Amid the coronavirus outbreak, the CBS News Battleground Tracker poll found Joe Biden taking a lead in the battleground state of Florida while races in Arizona and Texas remain tight. An analysis by Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto, Fred Backus, Kabir Khanna and Elena Cox in the CBS News Elections and Surveys Unit found that Biden leads President Trump 48% to 42% in the Sunshine State among likely voters.
In Texas, Mr. Trump has 46% to Biden’s 45%, within the margin of error. And in Arizona the race is tied at 46%. In all three states Biden is leading among women likely voters, and at a wider margin than Hillary Clinton held among women in 2016, reports CBS News associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice.
Biden is also leading among Hispanic likely voters in all three states by at least double Trump’s support, which is similar to or greater than Clinton’s share of Hispanic support in 2016 in those states. At the same time, the polling found Biden is making inroads with seniors in Florida. In 2016, Mr. Trump attracted 57% of support among likely voters 65 or older, while Clinton had 40% of support. Now, the president is down to 50% support among that group while Biden has 42%. Where Mr. Trump continues to lead is among men in these three states, though the gap is not as wide. He also continues to have strong support from White likely voters without college degrees, leading Biden among the group, including by 26 points in Florida, 29 points in Arizona and more than 40 points in Texas.
In all three states, about six in ten voters say their state reopened too soon, and most say the president is doing a bad job handling the outbreak, notes CBS News associate producer Eleanor Watson. Voters with the most negative assessments of their state’s handling of the virus are likely to prefer Biden. Democrats are in general more concerned about the virus, but concerned independents and moderates are also turning to Biden. According to the polling, Republicans are three times less likely than Democrats to call the outbreak a crisis. Voters who prefer Trump in the three states prioritize the economy in their vote far above the coronavirus. For instance, in Arizona, 90% of Trump voters call the economy a major factor in their vote for president, and only 37% of Trump voters call coronavirus a major factor. Most Republicans say Mr. Trump’s policies are helping the economy recover, and Biden would worsen the economy.
Despite his suddenly strong showing across these three Sun Belt states, Biden is urging his supporters to pay no attention, tweeting Sunday, “Ignore the polls. We’ve got work to do.” According to CBS News political correspondent Ed O’Keefe, Democratic leaders worry about becoming overconfident and know the numbers will tighten in the fall. A senior Biden aide tells CBS News, “We fully expect the polls to tighten. That’s what happens in elections.”
Biden’s advantage comes as the president’s reelection team is struggling. A rally scheduled for Saturday night in New Hampshire was scrapped in part because of the risk of a smaller crowd, like the one Mr. Trump spoke to last month in Oklahoma.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
Biden’s campaign says Arizona is the state to watch in the upcoming election, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, even said she was “bullish” about his odds in the Grand Canyon State. According to our new CBS News polling, it’s a tight race. Joe Biden and President Donald Trump are tied at 46% in Arizona. Biden is doing better among women and Hispanics but Trump is doing better with the prevalent older voters in the state. What’s motivating Biden supporters? Some 51% who said they plan to vote for Biden said they are doing so to “mainly” oppose Mr. Trump. How could Biden increase his odds? The number one issue respondents said was the economy, and they’re giving better marks to Mr. Trump on this point. More respondents said they thought Mr. Trump would be better at helping the economy recover after the COVID-19 pandemic and “cared” more about individual economic situations.
President Donald Trump dismissed recent CBS News poll numbers suggesting tight races in Texas, Florida and Arizona. “They are phony polls,” President Trump told reporters, Monday. “I’m leading Texas by one point? I don’t think so.” Amid reports of mounting concerns about the upcoming Republican National Convention, aides to the president’s reelection bid have considered scaling back the party’s nomination festivities in Jacksonville, Florida. “Well, we’ll see. It built up a little bit,” President Donald Trump said Monday in reference to Florida’s surge in coronavirus cases. “But we’re going to do something that will be great. We’re doing very well.”
The state of Florida reported 15,299 new coronavirus cases Sunday, setting a new record for the largest number of new reported cases in a state in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic, reports CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga. The previous record stood at 11,571 reported cases in New York on April 14, when the state was the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. Last week, Governor Ron DeSantis suggested that an outdoor Republican National Convention was a possibility, floating Daily’s Pavilion as one option. “My view was that outside was always something they were looking at,” DeSantis said during a press conference, last Thursday.
The Republican National Committee and Mr. Trump’s campaign announced Monday the hiring of an additional 300 staffers in 20 political battleground states. The new hires bring the GOP’s joint field operation to 1,500 total field staff, the largest collective commandeered by any Republican presidential candidate to date.
Milwaukee is hoping to fill a shortage of poll workers for the upcoming August primary election by increasing pay for workers from $130 to $230 for the day, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said on Monday. According to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster, Milwaukee was only able to open 5 of its usual 180 polling locations in April due to a massive shortage of poll workers, which caused many voters to wait in long lines. Milwaukee is planning to have 171 voting sites in its upcoming August primary and 15 early voting locations, Milwaukee Elections Commissioner executive director Claire Woodall-Vogg said on Monday. The city is still looking for about 200 poll workers for the August primary election. Officials in Wisconsin have been looking to beef up both in-person voting and mail voting election systems ahead of August and November elections after a record amount of mail voting during that April election. Separately, a new report from the United States Postal Service’s Inspector General found that hundreds of ballots in Wisconsin never made it to voters or couldn’t be counted because of postmark issues. In one instance, the Postal Service found that a mail carrier incorrectly delivered the ballots back to an election office. Nearly 1 million Wisconsinites voted by mail during that April election, which was carried out amid a stay at home order after attempts to move the election failed. The report also included a warning on the national level from the Postal Service that “ballots requested less than seven days before an election are at a high risk of not being delivered, completed by voters, and returned to the election offices in time.” Milwaukee is also offering ballot drop boxes to help voters who receive their ballots closer to Election Day.
