President Trump told reporters he caught “a moment” of his Democratic rivals’ first joint appearance, Wednesday. “Look, he made a choice. He picked her,” Mr. Trump said of newly anointed vice presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris. “I watched her. I watched her poll numbers go boom, boom, boom. Down to almost nothing,” he added, taking aim at the California lawmaker’s presidential primary bid.
The president defended his administration’s handling of the pandemic — a response Senator Harris faulted for “plung[ing] us into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” during her address Wednesday.
“You know, she’s very bad on facts. She’s very weak on facts,” Mr. Trump countered, adding that he looks forward to Senator Harris’ debate with Vice President Mike Pence. It took just 18 minutes for Trump campaign officials to release a 30-second advertisement pegging Senator Kamala Harris as “phony” following the Biden campaign’s announcement and only 24 minutes for the president to tweet it out. The president publicly criticized the California Democrat just 42 minutes after she received her new title, and Trump campaign officials scurried to organize a press call in just over 2 hours, according to CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga.
But messaging on Senator Kamala Harris has been mixed, with GOP lawmakers, campaign officials and political operatives trying out different lines of attack following the major news event, months in the making. President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence even diverged in their immediate reactions to the news, responding within minutes of each other.
“So I was a little surprised that he picked her,” President Trump told reporters at a newly reinstated daily White House briefing. “I have been watching her for a long time. And I was a little surprised.” In Mesa, Arizona, Vice President Pence told supporters, “It’s no surprise that he chose Senator Harris to be his running mate.”
On a last-minute livestream, Trump campaign senior advisers cooked up new attacks on the vice presidential contender. “This should be seen as a consequential pick,” Trump campaign communications director Murtaugh offered. “He’s essentially entered into a political living will now. He’s made it clear that he plans to turn the reins over very quickly.”
After knocking headlines describing the VP nod as “historic,” campaign senior adviser Mercedes Schlapp countered, “Well, as we know, vice presidential picks for the most part don’t matter. You gotta look at the one who’s at the top of the ticket.”
Late Tuesday night, the subject line of a GOP memo blasted out to political reporters read, “Liberals revolt against Biden, Harris ticket.” The opposition email assembled a slew of tweets and video clips from left-leaning media outlets and progressive activists who expressed disappointment in Harris’ prosecutorial record, calling her a “top-cop” in one instance.
But GOP lawmakers doubled down on an opposite narrative. “Kamala Harris will be the most liberal leftist nominee for VP that our country has ever seen,” Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn said during a Trump campaign call that suburban moms would reject a candidate “marching in the streets” with Black Lives Matter protesters. In a phone interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity Tuesday, President Trump repeated his generic case against Harris. Then, after seemingly wearing out the subject, Trump turned the conversation to former Democratic rival Secretary Hillary Clinton and the Russia dossier. “It’s a disgrace what happened. And no other president should have to go through it, Sean.”
FROM THE CANDIDATESJOE BIDEN
Former Vice President Joe Biden appeared alongside Kamala Harris Wednesday for the first time since announcing the California senator as his running mate in the 2020 presidential election. “Kamala knows how to govern, she knows how to make the hard calls. She is ready to do this job on day one,” he said from a podium at a school in Wilmington, Delaware.
During his remarks, CBS News political correspondent Ed O’Keefe said Biden noted the historic nature of her vice presidential candidacy as the first woman of color to appear on a major party ticket. “All across the nation little girls woke up, especially little Black and Brown girls who so often feel overlooked and undervalued in their communities. but today, today, just maybe they are seeing themselves for the first time in a new way, as the stuff of president and vice presidents,” Biden said.
During her first public remarks since being named his running mate, Harris renewed “prosecuting the case” against President Trump – a theme she often returned to during the Democratic primary. “The case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut. Just look where they’ve gotten us,” she said before slamming him over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. “This virus has impacted every country, but there’s a reason it has hit America worse than any other advanced nation.” CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice says Biden and Harris’ joint appearance comes nearly five months after the former vice president vowed to choose a woman running mate.
His team started with more than 20 initial candidates before narrowing it down to 11 finalists. Biden’s campaign made the announcement by text message and email on Tuesday afternoon. After announcing his pick, Biden had his best grassroots fundraising day of the entire campaign so far, raising more than $26 million in just 24 hours. That includes donations from 150,000 first time contributors. Last night, an aide stated the 4 p.m. ET hour during which the announcement was made was the best fundraising hour for the campaign ever.
