Latest on 2020 election and SCOTUS battle

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 8:12 p.m. ET, September 23, 2020
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11:18 a.m. ET, September 23, 2020

Obama urges Americans to text him voting plans

From CNN’s Brian Fung

Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the opening of the Bits & Pretzels meetup on September 29, 2019 in Munich, Germany.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the opening of the Bits & Pretzels meetup on September 29, 2019 in Munich, Germany. Hannes Magerstaedt/Getty Images

President Barack Obama on Wednesday urged Americans to text him with their plans to vote in the upcoming election. 

In a tweet, Obama listed a phone number and said: "All right, let's try something new. If you’re in the United States, send me a text at 773-365-9687 — I want to hear how you're doing, what's on your mind, and how you're planning on voting this year. I'll be in touch from time to time to share what's on my mind, too.”

Sending a text message to the phone number results in an automated response from Obama, as well as a hyperlink to Community, a text message-based social network.

"Hey! It's Barack,” the response says. "Click the link to sign up so I can respond directly to you. I won't be able to get to everything, but I'll be in touch to share what's on my mind and I want to hear from you, too. Let's do this."

Fast Company reported Wednesday that Obama and his team are using Community to energize voters — part of a wider effort to reach Americans on as many platforms as possible. 

Community’s website lists celebrities such as Jared Leto and Alyssa Milano as verified users. 

See Obama's tweet:

 

10:02 a.m. ET, September 23, 2020

Joe Biden to Steve Harvey: "The African American people can determine this election"

From CNN’s Arlette Saenz and Sarah Mucha 

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during a roundtable event at Hillsborough Community College on September 15 in Tampa, Florida.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during a roundtable event at Hillsborough Community College on September 15 in Tampa, Florida. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden joined The Steve Harvey Morning Show Wednesday for a wide-ranging interview touching on the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the vacancy in the Supreme Court, his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, and his plan for Black Americans. 

Biden, who made a direct plea to Republican senators to listen to their conscience in remarks Sunday, said that Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski "had the guts" to announce that the nomination of Ginsburg's replacement should wait until the election is over. 

"There's two people who have announced, who had the guts to announce that they will wait for election is over and shouldn’t vote then, and that is the Senator from Alaska and the Senator from Maine and both women," Biden said. "But there's a couple of others, if two others stand up and do the right thing, then it’ll be put off until the election." 

He said that rushing a nomination is a "fundamental violation of the constitutional principal." Asked by Harvey if it is "legal" for the President to appoint someone, Biden replied that Trump can legally appoint someone ("it's his right, technically"), but added that "it’s a violation of the constitutional – under the underlying rationale – he can name somebody he wants to be the nominee but all those Republicans including the Majority Leader McConnell from Kentucky said that you shouldn't appoint anybody in an election year."

On his and Sen. Harris' plan for Black Americans, Biden reiterated the crux of his plan, which is the importance of putting Black men and women in a position where they are able to accumulate wealth. "Where they are in a position where they can begin to actually have the place in the community where as a people across the board, they grow the middle class," he said.

Biden praised Harris as his running mate and said that she would be ready to assume the presidency if anything were to happen to him. 

"She is so good. She is so good. She’s so damn bright and knowledgeable. I mean she’s ready to be president on day one if I – if somebody pushed me off a roof or something," he said. 

Asked how to combat voter suppression, Biden encouraged listeners to visit "iwillvote.com" as a resource and warned that the administration will do "everything in their power" to keep people from voting, "but they're not going to be stopped." 

"The top line is: people in this country are going to be heard, no matter how much the President tries to stop them," Biden said. "The African American people can determine this election."

9:36 a.m. ET, September 23, 2020

CNN Election 101 podcast: What you need to know about voting by mail

From CNN's Ashley Lusk

There’s nothing new about voting by mail. Americans have been doing it since the Civil War, and many states primarily vote by mail to this day.

But this year, Covid-19 is pushing many states to expand those efforts. And with that expansion has come confusion about how the process works.

Today on CNN's Election 101 podcast, we’re answering all your questions about voting by mail with Tammy Patrick, a senior advisor to the elections team at the Democracy Fund.

Listen here.

9:30 a.m. ET, September 23, 2020

Cindy McCain says she hopes to convince "suburban women who are kind of on the fence" to vote for Biden

From CNN’s Arlette Saenz, Sarah Mucha and Caroline Kenny

Cindy McCain, wife of the late U.S. Senator John McCain, stands on the sidelines before a game at State Farm Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. 
Cindy McCain, wife of the late U.S. Senator John McCain, stands on the sidelines before a game at State Farm Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona.  Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Cindy McCain joined all three morning shows Wednesday to discuss her endorsement of Joe Biden, leaning heavily into his character and empathy in her pitch for the Democratic candidate. McCain said that she is hoping to reach suburban women who may be on the fence with her voice. 

In an interview on NBC’s Today Show, McCain said his empathy played a key factor in her decision to support the Democratic presidential nominee.

“I want to feel like my president cares about me and cares about my country and Joe Biden does,” she said, later adding “Joe has great empathy for people in this country.” 

McCain, who narrated a video about her husband and Biden’s friendship for the DNC, said the Atlantic report on President Trump’s denigrating comments about veterans and those killed in battle was “pretty much” the last straw for her when making the decision to endorse.

“It’s a combination of things, but I do believe that our men and women that served in the military are not losers and certainly the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice are not losers,” she said. “I think that respect for the men and women who serve us and served this nation and protect us it’s important that we respect and care for them.”

