Live election updates: Donald Trump hints at firing Dr. Anthony Fauci; Joe Biden, Kamala Harris court Black voters in Pennsylvania, Georgia

David Jackson, Matthew Brown and Courtney Subramanian, USA TODAY
·24 min read

President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden are in the home stretch of this election. Refresh this blog all day for updates as the candidates make their final push.

At Florida rally, Donald Trump hints at firing Dr. Anthony Fauci after election

President Donald Trump hinted that he might fire Dr. Anthony Fauci after the election, telling a raucous rally in Florida that the infectious disease expert got much wrong about the coronavius pandemic.

Trump was responding to the crowd in Opa-locka, Florida, which began chanting "Fire Fauci" shortly after the president took the stage for the final of five rallies on Saturday.

"Don't tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election," Trump said in response to the crowd.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, drew renewed criticism from Trump and White House aides following a weekend interview in the Washington Post in which he criticized Trump's assertion that the nation is "rounding the turn" on COVID-19 despite a surge in cases and hospitalizations.

"We’re in for a whole lot of hurt. It’s not a good situation," Fauci told The Post. "All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly."

– John Fritze and Courtney Subramanian

Donald Trump to Georgia: I'm confident we'll win this state – but make sure you vote anyway

President Donald Trump insisted Sunday he stopped in Georgia two days before Election Day to fulfill a promise to the visit this GOP-leaning state – but he still reminded supporters they need to vote.

“I shouldn’t even be here: They said I had Georgia made,” Trump told backers at a rally in Rome. "But I said, 'I promised – we have to be here.'"

Trump added: "But by the way ... Just come out and vote."

They may need to, for Trump's sake.

While Republicans have dominated Georgia in recent presidential elections, but recent polls show a close race between the incumbent GOP president and Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

The Real Clear Politics average of recent polls gives Biden an oh-so-slight lead over Trump of 0.4 percentage points.

Trump also gave shout-outs to statewide Republican candidates facing tough fights – including Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins, GOP members who are opposing each other in a special election for a Senate seat.

"I'm stuck right in the middle," Trump said. "Whoever it is, you have two winners. You have two winners."

As for Trump himself, it's hard to see how he wins the Electoral College if he loses Georgia.

So he made the Peach State his next-to-last stop on a long campaign day that also took him to Michigan, Iowa and North Carolina.

Trump wraps up with an end-of-the-day rally in South Florida.

– Courtney Subramanian, David Jackson

Memories of 2016: Donald Trump brings back 'The Snake' at NC rally

President Donald Trump loves to relive the 2016 presidential campaign, and he brought back a favorite memory during an evening rally Sunday in Hickory, N.C.

It was the return of "The Snake."

A semi-hit for singer Al Wilson in 1968, "The Snake" tells the story of a woman who took the title character into her home, only to be bitten in return. Trump used it 2016 as a comment on the alleged ills of immigration.

Trump reprised “The Snake” two days before Election Day before mentioning the recent terror attacks in Paris. The president said he had a lot of requests to read the poem, which he has recited few times since his election four years ago.

The daughters of Oscar Brown Jr., the author of the poem that became song lyrics, had asked Trump to stop using "The Snake," calling it a simple parable that he was distorting.

“Of course it had nothing to do with prejudice or racist thoughts that he’s twisting it into,” Maggie Brown told The Washington Post in 2018.

The North Carolina event, and "The Snake," marked the midpoint of Trump's campaign day. After earlier visits in Michigan and Iowa, Trump still has rallies later Sunday night in Georgia and Florida.

– Courtney Subramanian, David Jackson

3.3 million New Yorkers have voted

NEW YORK — At least 2.2 million people have cast in-person ballots in New York ahead of Election Day, election officials announced Sunday, the state’s ninth and final day of early voting.

New Yorkers reported wait times of a half-hour or less at many polling places and posted selfies of early voting stickers to social media. The New York City Board of Elections shared a photograph of a 100-year-old voter casting a ballot and wearing a mask.

On top of the early voting numbers, more than a million voters have already returned absentee ballots, elections officials said, bringing the total number of votes cast prior to Sunday’s tally at nearly 3.3 million. That’s nearly 42% of the total vote in the 2016 presidential election.

Absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3 to be counted.

- Associated Press

President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Hickory Regional Airport in Hickory, N.C., on Nov. 1, 2020.
President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Hickory Regional Airport in Hickory, N.C., on Nov. 1, 2020.

A political feud is born: Trump spokesman Tim Murtaugh versus Lady Gaga

Here's a campaign battle you don't see every day.

