Welcome to today’s US election briefing for Australia.
New figures suggesting the US economy bounced back in the third quarter of this year gave Donald Trump a new talking point in the final days of the campaign.
The economy has long been a strong suit for Trump, a rare issue that voters trust him to handle better than Joe Biden, and it is one he is leaning into, even if strangely reluctantly, in the final stretch. At rallies and on social media, he is portraying Biden as a socialist who will raise taxes and crush the economy with environmental regulations.
His team knows this is effective ground for him. At a rally on Thursday, he said advisers were encouraging him to talk up the figures even more: “I mean how many times can I say it? I’ll say it five or six times during the speech, 33.1,” he said, referring to the US annualised GDP growth in the second quarter of this financial year.
Huge issues remain in the economy of course, which are likely to be made worse by the resurgent virus. You can read our full story on this here.
Trump’s team apparently wants him to let up on another core closing message, one the president seems far, far more energised by – accusing Biden and his son of being tied up in nebulous and unsubstantiated corruption allegations. “They’re calling me up, ‘Sir, you shouldn’t be speaking about Hunter. You shouldn’t be saying bad things about Biden because nobody cares.’ I disagree,” he told the crowd.
I find it surprising Biden isn’t campaigning more strongly on an economic message at the close here – especially given his and Obama’s record in the post-GFC recovery, and the backing his jobs plan has received from economists. Instead, he’s campaigning strongly on his ability to handle the pandemic better – an issue on which voters trust him more than the president (and one undoubtably intertwined with the economy). He’s also emphasising the idea the election is a “battle for the soul” of America, with his presidency heralding a return to norms, ideals and decency.
“This is our opportunity to leave the dark, angry politics of the last four years behind us,” he says in a late TV ad. “To choose hope over fear, unity over division, science over fiction.”
It’s a powerful message but one that skirts a core principle of a past successful Democratic presidential campaign – it’s the economy, stupid.
The big stories
The White House coronavirus taskforce is warning of a persistent and broad spread of Covid in the western half of the US, and its members have urged aggressive mitigation measures. Cases are rising in 47 states and patients are overwhelming hospitals.
The investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald has resigned abruptly from the Intercept, accusing the news website he co-founded of seeking to censor him over a planned article about Biden.
Polls point to a Biden victory – but can they be trusted this time? This explainer looks at why the picture is rosier for Democrats now than it was in 2016, but how Trump also still has a path to victory.
“To me it’s voter suppression.” This important piece looks at the Republican fight to limit ballot drop boxes, a move forcing voters in cities such as Houston (population 4.7m) to drop their ballots at just one location.
Trump’s message of bringing back jobs resonated with workers – but after GM announced it was closing a major plant, some questioned why they voted for him. This feature takes you to the battleground state of Ohio.
Quote of the day
“The numbers are almost nothing. Because we’ve got control of this thing.
“No matter what Trump says, the headline GDP figures do not show an economy that has escaped the ravages of Covid-19,” writes Dominic Rushe. “Rather they illustrate, once again, how unfair the US economy has become – especially for poor people, minorities, women and the young.”
Video of the day
White evangelicals made up a key part of Trump’s base in 2016, and the president is counting on that demographic turning out for him in massive numbers again to secure reelection. The Guardian travelled to North Carolina to meet them.
Around the web
“One month before a purported leak of files from Hunter Biden’s laptop, a fake ‘intelligence’ document about him went viral on the right-wing internet,” reports NBC. The author of the document, alleging a vast conspiracy involving the younger Biden, was a fabricated identity.
The Washington Post has a very good breakdown explaining the paths to victory for each candidate in the electoral college. Trump’s path, despite the polling, is plausible, and would have to start (as ever) with a Florida victory.
Can astrologers give us any insight into what will happen on election day? Absolutely, positively not! But did I read this piece on The Cut on what the planets say with all the same enthusiasm that I checked my boyfriend’s compatibility on Co-Star when we first started dating? Yes, yes I did.
What the numbers say: 94%
The rise in Covid cases in the battleground state of Michigan in just the last two weeks, with new cases averaging 2,566 per day, according to the NYT. There have been 7,651 deaths in the state of nearly 10 million people since the pandemic began.
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