LIFE AFTER VEEPSTAKESVAL DEMINGS
In the battle ground state of Florida, Congresswoman Val Demings, who herself had been in the running of the role of vice president, was among many Democratic leaders to join the chorus of praise for Joe Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris as his running mate. “For a little girl who grew up poor, Black and female in the South to be considered during this process has been an incredible honor. I feel so blessed,” said Demings in a statement Tuesday. “To see a Black woman nominated for the first time reaffirms my faith that in America, there is a place for every person to succeed no matter who they are or where they come from.”
Before Biden announced in May that Demings was one of several women on his list of possible running mates, she had gained prominence as a Democratic House manager in the impeachment trial of President Trump. In 2016, she was elected to represent Florida’s 10th Congressional District. In 2007, she became the city’s first woman police chief and served in the role until 2011. Demings’ record as police chief served as a point of contention for some local activists who told CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell that they felt Demings had sided with law enforcement over the voice of the people for most of her career and that the country didn’t need a former police chief “at the top of the ticket.”
President of 100 Black Women and the National Action Network in Florida Lawanna Gelzer said, “What she’s saying today is great but she’s never apologized to the community for even when she became congresswoman and knowing the things that’s been going on here at home with law enforcement.” Gelzer added, “Why are you speaking up now about what’s wrong with these officers and what the hell are they doing, they’re doing it right here in Orlando!” In the days following the killing of George Floyd by Minnesota police officers, Demings made headlines for an op-ed she penned titled “My fellow brothers and sisters in blue, what the hell are you doing?”
Some local activists thought her editorial was hypocritical at best, while others criticized Demings for being the sole Democratic sponsor of the Protect and Serve Act that passed in the House in 2018. Director of Organize Florida Stephanie Porta said it was “very concerning” that Demings co-sponsored the bill and called Demings’ current message on police reform nothing more than performative ally-ship. “She has had power for decades and she has not used it to reform the system,” said Porta, who added that while she thinks Demings is a “phenomenal woman,” she didn’t think she was the right person for the job of vice president.
But supporters of Demings’ record insisted that the issues of excessive force that plagued the Orlando Police Department during her tenure were not a reflection of her leadership. During a virtual press call after the VP announcement Tuesday, Democratic Majority Whip Jim Clyburn gave an impassioned defense of both Harris’ record as a prosecutor and Demings’ record as police chief. “This whole notion that if you become a chief of police or you become a prosecutor, you ought not be considered, people ought to be considered for how well they conduct themselves in their chosen professions. How can we ask to have police chiefs of color, prosecutors of color, and then hold it against them once they get in the position? That is fool-hearted,” said Clyburn. “Val was a good police chief, and I think that Kamala was a good prosecutor. So let’s not hold it against them.”
The New York Times reports that artist Kanye West met with Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law, during a trip to Colorado. West confirmed the meeting in a Tweet, and said they talked about “PowerNomics: The National Plan to Empower Black America,” a book by Dr. Claude Anderson. Whether they discussed West’s run for president is unknown, though Forbes reported West and Kushner talk “almost daily.” Neither West’s campaign nor publicist returned requests from CBS News for comment.
There have been several Republican operatives tied to West’s campaign. One of West’s Colorado electors told CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro that Rachel George, a former communications director for then-Congressman Cory Gardner, approached them for West’s campaign. Gregg Keller, a consultant who has ties to Governor Mike Parson and Senator Josh Hawley, was listed as a point of contact for West in Arkansas. West has filed in 10 states thus far, including New Jersey where his campaign eventually withdrew after its petitions were challenged.
West is also working to get on the ballot in Montana, though even if he were able to file and win every state from this point forward, he wouldn’t have a path to 270 electoral college votes. However, a narrative around West’s campaign has not been so much about his chances to actually win, but rather about whether he could be a “spoiler” and take votes away from Biden or Trump. A Politico/Morning Consult poll toned down that speculation, with West polling at 2% among registered voters. The poll also found that West on the ticket had no impact on the presidential race among Black voters.