Tim Murtaugh, communications director for President Donald Trump's reelection campaign, and Lady Gaga – singer, songwriter, and Oscar-nominated actress for "A Star Is Born" – mixed it up on social media Sunday over Joe Biden and fracking.

First, Murtaugh issued a statement criticizing Biden for appearing at a Pennsylvania campaign stop with "anti-fracking activist Lady Gaga," calling the appearance "a sharp stick in the eye for 600,000 Pennsylvanians who work in the fracking industry."

Gaga, who opposes fracking for oil and gas as a major contributor to climate change, responded to Murtaugh via tweet: "HEY TIM HEY @realDonaldTrump SO HAPPY IM GLAD TO BE LIVING RENT FREE in your HEAD. #BidenHarris."

Murtaugh, noting that Gaga retweeted a copy of his statement, responded by tweeting: "Thank you for spreading our statement to your 82 million followers. That’s a lot of eyeballs on your anti-fracking activism. Hope lots of folks in PA see this."

– David Jackson

Joe Biden, Kamala Harris court Black voters in Pennsylvania, Georgia

Joe Biden was spending the final days of the presidential campaign appealing to Black supporters to vote in-person during a pandemic that has disproportionally affected their communities, betting that a strong turnout will boost his chances in states that could decide the election.

Biden was in Philadelphia on Sunday, the largest city in what is emerging as the most hotly contested battleground in the closing 48 hours of the campaign. He participated in a “souls to the polls” event that is part of a nationwide effort to organize Black churchgoers to vote.

“Every single day we’re seeing race-based disparities in every aspect of this virus,” Biden said at the drive-in event, shouting to be heard over the blaring car horns. He declared that Trump’s handling of COVID-19 was “almost criminal” and that the pandemic was a “mass casualty event in the Black community.”

A crowd gathers for Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., during a campaign rally Nov. 1, 2020, in Duluth, Ga.
A crowd gathers for Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., during a campaign rally Nov. 1, 2020, in Duluth, Ga.

His running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, was in Georgia, a longtime Republican stronghold that Democrats believe could flip if Black voters show up in force. The first Black woman on a major party’s presidential ticket, she encouraged a racially diverse crowd in a rapidly growing Atlanta suburb to “honor the ancestors” by voting, invoking the memory of the late civil rights legend, longtime Rep. John Lewis.

– Associated Press

Trump trails Biden by 7 points in final Free Press Michigan poll of 2020

Two days before the most anticipated presidential election in recent history, President Donald Trump appears to need another last-minute come-from-behind surge to win Michigan with a new Free Press poll showing him 7 percentage points behind Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

The poll of 600 likely voters in Tuesday's election, done by EPIC-MRA of Lansing for the Free Press and its outstate media partners, shows Biden, the former vice president, with the support of 48% of those surveyed. That's the same as in the firm's previous three statewide polls going back through September.

Trump, meanwhile, has seen his level of support inch up from the last poll by 2 percentage points to 41%, suggesting there may be a narrowing of the race as both candidates blitz the state with campaign events and ads in an all-out effort to win.

Biden and former President Barack Obama were in Flint and Detroit on Saturday; Trump, after visiting Waterford on Friday, was headed to Washington Township in Macomb County on Sunday, and to Traverse City and Grand Rapids on Monday as part of an aggressive last day of campaigning.

– Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press

Trump brings closing message to Dubuque: 'We're very happy with Iowa'

DUBUQUE, Iowa — Republican President Donald Trump returned to Iowa Sunday, holding a rally in Dubuque just days before Election Day as he works to lock down support in a state that has been more competitive than expected.

"We had a great victory here four years ago," Trump said at the outset of his speech. "And I just notice that happened to be a poll out that came out last night that has a very, very substantial margin."

The president was referencing a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll released Oct. 31 that shows him leading his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, 48% to 41%.

"We're very happy with it, and we're very happy with Iowa," he said.

The president carried Iowa by 9.4 percentage points over Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.

– Brianne Pfannenstiel and Stephen Gruber-Miller, Des Moines Register

Poll: Biden leads Trump by 15 points in Minnesota

ST. CLOUD, Minn. – Minnesotans' deep disagreements about the condition of the state and nation are entrenched along party lines, according to a new St. Cloud State University survey, but the satisfaction is significantly down overall from recent years.

Asked who they would vote for if the presidential election were held today, SCSU's poll has former Vice President Joe Biden leading in Minnesota with 54% of the vote. President Donald Trump polled at 39%.

The survey authors noted that Biden's lead is outside the margin of error but cautioned that the poll underestimated Trump's 2016 performance in Minnesota by about 10%.

