican Sen. Joni Ernst is locked in a tight race with Democrat Theresa Greenfield as the GOP tries to hold its 53-47 majority in the chamber.
While the 3rd District has drawn national interest, the money coming into the race suggests the contest may not be as competitive as some other House elections Republicans have targeted as they try to cut into Democrats’ 2018 gains. Axne has easily outraised and outspent Young, though she entered the final stretch of the campaign with about $810,000 in the bank, versus roughly $660,000 for her opponent. Outside groups have spent about $4.1 million in the race, significantly less than they have shelled out in 2020’s most expensive House races.
Iowa Congressman David Young votes in his home precinct on November 6, 2018 in Van Meter, Iowa.
Steve Pope | Getty Images
Iowa’s 3rd District underwent a demographic shift over the last decade similar to that of many of the U.S. House seats that flipped to Democratic control in 2018. The area’s median household income topped $67,000 in 2019, a spike from about $52,000 in 2009, according to U.S. Census data.
Last year, 24.6% of the district’s residents older than 25 had bachelor’s degrees, up from 20.6% a decade earlier. In the same time period, the share of people over 25 in the 3rd District with a master’s degree climbed to 7.6% from 5.8%.
Paine Caufield said that as suburbs near Des Moines “have grown and developed, they have attracted more highly educated residents with higher median incomes.” One example is Ankeny, a community north of the capital city that also sits close to Iowa State University in Ames.
At the same time, the area has not become much more racially diverse, as some suburban districts that shifted toward Democrats in 2018 did. About 88% of the district’s residents were White in 2019, down from about 90% in 2009.
Polls show that Axne fares better among more highly educated voters. In a Monmouth survey released last week, she held a 52% to 43% lead over Young among registered voters. The disparity in voter preference by education was stark: She had a 20-percentage-point advantage among White voters with a college degree versus a 5-percentage-point lead among voters without one.
The poll also showed a bigger lead for Axne among women, 12 percentage points, than among men, 8 percentage points. The GOP’s recent struggles to win over suburban women have led Trump to make explicit pleas to the voting bloc, including a series of thinly veiled attempts to stoke White fears of people of color moving into their communities.
“Suburban women, will you please like me?” Trump asked at a rally in Pennsylvania earlier this month.
As Paine Caufield explained, Trump’s health-care goals and his demeanor have contributed to those voters turning away from him. It’s no coincidence that health policy is once again a major focus in the race between Axne and Young. The issue shaped the 3rd District race and many others Democrats won in 2018.
“Health care is a big issue, with the ACA front and center,” said Barbara Trish, a professor of political science at Grinnell College in Iowa. Locally, the vulnerability of rural hospitals to closure has also played a role, she added.
As in their first matchup, Axne has targeted Young for his 2017 vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. In a debate earlier this month, the congresswoman said her opponent “voted to take away coverage for people with preexisting conditions” — an attack Democrats have used across the country as they play to the popular Obamacare provision.
In a statement to CNBC, Young pointed to an amendment to the GOP-passed bill that he supported in an effort to stop states from letting protections for people with medical conditions lapse. He added, “I and all Iowans want to ensure those with pre-existing conditions are protected and not discriminated against.”
Young also argued a public health-care option — which Axne and many national Democrats support — would start a “slow drip to a complete government takeover of health care.” Democrats who back the policy — which is popular in public opinion polls — say it will give people not covered by private insurance more options, especially in states that chose not to expand Medicaid under the ACA.
Iowa, which did expand the federal-state insurance program for low-income Americans, had one of the lowest uninsured rates in the country last year, at 4.7%.
Meanwhile, Iowa continues to struggle to contain its Covid-19 outbreak as the country reaches record levels of infections. Iowa most recently reported 1,143 new daily cases, a 7.5% increase from a week before, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
The lack of new federal coronavirus relief money has played a role in Iowa congressional races. Though the state’s September unemployment rate of 4.7% was the fifth lowest in the nation, Iowa, like the rest of the country, has seen businesses struggling to survive and residents scrambling to cover bills during the pandemic.
