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CNN  — 

There are just 9 days until the 2020 election! Every Sunday, I outline the 5 BIG storylines you need to know to understand the upcoming week on the campaign trail. And they’re ranked – so the No. 1 story is the most important of the coming week.

5. An early vote avalanche:

As of Sunday evening, more than 58.7 million people had cast early votes whether in person or by mail.

In 2016, around 58.3 million pre-election ballots were cast, including ballots in the three vote-by-mail states that year, and we are still nine days away from the November 3 general election.

In some potential swing states, the early vote has already blown past its 2016 totals. Four years ago, 4.3 million early votes were cast in Texas. As of Sunday, more than 7.1 million early votes were already in. In 2016, 1.1 million people votes early in Michigan. Through Sunday, more than 2 million Michiganders had cast votes early.

(Note: This voting information comes from CNN, Edison Research and Catalist – a data company that provides data, analytics and other services to Democrats, academics and non-profit issue advocacy organizations.)

Some of these massive increases are explained by a series of state law changes allowing for more voting by mail due to fears about Covid-19. But it is at least partly due as well to heightened interest in this election – as poll after poll has shown.

The real question, which is very tough to answer, is whether the early vote in 2020 will favor Democrats the way early voting has in the past. If it does, former Vice President Joe Biden will have a massive vote lead before November 3 even arrives.

4. Battleground Texas?:

For years – decades, really – Democrats have insisted that the demographic changes in Texas (more Hispanics, booming suburbs) would make the state competitive for them. And for years they came up short.

Things may be different in 2020. Biden took 48% to 45% for President Donald Trump in a new Texas poll conducted for The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler released Sunday.

That poll is generally in keeping with the broader polling data that suggests the race is tight; Trump has a 2.6 percentage point lead in the Real Clear Politics polling average.

And it’s clear that the Biden campaign, at least, believes Texas is winnable. Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will be in Texas on Friday, the campaign announced Sunday. 

To spend some of Harris’ precious time – particularly this close to the actual election – on a trip to Texas means that Biden’s campaign has their own data that provides evidence that a path to victory does exist.

If Biden-Harris do win Texas, the race is effectively over. Trump cannot sustain the loss of Texas’ 38 electoral votes and still hope to get to 270. It would also be historic; the last Democratic presidential nominee to win the Lone Star State was Jimmy Carter in 1976.

3. Republicans cement their judicial legacy:

On Monday afternoon, Judge Amy Coney Barrett is expected to be confirmed by the GOP Senate majority – the third justice nominated by Donald Trump and confirmed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) in the last four years.

On Sunday, Barrett cleared her final procedural hurdle when 51 Republicans voted to block a filibuster against a final vote. (Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were the only two Republicans to cross party lines on the vote; California Sen. Kamala Harris did not vote, as she was campaigning in Michigan.)

Murkowski announced over the weekend that she plans to vote to confirm Barrett to the court, however, meaning that McConnell should have the margin he needs — at least 50 votes – to place Barrett on the bench beside fellow Trump appointees Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.

“A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election,” said McConnell on Sunday after the Barrett vote. “They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

He’s right. And win or lose, what McConnell and Trump will have done on the Supreme Court (and the lower courts) will be both of their lasting legacy.

2. Trump throws the Senate under the bus:

“I think the Senate is tough actually. The Senate is very tough.” That’s President Trump throwing the Republican Senate majority under the bus in a speech to donors in Nashville on Thursday, according to The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey. 

Trump’s argument is that the Senate is likely lost because he won’t support some Senators due to their lack of allegiance to him. “I can’t help some of them,” he told his financial supporters. “I don’t want to help some of them.”

That analysis is wrong. Not on the Senate being in jeopardy, which it is. But on the why. The problem for many of these Senate Republicans – Martha McSally in Arizona, Cory Gardner in Colorado, Susan Collins in Maine, Thom Tillis in North Carolina – is too much Trump. He is likely to lose three or even four of these states at the top of the ticket, making it very hard, if not impossible, for the GOP incumbents to win.

Regardless of Trump’s faulty analysis, the point – ahem – is the same: Headlines about how even the President doesn’t think his party can hold their majority.

GOP Senate majority besieged on multiple fronts,” said a Sunday piece in Politico. “GOP sees falling Trump stock as growing threat to Senate majority,” read The Hill. 

Perception tends to make reality – or at least momentum – at this late stage of the campaign. And Trump’s comments are, in that regard, incredibly unhelpful.

1. The White House’s own Covid-19 crisis:

On Sunday, Trump told a campaign crowd in New Hampshire that “we’re rounding the turn” in the fight against coronavirus.

Also on Sunday at the White House, five cases of coronavirus among Vice President Mike Pence’s aides were reported – including his chief of staff Marc Short.

And that is, in very simple terms, Trump’s problem – with a little over a week left in this election. Every time the President tries to insist that the coronavirus is disappearing or even getting better, there’s evidence within his own walls that it’s, well, not.

In early October, Trump’s claims that the virus was improving in the United States was undermined by an outbreak at the White House that sickened the President himself – and forced him to be hospitalized.

This latest outbreak, which affects a number of people in close contact with Pence, is a bookend at the end of October to that incident at the start of the month. While Pence is not quarantining – his office has declared him an “essential worker” – the outbreak in his inner circle ensures that the virus will, again, beat Trump’s attempts to dismiss it.

Well, that and the fact that Friday and Saturday were the highest days – in terms of number of cases – in the history of the virus in the United States.

And this quote from White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday: “We are not going to control the pandemic.”

So, yeah. Trump and his “allies” (not to mention the data) keep complicating any chance the President has from running away from this virus.