AD WARSPAC ATTACK
The Democratic SuperPAC Priorities USA Action has a new ad featuring Joe Biden’s running mate Senator Kamala Harris. The ad titled “Her Movement” is part of its $1 million a week battleground state digital program running in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. “This is a moment for justice seeking, for barrier breaking, for change making,” says the narrator in the ad before a clip of Harris plays. “We can give our children the future they deserve,” she says. The ad ends by calling it a movement and for people to vote. “Kamala Harris embodies the best of America. Priorities could not be more proud to support this outstanding ticket,” said Priorities USA Deputy Executive Director Jenn Stowe in a statement. The SuperPAC has committed more than $200 million to helping Biden win the election.
Meanwhile, CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga says the pro-Trump SuperPAC America First Action released a new ad called “November” which will play in multiple markets throughout Pennsylvania. It’s part of a TV and digital $7.5 million investment in the battleground state. The ad features a man named Brian who works in fracking. It claims Biden would eliminate fracking and therefore Brian’s job. He claims Biden would be “devastating.” While the ad itself makes no mention of Senator Harris, America First Action pointed to a clip of her saying during a town hall that she is in favor of banning fracking. Harris went on to say that the action they can take is on public land, but then there would have to be legislation. Biden’s campaign, however, has stated fracking is not on the chopping block and tried to clarify Biden previously saying “no new fracking” meant no new fracking on federal land.
KEY CONSTITUENCIESBLACK FEMALE VOTERS
Aimee Allison has been waiting on pins and needles for this day to come. “My heart stopped and I said, ‘wow, this makes so much more possible,” she exclaimed when she got an email Tuesday afternoon that California Senator Kamala Harris had been selected as Joe Biden’s running mate. Like Harris, Allison is biracial and hails from Oakland. She has spent the last three years working as founder of She The People, a national network to elevate the political power of women of color. The organization has pledged to turn out one million women of color in the 2020 election and 71 percent of those surveyed in its latest poll believe it was “important” for Biden to choose a woman of color for vice president. “It’s on!” Allison told CBS News correspondent Nikole Killion.
“We knew that we needed a woman of color on the ticket to deepen enthusiasm and engage the country’s most valuable Democratic voters, which are women of color, particularly Black women, and now we have it.” Harris is the first Black woman and the first Asian-American woman on a major party presidential ticket. A daughter of immigrants, Harris’ mother came to the United States from India and worked as a cancer researcher while raising Kamala and her sister, Maya. Her father is from Jamaica and was an economist.
“It is, in a sense, the American story. Immigrants who come here, who work hard, who raise two daughters to think there were no limits to what they could achieve, I think that is a story we will all look up to,” former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett told CBS This Morning. Laphonza Butler served as a senior adviser on Harris’ presidential campaign and texted her after she heard the news. “This was the fight of our lives, our collective lives, and she just said ‘ready to fight,'” Butler told CBS News. “For all those little girls that I saw Kamala meet over the primary, no matter their race, I think it was an incredibly exciting and impactful moment for them too.” For full reaction, read HERE.
VOTING ISSUESSAFETY FIRST
The effort to expedite vote by mail is large, but so is the concurrent task of keeping polling places safe this November. Today, the Brennan Center and the Infectious Diseases Society of America published a 50-point list of guidelines for maintaining safe, COVID-free polling places for workers and voters. CBS news campaign reporter Cara Korte says the list is extensive. While some practices are more obvious, such as maintaining social distance and having hand sanitizer stations, some are more unique. For example, the guidelines note that, “Procedures should be established to ensure that hand sanitizer use does not jam ballot scanners.”
So what is needed to keep Americans safe, it turns out may also inadvertently damage voting machines. To sidestep this, the list suggests voters use “Q-tips, finger covers, or other disposable devices” to touch machines. Protecting poll workers is another consideration because, as we’ve seen in some primaries, poll workers who don’t feel safe either do not show up or leave their posts. This could add up to more delays and more frustration. If states are looking to follow these guidelines, it will cost them. Part of the HEROES Act, which has not been taken up by the Senate but has passed the House, includes up to $3.6 billion for election funding. Democrats say it’s needed in addition to the $400 million that passed as part of the CARES Act.
Now clear of Arizona’s primary in one of the country’s most competitive Senate races, GOP Senator Martha McSally’s campaign says it has launched a social media blitz to pressure Democratic rival Mark Kelly into accepting its demand for seven debates before the election.