In the latest candidate debate, Young said “Iowa needs help.” He also argued Democrats are “not serious about getting a deal” and have sought “outrageous numbers” for relief money. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has backed a $2.2 trillion proposal.
Axne, who has portrayed herself as an independent voice, has highlighted her efforts to push Democratic leaders to pass less-expensive, more-targeted aid that could also earn support from the GOP-held Senate. She opposed Democrats’ latest bill earlier this month. She said in a statement after her vote that “the only thing that will deliver the help my constituents need is a bill that will actually become law.”
In a statement to CNBC, Axne identified curbing the pandemic and its accompanying economic damage as her top priority.
“We cannot hope to return to any sense of normalcy until we defeat this virus — and that means a national strategy on testing, contact tracing, and protective steps like masks,” she said. “This pandemic has also been an important reminder that we need to continue to work on expanding access to affordable, quality health care, ensuring Iowa families and communities have more opportunities to succeed, and holding our government accountable to its citizens.”
In his statement to CNBC, Young also cited “rebuilding the economy in a safe manner” and developing therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 as two of his priorities. He pointed to “keeping taxes low, keeping regulations in check” and “opening new markets for our farmers and manufacturers” as other priorities.
Agriculture, of course, always plays a role in Iowa. During her time in Congress, Axne has opposed the Trump administration’s trade war with China, which damaged many Iowa farmers. She also pushed for swift ratification of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement — the Trump administration’s revisions to the North American Free Trade Agreement — which helped to stabilize key markets for the state’s agriculture industry.
In a district where political moderation appears to play well with the electorate, both candidates have tied their opponent to national political leaders. Young’s ability in particular to push a message of economic recovery, while creating distance from the most unpopular pieces of Trump’s first term, could determine whether he wins back his seat in Washington.
In this photo illustration the US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden are seen during the final presidential debate displayed on a screen of a smartphone.
Pavlo Conchar | LightRocket | Getty Images
Maine and Nebraska are the only states that don’t play by the winner-take-all rules under the Electoral College, and they could make a decisive difference in the presidential election if the race is tight.
Traditionally, the winner of a state’s popular vote in the race for the White House wins all of the electoral votes it has to offer. But Maine and Nebraska have both adopted laws that distribute their electoral votes in part by the statewide popular vote winner and in part by who gets more votes in each of their congressional districts.
The congressional district method, which in both states allocates two votes to the overall popular vote winner and one vote to the winner of each congressional district, was first implemented in Maine in 1972. Nebraska didn’t use the method until the 1996 election.
Maine, with four electoral votes up for grabs, is expected to vote for Biden overall. But its Second District, which is more rural and more conservative than the rest of the state, could award its vote to Trump, as it did in 2016.
Nebraska has five electoral votes, and at least four of them are almost certainly going to the Republican incumbent.
The one exception could be its Second District, which covers the city of Omaha and swaths of suburban voters who tend to lean more toward Biden.
Political analysts aren’t widely expecting that the outcome of the 2020 election could hinge on one or two electoral votes — but there are dozens of ways it could happen, depending on how the election map unfolds.
“There are some very real possibilities where NE-2 and the ME-2 district could impact the race for president,” University of Virginia Center for Politics analyst Kyle Kondik told the Omaha World-Herald earlier this month.
Even if it doesn’t, Biden or Trump could have “coattails” that extend down the ballot and impact the House races in either state’s Second District.
While Democrats are looking to extend their majority in the House of Representatives, Republicans, including the president, are hoping to turn the lower chamber red once again.
“I think we’re going to win the House,” Trump said during his final debate with Biden last week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called that comment “delusional” and recently said she’s already looking ahead to growing her coalition in 2022. Indeed, forecasters widely expect Democrats to hold on to the House.
In an effort to shore up support in the purple pocket of the otherwise overwhelmingly red state, Trump is scheduled to travel to Omaha on Tuesday, one week out from Election Day, to host a campaign rally.
