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2020 Daily Trail Markers: How local leaders are planning for the DNC and RNC

America's favorite sports are on hiatus, and swaths of the nation are under stay-home orders but at least voters will be able to tune in for the Democratic and Republican National Conventions this year, which are still scheduled to take place in August in Milwaukee and Charlotte, respectively. CBS News campaign reporters Adam Brewster and LaCrai Mitchell report that while local and state leaders usually look forward to the spotlight afforded by political conventions, this year is different given the COVID-related constraints. Conversations with dozens of medical experts, businesses and local leaders in both host cities reveal some of the hopes and fears surrounding the conventions this year. "If you have infinite resources and a really good plan, it's possible," said Dr. James Conway, an infectious disease expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Global Health Institute. He recommended testing attendees and workers at the convention site and other businesses, along with screening for temperatures, frequent and thorough cleaning of event spaces, "abundant" hand sanitizer, social distancing and masks. "We need to make sure that we're walking the walk and making sure that everyone is safe," said Angela Lang, executive director of the Milwaukee group Black Leaders Organizing for Communities. "If that means not having an in-person convention and not risking the health and safety specifically of black and brown communities, we need to do that as a party."

Joe Gass is the CEO of Heritage Printing Signs & Displays, a veteran-owned business based in Charlotte, D.C. and southern Maryland. He says despite the pandemic, he is extremely excited about the impending gathering and that he has no doubt his community will find "innovative solutions" to overcome any challenges. "Whether it's the political leaders, whether it's the health care leaders and providers, whether it's the business community — Charlotte is known for being extremely innovative and figuring out how can we do these things not only okay, but with excellence." North Carolina businessman Eric Burg, who is the CEO of Apple Rock Displays company added, "America needs to show how to do this the right way so that we can do the other things like concerts and things that we should have in our lives." Burg continued, "There are ways to do this and everyone knows how to do it, you just have to conquer your fear and be able to get comfortable with it."

Read more here

FROM THE CANDIDATES

JOE BIDEN

During a briefing with reporters on Friday, Joe Biden's top campaign staff gave no indication on how soon Biden may physically return to the campaign trail. They also for the first time laid out their ground game strategy to best President Trump in November, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson and political correspondent Ed O'Keefe report. Regarding traveling, Biden's campaign manager said safety is their top priority for Biden and the large contingent who follow him on the campaign trail including his staff, Secret Service agents and reporters. Asked whether there are plans to test Biden for COVID-19, senior staffers said there was no current plan to test him. Biden's team also laid out their general election map, calling the election a "referendum" on Mr. Trump and his response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon and strategist Mike Donilon said their Electoral College strategy will focus on all or parts of 17 states. This includes protecting Democratic-friendly states like Virginia, Minnesota, and Colorado, and focusing on "winning back" states in the Rust Belt, Florida and North Carolina. The Biden campaign also said they are trying to expand the electoral map to historically conservative states like Arizona, Georgia and Texas. "I'm bullish about Arizona. Arizona is a battleground state for the first time," O'Malley Dillon said. 

Read more about the Biden's campaign strategy here.

PRESIDENT TRUMP

In its first wave of anti-Biden attack ads, the Trump campaign barraged Facebook this week, CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga reports. Messages reading "Joe Biden, too old?" and "He's how old?" poked fun at the Democratic rival's 77 years. Mr. Biden is four years older than Mr. Trump. The campaign has tested over 2,000 Facebook advertisements targeting the former Vice President this week alone, including unfounded messages questioning the longtime lawmaker's mental acuity. A CNN poll released this week shows voters divided over which presidential contender possesses the stamina and sharpness required to occupy the Oval Office (49% say Trump, while 46% say Biden.) Yet Biden outshined Mr. Trump on other surveyed attributes – 55% of those surveyed say the former Vice President would unite the country, compared to 38% for Trump. 

The president announced "Operation Warp Speed" Friday, the federal government's new initiative to develop and identify an effective vaccine, CBSNews.com White House Reporter Kathryn Watson reports. The president told reporters in the White House Rose Garden on Friday that he believes they're going to have a vaccine in the "pretty near future," by the end of the year. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also said a vaccine should be available to the public by January. However, experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious diseases expert, say a vaccine will take 12-18 months to develop. "Vaccine or no vaccine, we're back," the president said. A CBS News poll released Thursday shows 43% of Americans think the president is doing a good job handling the virus, down from 48% in April and 53% in March. Most Americans also don't trust the president for information about the virus, the poll found. Only 38% of Americans said they do, compared with 61% who trust their governor and 62% who trust Fauci. 

VEEPSTAKES

ELIZABETH WARREN

The Government Accountability Office has agreed to launch a review of the Department of Veterans Affairs' oversight of care quality at State Veterans Homes following a request led by Senator Elizabeth Warren for it to do so. CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak reports Warren, along with Democratic Senators Jon Tester, Edward Markey and Bob Casey, had requested the audit at the beginning of the month. They cited surging veteran deaths at state-run veterans homes during the COVID-19 pandemic and Government Accountability Office reports that the VA could improve its oversight of the facilities. "Our veterans are among the most vulnerable to coronavirus, and they deserve the very best care during this public health emergency," Warren said in a statement. "The GAO's decision to investigate VA's oversight of our State Veterans Homes is a good step toward improving the quality of care for our veterans and preventing future outbreaks at facilities in Massachusetts and nationwide."