"While we expect that the estimate for Biden is likely to be very accurate, we have less confidence in the figure for Trump based on past experience and we recommend caution," the authors wrote.

– Lisa Schwarz, St. Cloud Times

NC election board expects to count 97% of vote on Election Day

The North Carolina State Board of Elections says it expects that it will have processed 97% or more of all ballots cast in the general election on Nov. 3 and that the unofficial results will be reported by the end of election night.

The announcement is in line with election watchers’ predictions about which states will release their results earliest. North Carolina is one of the states where mail-in ballots can be processed as the state receives them, easing the burden of tallying votes on Election Day.

The North Carolina board's prediction stands in contrast to warnings from election officials in Michigan and Pennsylvania, where many expect that it will take days for a winner to be determined in the presidential race, as well as hundreds of down-ballot contests.

– Matthew Brown

Texas Supreme Court rejects GOP suit on 127,000 drive-thru votes

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Supreme Court on Sunday rejected, without comment, a bid by three Republican candidates and a GOP activist to toss out almost 127,000 votes cast in drive-thru lanes in the emerging Democratic stronghold of Harris County.

The votes, however, are not yet safe to count after polls close Tuesday night.

A federal judge will hold an emergency hearing Monday morning – less than 21 hours before polls open on Election Day – to hear arguments on a similar challenge filed by the same group of Republicans, who argue that state law prohibits drive-thru voting, so every vote cast from cars during the early voting period should be tossed out as illegal.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen is set to convene the hearing at 10:30 a.m. local time Monday in Houston.

– Chuck Lindell, Austin American-Statesman

Trump's COVID-19 adviser apologizes for appearing on Russian television news channel

Dr. Scott Atlas, an adviser to President Donald Trump on COVID-19 issues, is apologizing for doing an interview on a Russian-owned television news channel.

"I recently did an interview with RT and was unaware they are a registered foreign agent," Atlas said on Twitter. "I regret doing the interview and apologize for allowing myself to be taken advantage of."

During the interview on the channel once known as Russia Today, Atlas blasted supporters of restrictions designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, saying the "lockdowns" will "go down as an epic failure of public policy by people who refused to accept they were wrong."

Atlas, a neuroradiologist whom Trump picked as his coronavirus adviser, also said, "the lockdowns are killing people but they're not really impactful."

Many observers said the comments seemed directed in part at Anthony Fauci, the administration's top expert on infectious diseases. Fauci has criticized both Atlas and Trump for downplaying the latest spike in COVID cases.

Regarding Atlas, Fauci told The Washington Post: "Everything he says – when you put them together and stitch them together – everything is geared toward the concept of ‘it doesn’t make any difference if people get infected. It’s a waste of time. Masks don’t work. Who cares?'"

Atlas did not mention Fauci in his apology tweet for his appearance on RT, billed as "the first Russian 24/7 English-language news channel which brings the Russian view on global news."

"I especially apologize to the national security community who is working hard to defend us," Atlas said.

– David Jackson

Poll: Biden up 10 nationally with 6-point average lead in battlegrounds

Former Vice President Joe Biden is polling ahead of President Donald Trump by 10 percentage points among registered voters, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday.

The poll, which has found Trump trailing Biden by 10 points or more for the past two months, is part of a final slew of surveys that find the former vice president ahead nationally and in most crucial battleground states.

Biden holds a 6-point lead in a set of 12 battleground states, 51%-45%, versus Trump, the survey found. That said, Biden’s advantage in the swing states is within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Most voters view Trump negatively going into Election Day, 49% "very negative" versus 33% who say the same of Biden. Overall, Biden has a narrow positive favorability rating among the electorate.

The poll found voters approve of Trump’s handling of the economy, 55%-41%, while they disapprove (57%-40%) of the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Fifty-five percent believe that the worst of the pandemic is yet to come.

The poll gives the former vice president more than double the vote margin that Hillary Clinton saw in the NBC/WSJ poll at this point in 2016.

Matthew Brown

RNC Chair McDaniel predicts GOP Election Day 'surge'

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel predicted Republican turnout would "surge" on Election Day on CBS News' "Face the Nation."

McDaniel said that voters who support President Donald Trump "really want to vote in person" and thus were waiting to cast their ballots on Election Day, rather than voting by-mail, or voting in-person early.

Democrats have dominated early vote counts in key swing states, while polls have found that Trump leads among voters who intend to vote in-person on Election Day.

Republican voters "are not completely trusting of the mail-in-ballot system” and “really want to make sure their vote is counted,” according to McDaniel. Trump and other Republican leaders have frequently cast doubts on the security of the mail-in-voting, despite there being no evidence to support the claims.

