COURIER illustration
COURIER illustration

There are 435 House seats up for election this year. Thirty-five Senate races are underway. Oh, and it takes 270 Electoral College votes to win the presidency (you know, that thing).

Keeping track of races and results for any general election can be tough. But in the middle of a pandemic, with a relentless news cycle largely driven by President Donald Trump’s endless lies and bizarre behavior, it is even harder to sort fact from fiction, and what matters from what doesn’t. And for this election, the results really matter: If Democrats capture the White House and Senate, it means the country could see expanded access to health care, major action to reduce carbon emissions and help save our climate, and more equality in our tax code so the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share.

Here we help you follow the important things happening on the ground during this historic election. Whether its another canceled debate, early results from absentee voting, developments in an important Senate seat, or races actually getting called, we’ll break it down for you here, with the help of COURIER’s six state-based newsrooms. Bookmark this page to follow along.

October 28, 2020 // 3:47 PM EDT

Lindsay Graham Meets His Toughest Opponent Yet

When Jaime Harrison launched his longshot bid to unseat Lindsey Graham in the Senate, few expected he would one day be setting fundraising records. But nearly 18 months later, Harrison’s campaign announced that he raised more in the third quarter than any other Senate candidate ever, bringing in an astonishing $57 million. Now, armed with a war chest unlike any seen before, Harrison is aiming to win the seat once held by Strom Thurmond, the segregationist Democrat-turned-Republican who Graham replaced in 2003. 

Harrison has painted himself as a pragmatic Democrat focused on delivering results for South Carolina families. He wants to expand and protect healthcare coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, a stark contrast from Graham, who has repeatedly voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act which guarantees those protections. Harrison has also focused on bread and butter issues, such as the closure of rural hospitals, the state’s collapsing infrastructure, and the closure of schools because of the government’s failure to manage the pandemic. 

He has also argued that Graham is out of touch with South Carolina and has put his own needs before the state. Harrison criticized Graham for supporting President Donald Trump’s effort to build a border wall, which has come at the expense of $11 million in funding for a military base in Beaufort. As Politico reported, Harrison used the Beaufort debacle to highlight how Graham has deferred to Trump at the expense of South Carolinians. 

Graham, meanwhile, has attempted to label Harrison as a radical. Over the past month he has focused his campaign on getting Amy Coney Barrett confirmed to the Supreme Court. As Judiciary Committee chairman, Graham has played a key role in the GOP’s rush her confirmation, even as Senate Republicans have refused to pass comprehensive coronavirus relief legislation to help struggling Americans. 

Harrison didn’t say whether he would vote to confirm Barrett, but criticized Graham for reversing his 2016 position that the Senate should not confirm a Supreme Court nominee in an election year. 

For the most part, however, Harrison has remained above the fray and tried to paint himself as a different kind of candidate. “People are tired of the politics of division,” Harrison told Politico in a recent interview. “They’re tired of having folks who claim to be representing the people, but they lie to the people.”

Most polls still show Graham with a small lead and he remains the favorite to win the election, but Harrison’s fundraising prowess and strong campaign means he could still pull off the upset. — Keya Vakil

October 28, 2020 // 1:45 PM EDT

Trump Left His Supporters to Freeze on an Airport Tarmac After Omaha Rally

Supporters of President Donald Trump were stranded in bitterly cold weather and several were hospitalized for hypothermia after the president’s campaign rally in Omaha, Neb., last night.

The trouble came after Trump departed the rally on Air Force One, leaving hundreds of people behind in below-freezing temperatures. The supporters had been bussed from parking lots to the rally location. 

Attendees waited up to four hours for buses that were delayed—according to the Trump campaign—due to traffic issues on the two-lane road used to access Eppley Airfield, the site of the rally.  

At least 21,000 were in attendance, according to the Omaha World-Herald. Later on Wednesday, after the rally, the president also tweeted that he had an “incredible evening” in Nebraska. Notably absent from his tweet was any mention of supporters being stranded or hospitalized.  

Democratic nominee Joe Biden noted that the incident was “an image that captured President Trump’s whole approach in this crisis.”

Nebraska has hit record levels of COVID-19 infections throughout October, as a third wave of coronavirus infections races across the Midwest. Earlier in the night, the president falsely boasted about being immune to COVID-19—a claim which has no basis in science.

