The Spin: Trump vs. Obama in closing days of election | Pritzker tightens restrictions on Chicago amid COVID-19 surge | More than 2 million early votes cast in Illinois

Lisa Donovan, Chicago Tribune
·8 min read

A short time ago, Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered new COVID-19-related restrictions for Chicago, prohibiting indoor dining and bar service and limiting gatherings to 25 as of Friday.

It follows similar moves Downstate and in the suburbs, leaving businesses already reeling from earlier shutdown orders and elected leaders on both sides of the aisle pushing back over the orders.

In the final seven days of a long election season, a closing battle is taking shape between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s top surrogate — former President Barack Obama.

Obama ramped up the rhetoric today in the key battleground state of Florida, where he said at an outdoor drive-in rally that Trump is “jealous of COVID’s media coverage” — a reference to the president complaining that journalists are focused on the pandemic. Trump fired back at Obama on Twitter, writing in part, “Now @FoxNews is playing Obama’s no crowd, fake speech for Biden, a man he could barely endorse because he couldn’t believe he won.”

And just over 2 million Illinoisans have voted early either in person or by mail, a state election official tells The Spin. That exceeds the 1.9 million early ballots cast in the run-up to November 2016 election. We won’t know until Election Day whether voter participation is up or if more people opted to avoid crowds and vote early or by mail.

Welcome to The Spin.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker reimposes COVID-19 restrictions on Chicago

Chicago is just the latest in a string of suburban and downstate Illinois communities to see restrictions reimposed as COVID-19 cases surge. The governor said during a news conference today that he talked with Mayor Lightfoot about the restrictions as cases rise. Read the latest, including data, from the Tribune’s Dan Petrella, Jamie Munks and Gregory Pratt here.

Experts predicted the U.S. would see a winter spike, but this came early. Chicago’s top public health official talked about the rising cases in Chicago and the steep toll it could take on people’s health, along with the economy.

“This is going to be a difficult winter for everybody,” Arwady said, telling those who have the means to support local businesses to consider making an extra effort to do so.

RELATED: Chicago adds Florida to its travel quarantine order; Michigan could be next in line - The Tribune’s Gregory Pratt has the story.

Suburban mayors vs. Pritzker on bar, restaurant closings: Starting tomorrow, suburban Cook County will be living under stricter measures announced by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and intended to slow the latest COVID-19 surge. But it isn’t just restaurateurs bearing the brunt of those orders pushing back. So, too, are elected leaders in those communities, including some who have said that rather than shutting down all restaurants, simply ticket those not adhering to mask and social distancing rules. Read more here.

Opening of Navy Pier hotel is postponed, the latest blow to Chicago’s reeling hotel market: The Tribune’s Blair Kamin has the details here.

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Trump vs. Obama in closing week of election

Biden is leading Trump right now, according to forecasting models at “Sabato’s Crystal Ball” at University of Virginia’s Institute of Politics. But Kyle Kondik, a top analyst there, says nothing’s set in stone until the final votes are counted.

That said, Kondik tells The Spin, “I’d rather be Biden than Trump right now.”

What to expect: Biden will have a full campaign schedule, but it’s Obama who may end up being the biggest voice on the campaign trail, says Alvin Tillery, a Northwestern University professor and expert in presidential politics. The aim is to keep gaffes on Biden’s part at a minimum, he said.

“I don’t think there’s any better closer in current U.S. politics than Barack Obama,” Tillery says of one of nation’s most popular Democrats. He also said he thinks Trump is expected to continue pushing the theme of potential voter fraud in order to make a case for a possible court challenge.

That means Trump vs. Obama, who’s stepped up appearances on the campaign trail in the last week, could grow more heated, with the two recently trading insults over leadership.

That’s especially true considering Obama’s key talking points on the campaign trail: He calls Trump a failed leader and says Democrats need to vote for Biden.

Kondik said Obama, who cut his political teeth in Chicago, may be an appealing figure to Democrats who see him stumping for Biden, but he doesn’t think the former president will convert Republican voters or otherwise change the election’s course.

