2020 Election Live Updates: "If Florida goes blue, it's over," Biden says as he and Trump campaign in Florida

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Biden-Harris "fanned the flames" vs. "It's time to unite the country": How the two campaign's ads differ

In an ad that first aired Tuesday in Grand Rapids, Michigan, flames light up the TV screen, ominous music plays, and a narrator states, "While America's cities burned, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris fanned the flames." The 30-second spot is part of President Trump's final messaging push before Election Day that Mr. Trump will keep Americans safe. 

 The ad differs from the TV spots first aired this week by the Biden campaign. "I believe it's time to unite the country, to come together as a nation," Joe Biden says in a direct-to-camera appeal, reprising common lines from his campaign trail stump speech. In the video testimonial, images of people hugging, holding hands and voting flash across the screen. 

While both ads aired for the first time with less than a week to go before Election Day, they illustrate the diverging approaches of two campaigns in the final months of the campaign season. Since early September, Biden has outspent Mr. Trump by more than $200 million for television advertising, but data shows that's not the only major difference.

Read more here.

Sarah Ewall-Wice and Nicole Sganga 


Walmart pulls guns and ammo from store displays, citing potential "civil unrest"

Walmart on Thursday said it has pulled guns and ammunition from the sales floors of its U.S. stores as it seeks to keep firearms from being stolen should social unrest erupt.

"We have seen some isolated civil unrest, and as we have done on several occasions over the last few years, we have moved our firearms and ammunition off the sales floor as a precaution for the safety of our associates and customers," a Walmart spokesperson said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch. "These items do remain available for purchase by customers."

The company in June removed firearms and ammunition from stores after George Floyd's killing by police when several of its stores were damaged.

Read more here.


Supreme Court referees spate of election battles: What their decisions say about how elections are regulated

The coronavirus pandemic and its impact on voting in the primaries and general election have made the Supreme Court the referee in a spate of legal battles between state election officials and the political parties and campaigns, with Republicans and Democrats alike turning to the court for last-minute relief as Election Day ticks closer.

Since April, as states altered their election procedures in response to the pandemic, giving rise to court challenges, the justices have responded to at least a dozen disputes over efforts to ease voting rules in states from coast to coast. And in the last two weeks alone, the Supreme Court issued a head-spinning number of orders in challenges to extended deadlines for officials to receive and count mail-in ballots in three battleground states: North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

In most instances where emergency action has been sought, the Supreme Court's conservative members have spurned efforts by lower courts to ease election rules in the lead-up to November 3, arguing state election officials and legislatures have the authority to regulate elections, not federal judges. By contrast, the court's liberal justices, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, before her death in September, have favored loosening rules for voting and the administration of elections.

Read more about the states and election disputes that ended up before the justices here.


"I think our future is bright": Common encourages young people to exercise their right to vote

In an interview on CBSN Thursday, rapper and voting rights activist Common said he has been doing his part to educate communities about the election process.

"I was doing my best to communicate why we are a part of this and why this is necessary, and how this could actually change our lives and our family members' lives and our communities and actually create the system and the country that we're all saying we want, and now I think voting is the action," he said.

Read the full interview here or watch it in the player below: 


At least 2 Pennsylvania counties won't count mail ballots until after Election Day

Americans may have to wait beyond election night to find out who won Pennsylvania, since at least two counties in the state will not begin counting mail-in ballots until the day after the election. 

Election officials in Cumberland and Butler Counties, both of which are heavily Republican, say their staffs are simply too small to tally mail ballots while at the same time running Election Day operations. 

Under state law, it's legal for these counties to wait. They're allowed to open mail-in ballot envelopes, check signatures and scan ballots — a process known as "pre-canvassing" — on the morning of Election Day, but they must wait until polls close at 8 p.m. to report results. 

The decisions from Butler and Cumberland come as the nation adjusts its expectations on when it will know who won Pennsylvania, a state worth 20 electoral votes. In the state's primary, the first election in Pennsylvania that allowed any voter to vote by mail, some counties took two full weeks to tally their results. As a result, candidates in 10 races who were winning on primary day ended up losing after the votes were finally counted. 

Read more here.