The death toll from COVID-19 in the United States is nearly 227,000 people at time of publication. Over 600 people in Nebraska are included in those fatalities. —Brandon Gates

October 28, 2020 // 11:45 AM EDT

Young Americans Are Already Breaking Voter Turnout Records

Young Americans are breaking records at the voting booth. With Election Day less than a week away, the country’s youth are outperforming their early voting turnout in several major swing states compared to around this time in the 2016 presidential election. By how much? Four million.

Over 6 million voters between the ages of 18 to 29 have cast their ballots early in the 2020 election as of Monday, according to data compiled by NBC News Decision Desk in collaboration with Target Smart, a Democratic political data firm.Around the same time four years ago, that figure hovered around 2 million.

The surge of young early voters is seen in swing states like Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina—all of which have seen more than twice the number of ballots cast from this demographic compared to 2016.

In Florida, more than 514,000 young voters have cast their ballots. In 2016, the state received 230,000 votes around the same time. 

Texas has seen the most drastic increase in early votes among young voters, despite Gov. Greg Abbott refusing accommodations concerned with exposure to the coronavirus. Four years ago, the Lone Star State had 288,000 young early voters around this time in October. Now, with Nov. 3 only six days away, more than 800,000 young Texans have already voted. 

Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan—which are all viewed as key battleground states in this election—have seen an exponential increase in early voter turnout, and particularly among 18- to 29-year-olds. The number of young voters who cast their ballots early in Pennsylvania is eight times more than in 2016. Wisconsin’s turnout is about three and half times as large, and it’s almost seven times higher in Michigan.

The surge in young early voters is part of a larger trend of increased voter turnout among all US demographics. As of Wednesday morning, more than 71 million eligible people have already cast their ballots, according to the US Elections Project. That number was 16 million four years ago. 

NBC News Decision Desk predicts that by Election Day, about 100 million people will have voted. — Sarah Amy Harvard

October 21, 2020//6:34 PM EDT

‘We Have Been Forgotten’: North Carolina Workers Rip Sen. Thom Tillis for Dropping the Ball on COVID Relief

With unemployment at least twice as high as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, North Carolina workers are increasingly feeling the pain caused by Senate Republicans’ inaction on a coronavirus relief plan. Much of that anger is directed at Sen. Thom Tillis, who is facing a tight race to keep his US Senate seat against Democratic former State Senator Cal Cunningham. While Tillis says he supports passing a federal coronavirus relief package before Election Day, constituents are less than optimistic. “If protecting these jobs and the families they support isn’t an urgent issue, I don’t know what is,”  Zattier Marvin, an American Airlines employee who has witnessed furloughs at the company, told COURIER sister site Cardinal & Pine this week. READ MORE HERE.

OCTOBER 21, 2020 // 2:49 PM EDT

Blue Texas? It’s Making Sen. John Cornyn Nervous

Could Texas Sen. John Cornyn become the first Republican to lose a statewide race to a Democrat since 1994? He seems to think it’s a possibility. The three-term incumbent has spent much of October attempting to distance himself from President Donald Trump, who is not especially popular in the once deep-red state. 

In an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Cornyn said he avoided getting into public arguments with Trump and had given up on trying to influence or change him. The Senator also told the paper that “when I have had differences of opinion” with Trump, “which I have, [I] do that privately. I have found that has allowed me to be much more effective, I believe, than to satisfy those who say I ought to call him out or get into a public fight with him.”

Cornyn also told the Houston Chronicle that Trump “let his guard down” on the pandemic, which has killed more than 17,000 Texas residents, the second most of any state in the country, behind only New York. While Cornyn is attempting to break from Trump, he has voted with Trump 95% of the time on the issues, the third highest mark of any current senator, according to FiveThirtyEight.

Cornyn himself has also come under fire for past comments that have been interpreted as minimizing the severity of the coronavirus. He has also said that providing jobless workers with $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits was a “mistake.” Most recently, Cornyn has received scrutiny this week over his ties to private equity companies that spent millions of dollars on ads in Texas and pressured Cornyn to help kill a bill that sought to end surprise medical billing.

During his campaign, Cornyn has sought to depict his opponent, MJ Hegar, as being “too liberal for Texas”, even though Hegar voted for John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. Hegar, a former Air Force helicopter pilot who ran for Congress in 2018 but has never held elected office, has painted herself as an outsider change agent that would better represent Texas than Cornyn.