“Unfortunately, my opponent has largely refused to take hard questions and tell voters where he stands,” McSally said in a statement. CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin reports both say they have so far accepted invitations to a debate by The Arizona Republic and a group of local public media outlets. Kelly’s campaign says he plans to participate in a debate with Univision. “In 2018, Senator McSally did everything she could to avoid an Arizona debate, and this year she refused to debate her primary opponent,” Kelly’s campaign manager Jen Cox said in a statement, adding that the Democrat “looks forward to debating” McSally.
With less than three months until Election Day, CBS news campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar says California is looking to recruit volunteers to help at polling locations across the state. Because most poll workers are senior citizens and part of a vulnerable population, they are being asked to stay home this year due to safety concerns posed by the coronavirus.
“We need the next generation of poll workers to step-up and meet this moment,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement. Multi-lingual volunteers are “particularly needed,” Padilla said. His office launched a new website on Wednesday for eligible residents in the state to sign up. That site is pollworkers.sos.ca.gov. Poll workers typically assist voters at the polls, help them understand their voting rights, as well as set up and break down polling locations. “As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, poll workers will play a critical role in our democracy,” Padilla said. “County elections officials depend on reliable, dedicated teams of poll workers to make every Election Day run smoothly,” he added.
Also in California, Governor Gavin Newsom dodged questions Wednesday about potential replacements for Senator Kamala Harris if the Biden-Harris team wins in November. Newsom would get to appoint a new senator to replace Harris in January of 2021. “Last I looked it is August of 2020,” Newsom responded to a reporter’s question during a press conference today. “It is not a way of being flippant, it is a way of being factual,” Newsom added.
He went on to say that he’s “absolutely focused” on bending the coronavirus curve, getting the economy moving, and making sure students can get back to school safely. Newsom was also asked if others have pitched themselves as potential replacements. “Well, you may be the only one that hasn’t,” Newsom quipped. “And that is only slight exaggeration,” he added. Newsom, who had endorsed Kamala Harris’s candidacy for president last year, praised the senator’s character and experience. “You can imagine how proud I’m feeling, American people are feeling, not just Democrats, I have a few Republican friends that actually had a smile on their face yesterday about her candidacy now for the next vice president so it is a proud moment, historic moment,” Newsom said. Harris and Newsom came up together in California politics in the Bay Area. The governor said he looks forward to “working very, very closely with my old friend of over a quarter of a century, the next vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris.”
Nevada’s Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske has asked a federal judge to throw out a Trump campaign lawsuit over changes to the state’s election laws, including a move to proactively send mail ballots to voters, reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. “These competing arguments amount to a public policy debate, not a legal debate,” attorneys for Cegavske, a Republican, told the court in a filing this week. President Trump first threatened the suit after the state passed a series of election reforms in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, accusing the state’s Democratic governor of making it “impossible for Republicans to win the state.” As in past legal wrangling over the state’s elections, Democrats have also moved to intervene as defendants in the suit.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose sent a 48-point plan focused on voting safely to Ohio’s 88 county boards of elections, according to CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman. The guidance in the plan includes social distancing recommendations, requiring poll workers to wear masks, routinely cleaning voting machines and allowing curbside voting to occur. In a press conference, LaRose encouraged voters to not procrastinate on their requests for an absentee ballot. LaRose said registered voters will receive an absentee ballot request form around Labor Day.
If registered voters request an absentee ballot, their county board of elections will send absentee ballots to registered voters on October 6. Ballots can also be dropped off at the county board of elections. Absentee ballots need to be postmarked by November 2. Asked if President Trump’s rhetoric on mail in voting might deter voters to take advantage of voting by mail, LaRose said he is concerned about the circulation of misinformation. “Although the president raises concerns that may be valid in other states – and again, the president has to be concerned with all 50 states, we focus on Ohio – the concerns that he raises are not valid here,” LaRose said.
In the latest move to make voting by mail easier, Pennsylvania’s State Department on Wednesday added a Spanish version of the state’s mail-in ballot application to its voter services website. “Language should not be a barrier for eligible Pennsylvanians to exercise their right to vote,” Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said in a statement. “Providing applications in Spanish is a vital step to ensuring that the many native Spanish speakers in the commonwealth can participate in our democracy,” said Secretary Boockvar.”