The rally could provide a boost for Republican Rep. Don Bacon, who is seeking a third term in the Cornhusker State’s Second District. In the 2016 election, Trump received a slightly larger share of the vote in the district than Bacon did.
But recent polls show Biden leading Trump in that area, albeit by a slightly narrower margin than the Democratic nominee enjoys nationally. That might pay dividends for Kara Eastman, Bacon’s Democratic challenger, whose competitive campaign is also being backed by spending from progressive groups.
But Eastman faces an uphill battle. Bacon had already defeated her in the 2018 race, when he slightly increased his margin of victory from 2016. Earlier this month, Bacon received a crucial endorsement from Brad Ashford, his former Democratic competitor who had served one term in Congress.
While Eastman has slightly outraised Bacon, she has also burned through much more of her war chest and is headed into the final days of the campaign with significantly less cash on hand, according to data from OpenSecrets.
The Second Districts in Maine and Nebraska are both considered swing districts, but the playing field looks starkly different in the Pine Tree State.
Maine’s Second District, which covers the vast majority of the state’s land area, flipped blue in 2018 when it elected Democrat Jared Golden as its representative.
That expensive and heated race against GOP incumbent Bruce Poliquin was part of the Democratic “blue wave” in the House. But the district had already changed colors numerous times in recent years: It went for Trump in 2016 following more than two decades of supporting Democratic presidential candidates, and voted in Poliquin after being represented by Democrat Mike Michaud for more than a decade.
Polls show Biden and Trump neck-and-neck in the district. Trump, who has crisscrossed the country at a breakneck pace in the final weeks of the campaign, visited an apple orchard in Levant, near Bangor, on Sunday.
Biden, whose campaign has been more cautious about travel and hosting in-person events amid the coronavirus pandemic, has not recently paid a visit to the state. But his wife, Jill Biden, made a trip there in late September.
It’s possible that the Second District could vote for Trump at the top of the ticket while continuing to support its Democratic incumbent. Polls show Golden holding a massive lead over his challenger, first-time congressional candidate Dale Crafts, with less than 10 days to go.
Crafts, a businessman and former state representative who became a paraplegic after a motorcycle accident nearly four decades ago, has raised much less money than Golden has. The Democrat has positioned himself as more moderate than some of the leaders of his party, including Pelosi, with whom he has broken ranks on numerous issues.
But Crafts maintains that the people in his district are concerned about the direction the Democratic Party aims to take the country, and he says that the polls don’t reflect the enthusiasm he sees on the ground.
“I think people are seeing that we’re going in a direction that’s different than the Second District of Maine,” Crafts told CNBC in a phone interview Thursday. Golden’s campaign did not respond to an interview request.
“This is absolutely Trump country,” he said. “He is so popular in the Second District, it’s amazing.”
Crafts also accused Golden of being more in tow with progressives in his party than he lets on.
“Jared has done a very good job of portraying himself to be this moderate,” Crafts said. “When people hear what I stand for, they move from Jared to me. And I tell you right now, people are going to say ‘wow’ when they wake up Nov. 4.”
U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he stands with local law enforcement and business people while examining property damage while visiting Kenosha in the aftermath of recent protests against police brutality and racial injustice and the ensuing violence after the shooting of Jacob Blake by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, September 1, 2020.
Leah Millis | Reuters
President Donald Trump‘s chances of defeating former Vice President Joe Biden on Election Day are growing slimmer every day that passes without a major shake-up that could boost his standing with voters.
But such an October surprise could be less likely to move the needle in the coming days than in past cycles, a potential damper on Trump’s shot at reelection.
Trump is down in state and national polls and nonpartisan election models give him about a 1-in-10 shot of winning the Electoral College, a historically low figure for an incumbent.
A look at Kenosha County, in the southeastern corner of battleground Wisconsin, provides an illustration of the difficulty that Trump faces in reshaping the race.
Trump was the first Republican to win in Wisconsin since 1984 — and the first to take Kenosha since 1972, which he did by just 255 votes. Trump won Wisconsin by a slim 23,000 votes.