She has made health care a key focus of her campaign, embracing a system similar to that proposed by Joe Biden, which would provide a public option to Americans lacking health insurance. She has also criticized Cornyn over his attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, his failure to speak out after reports alleged that Trump called veterans “suckers” and “losers,” and over the millions of dollars in donations he’s accepted from special interests.

Whether her efforts succeed remains to be seen. Recent polls show Cornyn with a comfortable 8-point lead, on average. If Hegar manages to pull off the upset, she’ll do what Beto O’Rourke couldn’t in 2018: Become the first Texas Democrat to win a Senate seat since 1994. — Keya Vakil

OCTOBER 20, 2020 // 12:00 PM EDT

Americans Trust Biden on COVID by Double Digits

A clear majority of American voters believe Democrat Joe Biden will do a better job of managing the coronavirus pandemic than President Donald Trump, according to a new poll from The New York Times/Siena College Research Institute. 

Fifty-two percent of voters said they trusted Biden to do a better job on the pandemic, while only 40% said they favored Trump. Those findings indicate that Trump’s seven-month effort to downplay the severity of the coronavirus—which has claimed more than 220,000 American lives and wrecked the economy—has failed. 

On Monday, Trump once again attempted to wish away the virus, suggesting that Americans were “tired” of hearing about the pandemic from “these idiots” in the government. 

“People are tired of Covid,” Trump said during a call with his campaign staff Monday. “I have the biggest rallies I’ve ever had. And we have Covid. People are saying: ‘Whatever. Just leave us alone.’ They’re tired of it.”

Americans may well be tired of the virus, but that doesn’t mean it’s “disappearing,” as Trump has said. The US recorded nearly 70,000 new cases on Friday and more than 57,000 new cases on Monday.

Trump also took aim at Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease official, who warned Americans to “hunker down” and prepare for a tough winter during an interview CBS’ 60 Minutes on Sunday.

Trump’s attacks against Fauci pose a stark contrast to the doctor’s standing among Americans. According to a September poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 68% of Americans trust Fauci to provide reliable information about the virus. Only 40% of Americans trust Trump, that same survey found. 

Trump also ridiculed his opponent, Democrat Joe Biden, for saying he would listen to scientists like Fauci. In his response to Trump’s comments, the former vice president said he considered Trump’s “criticism” for listening to scientists a “badge of honor.”

“Mr. President, you’re right about one thing: The American people are tired. They’re tired of your lies about this virus. They’re tired of watching more Americans die and more people lose their jobs because you refuse to take this pandemic seriously,” Biden said in a statement. “Now, more than ever, we need a leader to bring us together, put a plan in place, and beat this virus—but you have proven yourself yet again to be incapable of doing that.”

The New York Times/Siena College poll underscores Biden’s point: Americans are aware the virus isn’t going away. In fact, only 37% of Americans believe the worst is over, according to the poll, while 51% believe the worst of the pandemic is yet to come. —Keya Vakil

OCTOBER 16, 2020 // 2:58 PM EDT

Musing About Cutting Social Security and Medicare Might Cost Georgia Sen. David Perdue His Job

Georgia Sen. David Perdue raised eyebrows earlier this month when he suggested that he would work to cut spending on Social Security and Medicare if elected to a second term in the US Senate this November. Perdue argued that unless the nation limited spending on the social safety net, it could lead to a “runaway debt crisis.”

“This is the huge one,” Perdue told a local radio station. “This is what I hope to get at in my second term. That is, Social Security and Medicare—the things that you’ve already alluded to—are what’s causing the huge run-up.”

A spokesperson for the Senator later denied that he wanted to issue cuts to the programs, but Perdue has previously discussed cuts to Social Security, suggesting in 2015 that the government ought to restrict Social Security benefits to the neediest. He has also previously pointed to Social Security and Medicare as the “drivers” that are adding to the national debt. 

Perdue, however, voted for the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act, which disproportionately benefited the wealthy and corporations, and is projected to add up to $2 trillion to the debt. The incumbent also voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the reversal of which would rob an estimated 1 million Georgians of their health insurance and leave people with pre-existing medical conditions vulnerable to discrimination by insurance companies. 