McDaniel also noted that Republicans have built a larger on-the-ground voter mobilization operation than Democrats in battleground states this year.

Historically, Democrats have built larger grassroots voter mobilization operations than Republicans. But the coronavirus pandemic led many progressive groups to stop in-person canvassing, while conservative organizations have invested historic amounts in mobilizing their ground game.

– Matthew Brown

Trump denounces the cold, wind and rain in Michigan

Michigan in November can be very unpleasant, as President Donald Trump re-discovered Sunday while kicking off a daylong round of rallies in five battleground states.

"That wind is pouring in as I'm talking ... (it) is pouring up the mouth," Trump said in one of many comments about the weather on a 39-degree day in Washington Township, Michigan.

Trump repeatedly mentioned the cold while making his standard campaign attacks on Joe Biden and the Democrats, as well as defenses of his administration's policies. He spoke for more than an hour.

The Michigan rally began a long campaign day that includes stops in Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Turning to his left at one point, Trump said, "I have to look this way so I can breathe... This is a beauty. This is a hell of a day."

The bad weather would discourage refugees from settling in Michigan, Trump said later, claiming some would say, "I want to go back immediately to Syria."

Trump, who also faces chilly weather later Sunday in Dubuque, Iowa, braced for the weather after exiting Air Force One after it landed in the cold rain in Michigan.

Gripping an umbrella, Trump said, "It’s a little tough out here."

– Courtney Subramanian and David Jackson

Midwestern governors urge caution around election, pandemic

A trio of Midwestern Democratic governors on Sunday criticized efforts to limit or distort the vote-counting process during a panel on CNN’s "State of the Union."

Govs. Tony Evers, D-Wis., Gretchen Whitmer, D-Mich. and Tom Wolf, D-Pa., have been variously mired in skirmishes over voting with state Republicans and President Donald Trump.

"The volume of votes that are coming in is like nothing we’ve ever seen before and it is going to take time to count,” Whitmer cautioned. "It’s more important that we get a count that’s accurate than a count that is fast."

The battles over voting have frequently ended up in court during a year when the coronavirus pandemic has made some wary of voting in-person, yet voter turnout is expected to reach historic levels.

"The Supreme Court has given Pennsylvania three days to allow ballots to come in after Election Day but the message to Pennsylvanians, is if you're voting by mail – if you're voting with an absentee ballot, get it in by election night," said Wolf.

The governors also expressed concern about the president’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic. Trump has repeatedly downplayed the virus, claiming that “we’re making that beautiful turn, and the vaccines are coming” even as the country sees record numbers of new daily cases.

Midwestern states like Michigan and Wisconsin have been especially hit by the new spike.

"Honest to God, it’s just breathtaking. We’re in a very difficult situation here. We should be pulling together," Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said. "He believes that it's over. It ain’t over."

– Matthew Brown

Two Polls show Biden with slight edge in Pennsylvania, split on Florida

Democratic nominee Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump in the battleground state of Pennsylvania , according to ABC News/Washington Post and New York Times/Siena College polls released Sunday. But the polls split on who had the lead in Florida, another state both sides view as key to victory.

The ABC News/Washington Post poll found Biden up seven points among likely voters in Pennsylvania at 51%-44%. The New York Times/Siena College poll similarly showed the former vice president up six points among the same group in the state, at 49%-43%.

In Florida, the ABC/Post poll found Trump up by 2 points in the state (50%-48%) while the Times/Siena survey has Biden up by 3 points in the Sunshine State (47%-44%).

Neither polls have significantly shifted from their previous findings over the past two months; both still show tight races that are within their margin of error.

Most analysts see Florida and Pennsylvania as the most critical swing states in either candidates’ potential path to the White House.

Trump, who narrowly won both states in 2016, is relying on a higher level of turnout from working-class whites and marginal gains among minority voters, especially Latinos in Florida, to deliver the states to him again.

Biden and Democrats, meanwhile, see winning back both states as key to victory on election day, with a decisive victory in either significantly bolstering Biden’s odds for the presidency.

– Matthew Brown

Trump campaign adviser signals possible legal battle to stop counting mail-in ballots

President Donald Trump has repeatedly insisted that all the votes be counted on Election Day, even though that has never before been the standard – and one of his top campaign aides went on television Sunday to explain a possible reason why: potential Trump legal challenges designed to somehow stop the counting of mail-in ballots after Tuesday, especially if the contest with Democratic challenger Joe Biden is close.

"If you speak with many smart Democrats, they believe President Trump will be ahead on Election Night, probably getting 280 (electoral votes) ...," campaign senior adviser Jason Miller said on ABC News' "This Week."

