Election 2020 updates: Biden pledges task force to reunite separated families; Trump warns of socialism

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There are five days until Election Day. President Trump continues his ambitious campaign schedule, while Joe Biden, his Democratic rival, is slated to hit the trail with a more scaled-back schedule. Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, are looking to expand their electoral map by focusing on traditionally red states such as Texas, Georgia and Arizona. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, have sought to flip previously blue states Nevada and Minnesota. Both campaigns are focusing a great deal of their time and resources on the so-called "blue wall" states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which Trump flipped in 2016.

Here are the key headlines:

Michigan AG to appeal open carry of firearms outside polling stations

A group tied to the Boogaloo Bois holds a rally as they carry firearms at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan on October 17, 2020.
Jeff Kowalsky | AFP | Getty Images

The legal battle in Michigan over whether people should be permitted to openly carry firearms outside polling stations on Election Day is now on its way to the state's highest court.

Attorney General Dana Nessel intends to appeal the case before the Michigan Supreme Court after an appeals court allowed the open carry of firearms outside polling stations.

The Michigan Court of Appeals declined to hear the case in a 3-0 decision, saying "voter intimidation is — and remains — illegal under current Michigan law," according to the Detroit Free Press.

"Anyone who intimidates a voter in Michigan by brandishing a firearm or, for that matter, by threatening with a knife, baseball bat, fist, or otherwise menacing behavior, is committing a felony under existing law," the court said.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson had prohibited the open carry of firearms within 100 feet of a polling station on Election Day, but a Michigan Court of Claims judge blocked the order, saying it "smacks of an attempt at legislation," according to the Detroit News.

The Attorney General's office, in announcing its intent to file an appeal with the state supreme court, pointed to a recent poll that found 73% of Michiganders oppose open carry at polling stations.

— Spencer Kimball

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is worried about civil unrest around the election

Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Erin Scott | Reuters

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday said he was worried about the risk of civil unrest related to the upcoming U.S. election.

"I'm worried that with our nation so divided and election results potentially taking days or weeks to be finalized, there is a risk of civil unrest across the country," Zuckerberg said on a call discussing Facebook's third-quarter earnings. "Given this, companies like ours need to go well beyond what we've done before."

Despite his previous statements that social media companies should not be the arbiters of truth, Zuckerberg noted that Facebook has taken several steps over the past few weeks to provide users with accurate information as a result of this elevated risk. This includes helping users register to vote, providing accurate election information, and banning problematic content, including Holocaust denialism.

"This is not a shift in our underlying philosophy or strong support of free expression," Zuckerberg said. "Instead it is a reflection of the increased risk of violence and unrest."

—Sal Rodriguez

Biden and Trump both work to mobilize voters in must-win Florida

First lady Melania Trump waves next to U.S. President Donald Trump ahead of a campaign rally outside Raymond James Stadium, in Tampa, Florida, U.S., October 29, 2020.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden both did their best to energize and mobilize supporters to vote Thursday in key areas of must-win Florida.

Biden held a drive-in rally in Coconut Creek, outside Ft. Lauderdale, and he was scheduled to hold a rally later in the day in Tampa. He appealed to Hispanic voters, part of a broader push to shore up support among this important demographic group.

Biden also pledged to create a federal task force "on day one" dedicated to reuniting 545 children separated from their parents by immigration authorities at the Southern border, but whose parents have yet to be located.

Trump held a competing rally in Tampa on Thursday, where he also appealed to Hispanic voters. The president tried to tie Biden to the left wing of the Democratic party and said "America will never be a socialist country."

"Biden's agenda will devastate the Hispanic American community," Trump claimed, hinting at Biden's economic plan, which would raise taxes on those making more than $400,000 a year.

Biden has repeatedly responded to Trump's attacks by reminding voters he is the nominee because he beat candidates further to the left, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist.

Polls show Trump and Biden virtually tied in Florida, with Biden leading by an average of 1.4 points.

Democratic U.S. presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a drive-in, Get Out the Vote campaign stop in Coconut Creek, Florida, U.S., October 29, 2020.
Brian Snyder | Reuters

— Christina Wilkie

Pelosi-Mnuchin talks grow less cordial as coronavirus stimulus stalemate lingers

Markets will continue going down without stimulus, says investing pro

The spurts of optimism that popped up in coronavirus stimulus talks in recent weeks have all but disappeared.