Perdue’s opponent in November, Jon Ossoff, a former journalist and aide to Congressman John Lewis, has repeatedly criticized the senator’s votes on healthcare and his party’s failure to renew federal unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Ossoff has vowed to protect and strengthen the ACA and Medicare and stop the price gouging from drug companies. He also supports debt-free access to public college and historically black colleges and universities and has criticized Perdue for selling off stocks shortly after receiving a briefing about the pandemic’s severity back in January. Perdue has defended himself and said his finances were managed by an “outside adviser,” but Ossoff has highlighted the senator’s sell-off as part of his quest to root out corruption in Washington.

For his part, Perdue has centered his campaign around further reopening the economy, even as the pandemic continues to spread, falsely attacking many Democrats as socialists, and lying with claims that Ossoff wants to defund the police.

The two candidates are locked in a tight race and the average of recent polls have shown Perdue’s lead narrowing to under 3 points, with others even showing Ossoff ahead. The election is all but certain to be a toss-up, according to the Cook Political Report. — Keya Vakil

OCTOBER 16, 2020 // 2:55 PM EDT

How Insider Trading and Atilla the Hun Could End Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s Career in the Senate

In what might be the messiest Senate race of the year, incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler of Georgia is not just fending off a Democratic challenger in Reverend Raphael Warnock, but thanks to the state’s special election rules, she has to overcome fellow conservative Rep. Doug Collins as well. 

Loeffler, who along with her husband is worth an estimated $500 million, has had a rough first year in the Senate after being appointed to the seat by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in December 2019. Since then, Loeffler has been investigated over allegations of insider trading and publicly feuded with members of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream—a team she is co-owner of—over their support of Black Lives Matter and demands for racial justice. 

The Dream’s players have publicly expressed support for Warnock, who has served as senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta since 2005. The church has played a critical role in civil rights history, serving as the location for the funerals of both Martin Luther King Jr. and the late Congressman John Lewis.

Warnock has centered his campaign on expanding racial equality, defending and expanding the Affordable Care Act, fighting for “people without a voice, people almost at the bottom,” and reaching out to Georgians who he says have been left behind by the government. 

Loeffler, meanwhile, has attempted to paint herself as more conservative than Atilla the Hun, the brutal ruler has been described as a “barbarian” for his savage attacks against the Roman Empire. She and Collins have been battling over their conservative credentials and working to convince voters that they are each more loyal to Trump than the other. 

That push to outflank each other on the right has created an opening for Warnock, who holds a commanding lead in recent polls. But in order to win outright on Nov. 3, Warnock must clear 50%, a difficult proposition that means a January runoff between he and either Loeffler or Collins is all but certain. — Keya Vakil

OCTOBER 16, 2020 // 2:18 PM EDT

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner Could Lose His Seat After Backing Insurance Repeal for 600,000 Coloradans

When Republican Cory Gardner ran for the US Senate in 2014, he promised he would be a “new kind of Republican” that delivered results for Colorado. Gardner, running as a moderate, won that race in a minor upset. Six years later, the senator’s embrace of President Donald Trump, who is massively unpopular in Colorado, has put his seat in jeopardy. Gardner has voted with Trump nearly 90% of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight. 

Those votes include an effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would have taken away health insurance from nearly 600,000 Coloradans and left countless more who live with pre-existing conditions like asthma and diabetes vulnerable to discrimination by insurance companies. Gardner has since said he wants to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions, but hasn’t said how he plans to do so, instead releasing a bill that merely amounts to a PR exercise

Gardner has also declared that he will vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court, despite her stated opposition to the ACA and Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling which affirmed a woman’s right to abortion care. 

Gardner’s opponent, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, has repeatedly criticized Gardner’s record on the ACA and has focused his campaign around reducing healthcare and drug costs and addressing climate change and creating renewable energy jobs. Climate change is a huge issue in the state, as 81% of Coloradans say clean air and water, wildlife and public lands are important factors in their voting decisions, according to a poll from Colorado College. 

While Gardner has acknowledged the reality of climate change, he also opposed the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are the major driver of climate change. He also supported the nomination of former oil company lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, which has overseen dozens of environmental rollbacks under Trump.

