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A Trump-Biden Split Screen on Climate


A Trump-Biden Split Screen on Climate

On PoliticsPublished Sept. 15, 2020Updated Sept. 25, 2020 Sign up for On Politics to get the latest election and politics news and insights. ImageWhere things standEven as he bore witness firsthand to the devastation caused by wildfires during a visit to California yesterday, President Trump continued to defiantly ignore the science of climate change.Speaking to…

A Trump-Biden Split Screen on Climate

On Politics

Giovanni Russonello

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  • Even as he bore witness firsthand to the devastation caused by wildfires during a visit to California yesterday, President Trump continued to defiantly ignore the science of climate change.

  • Speaking to reporters, he blamed local officials for failing to contain the blazes, and for not clearing fallen leaves from forests. “When trees fall down after a short period of time, they become very dry — really like a matchstick,” Trump told reporters at the Sacramento airport. “And they can explode. Also leaves. When you have dried leaves on the ground, it’s just fuel for the fires.”

  • When asked about the role of climate change, he was dismissive at first. He passed the question on to Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, who said he did believe the scientific consensus. (He also reminded Trump that 57 percent of land in California is made up of federal forests, which are technically under the president’s control.)

  • But later, Trump did not hold back, saying explicitly that he continued to disbelieve the established science on global warming. “It will start getting cooler,” he said. “Just watch. I don’t think science knows, actually.” That statement was in line with Trump’s long history of public comments and official policies calling into question the legitimacy of climate science.

  • Joe Biden gave a speech in Delaware yesterday bashing the president as a “climate arsonist,” while directly appealing to suburban voters. “If we have four more years of Trump’s climate denial, how many suburbs will be burned in wildfires?” he asked. “How many suburban neighborhoods will have been flooded out? How many suburbs will have been blown away in superstorms?”

  • That language reflected an apparent bet from Biden’s team that suburban voters will be turned off by the president’s hostility to science — particularly in the midst of a pandemic during which Trump has often been at odds with his own health and science advisers.

  • Eighty-four percent of suburbanites said in an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll last month that they generally trusted public health experts to provide accurate information on the coronavirus, considerably more than people living in other areas. And just 23 percent of suburbanites said they trusted Trump’s statements on the virus, the poll found — the lowest of any geographic group.

  • Biden ultimately tied together the coronavirus and the wildfires with the economy and the unrest in American cities. He used all of these issues to illustrate an argument that seemed almost lifted from Trump’s playbook: Under the current president, Biden argued, Americans are simply not safe.

  • “He fails to protect us from the pandemic, from an economic free fall, from racial unrest, from the ravages of climate change,” Biden said. “It’s clear that we’re not safe in Donald Trump’s America.”

  • The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Howie Hawkins, the Green Party’s presidential candidate, will not appear on the general election ballot. The 4-to-3 decision clears the way for state election officials to proceed as planned with mail voting, which is set to begin in days. The state plans to send out more mail ballots than in any previous election.

  • If the court had ruled in favor of Hawkins — whose legal effort was aided by a conservative law firm, with Republicans eager to see him siphon votes away from Biden in November — officials would have had to reprint thousands of ballots and send them out again.

  • The court said that Hawkins and his running mate, Angela Walker, had waited too long to appeal a decision from the Wisconsin Elections Commission denying them ballot access because of a discrepancy in Walker’s address on their petitions.

  • In Ohio, those who vote absentee will have to pay their own postage, after a Republican state panel denied the secretary of state’s request for up to $3 million to prepay for stamps. More than a million voters have filed applications for absentee ballots in Ohio so far.

  • “Today was another missed opportunity by the legislature to make a small change, without an impact on our state budget, that would yield a big improvement,” said Frank LaRose, the secretary of state, a Republican.

  • The mayors of 10 U.S. cities published an open letter yesterday calling on Trump to condemn the right-wing vigilantes who have violently clashed with protesters against racial injustice this summer.

  • “We’ve seen an alarming number of fellow elected officials, including yourself, applauding armed intimidation of peaceful protesters,” the letter reads. “We are calling for an end to this dangerous rhetoric. Instead of inciting vigilantism, we urge you to join us in condemning reckless escalations by militias and other extremists.”

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  • All of the signatories are members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, an arm of Michael Bloomberg’s gun-control group, Everytown for Gun Safety.


Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Joe Biden spoke yesterday outside the Delaware Museum of Natural History in Wilmington.

A New York Times/Siena College poll released over the weekend found Biden and Trump separated by just four percentage points in Nevada, a state that has voted Democratic in the past three presidential elections — but where Trump lost by only two points in 2016.

Biden garnered support from 46 percent of likely voters to Trump’s 42 percent, a difference that was within the poll’s margin of error. The survey offered plenty of indicators that the landscape there could be favorable to Trump this time around, particularly among the white residents who make up roughly three in five Nevada voters.

Trump held a rally on Sunday at a manufacturing plant in Henderson, Nev., defying a state order against indoor gatherings of more than 50 people, after the state’s Democratic governor turned down requests to hold the event at outdoor locations. It was the president’s first indoor rally since June.

But this week Trump’s campaign pulled all of its TV advertising in Nevada, investing instead in a range of other states — a reflection of its cash crunch.

The Biden campaign, meanwhile, is flush with money, and has bought ads in both the Las Vegas and Reno markets.

As Jennifer Medina reports in an article out today, Nevada’s Democratic machine has established a strong track record over the past dozen years, winning most statewide elections through hard-fought campaigns that have centered on door-knocking and face-to-face contact — particularly with Black and Hispanic voters.

But amid the pandemic, that kind of campaigning is harder to do, and Democrats have less than half the number of canvassers on the ground in Nevada than they did in September 2016. Some Democratic officials worry that Trump could flip the state red on the strength of white voters in rural areas.

Indeed, the Times/Siena poll showed that Trump’s message might be resonating with those voters in particular. The president led Biden by 11 points among white likely voters in Nevada, a better showing than with white voters in New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Minnesota — the three other swing states surveyed in that poll. By nearly two to one, white voters in Nevada said they considered addressing law and order to be a more pressing electoral issue than confronting the coronavirus crisis.

Another sign of danger for Biden: his vulnerability with Hispanic voters, who are crucial to any Democratic victory there. Biden won just 17 percent of Latino support in the Nevada caucuses, with 50 percent caucusing for Senator Bernie Sanders, according to entrance polls. Nationwide, recent polls have generally shown Biden lagging behind Clinton’s level of Hispanic support in 2016.

New York Times Events

Can young voters get excited about the election if they aren’t excited about the candidates? Which issues really motivate them?

Today at 6 p.m. Eastern, join our deputy politics editor Rachel Dry as we explore strategies for combating voter apathy with the comedian Ilana Glazer; Vic Barrett, a young climate activist; and Tara McGowan, the chief executive of Acronym, a progressive nonprofit. Then we’ll sit down with Rhiana Gunn-Wright, one of the policy minds behind the Green New Deal, and the Times climate reporter Lisa Friedman to discuss how climate change issues can become a powerful motivation to vote. You can R.S.V.P. here.

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