Asked if she’s disappointed in Lindsey Graham and other Republicans in their ardent support of Trump, she said “No. Lindsey is an old and very dear friend and I will always love him and he’s like a member of my family. Republicans that are – that believe and are doing what they’re doing, it’s certainly their prerogative to do so, I just believe things should be different.” 

McCain said she hopes her husband is “happy with what I’m doing and believes that I’ve done the right thing.”

She told ABC's Good Morning America that she intends to be actively campaigning. "Yes, yes, of course. I'm hoping that I can convince suburban women who are kind of on the fence about things to come with me on this and step by step out of their comfort zone and join Team Biden," she said. 

McCain, a lifelong Republican, said on ABC that while she and Biden disagree on some issues, that "it's ok to disagree, and you can do it and be amenable and kind to each other," likening it to the friendship Biden had with her late husband.

Watch:

9:17 a.m. ET, September 23, 2020

"The virus doesn’t care about your politics," US Surgeon General says about packed Trump rally

From CNN's Andrea Diaz

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Pittsburgh International Airport in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, on September 22.
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Pittsburgh International Airport in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, on September 22. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

During a Good Morning America interview on Wednesday, US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams advised the public to wear masks, in response to being asked about President Trump's packed rally last night. 

"I've got Democrats who want me to condemn people who are out at a presidential rally. I've got Republicans who want me to condemn people who are going to vigils. And at the end of the day, the virus doesn't care about your politics," Adams said. "It doesn't care what you're going out for. It only cares whether or not you're following public health measures. So, what I would say to everyone, politics aside: Wear a mask."

When asked why Americans are increasingly skeptical of a coronavirus vaccine, Adams said it’s because the situation has become politicized.

"I think it's become politicized. And it's important for people to understand we have a process. We have a data safety monitoring board. We have institutional review boards. We have independent people who are going to look at safety and efficacy before it ever gets to the point of approval or authorization. And I will be in line to get that vaccine when they tell me I can, and when it's safe and it's effective," Adams said.

9:13 a.m. ET, September 23, 2020

Here's why Florida will be so pivotal again in the 2020 election

Analysis from CNN's Harry Enten

Residents of The Villages, Florida, take part in a golf cart parade on August 21 to celebrate the nomination of Joe Biden for Democratic presidential candidate and Kamala Harris for vice president.
Residents of The Villages, Florida, take part in a golf cart parade on August 21 to celebrate the nomination of Joe Biden for Democratic presidential candidate and Kamala Harris for vice president. Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

We're now less than 45 days until the election, so it shouldn't surprise you that we're talking about the state of Florida. The Sunshine State has arguably been the swingiest of the swing states over the last 25 years.

This year, however, Florida looks to take on added importance. The outcome in Florida could help determine whether Election Night turns into Election Week or even potentially Election Month.

A record number of voters are expected to vote by absentee or mail this year. About half of Democratic voters nationwide say they'll be voting by mail, up from about a quarter in 2016. Fewer than 25% of Republicans say they'll cast a ballot by mail.

This wide gap is no doubt driven in part by President Donald Trump's largely false rhetoric about voting by mail.

In Florida, this gap in voting style won't make much of a difference in terms of when we know the winner. All ballots, with just a few exceptions, must be received at poll closing time by the county boards of elections. Those ballots are usually counted before those cast on Election Day.

The state also has a long history of voting by mail. About 30% of the vote in 2016 was cast by mail.

As long as the vote is not exceedingly tight in Florida, we'll have a good indication of who has won the Sunshine State on Election Night.

If we know who has won in Florida, we'll have a good idea of what to expect from the rest of the country. At this point, former Vice President Joe Biden holds a slim polling lead there.

As I've noted before, Florida has voted with the winner in every election since 1996 and all but two since 1924. In both those cases, it was Democrats who took the presidency without Florida.

This year, it's pretty clear that Trump has very few paths to the White House without winning Florida. It's possible, but it isn't really realistic.

Read the full analysis here.

9:06 a.m. ET, September 23, 2020

White House and Senate Judiciary target the week of Oct. 12 for a SCOTUS nominee confirmation hearing

From CNN's Phil Mattingly, Ariane de Vogue and Manu Raju

Multiple sources familiar tell CNN that both the White House and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham are targeting the week of Oct. 12 for the nominee’s confirmation hearing.

That would allow for a confirmation vote by Oct. 29, hitting a pre-election timeline that the White House and congressional Republicans are increasingly coalescing behind. 

Plans have not been finalized and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not laid out an explicit timeline to this point. But sources say he’s involved in the conversations and hasn’t objected to the prospect of a pre-election conformation. 

The Supreme Court term starts on Oct. 5 and some big cases are scheduled for the fall, including oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act on Nov. 10. 

9:12 a.m. ET, September 23, 2020

The first presidential debate is next week. Here's what we know about the event so far.

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

Reuters, Gabriella Demczuk for CNN
Reuters, Gabriella Demczuk for CNN

The first presidential debate between Joe Biden and President Trump will be moderated by Fox News' Chris Wallace and is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland.

Wallace selected the following topics for the first debate, according to the Commission on Presidential Debate:

  • "The Trump and Biden Records"
  • "The Supreme Court," "Covid-19"
  • "The Economy," "Race and Violence in our Cities"
  • "The Integrity of the Election"

Each segment will last about 15 minutes, and the candidates will have two minutes to respond after the moderator opens each segment with a question.

Wallace will then use the rest of the time in the segment to facilitate further discussion on the topic, according to the commission.

Read more about the scheduled debates here.