Communication between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, which appeared to decrease in recent days as progress toward a relief deal stalled, has taken on a decidedly more bitter tone.

First, Pelosi sent a letter to Mnuchin saying the White House had not responded to Democrats about a range of lingering issues in the aid negotiations. The Treasury secretary responded hours later, saying the speaker misrepresented the state of talks and pulled a "political stunt."

As the sides have failed to resolve key disputes over state and local government aid, unemployment insurance and liability protections for businesses, an agreement looks doubtful before Election Day. It could also prove tough to strike a deal during the so-called lame duck session between the elections and when winners take office in January.

Both the occupant of the White House and control of the Senate could change after Americans vote.

— Jacob Pramuk

Hawaii becomes first state to surpass 2016 vote total

Hawaii has become the first state to surpass its total 2016 voter turnout with five days before Election Day, according to U.S. Elections Project.

Voters have cast 457,294 mail ballots in Hawaii so far in the 2020 election. Hawaii is one of four states to implement all-mail voting. Every registered voter received a mail-in ballot packet about 18 days before Election Day, according to the state's election office.

"All-mail ballot election + high voter interest = high voter turnout," Michael McDonald, the director of the U.S. Elections Project, wrote on Twitter.

Hannah Miao

Colorado sees high early voting turnout during pivotal Senate race

American have cast their votes early in droves, and Colorado is no exception.

By 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday, voters in Colorado had returned 2,123,635 ballots, according to the state's Secretary of State Jena Griswold. It amounts to about 76% of the votes cast in the 2016 presidential election there — with six days remaining.

The number of ballots also makes up more than 82% of the Colorado votes in the 2012 presidential election.

Democrat Joe Biden is heavily favored to win the state's nine electoral votes. The country will have a close eye on Colorado's U.S. Senate race, where Republican Sen. Cory Gardner will try to fend off former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper's challenge in an increasingly blue state.

The Senate race will help to determine whether the GOP holds its 53-47 majority in the chamber.

Colorado adopted statewide mail-in voting years before the practice became more common nationwide during the coronavirus pandemic. The state sends ballots to all registered voters.

— Jacob Pramuk

Trump postpones North Carolina campaign rally

U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One following a campaign event, at Fayetteville Regional Airport in Fayetteville, North Carolina, October 24, 2020.
Tom Brenner | Reuters

President Donald Trump has postponed his scheduled rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina this evening, his campaign announced in a statement.

The area is currently under a wind advisory with gusts topping 40 miles per hour, The Fayetteville Observer reported.

The event will be rescheduled for Monday, according to the Trump campaign. "I love you North Carolina. Stay safe, see you on Monday!!!" the president wrote on Twitter.

Trump will still visit troops at Fort Bragg, North Carolina as scheduled Thursday afternoon.

Hannah Miao

Supreme Court rejects 2nd GOP effort to stop ballot deadline extension in North Carolina

The Supreme Court, for the second time in as many days, ruled against Republicans pushing to block a six-day extension of North Carolina's absentee ballot deadline.

North Carolina's board of elections has said the state will count absentee ballots received as late as Nov. 12. Republicans were pushing to shorten the deadline to Nov. 6, or three days after Election Day, as is called for under state law.

On Wednesday evening, the top court voted 5-3 against a challenge brought by Trump's campaign and state and national Republican parties. On Thursday, the court rebuffed a challenge brought by North Carolina lawmakers by the same margin.

Three conservatives, Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito, said they would have sided with the Republicans in each of the cases.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who began her term on the court this week, did not participate in either dispute because she has not had time to get up to speed.

— Tucker Higgins

Democrats hold narrow lead in North Carolina where more than half of voters have cast ballots already

Voters wait in line to enter a polling place and cast their ballots on the first day of the state's in-person early voting for the general elections in Durham, North Carolina, U.S. October 15, 2020.
Jonathan Drake | Reuters

Democratic nominee Joe Biden has a slight advantage over President Donald Trump in battleground state North Carolina, according to a new New York Times/Siena College poll.

Biden holds a 3 point lead over Trump in the survey of 1,034 likely voters with a 3.7% margin of error. The poll came after last Thursday's final presidential debate.

Trump won North Carolina by 3.6 percentage points in 2016.

Democratic Senate challenger Cal Cunningham also holds a slim 3 point lead over incumbent Republican Sen. Thom Tillis. The North Carolina U.S. Senate race could help decide the chamber's majority following the 2020 election.