In Pennsylvania, where about 8% of the population is Hispanic or Latino, CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak says November will mark the first general election in which any voter can cast their ballot by mail. The state’s primary saw a 17-fold increase in votes by mail from 2016 in absentee and mail-in voters. This is the first time mail votes will outnumber in-person ballots. The swell of votes by mail coupled with the spread of COVID-19 overwhelmed some counties, with some local elections offices still counting over a week after the primary. In a press release announcing the Spanish ballot applications, the State Department urged voters to “apply today or as early as possible and return their voted ballots to their county election office in person or by mail as soon as they receive them.”
CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGEIN THE SENATE
With less than three weeks to go before the Democratic primary, Senator Ed Markey and Congressman Joe Kennedy engaged in a heated debate Tuesday over who can bring the most needed change for Massachusetts, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson. The candidates were first asked to define why they are challenging each other, a question that since Kennedy got in last year, still has no clear-cut answer. Kennedy said he is running because Massachusetts deserves a senator who brings about necessary change but also engages with the people of Massachusetts, something he accuses Markey of not doing.
Markey said he is bringing the necessary experience and change to the Senate with his candidacy. Throughout the debate, Markey touted his work on the progressive Green New Deal legislation with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The two most impassioned parts of the debate came when Congressman Kennedy brought up the family of DJ Henry who was killed by a police officer. Henry’s family has accused Markey of dismissing the family’s ask for help. Markey has apologized to the family, and during the debate, he produced letters signed in 2014 by Kennedy, Markey, and Senator Elizabeth Warren asking the Department of Justice to reopen the investigation. Markey went after Kennedy for the super PAC running negative ads against Markey. Markey asked Kennedy repeatedly to “tell your father,” Joe P. Kennedy Jr., to not fund the super PAC. The alleged funding of the New Leadership PAC by the senior Kennedy has not been proven. Donations to the PAC will likely not be known until after the primary. Kennedy said he has publicly disavowed negative ads.
IN THE HOUSE
Marjorie Taylor Greene’s win in her Republican runoff in Georgia’s 14th District immediately received backlash from Democrats and some reporters, especially after Greene tweeted she had kicked out reporters at her election night watch party. CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro reports the criticism and notoriety of Greene stems from two main factors: video of her making racist and anti-Muslim comments, and her support for the QAnon conspiracy theory network. Politico first unveiled video of Greene reportedly saying black people “are held slaves to the Democratic Party,” as well saying the election of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar equates to an “Islamic invasion.” “Now she’s going into Congress and she’s got to wear a head covering? You know they want to put their hand on the Koran and be sworn in? No, you have to be sworn in on the Bible,” she said in one video. (Omar also had an election Tuesday, and cruised through her expensive Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party primary.)
In another video, Greene said gangs are holding back black and brown people, “it’s not white people.” CBSNews.com editor Caroline Linton reports that in a YouTube video, Greene said the QAnon conspiracy theory, a broad movement that believes President Trump is stopping a deep-state ring of child sex traffickers, is “something I think it’s worth listening to and paying attention to.” She said Q, who believers think leads the movement, is a “patriot” and said “many of the things he has given clues about on 4Chan and other forums have really proven true.”
Some Republicans such as House Minority Whip Steve Scalise and Karen Handel, a Republican Congressional candidate in Georgia’s 6th, disavowed Greene and backed her runoff opponent, Neurosurgeon John Cowan. Handel Tweeted days before the runoff that Greene “will hurt @GaRepublicans candidates and hurt @realDonaldTrump in our state!” Mr. Trump, as well as Republican Senate candidates Kelly Loeffler and Congressman Doug Collins, Tweeted out support for Greene after her win.
Collins defended his support on Wednesday, tweeting “So @mtgreenee’s rhetoric is a problem, but @IlhanMN’s anti-semitic tropes and marrying her brother to commit immigration fraud is okay?” Collins’ fellow Freedom Caucus member, Congressman Jim Jordan, endorsed Greene. Another Freedom Caucus member, Jody Hice, rescinded his backing after Greene’s racist comments surfaced. At her election watch party, Greene bashed Speaker Pelosi on impeachment and said, “I just want to say to Nancy Pelosi. She’s hypocrite. She’s anti-American. And we’re going to kick that b*tch out of Congress.” In the day after her win, she continued to criticize the media’s coverage of her past comments, and said she calls “fake news the enemy of the people.”