While Gardner has tried to carve out his own path in the race, the outcome is likely to be a referendum on his support for Trump, which could ultimately make Gardner a one-term senator. Recent polls show Hickenlooper with a sizable lead that will be difficult to overcome in the final weeks of the race. — Keya Vakil

OCTOBER 16, 2020 // 2:10 PM EDT

The Maine Event: Republican Sen. Susan Collins Job on the Line Due to Kavanaugh

Since entering the US Senate in 1997, Susan Collins has depicted himself as an independent, moderate voice for Maine—a designation that has helped her coast to re-election with at least 58% of the vote in her past three bids for re-election. In 2014, she won 68% of the vote in Maine, a state that hasn’t voted to send a Republican to the White House since 1988. 

But Collins, who has painted herself as a defender of women’s reproductive rights, has come under intense scrutiny during the Trump era for her vote to confirm Brett Kavanugh to the US Supreme Court, despite fears that he might overturn Roe v. Wade and credible allegations of sexual assault. She also drew backlash over her vote for the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act which disproportionately benefited corporations and the wealthiest 1% of Mainers, and will leave the poorest 80% of Mainers facing higher taxes in 2027, according to a 2019 report from the Maine-based 16 Counties Coalition. 

As a result, Collins’ popularity has plummeted and she faces a wave of opposition led by women who have lined up behind her opponent, Sara Gideon. Currently serving as speaker of the Maine House, Gideon has criticized Collins for her votes to confirm Kavanaugh and pass Trump’s tax cuts, as well as what Gideon views as her failure to sufficiently stand up to Trump. Gideon has focused her own campaign on protecting and expanding healthcare access, her past efforts to address the opioid epidemic and poverty in the state, and the economic and public health catastrophes that the coronavirus has created. 

For her part, Collins has tried to maintain her moderate profile while simultaneously bashing her opponent, claiming Gideon “will say or do anything to try to win.” In recent weeks, those attacks have gotten uglier and more personal

Recent polls have shown Gideon with a narrow lead, but the race remains a toss-up according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. — Keya Vakil

OCTOBER 16, 2020 // 2:01 PM EDT

Iowa’s Close: Democrat Theresa Greenfield Takes on Republican Sen. Joni Ernst

When Joni Ernst ran to represent Iowa in the US Senate in 2014, she promised to make Washington DC ‘squeal’ and bring ‘the Iowa way’ of cutting taxes to Washington. During her term, Ernst did vote to cut taxes—but the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act massively benefited corporations and the wealthiest Iowans, while leaving the lowest 40% of earners in the state received average cuts of only $430 or less, according to a report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Ernst has also voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would take away insurance from an estimated 230,000 Iowans and leave people with pre-existing medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, and heart disease vulnerable to discrimination by insurance companies.

Theresa Greenfield, Ernst’s Democratic challenger in 2020, has repeatedly hammered Ernst over her ACA vote and her vote for corporate tax cuts, accusing her of selling out to corporate interests.

Greenfield, a real estate agent, has centered her campaign around rebuilding the collapsing economy, protecting and expanding the ACA, and protecting Medicare and Social Security. Greenfield herself experienced the importance of these benefits, as she relied on Social Security survivor benefits to get by after her husband died while she was pregnant with her second child. Greenfield also made a commitment to expand opportunities for Iowa farmers and has spoken out about the impact of climate change on the state, which has been devastated by a string of droughts, floods, heat waves, and most recently, a series of inland hurricane-like wind storms that destroyed an estimated 40% of the state’s crops.

The Ernst campaign has meanwhile attempted to depict the moderate Greenfield as a “voice for the radical left,” calling her an “extremist,” and misrepresenting her stances on issues like police reform. Ernst has also argued that the GOP is the best party on the economy, even though she opposes raising the minimum wage and is part of the Senate majority that has obstructed an extension of federal unemployment benefits during the pandemic.

Recent polls have shown Greenfield with a small lead in the race and early voting is already underway in the state, leaving Ernst less and less time to turn things around. — Keya Vakil

OCTOBER 14, 2020 // 4:57 PM EDT

Biden Plans to Send Seniors a Ton of Money. Here’s How.

COURIER reports on Democratic nominee Joe Biden in Florida, who explained how Trump is a threat to Social Security and Medicare, and detailed his own plans to change Social Security for the better. “This president has plans to terminate the tax that is dedicated to financing social security,” Biden said. One of the Democratic nominee’s ideas for Social Security is to change the way cost of living expenses are calculated, so that seniors get more money in each check. This week, the Social Security Administration announced that seniors would get a 1.3% annual increase in their Social Security checks, another small “cost of living” increase after years of only seeing modest increases. READ MORE HERE