MONEY MATTERS

SEEING RED

After initial uncertainty over how the coronavirus could impact political fundraising, WinRed, the platform used by a growing number of Republican candidates to raise funds, announced it brought in nearly $60 million in April alone. That's nearly half of the $130 million WinRed raised during the first three months of the year combined. The April cash haul came from more than 1.6 million donations. The average donation was $37, about $2 less than the average donation seen during the first quarter of the year. Last month, WinRed also saw its biggest day of fundraising ever in its 10-month history on April 30. While the last day of the month tends to see a spike in donations as candidates make final pitches to boost their numbers, WinRed raised $7.1 million that day. April was also the first month where campaigning and fundraising had to be conducted 100% online. According to WinRed's Gerrit Lansing, when the coronavirus first started to force campaigns to cancel in-person events and move online in March, fundraising numbers were not perhaps as big as they could have been that month, but he is actually surprised there was not a bigger dip. "We seem to be seeing a lot of resiliency and energy," he said. Among its April donors, WinRed also had more than 61,000 end up using the platform to sign up to volunteer as well. This comes as campaigns and grassroots organizations across the country have to rethink their organizing strategy moving into the summer and fall due to the pandemic. Right now, more than 800 campaigns are using WinRed to raise funds as the platform continues to grow to compete with Democrats' ActBlue. ActBlue has not yet released specifics on its April fundraising, but an official tells CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice it did see strong fundraising numbers across the board last month whether it was for candidates up and down the ballots or progressive organizations. In January of 2019, ActBlue said it expected to hit a $3 billion mark for the 2020 cycle. It is still on track to hit that number by the end of the election cycle come November.

STATE-BY-STATE

MICHIGAN

The Michigan Court of Claims heard oral arguments on the Michigan legislature's lawsuit challenging Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer's executive orders extending the state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic. CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman says the legislature did not extend the state of emergency at the end of April, but Whitmer declared a state of emergency, citing two laws, the Emergency Powers of Governor Act from 1945 and the Emergency Management Act of 1976 that grant her the authority to extend the state of emergency without the legislature's approval. Michael Williams, who represented the Michigan legislature, argued that Whitmer does not have emergency powers under the 1976 law, which states that legislative approval is required to extend a state of emergency, because the legislature did not extend the state of emergency. Williams said legislative approval is important because it allows for the legislature to provide a check on executive power. "If a governor is really going to assert that degree of broad power, that degree of just generalized, all-encompassing power, there needs to be some mechanism by which the people's legislators can say, 'No, we're ready to take the reins. We are ready to be the ones to actually reassume the lawmaking power,'" Williams explained. Chris Allen, an assistant solicitor general in Michigan, argued that Whitmer has a duty to act during an emergency if an emergency still exists. "There is no dispute that a disaster and emergency exist, yet the legislature withheld," Allen said. "And they can do that under the statute. I'm not saying that they were statutorily obligated to do so, but they didn't. That does not remove the governor's duty to declare if the conditions warrant it." In regards to the 1945 emergency powers law, which grants the governor with the authority to issue "reasonable orders" without legislative approval, Williams argued that the 1945 law pertains to local emergencies instead of statewide emergencies. Allen said the broad language in the 1945 emergency powers law allows the governor to act during a public emergency "to bring the emergency under control."

NEVADA

True the Vote has renewed its push in federal court to roll back Nevada's upcoming all-mail primary after a judge last month rejected their initial motion. New plaintiffs in the suit now include Nevada Right-to-Life, whose members "intend to vote in the coming primary but fear disenfranchisement." Molly Forgey, a spokesperson for state Democrats, fired back in a statement, "The GOP's amended complaint adds nothing to its already-failed Nevada case, and only highlights that voter suppression is its sole electoral strategy during this grave public health crisis." In fact, while Democrats last month moved to intervene in the legal battle, the GOP has not sought to join True the Vote's lawsuit. However Republicans in the state have decried changes to the June contest in the state's most populous county, which True the Vote cites as one of the key factors for their latest effort in court. "We've got now a classic Bush v. Gore situation where we have one set of standards for voting in one county versus in all the other counties in the state," James Bopp, True the Vote's attorney, tells CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. "People have a general opinion that most of the corruption in Nevada is in Clark County. And now they've agreed with the Democrats to disregard state laws and increase their vote, and make them an even heavier player in the state. So there's no question that has exacerbated the situation," added Bopp.