Trump campaign postpones North Carolina rally

After rallying voters in Tampa, Mr. Trump was scheduled to head to Fayetteville, North Carolina, for an outdoor rally in the Tar Heel State this evening. But the Trump campaign said the event is delayed until Monday "because of a wind advisory issued with gusts reaching 50 miles per hour and other weather conditions."

After slamming into the Gulf Coast as a Category 2 hurricane on Wednesday, now-Tropical Storm Zeta is moving through the mid-Atlantic, bringing rainy weather and winds.

Mr. Trump is still scheduled to meet with troops at Fort Bragg.


Biden: "If Florida goes blue, it's over"

Biden said in a campaign appearance in Florida that the state's 29 electoral votes could be critical to his victory.

"If Florida goes blue, it's over. It's over!" Biden said at a drive-in rally in Broward County. Both Biden and Mr. Trump are making appearances in the Sunshine State with the election only days away.

Biden also tried to appeal to Florida's large Cuban population. He called for a "new Cuba policy" and said Mr. Trump is the "worst possible standard bearer for democracy" in countries like Cuba and Venezuela. Biden said he would stand up to "thug" Nicolás Maduro, the president of Venezuela, and lashed out at Mr. Trump for not granting temporary protective status to Venezuelans.  

Grace Segers and Bo Erickson


Trump says he's been advised to talk less about Hunter Biden

Speaking at a rally in Tampa, his first of two events on Thursday, Mr. Trump said former candidates for public office have called him and advised him to talk less about Hunter Biden, arguing voters don't care about his opponent's son.

He's been told instead to talk more about future economic growth, and his accomplishments in office. But Mr. Trump told his crowd in Tampa he can only talk about those things so much, before it gets boring. 

Mr. Trump suggested he'll ignore the advice and keep hounding the issue of Hunter Biden. 


Wisconsin GOP says hackers stole $2.3 million using fake invoices

The Republican Party of Wisconsin revealed it was the victim of a cyberattack, through which hackers stole $2.3 million using doctored invoices that purported to come from the state party's vendors.

"Cybercriminals, using a sophisticated phishing attack, stole funds intended for the re-election of President Trump, altered invoices and committed wire fraud," Andrew Hitt, chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, said in a statement. "These criminals exhibited a level of familiarity with state party operations at the end of the campaign to commit this crime."

Hitt said despite losing $2.3 million, "our operation is running at full capacity."

The party discovered it had been hit with the phishing attack October 22 and notified the FBI on October 23. The Wisconsin GOP said there isn't evidence hackers acquired proprietary information.

Melissa Quinn and Adam Brewster


Control of the Senate hangs in the balance on Election Day

Although much of the nation's attention is focused on the race for the presidency between Mr. Trump and Biden, there are also several toss-up Senate races this year that will determine whether the Senate remains in Republican hands or is taken by a Democratic majority.

The current balance of the Republican-controlled Senate is 53 to 47. To take the majority, Democrats would have to gain three seats, if Biden wins the White House, or four seats if President Trump wins reelection, since the vice president breaks ties in the Senate.

In most of the tight races this year, Republican incumbents are facing off against Democratic challengers. This is the case in Senate races in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Montana, North Carolina and South Carolina. However, Democratic senators in Alabama and Michigan are also in danger of losing their seats.

Read more about close Senate races to watch here.


Early vote total tops 78 million nationwide

Early voting periods have typically had two peaks: the first day and last day, while the days in the middle are the valley, election experts note. 

Those in-between days usually produce such consistently low turnout that election officials were beginning to question how useful long early voting periods really are — until now. In this exception of a year, turnout has not significantly dropped in the middle of this early voting period. More votes have been cast year over year than at any time in U.S. history. 

Now that November is approaching, early voting windows are closing. Ballot totals are expected to continue rising as people try to vote before November 3. One expert told CBS News it's entirely possible there will be 100 million votes cast before Election Day, likely resulting in one of the lowest Election Day turnouts despite historic overall national turnout. 

For election administrators, this is great news. If the votes are distributed across more days, that means less stress on voting officials and poll workers, which may reduce the chance of human error in processing. A few months ago, there were fears that voters would wait until the last minute and deluge elections offices with a tsunami of ballots amid the coronavirus. 