More than 52.7% of registered North Carolina voters have already cast their ballot in the November election, state election officials report. Registered Democrats make up 35.66% of early votes while registered Republicans comprise 30.24%.

Hannah Miao

Polls find Biden ahead in Pennsylvania and Ohio, neck-and-neck with Trump in Florida and Iowa

Democratic Presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks at a voter mobilization event in Cincinnati, Ohio, on October 12, 2020, where he will speak to the importance of Ohioans making their voices heard this election.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

A new set of polls across four pivotal presidential election states contains mostly good news for Democrat Joe Biden.

The Quinnipiac University surveys show Biden leading President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Florida, Biden holds an advantage roughly equal to the poll's margin of error. The Iowa poll shows a virtual tie.

Here is the breakdown of the race in each poll of the electoral college prizes:

  • Florida (29 electoral votes): Biden 45%, Trump 42%
  • Iowa (6 electoral votes): Trump 47%, Biden 46%
  • Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes): Biden 51%, Trump 44%
  • Ohio (18 electoral votes): Biden 48%, Trump 43%

Recent polling averages have found narrow Biden leads in Florida, Pennsylvania and Iowa, and a small edge for Trump in Ohio, according to RealClearPolitics. The Quinnipiac poll also showed Republican Sen. Joni Ernst leading Democrat Theresa Greenfield by a 48% to 46% margin in the Iowa Senate race, one of the contests that will help to determine the Senate majority.

All of the surveys of likely voters took place from Friday to Tuesday. The samples and margins of error, respectively, are:

  • Florida: 1,324 people, 2.7 percentage points
  • Iowa: 1,225 people, 2.8 percentage points
  • Ohio: 1,186 people, 2.9 percentage points
  • Pennsylvania: 1,324 people, 2.7 percentage points

— Jacob Pramuk

Joe Biden adds a Minnesota stop to his busy Friday schedule

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden boards his plane in New Castle, Delaware, on October 29, 2020.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

Democratic nominee Joe Biden has added a campaign stop in Minnesota to his already busy schedule on Friday, which will see the nominee make his final pitch to voters in Iowa and Wisconsin as well.

The Minnesota stop appears to be Biden's only visit in the last days of the campaign to a state that Democrat Hillary Clinton won in 2016.

After leading in polls there by double digits earlier in the campaign, several recent surveys have shown President Donald Trump closing in on Biden's lead, and some even show Trump within the margin of error.

Trump has made a concerted push this year to flip Minnesota, a traditionally blue state, but one that Clinton won by a mere 1.5 points.

Minnesota was also the site earlier this year of massive Black Lives Matter protests following the killing of George Floyd, some of which turned violent.

Trump responded to the protests with unequivocal support for police, while Biden has called for nationwide reforms to how police officers use force on unarmed suspects.

— Christina Wilkie

Trump and Biden offer dueling reactions to GDP data

U.S. GDP grew 33.1% in the third quarter, vs 32% estimate

The U.S. economy's record third quarter growth has become the latest fuel for President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden's campaigns.

For Trump, the 33.1% annualized Q3 gain softened the blow of a devastating first quarter slump.

"This record economic growth is absolute validation of President Trump's policies which create jobs and opportunities for Americans in every corner of the country," Trump communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement.

The president took to Twitter to celebrate: "GDP number just announced. Biggest and Best in the History of our Country, and not even close ... So glad this great GDP number came out before November 3rd."

The Biden campaign emphasized the GDP gain does not paint a full picture of the American economy.

"This report underscores three inescapable truths about Donald Trump's economy: we are in a deep hole and President Trump's failure to act has meant that Q3 growth wasn't nearly enough to get us out of; the recovery is slowing if not stalling; and the recovery that is happening is helping those at the top, but leaving tens of millions of working families and small businesses behind," Biden said in a statement released by his campaign.

Hannah Miao

Wisconsin GOP says cybercriminals stole millions intended for Trump re-election

Cybercriminals used a sophisticated phishing attack to steal $2.3 million in funds intended for the re-election of President Donald Trump, Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt said.

The Wisconsin Republican Party discovered it was the victim of a cyberattack on Thursday, Oct. 22 and contacted the FBI the following morning, according to Hitt.

The hackers obtained the money by doctoring invoices of Wisconsin GOP vendors, Hitt said.

"These criminals exhibited a level of familiarity with state party operations at the end of the campaign to commit this crime," Hitt said. "While a large sum of money was stolen, our operation is running at full capacity with all the resources deployed to ensure President Donald J. Trump carries Wisconsin on November 3rd."

The Wisconsin GOP is working closely with the FBI while they conduct an investigation, Hitt said. The FBI, in response to a CNBC inquiry, would neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.

— Spencer Kimball

GDP report underscores divisions in stalled stimulus talks

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks about the need for additional coronavirus relief during her weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters in Washington, Oct. 22, 2020.
Hannah McKay | Reuters

An already jumbled coronavirus stimulus picture grew murkier following the third-quarter U.S. GDP report.

The Trump campaign and the president's Republican allies in Congress cited the record 33.1% economic growth as evidence of the GOP bringing the country back from virus-fueled economic ruin. Democrats, meanwhile, noted that the U.S. had not come close to recovering the lost output from the worst-ever U.S. GDP decline earlier this year. They warned failure to inject more federal aid into the economy will cause more damage as the outbreak rages around the country.

"We had lost ground in the second quarter, this barely makes up for that. And the Cares Act [relief bill passed earlier this year] deserves credit for injecting resources into the economy," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters, warning of "dire circumstances" if Congress does not approve more stimulus.

Aid talks between Democrats and the Trump administration have stalled, meaning any deal will likely come after the 2020 election. Pelosi sent Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin a letter asking for responses to Democratic proposals on key areas of disagreement, including Covid-19 testing, state and local government aid and unemployment insurance.

Pelosi said she still hoped to reach an agreement during the so-called lame duck session before presidential and congressional election winners take office in January. —Jacob Pramuk

Biden maintains polling lead over Trump in final five days

Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden (L) and President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump is down in the polls against former Vice President Joe Biden in the final five days of the 2020 presidential election.

Here's what national polling trackers said Thursday morning:

It's still possible Trump could pull off an upset. Polls show the candidates neck-and-neck in a handful of the most crucial battleground states.

But some states, previously considered GOP strongholds, have become hotly contested late in the race. 

Kevin Breuninger

Ossoff's jab at Perdue goes viral, adds fuel to red-hot Georgia Senate race

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga.
Drew Angerer | AP

In the final minutes of a debate Wednesday evening, Democrat Jon Ossoff unleashed on incumbent Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., in an argument that has since gone viral.

Perdue began the exchange by attacking Ossoff for his fundraising trove from out-of-state donors, alleging that the campaign contributions from non-Georgia residents show the Democrat's supporters "want this radical socialist agenda."

Ossoff countered by unloading on Perdue over the GOP's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a theme the Democrat hammered for much of the hour-long debate. In a particularly blistering attack, Ossoff also referenced federal investigations into Perdue's stock trading around the start of the U.S. coronavirus crisis.

The exchange went viral in a Twitter clip that, as of Thursday morning, has been viewed more than 6 million times.

"Perhaps Senator Perdue would have been able to respond properly to the Covid-19 pandemic if you hadn't been fending off multiple federal investigations for insider trading," Ossoff said. "It's not just that you're a crook, senator, it's that you're attacking the health of the people that you represent."

Recent polling finds Perdue and Ossoff running neck-and-neck in a historically Republican state that, thanks to demographic trends, is becoming a political battleground.

Perdue has said his financial advisors made multimillion-dollar stock trades, which reportedly include a stake in a company that manufactures personal protective equipment to help individuals safeguard themselves from the coronavirus.

The campaign has also shared with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution a portion of a letter from the Senate Ethics Committee clearing him of wrongdoing. Perdue says the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have ended probes into his trading.

— Thomas Franck

Here's where Trump and Biden will be campaigning today

A combination photo shows democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden looking on at a campaign event at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., August 12, 2020, and U.S. President Donald Trump talking to reporters prior to boarding Air Force One as he departs Washington on travel to Illinois and Wisconsin, September 1, 2020.

President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden will vie for votes in Florida as five days remain on the campaign trail.

Trump will lead a rally in Tampa at 1:35 p.m. ET outside Raymond James Stadium before heading to Fayetteville, North Carolina, for a speech scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET.

Biden has scheduled two drive-in events in the Sunshine State: Broward County in the afternoon and Tampa in the evening.

Biden has a slight lead in Florida, according to the new NBC News-Marist poll released this morning and the FiveThirtyEight polling average.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence will hold a rally in De Moines, Iowa, this afternoon, then travel to Reno, Nevada, for a rally at 8 p.m. ET.

Sen. Kamala Harris, Biden's running mate, will participate in a virtual rally focused on historically Black Greek organizations at 5 p.m. ET. Later, Harris will take part in a virtual fundraiser and will join Sen. Bernie Sanders for a virtual climate rally at 8 p.m. ET.

Hannah Miao

GDP jump likely to figure into the political debate

The better-than-expected economic growth rate in the third quarter gives both sides ammunition as the presidential race comes to a close.

For President Trump, the 33.1% annualized gain is the best ever for a quarter and gives him some bragging rights after the disastrous Q1 slump of 31.4%. For Joe Biden, the number comes with a warning label that slower growth is ahead.

"This is going to be seized upon by both ends of the political spectrum as either evidence of the strength of the post-lockdown economic rebound or a cursory warning that the gains could be short-lived," said James McCann, senior global economist at Abrdeen Standard Investments. "The reality is that the GDP numbers demonstrate that the U.S. economy did indeed rebound strongly as lockdown measures were lifted."

—Jeff Cox

At least 77 million Americans have voted already

'It's Americans doing their civic duty' — Early voters break records across the U.S.

More than 77.4 million Americans have voted in the 2020 presidential election as of Thursday morning, according to U.S. Elections Project data.

With five days until Election Day, in-person and mail-in early voting has now reached 56.2% of the total votes cast in the 2016 election, the project reports.

At least 50.8 million voters mailed in their ballots, while about 26.5 million Americans have voted in person. In states reporting party affiliation, registered Democrats continue to dominate mail voting while registered Republicans are showing up in greater numbers to cast their ballots in person.

As deadlines to return absentee ballots approach, the number of outstanding mail ballots has now decreased to about 27.5 million.

Texas continues to lead early voting with more than 8.4 million votes tallied so far, reaching 94.1% of the state's total 2016 turnout. Harris County, the Houston metropolitan area and largest county in the state, has cast over a million of those ballots.

With Texas now rated a "toss-up" in the race between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, voter turnout from urban and suburban areas like Harris County will be crucial if Democrats hope to flip the state from red to blue.

Young Texans are voting in record numbers, according to Oct. 23 data from Tufts University. At 11 days before Election Day, Texas voters ages 18-29 cast over seven times the number of absentee and early votes than at the same point in 2016.

Early voting totals from youth voters also outpace 2016 turnout in key battleground states including Florida, North Carolina and Michigan. A record turnout from young voters could swing toss-up races in favor of Democrats.

Hannah Miao

North Carolina House race illustrates sharper partisan divide

Challenger Cynthia Wallace and Rep. Dan Bishop from North Carolina's District 9.
Cynthia Wallace Campaign and Caroline Brehman | CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Republican Rep. Dan Bishop is facing first-time candidate Cynthia Wallace in a race to maintain his seat in the House of Representatives for North Carolina's 9th District.

It is an electorate that has been shifting political leanings in both directions over the past few years. More urban and suburban areas have shifted blue, while rural areas have leaned more red.

A key question of the race will be whether the Republican shift is enough to "counter-balance" the changing demographic and keep the district red, said Eric Heberlig, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

Wallace told CNBC she would be a leader focused on "kitchen table issues," while saying her opponent focuses too much on national ones.

Bishop said in a statement that he focuses on both truly local issues and national issues "with great local impact."

"If independents break strongly against Trump and [Sen. Thom] Tillis and say, 'I'm just soured on the Republican Party and I'm going to vote for all Democrats,' that's the type of trend that Wallace would benefit from in pulling her over the top," Heberlig said.

— Lauren Feiner

Biden has slight lead in new NBC/Marist poll

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden delivers remarks during a voter mobilization event, at Miramar Regional Park in Miramar, Florida, U.S., October 13, 2020.
Tom Brenner | Reuters

Joe Biden has a slight lead in Florida, according to the new NBC News-Marist poll released this morning, five days before Election Day.

The result is within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Trump won Florida in 2016 by a little more than a percentage point. This time, the president hopes his edge with Latinos in the state, driven by the Cuban-American population, can help him overcome Biden's advantage with seniors. According to the poll, Trump leads among Latinos 52% to 46% while Biden leads among seniors 53% to 46%.

Only 2% of voters in Florida are undecided or voting for another candidate, according to the poll.

FiveThirtyEight's polling average of the state gives Biden a 2-point edge.

— Mike Calia