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

ATTACK MODE

In competitive House and Senate races across the country, some Republican groups have been seizing on former Senate staffer Tara Reade's sexual assault allegations against Joe Biden to denounce their Democratic rivals. Through press releases and social media posts, conservative groups have launched a flurry of attacks targeting candidates in competitive races, both for not weighing in on the topic or for standing by their party's presumptive nominee, and calling on reporters to ask Democrats where they stand on the accusations, report CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro, campaign reporter Alex Tin, and political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson. "@RepFletcher frequently called out her opponent for "inaction" on sexual assault in the last election. Now Lizzie is dead silent about the new court docs corroborating Tara Read's sexual assault claim against @JoeBiden," the Congressional Leadership Fund tweeted last week about freshman House Democrat Lizzie Fletcher. The post is one of dozens of tweets from the group, a super PAC tied to Republican leadership in the U.S. House, criticizing 2020 Democratic candidates over Reade's allegations, which Biden has denied. But if GOP-affiliated groups haven't been shy about slamming Democrats because they're not confronting Biden over the accusations, they're being selective about where they're posting their attacks. On Facebook, where the super PAC spent on dozens of political ads in Christy Smith's special election race in California's 25th District, none made any mention of Reade or Biden. Mr. Trump's campaign has released videos and statements blasting Democrats over Tara Reade, but has yet to commit any funds to boost their ads on the topic. The president, who himself has faced multiple accusations of sexual assault, has mostly avoided the topic. When asked about the allegation, Mr. Trump has said that Biden should "just go out and fight it." Read more here.

CLYBURN CALL TO ACTION

Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina issued a call to action and warned Democrats the 2020 election will be one the most consequential of his lifetime, according to CBS News correspondent Nikole Killion. "I'm really, really nervous about this election," Clyburn stated. "This coming November will be the most consequential election in this country in a century." The 79-year-old House Majority Whip made the comments during a virtual DNC town hall Thursday night. The event, entitled Making the American Dream Accessible and Affordable for Black Men, focused on the upcoming election and the economic challenges facing the African-American community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Clyburn cited a recent poll that showed presumptive nominee Joe Biden leading nationally but trailing in key battleground states. Clyburn also pointed to 13% of f African-American men who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016. "This election will be won not in the popular vote but Electoral College, so we've got to pay close attention to that 13%," said Clyburn, who was instrumental in Biden's comeback in South Carolina. "This is going to be different this year. We probably won't be able to knock on doors. We may not even be able to sit down in big gatherings. We're going to have to use our telephones, our devices to turn out the vote." Other panelists included DNC Vice Chair Michael Blake, Associate Chair and U.S. Senate candidate Jaime Harrison and Democratic strategist and CBS News political contributor Antjuan Seawright. The discussion was part of the DNC's "Chop It Up" series – a joint initiative of the DNC and DNC Black Caucus to engage African-American men in politics. 

IN THE HOUSE

A $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill was on the docket Friday for the House, meant to assist state and local governments, hazard pay for medical workers, forgiveness of student debt and bolstering Medicaid and Medicare. Known as the HEROES Act (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act), the bill was introduced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday and received opposition from most Republicans and some Democrats. Progressives like Congresswomen Pramila Jayapal and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez felt that the bill could go further for workers and shoring up healthcare. Republican Congressman Peter King of New York said before the vote that he would break party lines and support the bill,  saying it provides much-needed aid for state and local governments in his state. "This is no place for politics. There's a lot in the bill that I disagree with, but Mitch McConnell refuses to bring up aid to state and local governments. New York will absolutely collapse if that aid money is not there," King told Fox News. CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro says freshmen House Democrats Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina and Kendra Horn of Oklahoma all signaled Friday they'd be voting against the bill. All of these members are in competitive districts that Mr. Trump won in 2016. In his weekly briefing, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy appealed to these moderate members. "There are 42 other seats that Democrats sit in, that have a better opportunity for Republicans to win than the seat we just won Tuesday night," he said, referencing Tuesday's special election in California's 25th district. "And what is Nancy Pelosi doing? Twisting the arm of Democrats, forcing them to vote for a bill that is a liberal wish list that will not become law." McCarthy also addressed whether Congressman Steve King of Iowa, who was stripped of his committee assignments due to racist remarks, could return to those assignments. King previously suggested he had McCarthy's word to reclaim his assignments, something McCarthy shot down on Friday, leaving it up to the House GOP Steering Committee to hear King's case. The House GOP leader also said he has not taken a position on King's competitive Republican primary against State Senator Randy Feenstra. "The constituents have a decision to make and they can make their own decision," he said. 

IN THE SENATE

In one of the country's most-watched Senate races, Republicans have ramped up attacks on Democrat Mark Kelly after a RealClearPolitics report detailed Chinese investment in a venture co-founded by Kelly. The company, World View Enterprises, has rejected accusations of foreign influence, pointing out to the Arizona Republic that the Pentagon cleared the firm of foreign interference concerns. CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin reports Kelly is seeking to unseat Arizona Sen. Martha McSally, who in an ad released today doubled down on a campaign that has increased its focus on China. McSally in recent weeks has proposed bills to curb Beijing's influence, predicted "a new Cold War" with China, vowed to "never back down to Communists" after a Chinese state-run outlet suggested she might face sanctions, and praised a recent Taiwanese investment in the state. "I also want to express my appreciation to Senator Martha McSally — a fantastic person.  Fantastic person," Mr. Trump said about the Republican earlier this month, during his visit to the state. "She's fighting to uncover the full truth about the China situation and how the World Health Organization handled the outbreak and what happened."

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