The pro-Trump Super PAC America First Action announced it’s investing in a new round of anti-Biden advertisements targeting voters in key battleground states through the end of summer, reports CBS News associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. The $23 million ad buy focused on anti-Biden posts will include $7.5 million in Pennsylvania, $5.6 million in Wisconsin, $5.6 million in Arizona and $4.5 million in North Carolina starting July 24 and running through Labor Day.
While more than half the investment will be in broadcast, America First Action will also invest in digital and other efforts including mail. “The Trump campaign has done a terrific job of laying down their advertising strategy for the fall, so we are stepping up to help fill the gap in the summer,” said America First Action President Brian O. Walsh in a statement. “Hopefully, this provides some clarity on our next steps, gives the campaign the flexibility to deploy their extensive financial resources as they see fit, and helps define the choice in this election by keeping the focus on Joe Biden.”
According to Kantar/Campaign Analysis Group tracking, the Trump campaign has reserved nearly $150 million in ad buys from now through the election with most of it starting in September. By comparison, the same tracking shows Biden has not yet made any ad reservations heading into the end of the summer and the fall to date, despite raising record cash last month.
IN THE SENATE
There is a Senate primary in Maine, as well as Senate primary runoffs in Alabama and Texas, on Tuesday. CBS News associate producer Eleanor Watson gives a preview of each race below.
In Alabama, former Auburn University Coach Tommy Tuberville is facing former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the Republican Senate primary runoff Tuesday. None of the candidates reached the 50% threshold on Super Tuesday, so the top two candidates advanced to a runoff originally scheduled for March 31. Tuberville led Sessions by just under two points in the first round and has since received the endorsement of President Trump. Mr. Trump has made an effort on his Twitter feed to discourage voters from voting for Sessions on Tuesday. The Trump campaign earlier this year sent the Sessions campaign a cease-and-desist letter to stop using Mr. Trump in campaign material.
The winner Tuesday will go on to the general election to face Senator Doug Jones, who is considered the most vulnerable Democrat on the map in 2020. In 2016, Mr. Trump won the state by almost 30 points against Hillary Clinton.
Air Force Veteran M.J. Hegar and State Senator Royce West are competing in a runoff Tuesday. In March, Hegar won about 22% of the vote and West won about 14.5%. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has endorsed Hegar, and she has led West significantly in fundraising throughout the primary. The DSCC and Hegar’s campaign have in total spent almost $2 million in ad reservations since March compared to West who has spent about $73,000 in that time period, according to data from CMAG/Kantar.
The winner will go on to face three-term Republican Senator John Cornyn in November. Cornyn recently weighed in on the Democratic primary with an ad released on Friday calling West “a liberal politician” and showing him next to Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The effort seems to follow a Republican tactic used in other primaries of boosting a lesser known Democratic candidate in primaries.
Maine is holding its Senate primary originally scheduled for June 9 on Tuesday. Senator Susan Collins has no challengers in the GOP primary, and Maine state Speaker of the House Sara Gideon is the favorite to win the Democratic primary against activist Betsy Sweet and attorney Bre Kidman. Democratic groups like Senate Majority PAC along with Gideon’s campaign have spent about $23 million in ad reservations from the start of May to the primary.
On the Republican side, the National Republican Senatorial Campaign committee, which is supporting Collins, has spent $3 million in ads against Gideon. Gideon has been one of the Democratic challengers posting strong fundraising numbers throughout the primary cycle. In the most recent quarter, her campaign said she raised $9 million from April through June, about $2 million more than she raised in the first quarter of 2020. Collins’ campaign has not yet released her numbers.
IN THE HOUSE
Texas has more House runoffs of any state voting Tuesday, reports CBS News political broadcast associate Aaron Navarro, with 15 House contests. Among them include primaries in suburban districts that are expected to be competitive and Republican primaries in safe GOP seats that were left open by retirements, including one between an agricultural expert and Mr. Trump’s former White House physician.
Starting there, in Texas’ 13th, Ronny Jackson, a retired Navy admiral and former doctor for the White House, is facing off against Josh Winegarner, a former lobbyist for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association. Jackson has been endorsed by the president, while Winegarner has received the support of Congressman Mac Thornberry, who currently represents the northern district and is retiring. Another Republican runoff for an open seat is in Texas’ 17th District, left open by Congressman Bill Flores. In this central Texas district, former Congressman Pete Sessions and Renee Swann, Flores’ pick, will be on the ballot Tuesday.
Districts surrounding Houston and Dallas have been consistently targeted by Democrats, in part due to the changing demographics and the perceived drifting of suburbs from Trump’s Republican party. In the 10th District, just east of Houston, 2018 runner-up Mike Siegel and doctor Pritesh Gahndi are battling for the Democratic nod to take on Republican Michael McCaul. There’s also been a combative Republican primary between businesswoman Kathaleen Wall and Sheriff Troy Nehls in the state’s 22nd District, also near Houston. Wall has spent more than $8.3 million on this race, blanketing the market with ads about China’s role in the coronavirus and attempting to tie Nehl to sex trafficking in the area, something Nehl has disavowed as “an ABSOLUTE LIE.”
Democrats have a competitive primary in Texas’ 24th District, just northwest of Dallas. Retired Air Force colonel Kim Olson has been positioning herself as the frontrunner but is facing a progressive challenge from Candace Valenzuela, an Afro-Latino local school board member who’s been endorsed by Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, as well as Congressman Joaquin Castro and Secretary Julian Castro. The campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus released an internal July poll showing Valenzuela leading Olson by 11 points in a head-to-head matchup.