The county, tucked between Milwaukee to the north and Chicago to the south, was seen as a telling indicator of Trump’s ability to harness resentment against perceived liberal elites, and win over White, suburban voters and blue-collar workers who hadn’t voted before or had cast ballots for Democrats.
Over the summer, Kenosha appeared to be right at the center of just the kind of event that might have swung the race.
Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot in the back seven times by Rusten Sheskey, a police officer, in front of Blake’s three sons, on Aug. 23. During the protests that followed, two protesters were killed and one was injured in a shooting for which a 17-year-old was charged.
The Blake shooting had the markings of a game changer. It took place a day before the Republican National Convention gave Trump a national audience to pitch himself as the law-and-order candidate. Afterward, both Trump and Biden descended on Kenosha.
Kellyanne Conway, a longtime Trump advisor who masterminded his strategy to win over women in 2016, said the violence gave Trump an opening.
“The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order,” she declared after the shooting.
Two months later, however, the political significance of the shooting and the protests that followed has been swallowed up. An average of Wisconsin polls from the day of the shooting showed Biden with an advantage of just under 5 percentage points. He held the same lead in the state Wednesday.
It’s also not clear how much Trump’s push to cast himself as the law-and-order candidate shored up his favorability among the county’s suburbanites.
In an August poll before the shooting, 49% of registered voters living in Milwaukee’s suburbs expressed a favorable opinion of Trump, compared with 50% who had an unfavorable opinion, according to a Marquette University Law School poll. The week after the shooting, the numbers were almost unchanged, at 46% favorable to 48% unfavorable.
“There are very few people who haven’t already made up their minds,” explained Katherine Cramer, the author of the 2016 book “The Politics of Resentment” and a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Cramer said that given the polarization in the country, which was reflected in Wisconsin, nothing short of a new international military conflict was likely to change many minds. And, even then, she said, it was hard to imagine people who didn’t like Trump suddenly rallying around him if the U.S. went to war.
“It’s hard to imagine something that would change the race at this point,” she said.
The stickiness of voters’ preferences isn’t all bad for Trump. It could also mute the impact of news events that would, in an ordinary race, hurt the incumbent.
On Monday, for instance, the tech website The Verge published a major investigation showing that a Foxconn LCD factory that Trump had touted as an economic engine for southeastern Wisconsin will almost certainly never create the jobs he had promised.
On Wednesday, Wisconsin reported a record number of deaths from the spreading Covid-19 pandemic. Seventy-four people in Kenosha County, which has a population of under 200,000, died of the disease as of Tuesday.
Cramer said that partisans on both sides are looking at those events in ways that suit their preferred candidate, meaning Trump might not suffer a political hit as a different president might.
Joe Zepecki, a Democratic strategist in the state, said the fact that the Blake shooting did not swing the race in Wisconsin was a bad sign for Trump, who needs the race to shift quickly. Early voting kicked off across Wisconsin on Tuesday.
Worse for the president, Zepecki predicted that Covid-19’s recent uptick in the state will prove to be more salient.
“I think it is clear that the most important shoe to fall has been Covid-19,” Zepecki said. “That’s not to say that everyone who voted for him is abandoning him.”
Zepecki believes the race will be close but that Biden will come away the winner.
Trump, who visited southern Wisconsin for an event on Saturday, continued to downplay the virus.
“I wish you had a Republican governor because, frankly, you’ve got to open your state up. You’ve got to open it up,” Trump said. He added that if he wins Wisconsin “we win the whole ball game.”
A spokeswoman for the Trump campaign said that they will beat Biden in the state with an effective ground game.
“President Trump built the greatest economy in the world, created jobs, and has stood up for law and order, whereas Biden oversaw the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression, killed Wisconsin jobs, and has been weak in the face of his supporters’ violent riots,” the spokeswoman, Samantha Zager, said in a statement.
“The Trump campaign’s massive ground game ensures we will turn out President Trump’s supporters by Election Day, and Biden simply won’t be able to compete with a nonexistent field program,” Zager said.
The Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment.