Good morning, NBC News readers.
With the two presidential candidates set to hold dueling town hall events this evening, a new NBC News/WSJ poll shows Joe Biden holding a double-digit lead over President Donald Trump with less than three weeks to go before Election Day.
Here’s what we’re watching this Thursday morning.
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Biden holds double-digit national lead over Trump in new poll
Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump 53 percent to 42 percent in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll with less than three weeks to go before Election Day.
The margin is down from Biden’s 14-point lead in the poll earlier this month, but 62 percent of voters say the country is on the wrong track and 58 percent say the nation is worse off overall than it was four years ago.
In the poll — conducted after Trump returned to the White House from his hospitalization with the coronavirus — a majority of voters also say they have major concerns that Trump will divide the country rather than unite it.
“The president may have recovered from Covid-19, but there is no experimental cocktail that can cure his standing with voters,” said one of the Democratic pollsters who conducted the survey in collaboration with Republican colleagues.
But the memory of 2016 still haunts. The October NBC News/WSJ poll from four years ago — after the release of the damaging “Access Hollywood” video of Trump but before FBI Director James Comey intervened in the race’s final days— showed Hillary Clinton with an identical 11-point lead over Trump.
(We all know how that went. Although, the final NBC News/WSJ poll of 2016 had Clinton’s national lead down to 5 points; she won the popular vote by more than 2 percentage points).
The two candidates had been slated to participate in the second presidential debate this evening, but it was canceled after Trump refused to participate in a virtual format. Instead, they will hold dueling town hall events this evening.
NBC News will host a town hall with Trump in Miami moderated by “TODAY” anchor Savannah Guthrie, while Biden will participate in an ABC News town hall in Philadelphia moderated by Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos. Both events will begin at 8 p.m. ET.
Trump’s ‘rigged’ election claims are loud. An online ‘army’ could make them deafening.
Over the last four years Trump has seeded the narrative that the 2020 election would be rigged. Those efforts look set to pay off.
A sizable online network built around the president is poised to amplify any claims from Trump about a rigged election, adding reach and enthusiasm that could lend a veneer of legitimacy to otherwise evidence-free allegations, NBC News Brandy Zadrozny reports.
Multiple social media analyses, including one conducted by a group of nonprofit researchers on behalf of NBC News, have detailed how a collection of the president’s relatives and members of his inner circle, along with far-right media manipulators and an online army of disciples, has created or spread false content that supports his “rigged” narrative. And his campaign is urging supporters to join an “army” to “defend their vote.”
This network is not waiting for Election Day to spring into action.
“The narrative is priming the base, and the base is feeding the narrative,” said Kate Starbird, an associate professor with the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public and one of the researchers at the Election Integrity Partnership, a non-partisan collaboration dedicated to identifying disinformation related to the campaign.
Delayed election, mail-in ballots and transfer of power: Barrett did her best to dodge Trump controversies
Judge Amy Coney Barrett wrapped up the question and answer portion of her confirmation hearings for the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday evening.
Over two days, Barrett was questioned on a variety of legal topics and pressed by Democrats, who excoriated their GOP colleagues for rushing Trump’s nomination in an election year.
She followed the tradition of past Supreme Court nominees and dodged many of the questions she was asked by saying she did not want to prejudge issues that could come before the court.
But some of the evasions appeared carefully crafted to avoid contradicting legally dubious assertions by Trump, the man who nominated her to the court. And to steer clear of political controversies he has stirred on Twitter.
For instance, Barrett wouldn’t say if a president has unilateral authority to delay an election, saying it’d make her a “legal pundit” to speculate.
She wouldn’t say if the president should commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses an election conducted in accordance with the law.
And she declined to say whether mail-in or absentee ballots were an essential way for Americans to vote in a pandemic.
Wednesday’s hearing felt perfunctory at times with even Democrats occasionally conceding that the conservative jurist is likely to be confirmed. The 48-year-old Barrett needs 50 Senate votes to secure a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.
There are 53 Republicans in the chamber, and just two have indicated opposition to confirming a nominee this close to a presidential election.
Trump is ‘not happy’ with Barr, won’t commit to keeping AG in potential second term
A federal prosecutor appointed by Attorney General William Barr to look into Obama administration officials’ “unmasking” of unnamed individuals in intelligence reports concluded his review without finding evidence of wrongdoing, according to a source with direct knowledge of the probe.
Trump said Wednesday that he is “not happy” with Barr after the Justice Department’s investigation of the last administration found no wrongdoing and quietly concluded with no criminal charges.
Trump made the comments to Newsmax TV. He also declined to say whether he would keep Barr on as attorney general for a potential second term.
“Can’t comment on that. It’s too early. I’m not happy, with all of the evidence I had, I can tell you that. I am not happy,” Trump said in the interview.
What’s your blood type? It may affect your risk for Covid-19
A growing body of evidence suggests that blood type may play a role in the risk of becoming infected with the coronavirus or developing life-threatening complications from the illness.
But it does not mean that any single blood type is more protective or more dangerous regarding Covid-19, and the evidence may indeed raise more questions than answers.
“The study suggests if you have type O, you have a slightly lower risk,” Dr. Roy Silverstein, chair of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said. “But it’s a small decrease.”
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THINK about it
Trump’s MAGA rallies have lost what made them powerful. No wonder he’s losing, radio host Dean Obeidallah writes in an opinion piece.
Here’s how to undo all the bad habits you picked up during the pandemic.
New & Notable: The latest products from Apple, Echelon, and more.
One curious thing
Someone in a jetpack was reportedly seen flying high above Los Angeles — again.
The apparent sighting, at about 1:45 p.m. Wednesday, was noted by a China Airlines crew at an altitude of approximately 6,000 feet, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.
The unidentified person was about seven miles northwest of the airport, according to the statement, which added that local law enforcement will investigate the report.
The sighting was the second in two months. On Aug. 30, two pilots on two different flights reported seeing “a guy in a jetpack” flying at about 3,000 feet near Los Angeles International Airport.
“Only in LA,” an unidentified person said in the audio log at the time.
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