The Note: Trump's Fauci feud keeps campaign focus on COVID-19

This fight only makes more obvious what the campaign is about.

October 20, 2020, 6:01 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

This is now an actual attack line that President Donald Trump is deploying against former Vice President Joe Biden.

"He wants to listen to Dr. Fauci," Trump told a crowd in Arizona Monday afternoon, the mention of Dr. Anthony Fauci's name drawing boos.

It takes head-spinning logic to cast Trump's feud with Fauci as a winning campaign message for an incumbent who is down in the polls. The campaign is continuing to air ads that feature Fauci -- out of context -- appearing to applaud the president's decisions on COVID-19, even while Trump calls him a "disaster" and his fellow health officials "idiots."

This fight, though, only makes more obvious what the campaign is about. With cases surging in battleground states and beyond, and with the president himself back on the trail from his own illness for only a week, Trump's assertion that "people are tired of COVID" is pretty clearly true -- with whatever meaning one might impose on those words.

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Prescott Regional Airport in , Arizona, Oct. 19, 2020.
Carlos Barria/Reuters

New ABC News/Washington Post polling from North Carolina, out Tuesday morning, reinforces how much the coronavirus has cost the president credibility and political standing.

It’s Biden 49, Trump 48 in one of the president's must-win states, with Biden leading by 34 points among self-described moderates. He captures 68% support among those worried about catching the coronavirus.

One last debate and two weeks of rallies will give Trump more chances to try to change the campaign subject. For now, and once again, the campaign that could have been about so many different things remains focused on one very big thing.

The RUNDOWN with Tonya Simpson

With just two weeks until Nov. 3, county election officials in North Carolina are reaching out to an estimated 10,000 voters, whose ballots have been in limbo and offering them new options for fixing the errors with their ballots.

The new guidance announced Monday was a win for voting rights advocates who have long argued that voters should be able to "cure" absentee ballots if there are errors.

Stacks of ballot envelopes waiting to be mailed are seen at the Wake County Board of Elections in Raleigh, N.C., Sept. 3, 2020.
Gerry Broome/AP, FILE

After months of litigation and debate, county boards of elections in the key battleground state have now been instructed to contact those voters who, for example, had errors with their envelopes, issues with their signature match or were missing a witness signature. Voters missing a witness signature will be required to start over with a new ballot.

With overlapping visits from Trump administration officials and Biden campaign surrogates, it is clear both parties are working hard for every last vote in the toss-up state.

The TIP with Armando García and Will McDuffie

Voters in Florida lined up for the first day of early in-person voting on Monday, and in at least two counties -- Hillsborough and Pinellas -- turnout surpassed the same day in 2016. Florida's two most-populous counties, Miami-Dade and Broward, also reported strong numbers -- and that was all despite rain that swept across a significant portion of the state.

Voters fill out their ballots as they vote at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center polling station on Oct. 19, 2020, in Miami.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Recent polls show a close race between Biden and Trump in Florida, and Sen. Kamala Harris tried to capitalize on the turnout momentum, campaigning across the delegate-rich state.

"Today, I had to come here on the kickoff of early voting in Florida because y'all are gonna make it happen. You will make it happen," she told supporters at a drive-in rally in Orlando. "What you will do here in Florida, in Orlando, what you will do by early voting is you will be the first to put our country back on the right track. It is you, you will do that."


Coronavirus concerns lift former Vice President Joe Biden in North Carolina while the state's sizable evangelical and rural populations pull for President Donald Trump, producing a dead-heat contest in a state that's backed Democratic presidential candidates just twice in the last half century. Biden has 49% support among likely voters in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll in the state, with 48% for Trump. The U.S. Senate race, potentially critical for control of the chamber, is similar, with 49% support for Democrat Cal Cunningham, despite revelations of an extramarital affair, and 47% for incumbent Republican Thom Tillis.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Tuesday morning's episode features ABC News Senior Editorial Producer John Santucci on President Donald Trump railing against Dr. Anthony Fauci during a call to campaign staff. Then, FiveThirtyEight's Nathaniel Rakich walks us through the early voting numbers as swing states see record turnout. And ABC News' Anne Flaherty reports on the latest COVID-19 headlines, including rising hospitalizations and the race for a vaccine.


  • Jill Biden will tour an urban farm in Detroit at 2:30 p.m. From there, she will speak at a women's volunteer canvass in Madison Heights, Michigan, at 3:35 p.m. and participate in a voter mobilization event in Dearborn, Michigan, at 4:30 p.m. She will also speak at a car rally in Saginaw, Michigan, at 6:15 p.m.
  • President Donald Trump participates in a Sinclair Town Hall event at 3 p.m. in the Rose Garden, then travels to Pennsylvania to deliver remarks at a campaign rally in Erie at 7 p.m.
  • Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., participates in a virtual rally to kick off the first day of voting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at 4 p.m. In the evening, she will join virtual Biden for President finance events.
  • Doug Emhoff will travel to Wilmington and Greenville, North Carolina

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