Instead, there's been a steady, even intake. And as David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, explained, this is also a good thing for election security. If there are fewer instances of high traffic with most of the turnout occurring before Election Day, the targets for potential threats become smaller. 


What swing states tell us about the state of the U.S. economy

It is conventional wisdom to note that next week's presidential election will hinge largely on the state of the nation's economy. In reality, the outcome will turn more on local economic conditions — the places, after all, where Americans go to work, run businesses and spend money — in a handful of states that President Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, are desperate to win.

Three of those states — Ohio, Georgia and Arizona, viewed as toss-ups by the CBS Battleground Tracker — reveal major differences in how quickly different parts of the country are rebounding. Although those states together have regained more than 1 million jobs since the broader economy bottomed out in April, some areas continue to struggle while others are proving resilient. A total of 45 electoral votes are at stake between the three states.

As Jim Baird, chief investment officer at Plante Moran Financial Advisors in Portage, Michigan, says of the broader economy: "There is something there for everyone. If you are a supporter of the president, you say, 'The first three years was on a positive path, and look how quickly it's bounced back.' But if you are on the other side, you say, 'Yes, it's come back, but there are still 11 million unemployed Americans. We need to do a better job."

Where there may be more consensus is that bitter partisanship in Washington is making an epic economic crash even worse. Jobless benefits are expiring for millions of workers, especially hurting regions where unemployment remains even higher than the already elevated national average of 7.9%.

Across the U.S., some 4.5 million workers have dropped out of the labor force since February, neither working nor looking for a job. That's hit some states, such as Iowa, especially hard.

Read more here.

Aimee Picchi, Stephen Gandel, Kate Gibson


Where the candidates are speaking on Thursday

Here's the rundown of events for both candidates on Thursday:




U.S. economy rebounded strongly in the third quarter

The U.S. economy grew at a record annualized rate of 33.1% between July and September, clawing back much of the ground it had lost during the coronavirus-fueled shutdown earlier in the year, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

Increased consumer spending, private investment and exports drove the increase, which was partly offset by falling government spending as stimulus funds dried up and states slashed their budgets.

The rebound puts the nation's gross domestic product — the total value of all the goods and products the economy produces — at $21.16 trillion for the three months ending in September. That's below its level at the end of last year.

"[W]hile it's appropriate to be pleased that growth rebounded strongly in the third quarter, it can't obscure the fact that large parts of the economy are still reeling from the Covid hit," Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a research note.

Read more here.


Supreme Court declines to expedite review of Pennsylvania election dispute

The Supreme Court declined to expedite review of a case challenging an extension of Pennsylvania's deadline for accepting absentee ballots, saying there is not enough time before the election to resolve the matter while leaving open the possibility of tossing out ballots after Election Day.

The dispute centers on an order by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that extended the deadline for mail-in absentee ballots until November 6, if they were postmarked by Election Day. The state Republican Party asked the Supreme Court to place the state court's ruling on hold, which failed in a 4-4 vote. The party then asked the high court to expedite consideration of the merits of the case before the election.

Writing on Wednesday, Justice Samuel Alito made clear that he supported overturning the state court's decision to scrap the extended deadline, noting that state law explicitly set the deadline for 8 p.m. on Election Day.

"It would be highly desirable to issue a ruling on the constitutionality of the State Supreme Court's decision before the election. That question has national importance, and there is a strong likelihood that the State Supreme Court decision violates the Federal Constitution," he wrote. "The provisions of the Federal Constitution conferring on state legislatures, not state courts, the authority to make rules governing federal elections would be meaningless if a state court could override the rules adopted by the legislature simply by claiming that a state constitutional provision gave the courts the authority to make whatever rules it thought appropriate for the conduct of a fair election."

But Alito said he concluded "there is simply not enough time at this late date to decide the question before the election." Alito's statement was joined by Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas. Newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the deliberations, the court noted.

Alito hinted that the justices could revisit the dispute and decide on the merits of the state court's ruling after the election.

"Although the Court denies the motion to expedite, the petition for certiorari remains before us, and if it is granted, the case can then be decided under a shortened schedule," he wrote. Alito said Pennsylvania officials' decision to segregate ballots received after Election Day means "a targeted remedy will be available" should the court rule the deadline extension was unconstitutional. 

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