“I don’t think surrogates on either side are that important or that impactful,” Kondik said.

Kondik says his team is keeping a close eye on three congressional races in Illinois, including the Downstate 13th District race pitting incumbent GOP U.S. Rep Rodney Davis against Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan; she narrowly lost to him in 2018. Kondik says Davis could pull off a victory, but if Democrats turn out in big numbers, they may not only hand Londrigan a win, but Biden too.

Yet another Downstate race is on the radar: incumbent U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, the Democrat from Moline and chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s House campaign arm, who is being challenged by Republican Esther Joy King, a lawyer and Army Reserve officer from East Moline. Bustos is favored to win in the 17th Congressional District, but the race could be tight, he said.

Another one Kondik is closely watching is the face-off between first-term U.S. Rep Lauren Underwood, a Democrat, and Republican state Sen. Jim Oberweis in the west suburban and exurban 17th Congressional District.

New Florida poll shows Biden with 50% and Trump at 48%: Track the race for president in key battleground states: Read the Tribune story here.

Column: This election isn’t just about Donald Trump and Congress. Pay attention to those judges on the ballot too. Tribune columnist Dahleen Glanton weighs in here.

Chicago election officials still trying to find homes for 7 precincts where voters can cast their ballots: The Tribune’s Kelli Smith has the details here.

Early voting in Illinois and how it stacks up to overall voting in past presidential elections

Much has been made about the early voting and vote-by-mail numbers nationwide. In Illinois, that number stands at 2.4 million.

The average turnout for presidential elections from 1976-2016 was 73%, said Matt Dietrich with the Illinois State Board of Elections. Turnout in 2016 was just under 71%.

“If we maintain the 40-year average, we can expect turnout between and 70-75%, which would be about 6 million votes,” he wrote in an email.

He says the more than 2 million votes cast is 33% of a typical presidential election vote total to date. But keep in mind that it could soar, with the final week of early voting typically seeing a surge of voters. Also, there are 1.2 million unreturned vote-by-mail ballots, he says.

“The question is whether our increase in voting by mail and early voting will be offset by a decline in voters on Election Day,” Dietrich notes. Stay tuned.

“Will County Republicans are raising questions about how mail-in ballots are being counted, claiming some envelopes containing ballots were delivered open and that poll watchers aren’t being given proper notice of when such ballots are processed each day,” Alicia Fabbre writes in the Daily Southtown.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s first votes on Supreme Court could include Trump’s taxes, absentee ballot counting

Amy Coney Barrett, who had served on the federal appellate court based in Chicago, was formally sworn in last night as the Supreme Court’s ninth justice, and her first votes on the nation’s highest court could include two big topics affecting President Trump, who appointed her, The Associated Press writes.

The court is weighing a plea from Trump to prevent the Manhattan district attorney from acquiring his tax returns. It is also considering appeals from the Trump campaign and Republicans to shorten the deadline for receiving and counting absentee ballots in the battleground states of North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

It’s not certain Barrett will take part in any of these issues, but she will make that call.

The Senate confirmed Barrett yesterday in a 52-48 virtual party line vote in the Republican-controlled chamber. Two of those “no” votes came from Illinois Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth.

The Onion takes aim at Lightfoot’s budget proposal

The satirical online publication managed to poke fun at the the mayor’s biggest headache of the day: Closing a 1.2 billion budget gap.

The story says that to erase the budget deficit the Chicago Transit Authority would be abolished and replaced with with teams of police officers who will run train stations and bus stops. The spoof even quotes the mayor as saying: “Our city coffers will also benefit from a reduction in fare evasion, because anytime someone jumps a turnstile, we’ll have 200 to 300 cops waiting right there to deal with them.” Read the full piece here.

Thanks for reading The Spin, the Tribune’s politics newsletter. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox weekday afternoons. Have a tip? Email host Lisa Donovan at ldonovan@chicagotribune.com.

Twitter @byldonovan

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