What Matters: Your election speed read, two weeks out

And it’s two days from the final presidential debate — that’s Thursday, October 22. It’s modified with some rule changes and plans to mute each candidate’s microphone during initial replies. Read here.

Joe Biden is mostly off the campaign trail, preparing for the debate.

President Donald Trump is everywhere — In the past week he’s held events in Pennsylvania -> Iowa -> North Carolina -> Florida -> Georgia -> Michigan -> Wisconsin -> Nevada -> Arizona.

That includes double-header rallies on Friday, Saturday and Monday.

He’ll be in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, in Erie County, which flipped from supporting Barack Obama to supporting him in 2016. He’ll be in North Carolina again on Wednesday.

He’ll need both states again if he’s going to win 270 electoral votes. (Keep reading for more on that.)

Trump doesn’t discuss Covid much at the rallies, but he’s consistently pushed the idea it’s about over. Or we’re rounding the bend.

Remember when he said it would be done by Easter? Now public health officials are warning Americans against Thanksgiving gatherings. Here’s a very long timeline of Trump predicting the end of Covid.

What he does talk about: Hypothetically soliciting bribes from Exxon. I would say “jokes” here because he seemed to be using a hypothetical. Exxon wasn’t laughing. The company immediately said its CEO had no contact like this with Trump.

Trump, uncorked, says things like this. We should still take note of them. His words: “So I call some guy, the head of Exxon. I call the head of Exxon, I don’t know, you know. I’ll use a company,” Trump said. ” ‘Hi, how you doing? How’s energy coming? When are you doing the exploration? Oh, you need a couple of permits, huh? OK. … I’d love you to send me $25 million for the campaign.’ ” Read more.
There’s no filter on what’s coming out of his mouth. If there’s a strategy in stoking his base and shocking everyone else, there’s nothing new in it. If it’s a strategy at all.
Key ruling for Pennsylvania votes. The US Supreme Court ruled Monday (with John Roberts as the swing vote siding with liberal justices) that absentee ballots in Pennsylvania can be counted after Election Day even if they don’t have legible postmarks.
Swan song for swing votes. It’ll be a much different court when Amy Coney Barrett arrives, notes CNN Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic. But here’s the argument by a notable conservative formal federal judge that because of a decision in 2009, Barrett should recuse herself to avoid the appearance of impropriety after Trump gave her something of value. The decision is up to her.
Texas can ignore thrown-out ballots. A federal appeals court decision in Texas says the state doesn’t have to give voters the chance to fix, or “cure,” rejected mail-in ballots.

32 million+ early votes and counting. It’s possible that between 20% and 25% of Americans who will vote have already voted. More than 32 million have cast ballots.

“America is under attack from Trump.” Among those who already voted is retired Adm. William McRaven, the former head of US Special Forces. He oversaw the Osama bin Laden raid. He describes himself as an anti-abortion rights and pro-Second Amendment conservative in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece and was even more pointed in a CNN interview, explaining why he had voted for Joe Biden.

McRaven’s announcement comes after Trump explained last week why he had retweeted a conspiracy theory that the bin Laden raid was a sham.

What about elected Republicans? We’ve heard this story so many times. There’s a big difference between a retired general, no matter how conservative he is, and elected Republicans, who are accountable to voters.

This story by CNN’s Manu Raju and Alex Rogers examines the quiet uneasiness of Republicans on Capitol Hill who wish Trump would stop attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci and focus on Biden.

You can bet that if Trump loses, these folks will speak their minds a lot more freely. The quiet angst of Republican politicians has become something of a cliche in Washington.

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