"And then," he added, "they’re going to try to steal it back after the election."

Actually, states will be counting record numbers of mail-in ballots in the days after Tuesday.

Election analysts said states routinely count mail-in ballots after Election Day.

The difference this year: there will be millions more ballots to count because so many Americans voted by mail out of concern about going to polling places in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Democrats said Trump's team will try to block those votes because they know they cannot survive a free and fair count. They also have lawyers at the ready to contest any of Trump's legal moves.

There's also the prospect that Trump will simply try to declare victory on Tuesday night, seeking to muddy the perception of vote counting after Election Day.

Biden senior campaign adviser Anita Dunn, also appearing on ABC, said, "we’re going to make sure all the votes get counted."

She added the Trump campaign "thinks they have to suppress votes in order to win."

Miller did not mention any potential Trump lawsuits in his ABC interview, but said the Democrats might take legal action: "So no matter what they try to do, what kind of hijinks or lawsuits or whatever kind of nonsense they try to pull off, we’re still going to have enough electoral votes to get President Trump re-elected."

Republicans have already sued in Texas, seeking to void more than 100,000 ballots by claiming Houston officials unlawfully allowed drive-through voting.

– David Jackson

Fauci praises Biden, drawing White House ire in final countdown to Election Day

Donald Trump's White House is again attacking infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci – and vice-versa – over the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this time just two days before Election Day.

After Fauci disputed Trump's frequent assertion that the nation is "rounding the turn" on defeating COVID-19 – the nation is experiencing another surge – the White House on Sunday accused Fauci of inserting himself into the election.

"It’s unacceptable and breaking with all norms for Dr. Fauci, a senior member of the President’s Coronavirus Taskforce and someone who has praised President Trump’s actions throughout this pandemic, to choose three days before an election to play politics," White House spokesman Judd Deere said.

Don't be surprised if Trump weighs in as well Sunday. He has often disparaged Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Trump's claims that the nation is "rounding the turn" on COVID-19 is a staple of his campaign stump speech, and drew criticism from Fauci in a weekend interview in The Washington Post.

"We’re in for a whole lot of hurt. It’s not a good situation," Fauci told The Post. "All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly."

Fauci also complimented Joe Biden, drawing more ire from the White House.

Deere said Fauci should push for changes internally, but instead chose "to criticize the President in the media and make his political leanings known by praising the President’s opponent – exactly what the American people have come to expect from The Swamp."

– David Jackson

TIMELINE: Trump vs. Fauci

Donald Trump's Sunday-before-the-election marathon: Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida

President Donald Trump began a campaign marathon Sunday that will take him to five must-win states just 48 hours before Election Day: Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Trump probably needs to win all five states on his schedule to top Democrat Joe Biden in the Electoral College, and polls show tight races with Biden in each of them.

The trip looks defensive in nature: Trump won all five states in 2016.

Leaving the White House shortly after 8:30 a.m., Trump winds up in Miami after midnight.

In between, there are stops in Washington, Michigan; Dubuque, Iowa; Hickory, North Carolina; Rome, Georgia, and Opa-locka, Florida (near Miami).

Trump is scheduled to spend the night at his Doral golf resort in Miami, but isn't supposed to get there until 12:45 a.m. Monday – assuming he runs on schedule, which seems like a long-shot.

Trump has another long day on Monday, revisiting two states – North Carolina, Michigan – and also making stops in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

– David Jackson and Courtney Subramaniann

Fact check: What's the taxpayer burden for Trump's golf?

Voting updates

  • More than 92 million Americans have voted early this year, nearly 67% of the total who turned out in 2016, according to the U.S. Elections Project.

  • Trump has taken over the lead in Iowa as Biden has faded, according to a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows just days before Election Day. Trump now leads 48% to 41%. In September's Iowa Poll, the candidates were tied at 47% to 47%.

  • A caravan of vehicles displaying Trump campaign flags and signs swarmed a Biden campaign bus between San Antonio and Austin on Friday afternoon, leading the Democrats on board to call 911 and cancel the Austin close of their “Battle for the Soul of the Nation” tour.

  • Disinformation tactics used to mislead Michigan voters are continuing and evolving just days before the presidential election.

Where are the candidates?

President Donald Trump will cover a lot of the map on Sunday with planned visits to Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Vice President Mike Pence will attend a church service with Rev. Franklin Graham in Boone, North Carolina. It will be Pence's second straight day in the state.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden will remain focused on Pennsylvania with a stop in Philadelphia. And vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will visit Georgia and North Carolina.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump hints at firing Fauci; Biden courts Black turnout: updates